Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Jesus Freaks

From the Miami Herald:

While visiting a private Christian college in southern Michigan that wields influence in national politics, Gov. Ron DeSantis rephrased a biblical passage to deliver a message to conservatives.

“Put on the full armor of God. Stand firm against the left’s schemes. You will face flaming arrows, but if you have the shield of faith, you will overcome them, and in Florida we walk the line here,” DeSantis told the audience at Hillsdale College in February. “And I can tell you this, I have only begun to fight.”

The Republican governor, a strategic politician who is up for reelection in November, is increasingly using biblical references in speeches that cater to those who see policy fights through a morality lens and flirting with those who embrace nationalist ideas that see the true identity of the nation as Christian.

He and other Republicans on the campaign trail are blending elements of Christianity with being American and portraying their battle against their political opponents as one between good and evil. Those dynamics have some political observers and religious leaders worrying that such rhetoric could become dangerous, as it could mobilize fringe groups who could be prone to violence in an attempt to have the government recognize their beliefs.

“I think, at best, DeSantis is playing with fire,” said Brian Kaylor, a Baptist minister in Missouri who has studied the interaction between religion and politics for over two decades. “If asked, I’m sure he would tell you he is not telling people to literally go and fight. But this rhetoric in this political environment is dangerous.”


In Florida, many of the religious themes are reflected in the partisan battles that have engulfed school districts since the start of the pandemic. That coincides with DeSantis beginning to incorporate biblical references in his political speeches, and his policy initiatives starting to show undertones of these ideas.

Over the summer, several social studies teachers, for example, said they were alarmed that a civics training session led by DeSantis’ administration had a “Christian nationalism philosophy that was just baked into everything” that was taught.

The initiative emphasized that the Founding Fathers did not desire a strict separation of state and church, and that the “Founders expected religion to be promoted because they believed it to be essential to civic virtue.” Without virtues, the state trainers argued, citizens become “licentious” and subject to tyranny. State trainers also told teachers that the 1962 U.S. Supreme Court case that found school-sponsored prayer violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment was unjust.

When campaigning with Mastriano in Pennsylvania on Aug. 19, DeSantis tied religion to the importance of teaching students about civics. “We have the responsibility to make sure that the students that come out of our school system understand what it means to be an American,” DeSantis said, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “They need to understand that our rights come from God, not from the government.”

This is the kind of mindset that should scare the rest of us: Not just religious fervor, but this narrow fundamentalist view that only their beliefs should be the law.  That’s how Iran and Afghanistan run their countries: if you’re not one of their True Believers, you are an enemy of the state.

Mix that with the fanaticism of the Trumpers and their up-armored insurrectionists and you have the makings of a religious war.  History is littered with the millions of lives lost in every corner of the world in the name of superstition, mythology and the unquenchable thirst for power that has nothing whatsoever to do with God, faith, or humanity.


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