Yesterday, the news broke that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ (alternative) Justice Department was rescinding Obama era transgender employment non-discrimination protections. And today, in a move that is almost certainly illegal and will be challenged in court, Health and Human Services moved to essentially eliminate the ACA’s contraception mandate, allowing educational institutions and even publicly traded corporations to cite “sincerely held religious beliefs” as a reason not to provide access to contraception in employer-provided insurance policies. Both these Trump administration moves are in line with the Christian Right’s radical authoritarian agenda, and clearly demonstrate that #IllegitimatePresident Donald, despite being generally incompetent, knows who his base is, and is more than willing to pursue that base’s theocratic aims.
Those aims, of course, are unpopular. By embracing Trumpism, the Christian Right has made a power grab. Radical Christians are successfully imposing their bigoted, authoritarian, minority-supported agenda on the majority of Americans. How long this can last cannot be easily predicted, but we must factor authoritarianism into any calculations in order not to underestimate the very real risk we face to democracy and human rights.
Neither our radicalized Right in general (most Republicans, and certainly the Christian Right, which includes the vast majority of white Evangelicals) nor the Trump administration value democracy or the rule of law. Voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the Electoral College may allow our radical Right to impose its authoritarian will on a pro-democracy majority for a very long time. The Christian Right and the Trump administration are already undermining and eroding our democratic institutions and norms, and will continue to do so for as long as they can, to the greatest extent that they can. Fundamentalism, remember, is incompatible with pluralism, and as I wrote elsewhere on this blog:
Fundamentalism is authoritarianism in microcosm, or on the margins. Fascism is essentially fundamentalism in power
With the above in mind, I am renewing my call to name what we are seeing in no uncertain terms. The mainstream press should stop coddling white Evangelicals and other conservative Christians, and should start allowing ex-Evangelicals to tell our side of the story. And no, Washington Post, Evangelicals are not sticking with Trump out of concern for “religious liberty”–not unless you accept their radical redefinition of the term to mean the “liberty” to dominate everyone who is not them, and that is not a definition of liberty that is compatible with pluralism and democracy. Refusing to call this theocratic authoritarianism what it is is to normalize it. In order to push back, I suggest we continue to shame right-wing Christians for using Trump to impose their will by calling them out with the hashtag #EmptyThePews.
The use of this protest hashtag tells them that we know what they are up to, and we will not take it sitting down. It puts them on notice that they are reviled by the majority of Americans, who support the rule of law, separation of church and state, and human rights. Should the mechanisms be found to roll back American authoritarianism and to arrive at something like functional democracy, Evangelicals and other conservative Christians will deservedly find themselves in the political wilderness for generations. The rest of us will not forget or forgive their illegitimate power grab so easily.
Speaking of things we should not forget, today marks the anniversary of the date that Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, an Evangelical organization with a substantial presence on college campuses across the United States, announced it would purge all employees who spoke out publicly in favor of same-sex marriage. As in similar purges carried out by Evangelical colleges, many of the affected individuals are bound by non-disclosure agreements from disparaging their former employers (and if you weren’t aware that Christian institutions use such aggressive strong-arm tactics, #YouDontKnowEvangelicals). The rest of us, however, can speak out, and I suggest that those of you who are on Twitter and so inclined tweet the hashtag #IntervarsityPurgeAnniversary along with #EmptyThePews at @IntervarsityUSA. The anti-Trump resistance and all Americans of good conscience must keep insisting to the Christian Right at every opportunity that we will not allow them to turn America into a theocracy. With any luck, when this is all over, our culture warriors will find themselves the pariahs that their “divine justifications” for bigotry, discrimination, and #ChristianAltFacts ought to make them.