'Jesus, guns, babies': Religious violence is now at the core of the Republican Party

At the tail end of last week, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado took the stage at the Charis Christian Center's Family Camp Meeting. The event claims that, "you will hear God's Word shared through speakers who have proven God's Word," and follows the speakers' list with Acts 2:17-18:

And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

The apocalyptic context notwithstanding, Boebert's talk made quite a splash because of her invocation of Psalm 109:8 in the context of praying for President Biden — "May his days be few and another take his office" — before laughing at the cheers of the crowd. This is certainly not a new use of that text by the GOP — Sen. David Perdue of Georgia invoked it against Obama in 2016, and it became an anti-Obama slogan featured on bumper stickers. With the passage divorced from its full context, people can laugh — but Psalm 109 is a war psalm, calling for the death of the man in question, with 109:9 reading "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow." And that's the point: As with so many aspects of contemporary Christian nationalism, give the line people can nod along to, and hold back the violent context. This is a prayer for the death of the president, and it is one we can honestly say has become normal for Republicans to use about Democratic presidents.

Maybe that's a big enough problem that we should acknowledge it not just as a fringe phenomenon, but as part of the core problem of the contemporary, MAGA-infused GOP.

Of course, Boebert has gone much further than prayers against the president. She met with organizers of the Jan. 6 coup attempt beforehand. She tweeted the locations of lawmakers, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as insurrectionists were breaking into the Capitol. Like Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Boebert and her family have posed for Christmas cards with AR-15-style weapons, with all of the problematic associations of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth with weapons designed for combat. These things — Jesus, guns and, with family photos, babies — are in fact pillars of the Christian nationalist branch of the GOP.

Georgia candidate Kandiss Taylor called fellow Republican Brian Kemp "Luciferian" and defined the First Amendment as "our right to worship Jesus freely — that's why we have a country."

Kandiss Taylor's failed Republican gubernatorial primary campaign in Georgia was incredibly instructive on where the GOP now stands. Her campaign bus, which literally had "Jesus, Guns, Babies" emblazoned on the side, was just the most overt aspect of her Christian nationalist campaign. She told followers to pray for good sheriffs and said that corrupt ones would be executed for treason, strongly implying her belief in the extremist "constitutional sheriff" doctrine, which holds sheriffs are arbiters of what the law is in their counties, not enforcers of it. She said at one campaign rally, "We're gonna do a political rally and we're gonna honor Jesus. They're not gonna tell us 'separation of church and state.' We are the church! We run this state!" — an aggressively Christian nationalist idea. Taylor called Gov. Brian Kemp's administration a "Luciferian regime," and said that as governor she would release an executive order against the "Satanic elites," and vowed to tear down the "Satanic" Georgia Guidestones.

Taylor even championed Native genocide, saying, "The First Amendment right, which is our right to worship Jesus freely — that's why we have a country. That's why we have Georgia. That's why we had our Founding Fathers come over here and destroy American Indians' homes and their land. They took it." And, of course, she champions the Big Lie, saying on Twitter, "We are in a spiritual war ... it's God versus Satan. If GA goes down, if we let them steal the election from us .. we're gonna steal it back if we have to." That carried over to her own loss — despite losing the primary by 70 points, she refused to concede.

We might well ask: So what? Taylor was defeated by a staggering margin, as were numerous other Christian nationalist candidates. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, for example, lost his primary race in North Carolina after the Republican establishment turned on him. Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin embraced extremism, appearing with militia members in photo ops, administering oaths to them reserved for the state military, and appeared on video at the America First PAC meeting, saying, "God calls us to pick up the sword and fight, and Christ will reign in the state of Idaho." She lost by 20 points. The Republican candidate for secretary of state in California, Rachel Hamm, said she decided to run for office because she was a prophetic dreamer, and because her youngest son, "a seer," had found Jesus in the closet where she prays, holding a scroll telling her to run. She also lost and then claimed fraud, tweeting, "When you've fought the good fight, had an honest contest & lost, that's when you concede. So, in my case, there will be no concession. Stolen elections=stolen Republic."

And then there those who are still running. Greg Lopez, a GOP gubernatorial candidate in Colorado, believes in a blanket ban on abortion, rejects climate change, has said that the "educational system has now been converted into state indoctrination centers" and is a proponent of the Big Lie. He appeared, alongside a range of conspiracy theorists and far right figures, at the Western Conservative Summit at the beginning of the month. And he is not shy about his negative views of the LGBTQ community, a common theme among GOP candidates.

Mark Burns in South Carolina, for example, was an early Trump supporter in 2016. He's an evangelical minister, a conspiracy theorist and pastor at the Harvest Praise & Worship Center. He's running for Congress in the state's 4th congressional district, and his platform reads like a grab bag of right-wing ideas:

  • Our right to bear arms is INHERENT, given to us by God almighty -- NOT by any man;
  • If we don't fix these elections NOW, America will be lost. Without open, honest, transparent elections, no other issue matters;
  • Life begins at conception;
  • Marriage is defined as between one man and one woman;
  • Critical Race Theory is Communist, anti-white Racism;
  • Vaccine and mask mandates are medical tyranny, and have no place in America;
  • The Pelosi budget opens the door wide open to full-blown communism.

And while these may sound like wild ideas, they're nothing compared to what Burns says. He has called for reviving the House Un-American Activities Committee — yes, the infamous Red-hunters of the 1940s — to investigate LGBTQ "indoctrination," which he calls a national security threat, saying that anyone engaged in it (or in gun control) should be tried for treason, and executed. Burns is literally calling for reviving the "lavender scare," which has a certain evil logic because that, in essence, is where Christian nationalists have settled in the culture wars: anti-trans legislation, anti-LGBTQ rallies and attacks, and pushing to re-criminalize sexual minorities.

The Jesus part is obvious. The guns have been covered, be it Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano's links to the apocalyptic Rod of Iron Ministries or the marketing of AR-15-style guns as sacred weapons. But babies may be the most important part of it. Attacks on the LGBTQ community must be understood in the context of right-wing ideas about sexual purity and a full-blown mania for forced birth legislation. Anti-abortion laws, attacks on contraception and attacks on sexual minorities are all part of a Christian nationalist assault on the nation. Movements like Quiverfull, taken from Psalm 127, have a number of political aspects alongside a belief system that shuns birth control and believes God will give them the right number of children. They literally believe that whoever has the most babies wins, and see that as the fundamental political and spiritual battle. One Quiverfull-affiliated author has said:

It is the womb that conceives and nourishes the "godly seed" who will come forth to be the light in the darkness and who will destroy the works of Satan in this world. God is looking for an army. ... The womb is a powerful weapon against Satan. Some women fear to bring babies into this evil world, but this is one of the greatest reasons for having children — to be the light in this dark world!

Quiverfull is a Christian patriarchy movement, not only pushing female submission to husbands and fathers, and eschewing education and contraception to win the culture war — as Salon reporter Kathryn Joyce has detailed in her book "Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement" — but also contributing to the protection of sexual predators in church communities and vigorously promoting the anti-abortion and forced birth laws being passed around the country.

I would also suggest, rather forcefully, that Christian patriarchy and Christian nationalism are linked to the "great replacement" theory, the deeply racist and xenophobic notion that nonwhite people are being brought into Western countries to "replace" white voters, in order to further a specific political agenda, leading to the supposed extinction of white people. As is well understood, this delusional ideology has fueled multiple massacres, including the mass shooting in Buffalo in May and earlier mass shootings in El Paso, Pittsburgh and Christchurch, New Zealand. Forced-birth laws and abortion bans are also part of this perceived demographic war, part and parcel with the spiritual battles Christian nationalists believe they are fighting and the very real stockpiling of arms, association with militia groups and opposition to government. PRRI's August 2021 survey shows that "great replacement" ideas are growing in evangelical circles, and have only become more mainstream since then.

Religious violence is the bedrock of Christian nationalism, and Christian nationalism is becoming the bedrock of the contemporary Republican Party. Forced birth laws, anti-LGBTQ legislation and the "great replacement" theory are all forms of violence, and all but certain to fuel the spread of more lethal violence. "Jesus, Guns and Babies" may seem like a laughable slogan, stripped of context. But it isn't funny at all.

That 'freedom convoy' in Ottawa? It's inspired by an Old Testament account of divine massacre

When a church announces what’s called a Jericho March (or a Jericho Walk), you might picture congregants praying, walking around a building, trumpets blasting and an odd gospel song here and there.

You might forget, however, what comes next.

From Joshua 6:20-21:

When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.

Jericho Marches are organized by a group by the same name. They were created by a coalition of Christian nationalists in the US. They are co-led by a Catholic think-tank writer (Arina Grossu of the Family Research Council) and an evangelical businessman (Rob Weaver).

The Jericho Marches rose to prominence recently. Supporters have been marching around the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa for around 20 days. They are, for Americans, a gothic reminder of what had been brewing in the lead up to the J6 sacking and looting of the US Capitol.

The same toxic brew
Jericho March, the group, is one of the religious groups, movements and ideologies that were at play in the insurrection. The Uncivil Religion project has uncovered a bevy of beliefs. The Jericho Marches, however, were the principal symbol of J6 and the Christian nationalism at its heart, not only in DC but at state capitols around the country.

Christian nationalism is a religious idea that transcends borders. It attracts a lot of support from like-minded insurrectionists abroad.

Last year, when journalist Emma Green wrote “A Christian Insurrection” for The Atlantic, it was subtitled it, “Many of those who mobbed the Capitol on Wednesday claimed to be enacting God’s will.”

The CBC Investigates piece on the Ottawa convoy this week is titled, “For many inside the Freedom Convoy, faith fuels the resistance.”

The links are very clear between groupings. And now, organizing in small groups and marching around Parliament, is a new Jericho March.

Spiritual warfare
Filmed versions of Jericho Marches reveal a large group in the snow, bearing primarily Canadian flags and singing hymns, reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and then blowing shofars before they began marching.

The hymns and prayers were occasionally punctuated by people yelling “Freedom!” and trucks honking. One woman spoke in tongues before engaging in rhetoric I’ve seen in spiritual warfare sermons.

They prayed for healing from vaccines and for summoning the “Lord of Heaven’s armies.” As the National Review reported, the Jericho March goes every day, once around Parliament, and seven full laps on Thursdays, carrying horns and trumpets. And they hope eventually more will show up, to the tune of thousands and thousands.

Benita Pedersen, an organizer from Alberta, was interviewed by a sympathetic Christian YouTube channel about what they are doing.

Pedersen said she felt a “call on her heart” to do this. She had been given a steer horn by a local farmer. She knew she had to bring it to Ottawa and to do a Jericho March. She’s using that as a shofar.

She said that the “freedom movement” was “100 percent hand in hand with Jesus.” They go together beautifully, she said, and nonbelieving supporters should think about Jesus and about how it goes together.

Divine massacre
But, of course, this isn’t her first time.

She led an anti-vaxx rally outside of the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton in September, received 10 Public Health Act tickets for organizing various anti-public health rallies in northern Alberta last year and revived her Twitter account, dormant since 2016, specifically in order to promote anti-public health events she organized and ran.

The story of Jericho is nothing to worry about.

It’s only about divine massacre.

Walls come crumbling down
They know what they are doing. One participant on TikTok recounted the biblical story before backpedaling that this was “not about crumbling walls or infrastructure,” but about softening hearts.

Previous Jericho Marches were not as benign. A year ago, in Edmonton, a Jericho March against pandemic restrictions was condemned by the conservative premier and questioned by anti-hate groups for their intention to march with tiki torches. It was joined by hate groups.

One of the organizers asked “what happened when they marched around seven times on the last day? The walls came crumbling down. Spiritually speaking, we need those corrupt walls that have been built up by the politicians to come smashing and crumbling down.”

“The Great Reset”
Back to Ottawa: Christian nationalist symbols are visible in the mob that has been marching and occupying space around Parliament for about 20 days, though in smaller numbers than in American rallies. It’s part of the broader effort to bring global attention to the “convoy.”

CBC has reported on the prayer circles and speeches and signs in the crowd. Christine Mitchell has written about the Christian nationalist imagery of 2 Chronicles in the crowd. More worrisome, though, is how much international presence, interference and support there is.

Fox News, Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino influence groups around the world that spread Facebook propaganda. All of these have directed attention to Canada and fundraised for the occupation of the city.

Franklin Graham, a J6 defender, posted a supporting Instagram video, tagged with “I’d like you to meet who Prime Minister @JustinPJTrudeau called the ‘fringe minority.’ Tell me what you think of this video.” It featured the Jericho March, among others, and it was set to “Amazing Grace,” which was sung loudly by the mob on January 6.

The Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a noted QAnon-adjacent radical traditionalist Catholic, gave a talk that linked the convoy expressly to “a worldwide chorus that wants to oppose the establishment of the New World Order on the rubble of nation-states through the Great Reset desired by the World Economic Forum and by the United Nations under the name of ‘Agenda 2030.’” Viganò added:

"We know many heads of state have participated in Klaus Schwab's School for Young Leaders — the so-called Global Leaders for Tomorrow — beginning with Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron, Jacinta Ardern and Boris Johnson and, before that, Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and Tony Blair.”

We should worry
“The Great Reset” is an explicitly anti-public health conspiracy theory. Viganò has promoted it relentlessly. It is also used by anti-vaxx, anti-mask and other anti-mandate groups as their way of drumming up support internationally and bringing in more conspiracy theorists.

Viganò’s message focused on Christian nationalism from a Catholic perspective. It was also permeated with QAnon tropes:

“But, even more, dear Canadian brothers, it is necessary to understand that this dystopia serves to establish the dictatorship of the New World Order and totally erase every trace of Our Lord Jesus Christ from society, from history and from the traditions of peoples.”

The elements of spiritual warfare – repeatedly deployed by Christian nationalist groups before in service of Trump and elsewhere – on the borderline of where it crosses over into physical violence, the Jericho Marchs, the violent commentary supporting it, the prayer, the shofars, the echoes of J6 expressed from abroad and divorced from the actual Canadian context – these are a symptom of a broader problem.

Illiberalism is growing. The variant around Trump – conspiracy-laden, seditionist, Christian nationalism – is getting strong by the minute.

Last year, it was in Washington.

This year, Ottawa.

Next year? We should worry.