Part Ten: The Mother of All Inconvenient Truths

Before we can stop Christian nationalism, we have to understand how its leaders operate. More specifically, how they weaponize religion to manipulate the religious right. The origin of the anti-trans movement offers the ideal case study.

In 2014, conservatives were beginning to panic as the public started learning more about homosexuality and rejecting Christian right-wing propaganda. Even more concerning to them, 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 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, hatched their plan.

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 North Carolina and initiated a wave of Republican-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 posing a threat to public safety were easily debunked by evidence, not the least of which came from law enforcement. The laws passed by North Carolina in 2015 were rescinded by 2020. False claims that gender dysphoria is a mental illness were also debunked, as were the false claims about massive numbers of trans kids de-transitioning.

Nevertheless, the Houston experiment was still an overall success for conservatives, if for no other reason than it reaffirmed the effectiveness of fearmongering and their Big Lie strategy. Facts and evidence were the least of their concerns.

This also applies to Christian-centered groups of medical and mental health practitioners who reject evidence-based practices in favor of their personal religious beliefs. These practitioners follow in a long line of racist and bigoted medical professionals, like those who made pseudo-scientific claims about the inferiority and criminal inclinations of Black Americans.

In an attempt to discredit the medical and mental health community’s Standards of Care for gender-affirming healthcare, right-wing groups like the Heritage Foundation and Family Policy Alliance once again redirected their political war machine to waging disinformation campaigns against trans kids.

Smear campaigns were launched that falsely accused gender-affirming parents and healthcare 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 endanger the lives of trans kids.

The A.C.L.U. and other advocacy groups can only afford to challenge a small percentage of the harmful legislation affecting L.G.B.T.Q. 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.

White Christian nationalists have made no secret of the Holy War they are waging against Black and L.G.B.T.Q. identities. Today’s crusaders advertise themselves as soldiers of God, and they follow a Jesus made in their image. Instead of the Prince of Peace, their Jesus is a gun-slinging warrior. As Mike Johnson preached to a Louisiana congregation, “We serve the Lion of Judah, not some sort of namby-pamby little king. ‘Our weapons are for pulling down strongholds.’ This doesn’t sound like a namby-pamby Gospel.”

We know what happens to a group of people who are dehumanized and accused of being a threat to others because of their identity or the color of their skin. Fear quickly turns to rage, which quickly turns to violence, which quickly turns to erasure and annihilation.

Holy War is not an exaggeration. 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.

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

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.

The speed with which democratic principles can be eroded is far faster than they can be established. Witness the changes that took place on Day One of Trump’s presidency. And if he wins again, his transition team will be much better prepared this time around.

The Heritage Foundation, one of the conservative think tanks funded by the Koch Brothers, launched Project 2025 specifically to accelerate Trump’s transition process, should he win. In their 1000-page plan, the group enumerates its vision for a Christian American government and a step-by-step operating manual for theocratic fascism.

Project 2025 goes well beyond transition planning. Their vision includes undermining the independence of the legislative and judicial branches of government, making them subservient to the Executive Branch.

The elegant system of checks and balances our founders installed via the Constitution will be effectively neutralized, giving the Executive Branch supreme power and no accountability. The irony is that the Republican Party, longtime proponent of small government, is now promoting the most invasive form of big government in the free world: a theocratic fascist regime with no checks and balances, and a commander-in-chief with unlimited power and immunity.

In fact, the only winners in Trump’s government would be Christian nationalists, their churches and related businesses, the top 1% of earners who already own more wealth than the entire middle class, and companies that will no longer be burdened with consumer safety, environmental, and climate protections.

Individual liberties, human rights, and civil rights would all be viewed through the lens of a Christian nationalist ethos. This Christian equivalent to sharia law would extend the power of government and law enforcement further into the personal lives of every American; deeper into our sex lives, reproductive decisions, and healthcare choices.

We may very well see federalization of laws that ban abortion starting at conception and classify frozen, invitro-fertilized embryos as children; laws that criminalize gay and lesbian sex; laws that ban gender-affirming healthcare at any age; laws that ban contraception; and laws that ban books for challenging the Christian nationalist views on human sexuality, reproduction, marriage, societal norms, and American history.

If we do not act now to protect public schools, our children will be taught a white-washed, patriarchal version of our world, seen through the lens of an evangelical interpretation of Christianity. For students who fall outside that narrow Christian narrative, A Handmaid’s Tale will seem more like a documentary than a dystopian cautionary tale.

For this reason, I advocate for teaching about religion in K-12 public schools. We can start by explaining the difference between faith and fact, between firmly held beliefs and evidence, between hope and proof, and between the supernatural and science. This is an essential step in counteracting the religious indoctrination experienced by many of our young people exposed to false religious claims about the supernatural.

Similarly, we must teach about gender identity and sexual orientation in all K-12 public schools. Educators now have access to workshops, training materials, and other resources that help them facilitate age-appropriate discussions. It’s essential that L.G.B.T.Q. students see themselves and their families represented in curriculum. We’ve done it in our school system for the last decade and it’s been repeated across the country. It’s not rocket science.

This isn’t just about trans kids, Black lives, women’s bodily autonomy, L.G.B.T.Q. rights, or any single issue on the political spectrum. It’s about how racism, bigotry, and patriarchy are still deeply ingrained in our social institutions and how generations of young people continue to be indoctrinated through churches that operate tax-free while their affiliated religious schools benefit from public funds.

There was not some great transformation, after all, in the hearts and minds of Confederates in the post-Civil War era. Far from it. Reconstruction was actively subverted, and the South simply found other ways to oppress and exploit Black Americans, including slavery by another name.

Through it all, a large number of white Christian denominations provided the spiritual validation for continuing the violent oppression and segregation of freedmen in the South and thinly veiled oppression in the North. Many of those same churches vigorously opposed the Civil Rights Movement and desegregation efforts, especially as it concerned public education.

To put the power of the church further in perspective, it’s only been about 100 years since women were granted the right to vote and hold public office. Before 1919, women had no representation in government, no rights to property, no say in family decisions, and not even a right to their children – women did not exist as a separate legal entity after they were married. Suffrage opponents regularly quoted the Bible to justify why women were not entitled to the same opportunities as men.

And make no mistake, this is not just an American problem. Putin uses the Russian Orthodox Church in the same way Trump uses Evangelicals. They both exploit anti-L.G.B.T.Q., anti-abortion, and nationalistic arguments to incite fear and rage in their constituents. And Trump has left little doubt about his admiration of Putin and other dictators.

There’s no reason to assume that Putin’s aggression will stop with Ukraine. It could lead to a new world order in Europe if America abandons its longtime allies, something Trump has already demonstrated he will do without hesitation, and with a disturbing zealousness.

This is the world our young people are inheriting. They will not exactly be living the dream.

It isn’t easy to hold onto a dream. As Dr King shared with an interviewer in 1967, in many ways his “dream had turned into a nightmare.” He acknowledged that his previous optimism may have been a little superficial, and “now it must be tempered with a solid realism.”

There’s a time for dreaming. And there’s a time for waking up to reality. Our reality is that while we may make some gains along the way, the forces that want to preserve systemic racism, bigotry, and injustice are working just as hard or harder than we are. So much so that we are now losing ground and the prospects of lasting change are fading.

This is a time in which we all must stay woke, and I use that word intentionally. We should all know by now that for Black Americans during segregation, to Stay Woke meant to stay vigilant to the everyday dangers of being Black in white America. I’ve used woke to mean awakened through learning. I think both apply in this case.

Our country owes an immeasurable debt to Black and indigenous peoples who are still paying the price for an America that dehumanized them, largely on the basis of a weaponized Christian doctrine. If it’s possible for a nation to have a soul, ours is heavy with the weight of those injustices – a weight that requires reparations to lighten.

And once again, our country’s future depends on those who have sacrificed the most. We will need the combined strength of all those who have been marginalized and oppressed to combat the threat of Christian nationalism.

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 I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate over the past few years.”

“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, which 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.”

“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.’”

White Christian nationalists seek to build a theocratic fascist state they refer to as the Christian American Kingdom. Their envisaged Kingdom 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.

Conservatives have framed their attacks against Black and L.G.B.T.Q. identities and women’s reproductive rights as a Holy War. A war sanctioned by God and led by their anointed savior, who has shown he will do and say anything to gain power and remain in power.

There are no bystanders in such a conflict. Inaction is still an action, and it favors the oppressor.

Are you ready to embrace the mother of all inconvenient truths, faith is not fact?

Are you ready to become a scientific rebel?

Peter Tchoryk

Sign up on this site to receive updates on the Scientific Rebellion. If podcasts are your thing, please check out our Scientific Rebel podcasts.