Baptizing America Revisited
A specter is haunting America and it is not socialism and certainly not communism. It’s the obscene specter of Americans being forced to kneel in submission to an extremist “winner take all” religious ideology seeking to transform the United States into a “Christian nationalist” country where Christian supremacy in its many forms supersedes all human laws – including and especially the American Constitution.
In my book “The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans For The Rest Of Us (Thunder’s Mouth Press 2006), I warned that a well-financed and highly organized group of religious and political leaders was seeking to impose their narrow radical beliefs and harsh public policies on the US, even as our nation’s population was increasingly multireligious, multiethnic, and multiracial.
Some critics accused me of writing about a “nonexistent” threat from the religious right. One reviewer called my work a “paranoid rant” while another detractor wrote that my “alarmist” views were “exaggerated and implausible.”
Their belief was: ”It can’t happen here in America”, but 17 years later we know better. “It” can happen, indeed, is happening here led by a well-financed and well organized group that I label “Christocrats” that has grown in numbers, political power and public visibility.
The Christocrats’ clearly announced goal is to establish a white-dominated nationalistic “Christian America” officially buttressed and ruled by judicial, presidential and congressional law and supported and maintained by acts of public violence, when required, to gain or maintain control of the nation.
The brutal Capitol riot on January 6, 2021 is part of the Christocratic arsenal of tactics to first intimidate the general population, and then to dominate society.
A Christocrat believes the American republic, once the “shining city on the hill”, has lost its moral, political, cultural, and, above all, its religious moorings and foundations. Christocrats believe they are the “true” Americans who must become the ruling masters of the country to the total exclusion of all defined foes.
Christocrats assert that an historic act of merging political and religious forces is necessary to impose total control over every meaningful aspect of American personal and public life. Such zealots believe their quest for control is divinely ordained and biblically inspired. In their view, the “real” United States requires total submission by its citizens to an extreme form of “Christian nationalism” that places all power in the hands of the “chosen” few in order to govern the many.
Christocrats especially distrust the people and leaders of “evil” urban America. Religious right leaders are threatened by demographic diversity. In reaction, they demand that political and cultural supremacy is their rightful role. And the bedrock of that belief is their view that racial purity and physical safety is only found in traditional rural space where the residents are mainly white.
A Christocrat believes that a personal commitment to Jesus as one’s savior is absolutely necessary, but not sufficient to save today’s United States from “atheistic globalists” and “secular humanists.” National atonement, not merely individual repentance, and the acceptance of an armed “Warrior Jesus” as the ultimate ruler of a Christian America is imperative.
New Testament teachings are conveniently reinterpreted: “Turning the other cheek” (Matthew 5:5) is a sign of abject weakness and “the meek” must not “inherit” (Matthew 5:39) America, but must be crushed and made subservient to a militant form of Christianity. Christocrats are willing, often eager, to jettison historic American freedoms and rights and replace them with “God’s plan” for the nation. That plan is revealed only to those who have the spiritual and political credentials to define what is “Godly and good for America.”
People not sharing this belief will be verbally tarred with two major epithets: secular domestic enemies and anti-Christian internationalists. And they will be legally punished and subjugated.
Christocrats assert it may be necessary to destroy democracy in order to “save” the American people from the perils of elitist humanists, economic globalists, the menace of the LGBTQ community, the malignancy of transgender people, the campaign of gun control advocates, and a myriad of other perceived dangers.
A Christocratic republic would be far different than anything ever seen before in the history of the United States. Every aspect of personal and communal life would be controlled and monitored by Christocratic leaders who would unilaterally act as the nation’s religious, political, educational and cultural guardians. A single political party headed by a “President for Life” would rule the country.
Some readers in 2006 rejected my assertion that religious right leaders wanted to enforce a punitive religious domination over the totality of American life by first infiltrating a major political party and then ultimately gaining mastery of that party to achieve their goals including permanent legal control over every living space in the American national mansion: our bedrooms, public schools, media centers, hospital rooms, medical laboratories, courtrooms, libraries, workrooms, and public spaces.
Since the publication of “The Baptizing Of America,“ I have participated in many in-person and virtual events where my book was discussed. Before the 2016 presidential election, some panelists humorously scoffed at my “wild apocalyptic” assertions, and many in the audience joined in the laughter. But I stand by my analysis.
The religious right’s vigorous opposition to abortion, contraception, and birth control is well documented. Little by little, Christocrats and their allies chipped away at the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that provided for legal abortions until it was finally overturned by the Court in 2022.
In my book I warned that “…many Christocrats want to criminalize abortion by legally prosecuting medical personnel who perform the operation. Some go further and want to charge women who abort with the crime of murdering a fetus.”
Some state governors and Christocratic educators have systematically eliminated much of the horrific record of human slavery in America that began in 1619 and officially lasted until the 1860s. Central to that insidious effort of curriculum deletion and historical amnesia is the malevolent assertion that the “peculiar institution” of wretched human slavery was benign and actually provided African-American slaves with positive professional benefits including agricultural, housekeeping and construction skills.
Christocrats often express admiration for President Andrew Jackson. In their zeal to justify white supremacy, they cite Jackson’s policy in the 1830s of uprooting Native Americans from their ancestral tribal homelands and forcibly sending them into exile. Jackson’s cruel presidential action has been rightfully termed the “Trail of Tears.” Today’s Christocratic “Trail” calls for mass deportations of “undesirable people” and a highly restrictive immigration policy that targets specific religious, ethnic and racial groups who seek entry to the United States.
Part of the religious right’s proclaimed goal is to bleach out any distinctiveness or “diversity” within the pluralistic American population. Because Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, gays and Native Americans are not “real” Americans, they are subject to official discrimination, bigotry and prejudice. The religious right excludes them in its narrow version of a dystopic “Christian America.”
In my interreligious career that spans more than fifty years, I discovered that many Christocrats are inwardly fearful, but outwardly arrogant. They are fearful of modernity and have embarked on a high-stakes campaign to baptize America and convert it into a “Christian nationalist” theocracy.
But to achieve their desired goal, Christocrats must first weaken and then cancel religious and political liberty and personal freedom, the greatest achievements of American democracy.
A central Christocratic belief is that God’s laws, as Christocrats define them, represent the ultimate authority in a Christian America.
What are some other specific targets of a Christocratic revolution?
- Sexual behavior heads the list. Obsessed by what takes place in America’s bedrooms, Christocrats seek to single out and punish LGBTQ people. In their eyes, the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that makes same-sex marriages legal must be overturned.
- Another goal is the dismantling of “government schools,” the derisive term for America’s public schools, and their replacement with publicly funded “Christian academies.” Christocrats oppose the teaching of evolution and they seek the removal of teaching material they deem “anti-religious” “or books that might “make people uncomfortable.”
- Another target is the courtroom. There is an unceasing campaign to remove “liberal judicial activists” from the bench and replace them with jurists who reflect Christocratic legal views. Court decisions would have to pass a religious test, including such questions as “Is the law in line with ‘traditional Christian biblical principles’?” Packing the courts with Christocratic-leaning judges is essential.
- A chief target is the media. Christocrats have in recent years established their own print, electronic and social media platforms that are hostile to “one worlders,” “cosmopolitans,” and “coastal elites.” Prime targets include National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
- Recognizing the need for public libraries, Christocrats’ goal is to gain control of them by claiming libraries foster universalism and provide anti-Christian reading and teaching environments. If Christocrats control boards and staffs, they can exercise authority over acquisitions and professional personnel hiring.
- Christocrats have mounted strong efforts to dominate the public square. The intent is to weaken the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty, destroy the traditional wall of church-state separation and establish their form of Christianity as “America’s religion.”
I draw no joy in pointing out the dangers of the religious right. I do not expect critics to admit they were wrong about my predictions nor do I expect public apologies for their attacks upon my book.
Instead, I urge them to join millions of other Americans in vigorously opposing the ominous specter of a dangerous perversion.
Their campaign is there for all to see. We have been warned.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.
- Perspective on Christian Nationalism – by A. James Rudin - August 9, 2023