In her column for the New York Times, religious extremism expert Katherine Stewart said Donald Trump's loss in the 2020 presidential election to former Vice President Joe Biden will not deter Christian nationalists in their war with secular America and will, in fact, give them more ammo.
With the president on his way out the Oval Office door, religious extremists who believe the United States should be a Christian nation guided by the Bible are watching a powerful ally leave after forming an alliance with him to help get him elected in the first place.
However, they also see his loss -- despite receiving over 70 million votes -- as an affirmation that their cause still has widespread support and they hope to capitalize on it.
"The 2020 election is proof that religious authoritarianism is here to stay, and the early signs now indicate that the movement seems determined to reinterpret defeat at the top of the ticket as evidence of persecution and of its own righteousness," she wrote. "With or without Mr. Trump, they will remain committed to the illiberal politics that the president has so ably embodied."
According to the columnist, Christian nationalist leaders are already ramping up their rhetoric after conservative speaker David Harris Jr, claimed, "If you’re a believer, and you believe God appointed Donald J. Trump to run this country, to lead this country, and you believe as I do that he will be re-elected the President of the United States, then friends, you’ve got to guard your heart, you’ve got to guard your peace. Right now we are at war."
According to the columnist, Trump's claims that the election was stolen from him is feeding into his hard-right Christian followers' persecution complex which will become a centerpiece as they turn him into a martyr.
"in their responses to the election outcome, some prominent religious right leaders have enabled or remained true to the false Trumpian line of election fraud. Michele Bachmann, the former Minnesota congresswoman and 2012 presidential candidate, said, 'Smash the delusion, Father, of Joe Biden is our president. He is not'," Stewart reported. "In Crisis Magazine, a conservative Catholic publication, Richard C. Antall likened media reporting on the Biden-Harris ticket’s victory to a 'coup d’état.' Mat Staver, chairman and founder of Liberty Counsel, added, 'What we are witnessing only happens in communist or repressive regimes. We must not allow this fraud to happen in America'."
Writing, "After processing their disappointment, Christian nationalists may come around to the reality of Joe Biden’s victory. There is no indication, however, that this will temper their apocalyptic vision, according to which one side of the American political divide represents unmitigated evil ...The rank-and-file of the movement is diverse and comes to its churches with an infinite variety of motivations and concerns, but the leaders are far more unified."
"They collaborate in a densely interconnected network of think-tanks, policy groups, activist organizations, legal advocacy groups and conservative pastoral networks. What holds them together is not any centralized command structure, but a radical political ideology that is profoundly hostile to democracy and pluralism, and a certain political style that seeks to provoke moral panic, rewards the paranoid and views every partisan conflict as a conflagration, the end of the world," she added before warning, "Partisan politics is the lifeblood of their movement."
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