Tag Archive for: anti-trans

I. A Tale of Two Species

White Christian churches are not merely complicit, they are the architects of systemic racism, misogyny, and oppression. It goes without saying that their bigotry naturally extends to people of different faiths, cultures, and of course the LGBTQ community.

In the Judeo-Christian lineage of supernatural beliefs, white men have always been conveniently bestowed with God-ordained power over women and all other lesser, non-white beings. It didn’t take long for a new world order to be established in which Black, indigenous, and nearly all people of color were stripped of their humanity and given the shackles and chains of Christianity in return.

Their reward for submitting to their Christian masters, they were told, would come in the afterlife. In a cruelly ironic twist of fate, some in the BIPOC community now continue to be exploited by the same powers that led to their own culture’s demise.

It certainly has been convenient for men that Christian doctrine has been and still is widely interpreted to give them dominion over women in every aspect of life. It’s only been a little over 100 years since women were granted the right to vote and hold public office.

Women had no representation in government, no rights to property, no say in family decisions and not even a right to their own children – women did not exist as a separate legal entity after they were married. In addition to claims that women did not possess the intellect and were prone to hysteria, suffrage opponents interpreted the Bible to justify why women must remain subservient to men.

Christianity is the tale of two species: the white man and everyone else.

II. Beware of Those Bearing Gifts

In the mid-1200’s, the Catholic church went on a gift-giving colonizing campaign to the far corners of the world. The gift they were giving was of course sharing the Good News of Christianity and the promise of eternal life to the unenlightened.

The gift wasn’t entirely free, of course, but surely the indigenous peoples could understand that their natural resources and slave labor were a small price to pay for eternal life. With this in mind, the Catholic Church sanctioned slavery of anyone who was a non-believer.

By the 1400’s the Catholic church became the first global organization to justify the trans-Atlantic slave trade and authorize permanent enslavement of Africans and indigenous peoples. As Christian countries competed to spread the Good News via conquest and colonization, the natural resources and slave labor they acquired along the way helped fuel the expansion of white European civilizations across the globe.

Judeo-Christian religions gave clear conscience to all those who waged war and enslaved non-believers. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that most of the world began divesting themselves from the slave trade, some willingly, some not so willingly.

In America, while some churches rebelled against traditional doctrine and joined the abolitionist movement, the majority of Southern white churches fought to maintain slavery as one of the pillars of the Confederacy. Theological arguments were used to actively endorse slavery, segregation, and voting restrictions that Black Americans are still fighting against today.

After the Civil War, those same churches vigorously opposed reconstruction. They continued to assure white southerners of their God-given superiority over Black people, free or not. From the Ku Klux Klan to the enshrinement of Jim Crow laws to their opposition of the Civil Rights Movement, white churches continued to provide the biblical justification for segregation and dehumanization of Black communities.

There was no day of reckoning for those churches and congregations that for hundreds of years sanctioned and sponsored some of the worst crimes against humanity. There was no accountability for the genocide, enslavement, and oppression endorsed by religious leaders who proclaimed God’s Will was clear, unchanging, and irrefutable on these matters.

Why would we expect things to be different today?

III. Fast Forward to the 21st Century

When Jason Berry of the National Catholic Reporter first reported on the systemic sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church and the coverup by church hierarchy, he anticipated the story would become international news and finally bring an end to the atrocities. He expected public outrage over the abhorrent nature and Watergate-esque scale of the crimes.

What he did not expect was the story to die on the vine.  The abuse in fact was allowed to continue unabated until the Boston Globe Spotlight investigations finally got the world’s attention 15 years later. It is yet to be seen whether the church is even interested in holding itself accountable for the suicides, pain, and suffering of victims and their families – much less prevent them from happening again.

For a religion that self-identifies as family focused, Christianity has a long and sordid history of child abuse and cover-up by the church hierarchy. The church has an equally sordid history in separating children from their families.

This practice has been the political weapon of choice in destabilizing and disempowering families for centuries. From the slave auctions that separated black children from their parents, to the abusive Christian schools where kidnapped Native American children were either converted or killed. From the separation and caging of children who crossed the border with their parents, to the legislation that calls for separating trans kids from parents who support them with gender-affirming health care.

One of the most sobering realizations of the victims and the journalists investigating the Catholic church was how much power the church wields. There’s not a single branch of government at any level that is immune from that control. But that pales in comparison to the influence the church has over its members, regardless of how strongly they identify with their faith.

IV. But churches are a net positive to the community, right?

Churches and synagogues of course rely on donations, tithes, and offerings, and even non-believers likely assume a large percentage of church donations are used to help the needy. The numbers, however, tell a different story.

In 2016, the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving at Indiana University initiated the National Study of Congregations’ Economic Practices (NSCEP) with the goal of providing a “deeper understanding of how congregations’ receive, manage, and spend their financial resources.” The NSCEP team analyzed financial data and donor participation trends based on data provided by over 1200 Judeo-Christian congregations from 2014-2017.

The first report from the study was published in 2019 and provides the most comprehensive, nationally representative view into congregation finances to date. Results show that after salaries are paid, most of a congregation’s budget is spent on acquiring real estate and property development.

The least funded of its functions are its mission work (11%) and programs for the needy (10%). Essentially 90% of donations taken in by congregations go to supporting operating costs and investments, as opposed to charitable causes in the community.

The Catholic Church, no stranger to scandal and financial corruption, is facing increased scrutiny over its use of donations to cover budget deficits and controversial real estate transactions. As reported in a 2019 Wall Street Journal article, the bulk of the funds collected through the pope’s primary charitable appeal, called Peter’s Pence, were used to pay down the Vatican’s budget deficit.

Though promoted by the Vatican and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as largely a fundraising effort for the needy, church records indicate as little as 10% of the funds were used for charitable works.  As charities go, congregations would be ranked among the most egregiously wasteful stewards of donations compared to secular non-profits. Worshippers have the right to know how their donations are used and may be shocked at the inconsistency between their organization’s stated priorities and the reality of where the money goes.

Today churches not only continue to reap the benefits of tax exemptions, but their lobbying is paying off and resulting in direct access to public funds. Entitlement, by any other name, and a blatant violation of our Constitution’s First Amendment.

Conservative judges have cleared the way for publicly-subsidized Christian schools that will further indoctrinate young people. Catholic hospital networks are squeezing out other networks and are free to discriminate, denying medical services based purely on religious reasons.

I say it’s time to end this 2000-year run of religious oppression. Want to be a part of it?

About the author: Peter Tchoryk is an engineer and a dad who discovered he had a lot to learn from his kids. He is committed to making this world safer for all those who are persecuted for trying to live authentically. To learn more, check in with us at ScientificRebels.com, listen to our Podcast, or contact the author directly.

I. The Mother of All Inconvenient Truths

What is it in the human psyche that leads many of us to accept supernatural explanations for life’s greatest mysteries? And not just to accept these explanations, but to embrace them as indisputable and absolute truths? I’m of course speaking of religious and spiritual belief systems that rely on unproven and unprovable supernatural speculation.

And for those of us who do not buy into unproven speculation, how can we stand silently on the sidelines, watching the carnage that inevitably results from unchecked religious fervor? It’s not like we don’t have daily reminders of the atrocities committed in the name of religious differences. And yet, time and time again, we fail to act.

The answer is the same in both cases: fear.

Fear of uncertainty drives people to rationalize illogical behaviors and beliefs, even when it means ignoring everything they know about logic and reason. No one can say with any certainty, for example, what happens after death. But the fear of not knowing is so unsettling to some that they choose to believe religion holds the answers to all the great mysteries of our existence.

Fear of social recrimination causes others to stop short of doing what’s really necessary to bring an end to religious tyranny. We remember Copernicus and Galileo as much for their fear of being labeled heretics as we do their scientific discoveries. Leaders today on both sides of the isle fear the consequences of being labeled ungodly by those on the religious right.

Rather than inspiring curiosity, fear closes the mind.

So here we are today. Centuries removed from the Age of Scientific Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment, only to find ourselves still held hostage by the most dangerous of all Medieval practices: organized religion.

We continue to face censorship and persecution, much like Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Isaac Newton when they began to publish scientific discoveries that contradicted Holy Scripture. These early scientists sought truth, not by relying on interpretations of Christian doctrine and supernatural speculation, but through logic and reason.

It is now up to us to finish what they started. We must face our fears and embrace the mother of all inconvenient truths: faith is not fact.

II. Faith Is Not Fact

Herein lies the problem. After centuries of Scientific Revolution, organized religions today still misrepresent their doctrine as indisputable and absolute truth – and we have collectively failed to hold them accountable. This failure has resulted in some of the most horrific crimes against humanity, from genocide and conquest to slavery and segregation.

The concept of faith, which can be such a powerful force for good, is by its very nature susceptible to the most egregious abuse and manipulation. Religious exploitation proved such an effective way to exert power and control over a populace that it became the ultimate weapon of man.

Conservative legislators and judges today seem to have perfected that weapon, acting with impunity to circumvent the Constitution and sanctify religious beliefs over facts and evidence. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the GOP’s legislative assaults on women’s rights to bodily autonomy, Black identitiesLGBTQ rights, and gender-affirming health care.

Acknowledging faith is not fact recognizes that the core tenets of religious doctrine, as with any supernatural speculation, are unproven and unprovable. It does not claim that any religion is false, for we can no more prove that God does not exist than we can that God does exist.

Recognizing faith is not fact does not diminish an individual’s religious freedom, it preserves it by ensuring that no religion or supernatural claim can be used to dehumanize and oppress others. It doesn’t stop anyone from believing what they want, but it does stop them from making false claims and weaponizing those claims to oppress others.

People may hold deeply held beliefs built on doctrine that they assume to be factual, and consider it their truth, which is of course a subjective truth. Objective truths require facts, which in turn rely on evidence from hypotheses that can be tested through measurements and observations that are repeatable and can be verified independently.

We call this the scientific method. It is a formulation of critical thinking.

Regardless of whether hypotheses about the supernatural originate from religious doctrine or not, the scientific method gives us a powerful framework to evaluate those hypotheses. Since we can’t conceive of any way to repeatably test and independently verify the existence of a supernatural deity, it is irresponsible and dangerous to claim any religious doctrine is objectively true.

When religious doctrine is presented as absolute truth and used to make false accusations about trans-affirming parents and doctors being child abusers, educators who affirm LGBTQ and Black identities as being groomers and pedophiles, this is defamation, and it is a crime.

When religious beliefs are cited as the reason for proposing and passing legislation that criminalizes trans-affirming health care, denies the civil and human rights of the LGBTQ community, and openly calls for eliminating them from society, this is pre-genocidal fascism. And it is a crime against humanity.

This is the accountability we must demand.

We must once and for all recognize that any decision affecting the citizens of this country must be based on facts, data, and evidence – not supernatural speculation — and that is the real reason we must separate church and state. Neither morality nor rule of law can be allowed to be driven by religious doctrine.

III. The Rise and Fall of Critical Thinking

For millennia, the Catholic church and autocratic empires, led predominantly by white men, controlled every aspect of life. From birth to marriage to death and everything in between. The rules of law were said to originate directly from God, and as such were incontestable – but of course, interpreted and modified as the men in power saw fit.

The Catholic church approved imperialist expansion and conquest resulting in genocide, enslavement, and oppression of indigenous people and non-believers, all in the name of saving souls for Christ. Native cultures were extinguished and personal liberties abolished. The people and their land were exploited mercilessly.

A new world order was established where indigenous people were stripped of their humanity and given the shackles and chains of Christianity in return. Their reward for submitting to their Christian masters, they were told, would come in the afterlife. In a cruelly ironic twist of fate, some in the BIPOC community now continue to be exploited by the same powers that led to their own culture’s demise.

It certainly has been convenient for men that Christian doctrine has been widely interpreted to give them dominion over women in every aspect of life.

It’s been only a little over 100 years since women were granted the right to vote and hold public office. Women had no representation in government, no rights to property, no say in family decisions and not even a right to their own children – women did not exist as a separate legal entity after they were married. Aside from claims that women did not possess the intellect and were prone to hysteria, suffrage opponents interpreted the Bible to justify why women must remain subservient to men.

Our country has allowed sincerely held beliefs to carry the same credibility as evidence-based facts for far too many generations. This submission on our part has only given strength to those skilled at weaponizing religion and has paved the way for a resurgence of the religious right, rebranded as Christian nationalism.

What many have failed to appreciate is that the winds have changed, and we are teetering on a precipice. Power and money are behind this movement, with the ability to incite insurrection and rage in the name of God. The very freedom and individual liberties of women, Black, and LGBTQ communities – and democracy itself – are at stake.

IV. The Age of Scientific Rebellion

I struggled with the realization that it will take nothing less than rebellion, a Scientific Rebellion, to pick up where the Scientific Revolution left off.  We must succeed where countless generations before us could not.

Now more than ever, we must provide future generations with the tools they need to make the most informed decisions about the many crises we face on our planet. If I could have these future generations read only one book on this topic, it would be Dr. Carl Sagan’s The Varieties of Scientific Experience – A Personal View of the Search for God, edited by his wife, Ann Druyen.

We keep finding ourselves debating the most critical issues of our time with those who justify their arguments in religious terms: climate crisisreproductive justicevoter suppressionanti-trans legislationLGBTQ rightsstolen elections and insurrectionvaccines and masks, and even gun control.

It seems these words from Carl Sagan ring truer than ever,

“You can’t convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep-seated need to believe.”

I think it’s safe to say that access to knowledge today, though still painfully inequitable, is a tad better than during the Middle Ages. But just as ignorance of the law does not give one a free pass for breaking the law, ignorance of logic and reason does not give one a free pass with respect to understanding the difference between faith and fact. To deny that faith is not fact today is a choice of willful ignorance.

We are all complicit in allowing Christian churches to claim that their doctrine is the indisputable word of God. We are complicit in not holding these churches accountable for indoctrinating generations of Americans with false and malicious narratives and allowing the powerful and wealthy to weaponize religion for their own benefit.

We are out of time. It must end now.

We must end this tradition of oppressing people in the name of supernatural beliefs that conveniently only bestow men – and typically white men – with the power to interpret and execute the will of God.

We must end this tradition of acquiescing to those who claim their supernatural beliefs give them the right to dehumanize, discriminate, and violate the individual liberties of women, BIPOC, LGBTQ, and any other community that does not fit their particular white, straight, cisgender Christian narrative.

We must end this tradition of allowing firmly held supernatural beliefs to outweigh facts and evidence in matters that affect the future of our species and planet, including decisions on climate, the environment, and public health.

There is absolutely no reason we should allow any religious doctrine to be used as the basis for laws or policies defining life, marriage, sexual norms, gender norms, end-of-life decisions, or any other aspect of morality. If someone chooses to follow their personal religious convictions and it does no harm to others, more power to them. But as soon as those convictions are used to encroach on the individual liberties and rights of others, those convictions become crimes.

I’d like to think that when future generations look back on this Age of Scientific Rebellion, they will shake their heads in disbelief that it took a couple millennia before we brought an end to religious tyranny. I hope they are able to say things like, “I’m so glad I didn’t live during the dark ages of the early 2000s.”

Because that would mean we succeeded.

The longevity of religious texts through the centuries is due in no small part to their poignant and often poetic lessons on morality. Unfortunately, many people assume morality comes from religion, or at the very least, that religion played a central role in its advancement.

In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Morality today exists largely in spite of religion, not because of it.

The world’s most popular religions, namely those derived from Abrahamic belief systems, have long claimed that human morality is mandated directly from their God in the form of their holy doctrine. And more than any other, it is the Judeo-Christian faiths that insist their path is the only path to God.

These belief systems persist today, despite centuries of evidence to the contrary, and are responsible for humanity’s worst crimes against humanity. The immorality they sanctioned was executed on a scale never before seen in recorded human history.

Irrespective of their original inspiration, today’s evangelical, Catholic, and like-minded churches continue to embrace doctrine that demands male-dominated, traditional family and societal structures. Conservative leaders and their wealthy donors have long recognized the power in weaponizing religion and inciting fear and rage to unite their voting base. It has led to record numbers of legislative assaults on Black identitieswomen’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality, and gender-affirming health care.

These assaults are not the disjointed actions of a few conservative extremists. They are the result of a well-funded, highly-organized movement known as Christian nationalism. It is a movement devoid of morality.

Amanda Tylor, the Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), describes it this way,

“The ‘Christian’ in Christian nationalism is more about identity than religion and carries with it assumptions about nativism, white supremacy, authoritarianism, patriarchy, and militarism.”

It is a mistake to underestimate the power behind white Christian nationalism. To see the effects of that power, one need only look at how white Christian evangelicals praise Trump as God’s candidate and how the anti-woke crusade of DeSantis captures the vote of both protestants and Catholics. It has given new life to white supremacists who once hid in the closet but have now been made flag-bearers of Marjory Taylor-Greene’s cult-like following. The morality of Trump, DeSantis, and Greene can hardly be considered Christian, even considering the version of morality espoused by the most alt-right evangelical sects.

In his book, A Natural History of Human Morality, Michael Tomasello (co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany) presents some 30 years of research on the evolution of human moral psychology. From this research, it is clear that modern humans evolved far beyond other species in our cognitive ability to collaborate and thus improve our collective chances of survival.

Tomasello’s experiments led to conclusions about how the human struggle for survival compelled the development of ultra-collaborative skills, rooted in a collective understanding of trust, respect, and responsibility. These skill sets, in turn, resulted in objective norms of right and wrong. Tomasello comes to the inescapable conclusion that it is this uniquely human shared intentionality that began governing individual interactions as well as interactions with the community as a whole – what we call morality.

The essential elements of morality are the result of societal evolution and its impact can be traced to even the earliest civilizations.

Our future as a species depends on ultra-cooperation. Some churches do practice their faith in a way that moves us toward cooperation and not division. King’s social gospel and vision of the Beloved Community is the embodiment of this approach. The Community King envisioned would exist in a World House, where “Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation.”

The re-branded GOP with its Christian nationalist ideology, however, is antithetical to King’s vision. The social gospel is fiercely condemned as a liberal, socialist, or even communist agenda that seeks to destroy God’s creation. In this respect, not much has changed since FBI Director Edgar J. Hoover set out to neutralize Dr. King as a threat to the American way of life.

It may be tempting to look at the increasing awareness of racial, social, and economic injustices as a sign of progress in and of itself. But this illusion of progress can become a sedative that lulls advocates into a false sense of security and inaction. The systems of injustice in place today do not care if a majority of the population disagrees – those systems have always been disproportionately controlled by a relatively small, but enormously wealthy and influential elite. Even when we make gains, we are only one election cycle from having them reversed.

The weaponization of religion has proven time and time again to be resistant to arguments based on reason. It is irrational for us to keep debating the humanity of Black, LGBTQ, and immigrant children thinking we will have a different outcome.

Yes, we must continue to get out the vote, to fight this legislation in the courts, to try to open hearts and minds – all of these things are necessary, but in no way sufficient.

It is the very nature of faith that makes it susceptible to the most egregious forms of manipulation and corruption. Armies can be raised, and conquests fought by framing any topic as a battle between good and evil. In Medieval Europe, the Catholic Church declared itself good and anyone who challenged the power of the church was of course evil. Not much has changed.

It seems we have enabled the weaponization of religion by our collective inability as a species to get comfortable with uncertainty. No one can say with any certainty, for example, what happens after death. But the fear of not knowing is so unsettling to some that they choose to believe religion holds the answers to all the great mysteries of our existence. Rather than inspiring curiosity, fear closes the mind.

It’s been about five centuries since the start of the Scientific Revolution, when great minds like Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Isaac Newton began to publish scientific discoveries that contradicted Holy Scripture. These early scientists sought truth, not by relying on interpretations of Christian doctrine, but through logic and reason.

It’s time to admit, the Scientific Revolution fell short. We fell short. Now we must make amends.

The age of Scientific Rebellion is upon us and it begins with embracing these four words: faith is not fact.

We must do what countless generations before us could not. We must once and for all recognize that any decision affecting the citizens of this country must be based on facts, data, and evidence – not supernatural speculation — and that is the real reason for separating church and state. Neither morality nor rule of law should be driven by religious doctrine.

This acknowledgement does not imply that any religion is false, for we can no more prove that God does not exist than we can that God exists. Nor does it diminish an individual’s religious freedom.

But it does prevent anyone from weaponizing religion by claiming they have the religious freedom to dehumanize, condemn, or persecute others. Dr. King spoke of how our constitution addressed this very issue in his 1965 sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta,

“The first saying we notice in this dream is an amazing universalism. It doesn’t say, ‘some men’; it says ‘all men.’ It doesn’t say ‘all white men’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes black men. It does not say ‘all Gentiles’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes Jews. It doesn’t say ‘all Protestants’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes Catholics. It doesn’t even say ‘all theists and believers’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes humanists and agnostics.”

Even within a particular faith like Christianity, morality has always been defined by men in power. When conquest, genocide, slavery, and segregation helped them gain or maintain power, they declared those actions moral, and God ordained.

We see it today. When conservatives needed to spur their Christian base to the polls, they declared trans kids an abomination and LGBTQ identities a threat to God’s creation. Red states criminalize gender-affirming health care, casting parents and doctors as child abusers, groomers, and pedophiles. Black history is being whitewashed to court white Christians whose faith is still deeply rooted in white supremacy.

In every other aspect of our lives, we insist that decisions affecting our rights and freedom will be based on facts and evidence. It’s the foundation of our rule of law. Similarly, morality does not have a religious or supernatural lineage, nor does it require religious doctrine or faith to endure. Yet, we continue to allow the most egregious injustices to be carried out in the name of religious freedom.

Acknowledging that faith is not fact does not impinge on a person’s right to believe, any more than separating church and state does. It does not diminish an individual’s religious freedom, rather it preserves it by ensuring that no religion or supernatural claim can be used to dehumanize and oppress others, including other religions.

We can’t let conservatives weaponize Christianity nor can we allow any religion to claim moral superiority. It may seem impossible, but that’s why they call it rebellion.

In the earliest days of the African American Freedom Movement, I’m sure many doubted whether segregation could ever be overturned. But as we learned from Rosa Parks, it starts by saying, ‘Nah.’

About the author: Peter Tchoryk is an engineer and a dad who discovered he had a lot to learn from his kids. He is committed to making this world safer for all those who are persecuted for trying to live authentically. To learn more, check in with us at ScientificRebels.com, listen to our Podcast, or contact the author directly.

Public education has always been a target for the Religious Right, particularly after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Christian schools, most notably Bob Jones University and Falwell’s Liberty University, were launched en masse in the 60’s and 70’s to preserve racial segregation and continue to be a focal point for conservative power-brokers like Betsy DeVos.

Gov. DeSantis of Florida seized the opportunity to whitewash history by banning Critical Race Theory (CRT), leading other states to follow suit with their own anti-CRT bills. After his success in banning CRT, DeSantis quickly followed up with anti-LGBTQ legislation. His Don’t Say Gay law banning books, teaching materials, and discussions that acknowledge LGBTQ identities has now been extended to all K-12 grades.

It should come as no surprise that DeSantis is attacking tenure at institutions of higher learning and installing dangerously-unscrupulous and unqualified culture war salesmen like Chris Rufo.

Giving people like Rufo power in an academic institution of any kind is like handing a loaded firearm to a toddler. It won’t end well.

While I’m not surprised by the actions of conservatives like DeSantis and Rufo, I’m always surprised at the lack of public alarm and outrage. I suppose many of us are numb from the unrelenting barrage of assaults on individual liberties and the civil and human rights of pretty much anyone not identifying as a white, straight, cisgender, conservative Christian.

But I’m most disappointed by the silence of those in the scientific community, and more broadly, anyone who values critical thinking. It’s been about five centuries since the start of the Scientific Revolution, when great minds like Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Isaac Newton began to publish scientific discoveries that contradicted Holy Scripture. These early scientists sought truth, not by relying on interpretations of Christian doctrine, but through logic and reason.

The Catholic Church, of course, considered the Bible absolute truth – the inspired, incontrovertible Word of God.  Those who suggested anything to the contrary faced inquisition and persecution.

In spite of this, scientists continued to expand the horizons of human knowledge and seek answers to life’s mysteries. Through the centuries, these scientists used much the same process in their quest for truth and knowledge. The process that emerged was perhaps humanity’s crowning achievement: the scientific method.

The scientific method is unique in that it allows us to acknowledge and embrace uncertainty rather than deny and flee from it. Like any tool, the scientific method isn’t intrinsically good or bad, as some would have us believe. It simply provides a framework that relies on facts and evidence rather than strongly held beliefs. To gather this evidence, we must be able to test our claims through measurements and observations that are repeatable and verifiable.

To use the scientific method, we must first differentiate between subjective truth and objective truth. People may hold religious beliefs they consider their personal truth, which is of course a subjective truth. Objective or absolute truth, however, requires facts that are supported by evidence.

Just like with any other hypotheses, to determine if religious beliefs are objectively true requires that they are testable, repeatable, and independently verifiable. Since we can’t even conceive of a way to test religious or supernatural beliefs, no one can claim they are objectively true. No one knows with any certainty.

Herein lies the problem. After centuries of Scientific Revolution, mainstream religions still promote their doctrine as indisputable and absolute truth – and we have collectively failed to hold them accountable. This failure has resulted in some of the most horrific crimes against humanity, from genocide and conquest to slavery and segregation.

The concept of faith, which can be such a powerful force for good, is by its very nature susceptible to the most egregious abuse and manipulation. Religious exploitation proved such an effective way to exert power and control over a populace that it became the ultimate weapon of man. Conservatives today seem to have perfected that weapon.

Conservative leaders, legislators, and judges have acted with impunity in circumventing the Constitution and favoring religious beliefs over facts and evidence. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the GOP’s legislative assaults on Black identitiesLGBTQ rights, gender-affirming health care, and women’s rights to bodily autonomy.

These assaults are not the disjointed actions of a few conservative extremists. They are the result of a well-funded, highly-organized, yet decentralized movement known as Christian nationalism.

Amanda Tylor, the Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), describes it this way,

“Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities…”

The ‘Christian’ in Christian nationalism is more about identity than religion and carries with it assumptions about nativism, white supremacy, authoritarianism, patriarchy, and militarism.”

Christian nationalists have united their voting base by tapping into the Religious Right’s fear and rage. They’ve assembled a Supreme Court majority that openly embraces Medieval Christian doctrine in its rulings and empowers states to do the same. Conservative judges and legislators at all levels of government have a green light to erode women’s reproductive rights, suppress the Black vote, deny LGBTQ equality, and eradicate trans kids from existence.

Since the source of Christian nationalist power comes from evangelical, Catholic, and like-minded churches, those churches are as culpable as the conservative leaders who exploit them. I do not believe we can achieve any semblance of lasting justice and equality in our country until we prevent the weaponization of religion and hold churches accountable for their role.

Our Constitution is an extraordinary example of how the scientific method can be applied to governance. But we have clearly failed to enforce it properly, starting with separation of church and state.

In this, the Scientific Revolution fell short. The reason for separating church from state is that faith is not fact. Decisions at every level of government must be based on facts, data, and evidence – not supernatural speculation.

This acknowledgement does not imply that any religion is false, for we can no more prove that God does not exist than we can that God exists. Nor does it diminish an individual’s religious freedom.

But it does prevent anyone from weaponizing religion by claiming they have the religious freedom to dehumanize, condemn, or persecute others. Dr. King spoke of this very issue in his 1965 sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta,

“The first saying we notice in this dream is an amazing universalism. It doesn’t say, ‘some men’; it says ‘all men.’ It doesn’t say ‘all white men’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes black men. It does not say ‘all Gentiles’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes Jews. It doesn’t say ‘all Protestants’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes Catholics. It doesn’t even say ‘all theists and believers’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes humanists and agnostics.”

It’s impossible to imagine the Black Freedom Movement succeeding without the passion and resolve of churches that embraced the social gospel. And it’s impossible to imagine the success of the Scientific Rebellion without those same churches leading the way. Democracy and religious freedom depend on inclusive churches standing up against Christian nationalism.

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, King made it clear that the greatest threat to Black freedom was not white supremacist ideology, but the “white moderate.” King was particularly disillusioned with the silence and inaction of white Christian churches and ministers who say, “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.”

We are now in need of a Scientific Rebellion to pick up where the revolution left off. And as with any rebellion, there is no middle ground. If you’re neutral, you’ve thrown your lot in with the oppressors.

Where do you stand?

About the author: Peter Tchoryk is an engineer and a dad who discovered he had a lot to learn from his kids. He is committed to making this world safer for all those who are persecuted for trying to live authentically. To learn more, check in with us at ScientificRebels.com, listen to our Podcast, or contact the author directly.

I. Un-Holy Motivation

America is deeply divided within and facing a changing world order abroad. We would expect the GOP to concentrate onthe foremost threats to our safety and stability, especially this close to the 2024 elections.

What threats has the GOP chosen to attack? Black identities and trans kids.

Conservative leaders launched a series of legislative actions ranging from banning books and curriculum on Black identities and LGBTQ lives, to criminalizing gender-affirming health care. Record numbers of anti-LGBTQ and anti-CRT bills, including hundreds specifically targeting trans youth and young adults are making their way through state legislatures.

In the run-up to declaring his candidacy for President, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has been setting the stage, starting with a ban on Critical Race Theory (CRT). It didn’t take long before other red states followed suit with their own anti-CRT bills.

DeSantis then broadly extended the CRT ban by signing the Stop-Woke (Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees) Act. The Stop-Woke Act bans all educational institutions and businesses from teaching content that makes students or employees “feel guilt, anguish or any form of psychological distress.”

But as Charles Blow observes, “the point isn’t the protection of children but the deceiving of them. It’s to fight so-called woke indoctrination with a historical whitewash.”

Unsurprisingly, after the success in banning CRT, DeSantis quickly followed up with anti-LGBTQ legislation. His Don’t Say Gay law bans books, teaching materials, and discussions that acknowledge LGBTQ identities in public schools, and is soon to be extended to all K-12 grades. With these legislative assaults, DeSantis has won over evangelical Christians and far right Catholics alike.

II. The GOP Has a Plan, But It’s Not God’s

In full disclosure, I must tell you that I’m the dad of a trans kid. The other relevant thing to know is that I’m an engineer – and I embrace the scientific method.

There is nothing less scientific in American politics than the GOP’s legislative assault on Black, LGBTQ, and women’s reproductive rights – and these attacks are not the disjointed actions of a few conservative extremists. They are the result of a highly-organized movement known as Christian nationalism.

Amanda Tylor, the Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), describes it this way,

“Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities.”

“The ‘Christian’ in Christian nationalism is more about identity than religion and carries with it assumptions about nativism, white supremacy, authoritarianism, patriarchy, and militarism.”

Since the source of Christian nationalist power comes from evangelical, Catholic, and like-minded churches, those churches are as culpable as the conservative leaders who exploit them.

History is replete with examples of the Catholic Church sanctioning imperialism, slavery, and forced conversion of Black, indigenous, and non-Christian peoples. Patriarchy, white supremacy, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic ideology remain deeply embedded in much of Catholic and protestant doctrine even today.

To spread its message, Christian nationalism embraces the big lie in both its pseudo-scientific and religious propaganda. Its primary purpose is to incite fear and rage in the GOP’s voting base. Their focus as of late has been on Black and trans identities, but no group is safe.

The long arm of the Catholic Church influences decisions made at every branch and level of American government, including the Supreme Court. In overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Alito confidently made a show of referencing Catholic doctrine dating back centuries. It won’t end there.

More than half of Republicans now identify as Christian nationalists and make it clear they are waging a Holy War. On the House floor in 2021, Rep. Marjory Taylor-Greene stated that her opposition to the LGBTQ Equality Act is not just to protect America, but to protect all of God’s creation,

“God created us male and female. In his image, he created us. The Equality Act that we are to vote on this week destroys God’s creation. It also completely annihilates women’s rights and religious freedom.”

It’s interesting to hear a trans kid’s perspective. My son described his experiences in elementary school for a story in the Detroit News in this way,

“It was pretty normal. I was treated like every other kid. My parents talked to the principal and he talked to my teacher. There were no problems. Curious kids, they asked questions.”

The normalcy of my son’s early school experience and the cautious optimism we once felt would end as he started high school this past year. In Michigan, conservatives recently sponsored House Bill 6454, similar to bills in Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, and other red states across the country.

HB-6454 seeks to prevent gender-affirming health care for trans and gender non-conforming youth. It also seeks to criminalize supportive parents and health providers as child abusers – a federal offense with a potential sentence of life in prison.

What exactly is my crime? I follow the medical recommendations of pediatric endocrinologists at the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS). Their recommendations align with evidence-based practices endorsed by every major medical and mental health organization.

III. We’ve Been Here Before

So are conservatives really trying to protect trans kids?

Oh hell no.

The anti-trans movement is not motivated out of care for trans kids. No more than segregation was motivated out of care for Black Americans.

I can still vividly recall a state school board meeting several years back. I talked openly about our family’s story, in the hope that the state would approve guidance to create safe and inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ students.

I had come to expect the occasional religious parent who voiced their concerns at these types of meetings. But I didn’t expect the busloads of church congregations filling the building, nor the viciousness in which they would condemn trans students as abominations to God and a threat to other children.

It is the faces of the protestors that I remember most.

They are the faces captured in the iconic photo of Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine, walking determinedly through a crowd of angry white protesters. They are the faces that seem to reappear whenever systemic racism and injustice are challenged.

Columbia law professor Kimberle Crenshaw developed the methodology behind Critical Race Theory and describes it as, “…a prism for understanding why decades after the end of segregation, over a century and a half after the end of slavery, after genocide has occurred, why racial inequalities are so enduring.” She explains that “For the longest part, we were a White nation, and our laws said so and our Constitution was interpreted to reinforce that. That doesn’t go away just because we stopped saying it.”

Conservatives have targeted CRT precisely because it exposes the on-going, systemic, and institutionalized nature ofracism in our country. “Modest reform creates tremendous backlash,” Crenshaw notes, “and sometimes the backlash is more enduring than the reform.

The same fear and rage that so effectively drive the GOP’s voting base to the polls are equally effective at inciting violence and bloodshed against Black and trans communities. Trans people, especially Black and Native American trans women, experience around four times the violence as the cisgender population. The relentless dehumanization and demonization of trans youth has also caused an already devastating suicide rate to rise even further.

We can expect the lethality of the violence to escalate. Violence like the lynching of Rasheem Carter in Mississippi, the mass murders of Black shoppers in Buffalo, NY, and of course the violent rioting and murder by white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups in Charlottesville, VA.

In the enraged faces of the Christian protestors at the school board meeting, I finally understood why we are still fighting battles against systemic racism, some 160 years after emancipation. I do not believe we can achieve any semblance of lasting equality and justice for ‘others,’ unless we take the bold step that every generation seems to stop short of taking.

I believe we must confront the mother of all inconvenient truths: faith is not fact.

It may be only four words, but faith is not fact represents four hundred years or so of scientific discoveries that culminated in one of humanity’s crowning achievements: the scientific method. It is a testament to human curiosity – and our insatiable search for truth.

IV. With Science and a Little Faith

Acknowledging faith is not fact recognizes that the core tenets of any religious doctrine are unproven and unprovable. It does not claim that any religion is false, for we can no more prove that God does not exist than we can that God does exist.

No one can say with any certainty, for instance, what happens after death or answer other great mysteries of our existence. The fear of uncertainty is so unsettling to some that they choose to believe religion holds the answers to all of life’s mysteries. People may hold beliefs they consider their own truth, which is of course a subjective truth.

Objective truths, however, require facts, which in turn rely on evidence. To gather evidence, we must be able to test our claims through measurements and observations that are repeatable and can be verified independently. We call this the scientific method.

Since we can’t conceive of any way to repeatably test and independently verify the existence of a supernatural deity, much less the nuanced likes and dislikes of that deity, it is irresponsible and dangerous to assert that any supernatural doctrine is objectively true.

In every other aspect of our lives, we insist that decisions affecting our rights and freedom will be based on facts and evidence. It’s the foundation of our rule of law. Yet, we continue to allow the most egregious injustices to be carried out in the name of religious freedom.

Acknowledging that faith is not fact does not impinge on a person’s right to believe, any more than separating church and state does. It does not diminish an individual’s religious freedom, rather it preserves it by ensuring that no religion or supernatural claim can be used to dehumanize and oppress others, including other religions.

In fact, the stories of our faith and wisdom contained within them can inspire us. I have found no better inspiration than King’s vision of the Beloved Community. The Community King envisioned would exist in a World House, where “Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation.” It is a vision his wife, Coretta Scott King, put into service through the King Center she founded in 1968.

King wanted to hold America accountable for its hypocrisy, not only in its institutionalized racism, but in its weaponization of Christianity. In a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in 1965, King calls out the treachery of Christian Americans who denounce the Black race, along with other faiths, humanists, and agnostics.

I can think of no one who embodies our constitutional ideals more than Dr. King. In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, he made it clear that the greatest threat to Black freedom was not white supremacist ideology, but the “white moderate.” King was particularly disillusioned with the silence and inaction of white Christian churches and ministers who say,

“Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.”

The GOP’s embrace of Christian nationalism weaponizes a militant and merciless brand of Christian ideology – an ideology that divides us and is diametrically opposed to King’s Beloved Community. To heal and unite America, we must take away that weapon.

V. We Can Still Heal America

It may seem impossible, but there is a path.

It is a path well worn by those who marched and sacrificed for the Black Freedom Movement. It is a path that wound its way through black churches and resolute white churches in the march for civil rights and voting rights. It is a path that continued on despite the deadly bombings and assassination of its leaders.

Those churches and their congregations are just as essential today.

Nonetheless, we still feel the sting of abandonment, much as King felt in the silence and inaction of white moderates and white Christian churches. The sting is worse when moderates continue to support the very churches that are dedicated to our demise.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course.

Imagine the impact if even a small percentage of moderates chose to attend an inclusive church instead of a non-inclusive one. Imagine the progress that could be realized if those inclusive churches grew and had greater resources to confront social injustices, poverty, and inequality.

Imagine the hope that could be rekindled in disillusioned and disenfranchised communities if they could see a future where they can live authentically and freely. Imagine the possibilities in a world where reason prevails over supernatural beliefs and our young people finally have a fighting chance to reach their potential.

It’s difficult to hold onto a dream. As Dr. King shared in a 1967 interview, in some ways his “dream had turned into a nightmare,” and “some of the old optimism was a little superficial, and now it must be tempered with a solid realism.”

Realism is exactly what we need. Dreams and nightmares only matter when you’re asleep.

About the author: Peter Tchoryk is an engineer and a dad who discovered he had a lot to learn from his kids. He is committed to making this world safer for all those who are persecuted for trying to live authentically. To learn more, check in with us at ScientificRebels.com, listen to our Podcast, or contact the author directly.

I. Faces in the Crowd

I can still vividly recall the state school board meeting several years back when I had that sinking realization that my trans son and kids like him will never be safe in this world. At least not if we keep trying to debate their humanity with those whose opinion is based on a weaponized version of Christianity.

At that meeting, we were hoping the state would approve guidance to help all public schools create safe and inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ students. Along with other supportive parents and allies, I talked openly about our family’s story and the ways in which our educators and school district successfully supported our transgender son since kindergarten.

Prior to that meeting, I maintained a degree of optimism that reason would ultimately prevail over the fear mongering and disinformation that maligns transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex students and their allies. I had come to expect the occasional minister and religious parent who voiced their concerns. But this meeting was different.

What I didn’t anticipate were the busloads of worshippers, entire church congregations filling the meeting hall and lobby and spilling out onto the plaza. I didn’t anticipate the number of anti-trans protestors who would frame their arguments in religious terms. I certainly didn’t anticipate the viciousness in which they would condemn trans students as abominations to God and a threat to other children.

I should have seen it coming.

In what would become commonplace in the years that followed, conservative community leaders organized church congregations and would bus them to school board meetings by the hundreds. Trans students had to walk through a sea of vitriol, sometimes punctuated with Oath Keepers in full tactical gear, flagpole in hand to show us America belonged to their kind. We hadn’t yet seen how these same Oath Keepers would brandish flag poles as weapons in the storming of the Capitol.

Like any parent, it’s difficult for me to fathom how my child, seven years old at the time, could elicit the malice that we saw on the faces of those protestors. Those protestors are often quick to assert that it is love that moves them to condemn your child.

But I can assure you it is not love in any form that we see on the faces and in the actions of anti-trans protestors. Their faces are as familiar as they are repulsive because we’ve seen them before, far too many times. They are the faces captured in the iconic photo of Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine, walking determinedly through a crowd of angry white protesters.

The 15-year-old Ms. Eckford was one of nine black students who ushered in the era of desegregation in Arkansas, holding the state accountable for defying the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. But on that day, she was turned away by the National Guard and harassed with taunts and threats against her life.

In that single photo, the unfiltered truth of where Arkansas and much of our society stood on racial equality was exposed for all to see. Black communities were not just segregated, they were dehumanized.

It’s impossible to compare the freedom struggles faced by different groups of people, because their experiences are unique, their pain and suffering known only to them. But the root causes behind the oppression are unmistakable and cannot be ignored.

The ideology that produced hundreds of years of slavery was still tightly woven into the fabric of southern life. Even after emancipation, Southern states governed as if the Confederacy won the civil war. From courthouses to houses of worship, white southerners were told they had a God-given right, an obligation even, to preserve the systems of racial segregation and white supremacy at all levels of government.

The photo also serves as a warning, that despite the appearance of progress, we have a long, long way to go. Nearly seventy years later, the faces in that crowd seem to reappear whenever systemic racism, in particular anti-Black racism, and injustice are challenged.

What many of us failed to appreciate is that Christianity, as with all religions, is just as easily weaponized today as it was in the Middle Ages. Through the centuries, religious exploitation proved such an effective way to exert power and control over a populace that it became the ultimate weapon of European conquest.

It seems we have enabled the weaponization of religion by our collective inability as a species to get comfortable with uncertainty.

No one can say with any certainty, for example, what happens after death. But the fear of not knowing is so unsettling to some that they choose to believe religion holds the answers to all the great mysteries of our existence. Rather than inspiring curiosity, fear closes the mind.

It is the very nature of faith that makes it susceptible to the most egregious forms of manipulation and corruption. Armies can be raised, and conquests fought by framing any topic as a battle between good and evil. In Medieval Europe, the Catholic Church declared itself good and anyone who challenged the power of the church was of course evil.

For those of us branded as evil, there is no doubt that a Holy War is being waged against us. This feels pre-genocidal. This feels like The Handmaid’s Tale. And as just reported in Vice, leaked emails from anti-trans lobbyists and legislators show that we are not wrong. In fact, it’s much worse than we imagined.

The actions of anti-trans protestors are not the result of disjointed attempts by a few conservative extremists. They are the result of a movement that has seemingly perfected the weaponization of religion: Christian nationalism.

II. The Weaponization of Christianity

Although its methods have evolved over time, the ideology of Christian nationalism is not new. It has existed for centuries, though under different guises. Today’s embodiment still has its roots in white supremacy and the desire to maintain the patriarchal hierarchy that is at the core of militant Christianity.

More than half of Republicans now openly identify as Christian nationalists, based on a recent poll. As one of the most outspoken proponents of Christian nationalism, Rep. Marjory Taylor-Greene recently gave a speech at a rallyorganized by white supremacist Nick Fuentes, and sat on stage with him as he praised the Nazi party and its ideals. Of course, not all Christian nationalists are card-carrying members of the American Nazi Movement, KKK, Proud Boys, or Oath Keepers. But there is no doubt that many still deeply identify with the ideology of the Confederate South and a white, patriarchal Christian worldview.

In her recent book The Power Worshippers, Katherine Stewart chronicles her decades-long investigation into Christian nationalism. The sobering reality is that Christian nationalism is a highly organized, worldwide network of evangelical and like-minded religious organizations funded by a dark web of extremely wealthy, old-money conservative families. The assault on individual liberties will not stop with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. It is the tip of the iceberg.

As Christian nationalism comes out of the closet, its adherents do not shy away from proclaiming their goal of establishing a Christian American Kingdom. Many conservative legislators reinforce the false notion that our founders meant for America to be governed by Christian rule. Case in point, in 2022 Rep. Lauren Boebert proudly proclaimed,

“The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church. That is not how our founding fathers intended it.”

Christian nationalism, however, is not only the greatest threat to democracy, but to religious freedom as well. The Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), Amanda Tylor, warns us,

“Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities. It heavily relies upon a mythological founding of the United States as a “Christian nation,” singled out for God’s special favor. It is not a religion, but it intersects with Christianity in its use of Christian symbols and language.”

“The ‘Christian’ in Christian nationalism is more about identity than religion and carries with it assumptions about nativism, white supremacy, authoritarianism, patriarchy, and militarism.”

The culture behind militant masculinity and the role it played in the 2016 election is the topic of Kristin Du Mez’s book, Jesus and John Wayne. It surprised many people when the white evangelical community, led by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr., quickly gave its support to Trump.

But as Ms. Du Mez explains, it is quite consistent with enduring, mainstream evangelical values, where leaders have long preached a “mutually reinforcing vision of Christian masculinity — of patriarchy and submission, sex and power.” She documents the pattern of abuse and coverup by evangelical leaders, due in no small part to the culture of militant masculinity they helped to perpetuate.

It is a mistake to underestimate the power behind white Christian nationalism. It has energized a new generation of conservatives raised to believe that equality for Black and LGBTQ Americans is the greatest threat to their way of life. To see the effects of that power, one need only look at the popularity of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis with his Anti-Woke agenda and the cult-like adulation that helped Marjory Taylor-Greene rise to prominence.

The white backlash against the movements for Black justice, reproductive justice, gay marriage, and trans rights was swift and brutal. And our family is now front and center in the crosshairs of Christian nationalists.

III. Trans Kids in the Crosshairs

My family’s journey began on Easter Sunday more than a decade ago. It was then that my young transgender songave me the chance to see the world through his eyes. Though assigned female at birth, my son was experiencing what we now know is gender dysphoria. That moment was a foreshadowing of the consistent, insistent, and persistent distress over the mismatch between his body and his identity – a dysphoria that made his life a living hell over the next two years.

It’s not just a matter of preference in clothes, hairstyles, or pronouns, although those were all extremely important to our son. He was distraught that his body did not match his identity. Young people with gender dysphoria suffer extremely high rates of depression and anxiety, with an attempted suicide rate approaching 50%. In contrast, youth who are affirmed in their gender identity experience mental health similar to the rest of the population.

We were fortunate to have access to medical professionals who diagnosed our son’s gender dysphoria and provided gender-affirming health care. Gender dysphoria is real, more common than we think – and entirely manageable.

We know that gender, like so many other things in life, is on a spectrum. We also know that gender dysphoria often reveals itself at the age when all children first begin associating with a gender – typically two to three years old. We were not alone in our experiences.

In the years since we affirmed his gender identity and he socially transitioned (i.e., his outward appearance now matches his identity), he has thrived. It was lifesaving.

My son was recently interviewed for a story in the Detroit News. He shared about his experiences in elementary school as the first openly trans student in the Dexter school district,

“It was pretty normal. I was treated like every other kid. My parents talked to the principal (Craig McCalla) and he talked to my teacher. There were no problems. Curious kids, they asked questions.”

The normalcy of my son’s school experience and the cautious optimism we maintained would end as he started high school this past year.

In Michigan, the recently introduced HB-6454, copycat legislation similar to laws passed in Texas and Alabama, seeks to prevent life-affirming health care for trans and gender-diverse youth. It also seeks to criminalize supportive parents and health providers as child abusers – a federal offense with a potential sentence of life in prison.

What exactly is my crime? I’m the dad of a 14-year-old transgender son and I make it possible for him to follow the medical recommendations of pediatric endocrinologists at the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS), one of the top-ranked medical institutions in the world.

The University of Michigan Health System provides gender dysphoria diagnoses and gender-affirming care that aligns with the evidence-based practices called for by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the American Psychology Association (APA), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Pediatric Endocrine Society (PES), among others.

A 2022 article in Scientific American reported that,

“All of those medical societies find such care to be evidence-based and medically necessary.”

In addition, “data from more than a dozen studies of more than 30,000 transgender and gender-diverse young people consistently show that access to gender-affirming care is associated with better mental health outcomes — and that lack of access to such care is associated with higher rates of suicidality, depression and self-harming behavior.”

“Data suggests that the effects of denying that care are worse than whatever side effects result from delaying sex-assigned-at-birth puberty. And medical society guidelines conclude that the benefits of gender-affirming care outweigh the risks.”

Our family has taken part in one of the longitudinal studies that tracks the efficacy of gender-affirming care based on both the mental and physical health of patients. Unlike the anti-trans critiques, the results of this and similar research are published in peer-reviewed journals by leading researchers in the field.

I must admit, the prospect of going to prison isn’t something I’ve had to seriously consider before. But it is nothing compared to what will happen to trans kids under this law. My son and others like him will be denied gender-affirming health care and taken away from their families.

For a population that already has to overcome lies that accuse them of being sexual deviants, denying this care will have deadly consequences. Our kids see no future for themselves in a world dominated by conservative ideology and supernatural doctrine that denies their right to exist.

Why are trans kids suddenly the highest priority of conservative state legislators and wealthy donors? Are conservatives really trying to protect trans kids?

Do these legislators have evidence that every major medical and mental health organization in the U.S., including our pediatric endocrinologists at the University of Michigan, have somehow neglected to consider? Were the countless testimonies of parents and trans kids themselves even considered?

No.

The anti-trans movement is not motivated out of care for trans kids. No more than segregation was motivated out of care for Black Americans.

IV. We’ve Been Here Before

We’ve seen this strategy before. One would think we’d have learned by now.

Black Americans remained shackled by segregation for nearly 100 years after emancipation. There was a continuous indoctrination and reinforcement of lies that became ingrained in American culture and institutions, primarily in the South but not exclusively by any means.

Denied equal and equitable access to voting, education, employment, justice, housing, health care, businesses, transportation, public facilities, hotels, and recreation – segregation was not just physical. It was meant to dehumanize and isolate, to destroy the spirit as well as the body and mind. Equality and justice were as far away in the 1950’s as the 1850’s. And both times it required bloodshed to make any progress.

Some people may be surprised to learn that the same forces fighting to suppress trans identities are also fighting to suppress Black identities. The same forces that deny the rights of trans people also deny the rights of Black people. The same forces that demonize and incite violence against trans communities also demonize and incite violence against Black communities.

Christian nationalism is the political-religious machine behind those forces. It is a rebirth of the Religious Right. The same Religious Right that defied the Civil Rights Act and fought to keep their Christian universities as segregated, racist institutions well into the 1970’s. The same Religious Right that supports conservative leaders who openly court white supremacists and endorse restrictive voting laws. The same Religious Right that strives to eliminate Black lives from American history in our public schools.

The same states that fought against Black freedom and civil rights now lead the fight against trans existence and LGBTQ rights. States like Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, and of course Mississippi, a state known as the most inhumane in the nation by black leaders in the 1950’s and 60’s.

As reported recently in the NY Times, a barrage of anti-trans bills in Mississippi is making it impossible for trans kids to exist, criminalizing affirming health care and erasing them from public schools. Mississippi denies the existence of trans identities, declaring “Separate is not inherently unequal,” a reference to Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 ruling in which the Supreme Court upheld segregation. Trans and Black lives are not safe in Mississippi.

There are currently hundreds of anti-trans bills making their way through state houses. In the states enacting these laws, state officials are proud to share why they are making it a top priority to deny the rights of trans kids and prosecute the parents, doctors, and educators who support them.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey didn’t need many words to explain why she was signing anti-trans legislation into law,

 “If the Good Lord made you a boy, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are a girl.”

A firmly held religious belief is enough justification for those legislators to create laws that jeopardize my son’s life and would put me in prison – possibly for life. In this, we are no different than the tyrannical theocracies that govern by sharia law.

We’re not far removed from when similar rationale was used to justify genocide, slavery, and segregation of Black and indigenous peoples.

Statements like this one from Rep. Marjory Taylor-Greene demonstrate how normalized it has become to use supernatural claims to dehumanize and condemn others. On the House floor in 2021, Greene declared that her opposition to LGBTQ equality is based on her belief that it will destroy God’s creation:

“God created us male and female. In his image, he created us. The Equality Act that we are to vote on this week destroys God’s creation. It also completely annihilates women’s rights and religious freedom.”

It’s about to get much worse.

In his majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Alito proudly interprets the constitution through the lens of Catholic Canon Law and doctrine going as far back as 800 years, referencing the views and morals from 17th and 13th century Christian doctrine. It won’t end there, as Justice Thomas declared that all past rulings will be viewed from this lens.

The legislation recently signed by Gov. DeSantis has also been introduced at the federal level in 2022 by Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene. Conservative justices of the Supreme Court have also been busy, ruling that public funds can be used in support of religious-based education and permitting prayer in school and at school functions.

Over the next two years alone, anti-trans legislation will disenfranchise a generation of trans and LGBTQ youth, just like the restrictive voting laws in many of those states will disenfranchise a generation of Black youth. The Supreme Court conservative majority has already ruled in favor of religious freedom on a number of cases. There is a clear path for states to do the same and they have taken advantage of it.

Dr. Clayborne Carson, the first Director of the MLK Research Institute at Stanford, would often say, “don’t ever forget, democracy is still an experiment.

In the enraged faces of the Christian protestors at the school board meeting, I finally understood why we are still fighting battles against systemic racism, some 70 years after Little Rock and 160 years after emancipation. I saw in those faces that we may still be fighting against racism and defending the existence of the LGBTQ community 160 years from now – unless we take the bold step that every generation seems to stop short of taking.

We must confront the mother of all inconvenient truths: Faith is not fact.

It may be only four words, but this statement is the result of four hundred years or so of scientific discoveries that culminated in one of humanity’s crowning achievements, the scientific method. It is a testament to human curiosity, the force that drives us to question, explore, and learn about ourselves, our world, and the universe. It is also a testament to our insatiable search for truth.

V. The Mother of All Inconvenient Truths

Acknowledging faith is not fact recognizes that the core tenets of religious doctrine, as with any supernatural speculation, are unproven and unprovable. It does not claim that any religion is false, for we can no more prove that God does not exist than we can that God does exist.

Recognizing faith is not fact does not diminish an individual’s religious freedom, it preserves it by ensuring that no religion or supernatural claim can be used to dehumanize and oppress others. The word agnostic is how I would describe myself when it comes to supernatural speculation, which in simple terms means I don’t know, I can’t say with any certainty. It doesn’t stop me from speculating, but it does stop me from making false claims and weaponizing those claims to oppress others.

It is in our nature, after all, to be curious about the origins and meaning of life, the finality of death, and the great mysteries of the universe. Our quest for answers gives us some of our most inspiring discoveries. It is also in our nature to want answers and certainty, especially in regard to those great mysteries.

But we live in a world that does not give up its secrets easily. The one thing we do not have is certainty. It is that uncertainty and fear about such fundamental aspects of life and death that cause many people to seek comfort in religion.

People may hold deeply held beliefs built on doctrine that they assume to be factual, and consider it their truth, which is of course a subjective truth. Objective truths require facts, which in turn rely on evidence from hypotheses that can be tested through measurements and observations that are repeatable and can be verified independently. We call this the scientific method.

Regardless of whether hypotheses about the supernatural originate from religious doctrine or not, the scientific method gives us a powerful framework to evaluate those hypotheses. Since we can’t conceive of any way to repeatably test and independently verify the existence of a supernatural deity, much less the traits and commands issued by that deity, it is irresponsible and dangerous to claim any religious doctrine is objectively true or based on facts.

It can be discomforting and sometimes terrifying when something we thought was a certainty is suddenly shown to be uncertain or false. But if we can overcome our fears, the scientific method becomes the guide-star in our search for objective truth. It allows us to embrace uncertainty rather than flee from it.

Like so many others in my generation, I was inspired by the Cosmos series and accompanying book of that name by Dr. Carl Sagan and his wife, Ann Druyan. Cosmos was an affirmation of the sheer wonderment and almost obsessive desire many of us felt to understand the universe and our place in it.

Now more than ever, we must provide future generations with the tools they need to make the most informed decisions about the many crises we face on our planet. If I could have these future generations read only one book on this topic, it would be Sagan’s The Varieties of Scientific Experience – A Personal View of the Search for God.

We keep finding ourselves debating the most critical issues of our time with those who justify their arguments in religious terms: climate crisisreproductive justicevoter suppressionanti-trans legislationLGBTQ rightsstolen elections and insurrectionvaccines and masks, and even gun control. It seems these words from Carl Sagan ring truer than ever,

“You can’t convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep-seated need to believe.”

Sagan defined superstition as belief without evidence. If we’ve learned anything from the history of the church, it’s that superstition is not easily overcome.

It is a tribute to our founders that they recognized the dangers of governments that allowed theocratic rule or gave power to a national religion. They knew all too well the endless conflicts in Europe and here in the colonies that inevitably occur if religions are permitted to enforce their unproven supernatural edicts on the rest of the population.

The intentionality of our founders cannot be overstated, as evidenced by the first amendment and the barriers they placed throughout the constitution to prevent religious influence over any branch of government. Checks and balances were enshrined in the three branches of government to ensure objective decision-making that would hold up to scrutiny.

In fact, many of the founders already recognized the value in applying scientific principles to matters of government. In Reinvigorating the Role of Science in Democracy, Andrew A. Rosenberg, et al., of the Union of Concerned Scientists, make these observations:

“John Adams spoke of the ‘science of government.’ In a debate with Benjamin Franklin in 1776, Adams invoked the principle of mechanical equilibrium to argue for his conception of our government’s system of checks and balances — designed, at least in part, to ensure policies based on verified, trustworthy evidence.”

“Concepts such as transparency, a rigorous examination of ideas, review and critique by technically qualified peers, free speech and open exchange, and protection against retaliation for one’s beliefs (or findings) are central to the health of both science and democratic government.”

The scientific method gives us the tools we need to make evidence-based decisions. It allows us to state unequivocally that religious beliefs, like any supernatural conjecture, can neither be proven nor disproven.

Acknowledging that faith is not fact does not stop us from believing or appreciating the wisdom and splendor of the stories of our faith. They often carry with them the traditions and convictions of our ancestors. Some themes even seem to be common among all religions in some form or another, like those encouraging us to love and care for one another, regardless of our differences.

But while religious doctrine may inform our character, it is certainly not necessary for human morality. Quite to the contrary, religions are responsible or complicit in some of the worst examples of man’s inhumanity to man. The essential elements of morality are the result of societal evolution and natural selection. Morality today often exists in spite of religion rather than because of it.

We are of course still at liberty to have religious beliefs – as long as those beliefs are not weaponized. That liberty ends when it is used to dehumanize and persecute others and to destabilize our government institutions. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening today.

Perhaps we fooled ourselves into thinking our constitution and representative democracy would provide the natural barriers to prevent the weaponization of religion. If so, the assault on the Capitol and relentless legislative attacks on trans kids, Black identities, and women’s bodily autonomy should have snapped us back into reality. As it is, we probably came within a secret service security team’s resolve of becoming a theocratic fascist state on January 6th.

The reality is quite awful. But it is instructive to look at the origin of anti-trans sentiment, as it provides insight into how the far right weaponizes religion. Insight that informs how we can stop it.

VI. The Anti-Trans Origin Story

The origins of the anti-trans movement can be traced back to 2014. Conservatives were beginning to panic as the public started learning more about homosexuality and rejecting Christian right-wing propaganda. Even more concerning, anti-discrimination legislation was being introduced in cities around the country that included sexual orientation and gender identity – legislation like the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO measure.

Conservative Houston churches were especially outraged about the bill’s provisions allowing trans people to use the restrooms or locker rooms corresponding to their gender identity. It wasn’t long before a local Houston lawyer and political activist, Jared Woodfill, and a local right-wing radio host and dietary supplement supplier, Dr. Steven Hotze, saw their chance.

Both men were running the influential Conservative Republicans of Texas group that considered itself the vanguard of the Christian right in Texas and were also members of Houston’s Second Baptist megachurch. This is the same church attended by Dan Patrick, a one-time Christian right radio host who became Texas’ lieutenant governor in 2015.

The group started gaining traction when it launched a fear-mongering ad campaign that branded trans people as child sexual predators. The success of the Houston campaign led to similar approaches in N. Carolina and initiated a wave of GOP sponsored bills around the country.

But the wave of bathroom bills didn’t quite translate to the victories conservatives expected. The lies about trans people were easily debunked by evidence, not the least of which came from law enforcement. The laws passed by N. Carolina in 2015 were rescinded by 2020. After hundreds of legislative failures, the GOP had to rethink its strategy.

Nonetheless, the Houston experiment was still an overall success for conservatives. It reaffirmed the effectiveness of Christian nationalism’s big lie strategy and gaslighting campaigns – especially those claiming that allowing trans people to use public facilities corresponding to their gender identity is a threat to public safety.

True to form, conservatives have recently adjusted their strategy. Arkansas became the first state since N. Carolina to advance an anti-trans bathroom bill, this one banning trans adults from using a public facility where minors may be present.

The false claims that gender dysphoria is simply a mental illness were debunked, as were the claims about massive numbers of trans kids detransitioning. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, conservatives’ anti-trans campaigns caught fire.

Those who practice fear mongering are not constrained by facts and evidence. This is especially true for the Christian-centered group of medical and mental health practitioners who reject evidence-based practices in favor of their personal interpretation of biblical principles. These practitioners follow in a long line of racist medical professionals who supported the dehumanization and segregation of Black Americans based on pseudo-science and claims that white superiority was biblically ordained.

The phrase sexual mutilation has been popularized by anti-trans doctors and legislators to spark outrage. Anti-trans health care professionals who intentionally disseminate false information must be held accountable for their medical malpractice. Their recommendations are so blatantly reckless, intentional, and contrary to medical consensus that criminal prosecution is warranted.

Right-wing groups like the Heritage Foundation and Family Policy Alliance saw the writing on the wall with respect to gay marriage and shifted their propaganda and political focus to gender dysphoria. They continue to wage disinformation campaigns in an attempt to discredit the medical and mental health community’s Standards of Care and help state legislators draft bans on gender-affirming treatment.

Smear campaigns were launched that falsely accused gender-affirming parents and health care professionals of being child abusers and part of a greater conspiracy to sexualize and groom children. The result was the unprecedented wave of legislation that now outlaws evidence-based medical practices – it is another rejection of the scientific method that will result in the death of children and the destruction of families.

The ACLU and other advocacy groups can only afford to challenge a small percentage of the harmful legislation affecting LGBTQ and other marginalized communities. In the interim, trans youth are dying, seeing no future in a world that criminalizes their very existence. Black, Asian, and Native American youth see their history being denied and a violent backlash against attempts to change institutionalized racial injustice.

In addition to attacks against trans people, trans-affirming educators and allies are often targeted by radio hosts, influencers, and podcasters who make false accusations about them on social media and expose them to abuse and violence. It has led to death threats against doctors and even bomb threats like the ones made against Boston’s Children Hospital.

I wonder how much time these influencers spent with a transgender child and their parents before they chose to attack us. How much time have they spent learning about the people they are endangering? There is no greater demonstration of bullying, cowardice, and abuse of power. They use their influence to attack kids, families, and those who do not have the power or platform to fight back against the lies.

We can expect the number and lethality of these attacks to escalate, just as white Christian nationalist lies continue to escalate violence against Black communities. Violence like the lynching of Rasheem Carter in Mississippi, the mass murder of Black shoppers in Buffalo, NY, and of course the violent rioting by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groupsin Charlottesville, VA – widely seen as the coming-out party for the emboldened alt-Right and what should have been a wake-up call for our country.

The enormous wealth and sphere of influence of Christian nationalism is intimidating enough, but it is the weaponization of Christianity that gives the movement its power. I do not believe we can achieve any semblance of lasting equality and justice for Black and LGBTQ lives until we end the weaponization of religion, and it starts with education.

Education is always at the forefront of change, where knowledge and learning face off against the forces of tradition and status quo. I do not believe we can end the weaponization of religion until we commit to educating society, and especially our young people, on the necessity of not only acknowledging that faith is not fact, but also in embracing the scientific method.

Which leads us to our next problem:  public education is public enemy number one in the eyes of Christian nationalists.

VII. Educators are Always on the Front Lines

From segregation and denial of Black identities to eradication of trans identities, schools and educators always find themselves on the front lines in battles for freedom and civil rights. It is why so much money is spent by the far right on lawsuits and propaganda campaigns that attack public schools and educators.

Christians have long promoted the teaching of Christian doctrine in K-12 and post-secondary institutions, either by allowing educators to practice their beliefs in school or by using public funds to subsidize private Christian schools. Christian nationalists, however, have their sights set higher – they advocate for the extinction of public educationaltogether.

Following the lead of Gov. DeSantis in Florida, public education is under fire in red states around the country. Legislation is being passed that bans books, teaching materials, and even discussions about LGBTQ identities, as well as any hint of social and emotional learning, social justice, culturally responsive teaching, and content that gives a more accurate depiction of African American and Native American life, past or present.

In 2021, the American Library Association reported 1,597 book challenges or removals, the highest number since they began tracking the crisis. By far, most of the books banned in 2021 were written by or about LGBTQ or Black experiences.

At a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing, which was held in response to the crisis, Ruby Bridges herself testified that the children’s book “Ruby Bridges Goes to School,” was one of the most challenged books of 2021. The book tells the story of her experiences as the first Black child to integrate a New Orleans school.

The attack on public education by evangelical Christians is also far from a new strategy. It began with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education 1954 supreme court decision. Some people may be surprised to hear that Christian nationalism as we know it today is deeply rooted in white supremacist ideology. That landmark decision legally ended racial segregation in public schools and prompted evangelical leaders like Bob Jones, Jr. and Jerry Falwell to establish their own Christian schools.

Starting in the 1960’s, a wave of private Christian schools were launched with the express purpose of banning admission of Black students and preserving racial segregation. Their curriculum continued the indoctrination of white supremacist and Christian values in K-12 and post-secondary colleges and universities.

Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, their schools defiantly violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Bob Jones University and Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University were two of the largest white-only schools in the country and the key to their success was their tax-exempt status as church-related organizations.

When the IRS began investigating Bob Jones University, the university was unrepentant. At least, that is, until the IRS moved to terminate the university’s tax exemption and access to public funds.

Evangelical Christian leaders were incensed at being forced to end racial segregation, but they now had a bigger problem. They needed to ensure that their tax status would be protected at the highest levels of government. They needed a new way to rally evangelical voters.

Paul Weyrich, conservative political activist and devout Catholic, worked closely with Jerry Falwell to re-brand the evangelical movement, coining the term Moral Majority.

As Dr. Carol Anderson points out in her book, “One Person, No Vote,” Weyrich was also the founder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization responsible for architecting voter suppression legislation. Legislation, that Dr. Anderson notes, “spread like a cancer throughout the United States,” and continues to resurface, as witnessed by today’s Jim Crow 2.0 legislation.

Christian nationalists have made no secret of the Holy War they are waging against us. Today’s crusaders advertise themselves as soldiers in God’s army.

But Jesus, the Prince of Peace, has been replaced by a militant, raging Warrior Jesus. A Jesus made in their image.

Some saw the warning signs because they can’t afford to sleep. The Black community knows they have to Stay Woke just to stay alive. Racial violence is as real today as it was during segregation and slavery. The same is true for Japanese Americans who lived through forced internment, and all those who face racism and othering on a daily basis, like Asian and Muslim Americans, and many people of color.

The warning signs were of course recognized by people of Jewish faith. The feeling of impending doom is unmistakable to those whose lives were affected by the Holocaust. The script rarely changes, only the players.

To the trans community, it seems we are in the sixth stage in the Ten Stages of Genocide developed by Dr. Gregory Stanton. While we may not yet see the scale of atrocities described in stages seven through ten, we are clearly on a genocidal path.

We also know that many of the stages can occur simultaneously, with a suddenness that precludes intervention. It is for this reason we must fight to counteract the forces at every stage of the process. Unfortunately, the legislative onslaught this year shows that our country is accelerating down this path. We seem incapable of even slowing down these processes, much less stopping them.

Although the Moral Majority and later the Religious Right brands faded over time, the movement did not. It only moved underground as it prepared for its next re-branding as Christian nationalism.

Christian nationalism was funded and organized by wealthy families like the DeVos’ and Hobby Lobby co-founder David Green, among others. They are major players in conservative politics and well rewarded for their loyalty, as witnessed by Betsy DeVos’ term as Education Secretary under Trump.

DeVos was not only unqualified to lead the federal agency responsible for education, but she has also made it her life’s mission to eliminate secular public education. In her term as Education Secretary, DeVos’ priorities were to rescind civil rights protections for trans kids and advocate for public funding of private Christian schools.

From banning books and curriculum on Black and trans lives, to criminalizing trans-affirming health care, the Anti-Woke Movement is sweeping America. But while DeSantis may think he’s the founder of this movement, the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages had him beat by centuries.

VIII. The Answer Has Always Been Hiding in Plain Sight

I have found no better inspiration than King’s vision of the Beloved Community, a vision his wife Coretta Scott King spoke of often and put into service through the King Center she founded in 1968, which is now led by their youngest daughter, Dr. Bernice King. The Community that King envisioned would exist in a World House, where “Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation.”

King wanted to hold America accountable for its hypocrisy, not only in its institutionalized racism, but its abuse and weaponization of religion. In a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta around the 4th of July, 1965, King spoke again of his dream,

“The first saying we notice in this dream is an amazing universalism. It doesn’t say, ‘some men’; it says ‘all men.’ It doesn’t say ‘all white men’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes black men. It does not say ‘all Gentiles’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes Jews. It doesn’t say ‘all Protestants’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes Catholics. It doesn’t even say ‘all theists and believers’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes humanists and agnostics.”

King preached the social gospel and embodied our constitutional ideals in his commitment to social justice. And of all the barriers he encountered, King made it clear that the greatest threat to Black freedom was not white supremacist ideology, but in the “white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.”

In King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, he writes,

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.”

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice;”

King also expressed his disillusionment with the silence and inaction of white Christian churches,

“Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership.”

“In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: ‘Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.’”

The white American Kingdom that Christian nationalists seek to build is a fascist Christian state, by any other name. It is the very antithesis of King’s Beloved Community and World House, which so wholly embodies the spirit of our constitution and what America can and should be.

We are of course still at liberty to have religious beliefs – as long as those beliefs are not weaponized. That liberty ends when it is used to dehumanize and persecute others and to destabilize our government institutions. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening today.

We have the knowledge – the question is, do we have the will?

IX. We Have the Knowledge, Do We Have the Will?

When the stakes are so extraordinarily high, as they are when legislation is passed to criminalize gender-affirming care and to eradicate trans and Black identities, the justification for those actions must also be extraordinarily high. Instead, we have just the opposite.

Legislation is being proposed and enacted based on a weaponized interpretation of Christian doctrine and debunked pseudo-science, blatantly disregarding the overwhelming facts and evidence obtained through the scientific method. Our efforts to date have been largely unsuccessful because a narrow interpretation of Christianity has been deemed superior to facts and evidence by the Supreme Court and statehouses around the country.

This isn’t just about trans kids, Black lives, women’s bodily autonomy, or any single issue on the political spectrum. It’s about the systemic dehumanization and persecution of all those who do not conform to white, Christian nationalist ideology.

Perhaps we have been deluded by the illusion of progress and an assumption that democracy will always prevail. Perhaps we have convinced ourselves that people are generally coming around to accepting differences and it will be enough to tip the scales on the side of justice and equality.

Dr. Clayborne Carson, the first Director of the MLK Research Institute at Stanford, would often say, “don’t ever forget, democracy is still an experiment.

What we continue to ignore is that systems of injustice do not care if a majority of the population disagrees – those systems have always been disproportionately controlled by a relatively small, but enormously wealthy and influential elite. Even when we make gains, we are only one election cycle from having them reversed.

The weaponization of religion has proven time and time again to be resistant to arguments based on reason. It is irrational for us to keep debating the humanity of our children thinking we will have a different outcome.

Yes, we must continue to fight this legislation in the courts, we will continue to get out the vote, we will try to open hearts and minds – all of these things are necessary, but in no way sufficient.

I have come to the conclusion that unless we collectively acknowledge faith is not fact and enshrine the scientific method in our practice of government, our country will only truly be free for white Christian nationalists.

It may seem impossible, and I won’t argue that the outcome is uncertain. But I do have faith and I believe there is a path.

It is a path well worn by those who marched and sacrificed for the Black Freedom Movement. It is a path that wound its way through black churches and supportive white churches. It is a path that continued on despite the deadly bombings of those churches and the assassination of their leaders.

The path to ending the weaponization of religion and dismantling systems of injustice will reach an impasse if we do not have the support of those churches today. White supremacists have been emboldened by conservative churches and a GOP that now embraces Christian nationalism. We can expect more violence.

It is difficult to hold onto a dream. As Dr. King shared in a 1967 interview, in some ways his “dream had turned into a nightmare,” and “some of the old optimism was a little superficial, and now it must be tempered with a solid realism.”

That’s where we are. Our kids’ lives depend on every inclusive church using the power of their platform to counter Christian nationalism. There’s only one way out of this nightmare, and it’s to keep marching down that path, but with a solid realism.

I would much rather march with a solid realism on a treacherous path to freedom, than drive with a false sense of hope on a comfortable highway to compromise.

Will you join us?

About the author: Peter Tchoryk is an engineer and a dad who discovered he had a lot to learn from his kids. He is committed to making this world safer for all those who are persecuted for trying to live authentically. To learn more, check in with us at ScientificRebels.com, listen to our Podcast, or contact the author directly.


[Photo credit: Bob Fitch photography archive, © Stanford University Libraries]

What every Black American already knows and what we can only hope people are learning from Jan 6th, 2021, is that racial inequities and injustices are still at the root of the divisions that threaten to tear our country apart. The violent images of white nationalists and Neo-Nazis only tell part of the story. We know factions still glorify the 400+ years of slavery and segregation that haunt our nation’s past. But what was finally exposed to the world is a much graver threat.

We have seen the sitting President and GOP lawmakers attempt to overturn the election based on allegations that were rejected by courts, election officials, and the Electoral College. When court actions and other interventions failed, we watched as the sitting President and GOP lawmakers incited insurrection, with some fighting alongside those white nationalists and Neo-Nazis. We know lawmakers and officials from both parties were targeted, including the sitting Vice President.

Events over the past year indicate a large percentage of White Americans do not understand or believe the severity of systemic inequities and injustices that people of color and marginalized communities face today. They do not see the lasting effects of discrimination in employment, justice, education, housing, health care, and the environment, compounded over hundreds of years. They do not have to navigate the lingering Jim Crow and Jim Crow 2.0 legislation at the state and local levels and the rolling back of legislation at the federal level. We are like two separate countries in our worldviews and that division has been intentionally exploited.

The unrestrained violence that Capitol rioters were directing toward lawmakers is what many Black Americans face in their daily lives. It is dehumanization that allowed people to rationalize slavery, genocide, and segregation and that culture persists today. Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQ+, immigrants and their children, and other minorities are often dehumanized in our culture through legislation, policies, and rhetoric. The insurrection of Jan 6th and the attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power through violent means is unprecedented, but the culture that gave rise to that event is not new. Jan 6th simply exposed it for the world to see.

So where do we go from here?

The sitting President has been impeached for the second time, rioters are being arrested, and there are more investigations to come. All must be held accountable. Accountability is more than just walking away – it means taking responsibility. We can’t know someone’s heart, but we know if they admit their mistakes and we know if they take actions to undo the damage and ensure it doesn’t happen again. I am waiting for accountability from those who failed to condemn or actively condoned the debunked conspiracy theories, documented lies, and calls for violence. They are culpable for the attacks on our constitution and democratic process and for perpetuating this culture of dehumanization.

With accountability comes healing and we can move forward again to address the root causes of racism and discrimination. We can begin to create a culture of inclusivity, free from dehumanization.

We have been here before as a nation and we know our path forward will not be easy. But on this day, we rededicate ourselves to the hard work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all those who are part of the African American Freedom Struggle, past and present. We recognize today’s Black Lives Matter movement and the young people across the country and the world who are leading the way in grass roots activism. We commit ourselves to learning from young people as well as those who came before us. And we honor those we lost along the way by doing this work.

The events of Jan 6th and throughout 2020 underscore why Dr. King’s unwavering commitment to Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence is something we need to embrace and teach to every generation. We will continue to support the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, The King Center, Black Lives Matter, the Gandhi-King Global Initiative, and other organizations dedicated to ensuring the education of every generation.

There are universal truths that can guide us as individuals, organizations, nations, and as a human species. Among these are equality, equity, justice, and forgiveness. These truths help guide where we go from here. We will continue to follow a path blazed by the African American Freedom movement and Dr. King, inspired by Gandhi, and now reborn through the next generation of grass-roots activists.

Together, we will strive to build the interconnected and inclusive World House and Beloved Community King envisioned.  

About the author: Peter Tchoryk is an engineer and a dad who discovered he had a lot to learn from his kids. He is committed to making this world safer for all those who are persecuted for trying to live authentically. To learn more, check in with us at ScientificRebels.com, listen to our Podcast, or contact the author directly.