Christian Nationalist Sen. Josh Hawley: We need more Christian Nationalism!
In an essay for a religious journal, the GOP senator claims we don't have enough Christianity in this country
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It hasn’t received much attention (yet), but Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a pro-insurrectionist election denier, wrote a lengthy article called “Our Christian Nation” for the conservative religious journal First Things.
In short, it’s a rehashing of the sorts of things Christian pseudo-historian David Barton has been saying for years—and, just as with Barton, it’s intended for an audience of gullible conservatives who eagerly accept anything someone with unearned confidence tells them.
For example, Hawley writes:
America’s ideal has been the religion of the Bible, Christianity in particular. That is changing now, obviously, and not for the better. As the left works to impose an arid secularism, American culture increasingly has no memory of the religious tradition that made it and, without that tradition, no moral order to bind us together.
America has been a Christian nation. We can be again—if Christians will recover again their confidence that the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks to every facet of our common life. For the future of the nation, and the honor of the gospel, we must.
His examples of our lack of “moral order” include bitter politics, intractable culture wars, the slow-but-growing acceptance of transgender people, and the decline in marriage and birth rates.
He neglects to mention that he and his GOP colleagues have done more than just about anyone to poison our politics, that civil rights for marginalized groups is worth fighting for, and that many of the reasons people are delaying marriage or choosing not to have children are due to policies pushed by Republicans who ignore climate change, make it harder for young people to earn a living wage, reject universal health care, reject vaccines thereby spreading diseases, and voting in religious bigots who seek to punish everyone who doesn’t play along with their chosen mythology.
The conservative Christians who fight child marriage bans have no business complaining about people who want to get married later in life. It’s also ridiculous to argue that not having children is somehow immoral.
This is Hawley’s brand of Christianity for you: If you don’t live the life he wants for you, you’re the evil one.
He goes on to say that college students—conservatives are obsessed with what college students do—who criticize the genocide of Palestinians by the Israeli military are “parrot[ing] Osama bin Laden and Hamas.”
The solution to all of this, Hawley says, isn’t smarter political decisions by people like him.
It’s Jesus: The universal solution offered by those who can’t think of anything useful.
America as a Christian nation—that’s a heretical notion by today’s lights. We are a secular country, the experts have insisted—demanded—for decades. But that was never true. The Founders read Roman historians, yes. Some were influenced by Enlightenment philosophies. But the Bible has been the main source of our national ideals. From the age of the New England Puritans to the Great Awakening that prepared the ground for revolution, Scripture has molded our common life from the first. Consider: Our ideal of the individual has Christian roots. So too does our constitutionalism. Our great traditions of progressive reform were animated by an ardent Christian spirit—as was conservative resistance to their excesses. Even in our most bitter conflicts, Christian culture has been America’s common ground.
We need to recover that common ground today. Why? Because America as we know it cannot survive without biblical Christianity. The rights we cherish, the freedoms we enjoy, the ideals we love together—all are rooted in and sustained by the tradition of the Bible…
How many books have to be written to confront the myth that we live in a “Christian nation” before people stop taking these lies seriously? The Constitution wasn’t based on anything biblical, and we’ve all been the beneficiaries of founders who knew a free country couldn’t have a religious foundation. (To pretend that references to God or our “divine creation” suggest otherwise, a century before anyone understood evolution, is truly lazy.)
What Hawley is arguing for here, without ever actually saying it, is the “Seven Mountains” mandate, which refers to Christians taking over the areas of Religion, Family, Education, Entertainment, Media, Government, and Business in order to influence every aspect of our lives. It’s a horrifying prospect—and the end goal for so many Christians who jump into politics because they can’t find success with their ideas alone in all the other realms.
Hawley argues that language used by American leaders at a time when we were far less diverse than we are today, and by global leaders in places where Christianity was the state religion, means we ought to revive political Christianity right here.
In a time of global crisis, Franklin Roosevelt emphasized America’s biblical heritage. After the devastation of World War II, European leaders embraced Christian democracy in order to rebuild their countries. But there can be no revival of Christian influence in America without Christian believers who are willing to bring the gospel to bear on every corner of our culture and politics.
We’ve had decades to watch what happens when politics is run by people who wear their Christian faith on their sleeve. They are states that suppress women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, worsen child hunger, decimate public universities, and become laughingstocks for the rest of the nation because who the hell wants to move to a state dominated by religious conservatives?
But let’s get specific: What does Hawley want to see in this ideal Christian country?
Step one: Dismantle the legal regime of secularism the left has tried for decades to impose. Children should be able to pray in public-school classrooms. People of faith should be able to pray, witness, and wear signs of their religious devotion in the workplace. Christian business people should be free to incorporate their faith into their enterprises, including by refusing to fund abortion drugs or serve in the planning and celebration of ceremonies, such as same-sex weddings, that violate their convictions.
That’s a long way of saying civil rights and the First Amendment should be tossed aside. Kids can already pray in schools. No one is stopping them. People of faith can pray at work. Christian business owners can do whatever the hell they want in their own time. What Hawley wants is for Christians to be allowed to impose their will onto others in a way he would never accept if Muslims or atheists did the same.
(There’s no “Step two.”)
Ultimately, this is a roughly 4,300-word essay that says nothing of substance—but with bigger words. It’s designed to look academic and “smart” and yet there’s nothing of value readers can learn from it.
The quintessential image of Hawley is him raising a fist while cheering on the insurrectionists on January 6.
If that’s what his Christianity inspired, then the entire country is better off avoiding that brand of religion entirely. But we’re in serious danger of putting people like him in power this November with no meaningful checks on what they can do—and several states have already seen the consequences of electing conservative Christians to powerful positions. The Republican Party has given itself over to the Christian Right and we’ve all suffered because of their cruelty.