Christian Nationalism and American Democracy

Christian nationalism makes an idol of the nation

As a practicing Christian, I’ve long been simultaneously fascinated, horrified, and mortified by the link between Christian Nationalism and American Democracy.

One of the triggers this time is the February 29 episode of the NPR program Fresh Air that my friend ADD linked to recently. The piece was called The Impact Of Christian Nationalism On American Democracy. Spoiler: the impact is NOT good.

“Why do many Christian nationalists think Trump is chosen by God to lead the country? We talk with Bradley Onishi about the ties between Christian nationalism and political and judicial leaders. Onishi became a Christian nationalist and a youth minister in his teens and then left the church. He is the author of Preparing for War: The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism — and What Comes Next, and he cohosts a podcast about religion and politics called Straight White American Jesus.”

Onishi notes, as I had heard before, that Ronald Reagan said many of the right things to appeal to evangelicals yet never really curried their favor.

George W. Bush was one of them, talking about his “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ, yet never delivered the goods. Onishi gave me new insights about the 2004 W and John Kerry race. The author had indicated to his colleagues that he was positively disposed toward Kerry, who used Matthew 25 language about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. The colleagues acknowledged Kerry’s position but asked if Onishi wanted to be responsible for all the “murdered babies” that a pro-choice Kerry administration would create.


As I well remember, Mitch McConnell stifled Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court because 2016 was an election year, yet allowed Amy Comey Barrett’s nomination to SCOTUS, even though 2020 was also an election year. SCOTUS was then poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. All sorts of state laws, often invoking religion, were instituted. The Alabama Supreme Court’s in vitro fertilization ruling was merely the (il)logical next step.

They like djt because he delivered. You may recall that he allowed a group of preachers to pray and lay hands on him. This encouraged the infiltration of a mentality that has taken over everything from school boards to state houses, not to mention the current Speaker of the House.

This mentality makes me deeply uncomfortable. What happened to rendering unto God what was God’s to Caesar what was Caesar? I read that in a book somewhere. Anyway, listen to the recording.

djt 47?

What might djt do with another four years in the White House? A NYT study suggests that it is “useful to take [his]allies at their word simply. One group of them published 887 pages’ worth of words in a dense but fascinating document called “Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise.”

Among other things, “it calls for the closing or remaking of agencies on ideological or religious grounds. (The Department of Health and Human Services should be known as ‘the Department of Life,’ and the government must ‘maintain a biblically based, social-science-reinforced definition of marriage and family.’) It portrays the president as the personal embodiment of popular will and treats the law as an impediment to conservative governance. (‘The legal function cannot be allowed to thwart the administration’s agenda,’ it says.)

While the likely Republican nominee has not specifically endorsed the document, the document mentions djt some 300 times. Read the article, which should fill you with dread. 


In What is Christian nationalism? by Rev. Ryan Dunn, a pastor in the United Methodist Church, writes: “Christian nationalism limits who we are in our spiritual identity and who we are in our American identity. And it runs the even more dangerous route towards a belief that the nation is infallible. Christian nationalism makes an idol of the nation–the country becomes an interchangeable object of worship. We believe we serve God by serving the country.”

Check out Crisis Of Faith: Christian Nationalism and the Threat to U.S. Democracy by Edward Lempinen (Sept 2022)

Christian Nationalism Is ‘Single Biggest Threat’ to America’s Religious Freedom. An Interview With Amanda Tyler of the Baptist Joint Committee (Apr 2022)

An ‘imposter Christianity’ is threatening American democracy. Analysis by , CNN (July 2022)

THE DANGER OF CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM: The First Amendment is fundamental, and it’s under attack by Jace Woodrum, Executive Director, ACLU of South Carolina (Nov 2023)

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” – Romans 16:17-18, NIV 

Jan. rambling: worse than you’d think

P.D.Q. Bach

What’s Indoor Air Quality Like in Long-Term Care Facilities During Wildfires? Worse Than You’d Think

The Media Is Melting Down, and Neither Billionaires Nor Journalists Can Seem to Stop It. Across the industry, contraction, layoffs, sales, and labor unrest remind us of 2008 — but insiders are less optimistic this time.

Politicians Must Stop Playing Doctor — Personal ideology should not guide medical care, even for abortion.

Frank S. Robinson’s Book Review of “The Democrat Party Hates America”

The Green Island Power Authority responded to Chuck Miller’s questions. All of them.

2030 Census Planning in 2024

NY County data on detailed race by sex and age

What Happens When a Baby Is Born on a Plane? The unique reality of being—and having—a ‘skyborn’? at 39,000 feet

Pam Grier Set for Career Tribute at Toronto Black Film Festival

Complexly Signs Major Tetris Athlete

“God told me to run a bitcoin swindle on my parishioners.”

The last Salem “witch”

The Bookshop Sketch

9 Issues You Absolutely Need to Fix Before Selling Your Home

How to properly use a semicolon?

Now I Know: The Pregnant Platypus With a Secret and The Jail With a Built-in Breakout Plan (one of my sisters used to live in El Cajon)

Obits and a birthday

The Unthinkable Mental Health Crisis That Shook a New England College (WPI)

Colon cancer is killing more younger men and women than ever.

Norman Jewison, Director of In the Heat of the Night, Moonstruck, Fiddler on the Roof, The Hurricane, and many others, dies at 91

Charles Osgood, the host of CBS News Sunday Morning from 1994 to 2016, died at 91. I watched religiously. Thank you, VCR and DVR.

Joyce Randolph, Trixie on ‘The Honeymooners,’ Dies at 99

Bill Mumy, who I remember from Lost in Space and episodes of The Twilight Zone, turns 70 on February 1. 

SCOTUS on tape

The Supreme Court – now with sound! The Moving Image and Sound Branch of the National Archives is also home to over 300,000 sound recordings.   The recordings are organized chronologically.  Since cases are often argued over multiple days, cases can be split up between different recordings.

Time, Inc. v. Hill in 1966.  The Hill family case was argued by former vice president and future president Richard Nixon.  You can hear Nixon argue at about 51:30 in this recording.

  • Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 required states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  The recordings are divided into three parts: question onequestion two, and the opinion.
  • Engel v. Vitale in 1962 decided that school-initiated prayer in public schools violated the First Amendment.
  • Gideon v. Wainwright from 1963 declared that indigent defendants must be provided legal representation without charge.
  • Roe v. Wade was argued over two dates: December 1971 and  October 1972.  The court declared abortion to be a constitutional right.
  • Loving et ux. v. Virginia struck down state laws that banned interracial marriage in 1967.


The American Dream Is Killing Me – Green Day [graphic]
Otis Redding: “(Sittin’ on) The Dock Of The Bay”, the first posthumous #1 pop song

Peter Schickele, Composer and Gleeful Sire of P.D.Q. Bach, Dies at 88. P.D.Q. Bach – Beethoven Symphony No. 5 Sportscast

Singer Melanie, Who Performed at Woodstock,” Dies at 76. Listen to Lay Down with the Edwin Hawkins Singers; Ruby Tuesday.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom Of The Opera film (2004)
Peter Sprague Plays The Wind Cries Mary featuring Lisa Hightower
John Lennon featuring the Plastic Ono Band: Jealous Guy
Coverville 1473: The Footloose 40th Anniversary Album Cover and 1474: Cover Stories for Roxette, Aaliyah and The Ventures
Symphonic Poem on Three Notes by Tan Dun.
Billy Joel: The Stranger
K-Chuck Radio: The Frank Farian Catalogue
Peter Sprague Plays Ocean Song, Earth Song
2024 Songwriters Hall of Fame Class: Timbaland, R.E.M., Steely Dan, Hillary Lindsey, Dean Pitchford

Ramones Biopic Caught In Crossfire of Heirs’ Clash In Court

December 1st

among other things, vote

Every December 1, I’m torn about what to write. Item #1: It’s World AIDS Day. “This year’s theme is “World AIDS Day 35: Remember and Commit.” This annual event serves as a reminder of the global struggle to end HIV-related stigma, an opportunity to honor those we have lost, and a rallying cry to commit to working toward a day when HIV is no longer a public health threat.

In the national goal of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030, GLAAD “noted an alarming generation gap. Gen Z, the youngest generation in population surveys, is the most diverse and most out LGBTQ generation in history. According to our study, Gen Z is also the least knowledgeable about HIV.” Ignorance is NOT bliss.


Here’s a JEOPARDY clue:

#8974, aired 2023-11-16 THE NAME OF THE LAW $1600: The Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 was named for James Byrd Jr. & this Casper, Wyoming man

The $1,600 clue was a Triple Stumper, with no one even ringing in to say the name of Matthew Shepard, born on December 1, 1976, whose brutal death in Wyoming in 1998 because he was gay I mentioned here and elsewhere.

(In case you’ve forgotten Byrd, he was the black man “who was tied to a truck by two white supremacists and a third man who had no racist background, dragged behind it, and decapitated in Jasper, Texas” in the same year.”)

It only took a decade and a black President to enact the bill.

Per Wikipedia:

“The measure expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

“The bill also:

  • Removes, in the case of hate crimes related to the race, color, religion, or national origin of the victim, the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity, like voting or going to school;
  • Gives federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crime investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue;
  • Provides $5 million per year in funding for fiscal years 2010 through 2012 to help state and local agencies pay for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes;
  • Requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to track statistics on hate crimes based on gender and gender identity (statistics for the other groups were already tracked).”
Sister Rosa

The other December 1st recollection involves Rosa Parks being arrested on a Montgomery city bus in 1955 for failing to cede her seat to a white man.

As I noted back in 2010, Rosa was hardly the first person unwilling to give up her bus seat. Claudette Colvin had done the same nine months earlier, but she was young, loud, and brash.

What got me thinking about this was a new movie about Bayard Rustin, which I have not yet seen. He was the most important civil rights organizer that most people never heard of. It was his study of Gandhian nonviolence that informed much of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s strategies.    He was also instrumental in forming the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

You probably didn’t know him because he was gay at a time when, at best, it was inconvenient to the civil rights movement. At worst, he could have been jailed.

This makes me think about how well we marginalize folks who either don’t fit a particular narrative or else we cast aspersions on them to make them less than.

Alternative narratives

The defense in the Shepard case suggested that his ruthless murder was just a drug purchase gone wrong.

Many high-profile murder of a black person while dealing with law enforcement since the Black Lives Matter movement began has involved the victims painted as criminals. George Floyd allegedly passed a counterfeit $20 bill. Philando Castile was stopped for a traffic violation. Eric Gardner was selling loose cigarettes. And so on.

So, December 1st often fills me with hope. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 wouldn’t have happened if Martin Luther King Jr. and MANY others hadn’t used the Montgomery bus boycott as a launching pad for another phase of the Civil Rights movement.

December 1st shows how marriage equality, from Loving v. Virginia (1967) to Obergefell v. Hodges  (2015) can take place.

But I have no illusion that these hard-won victories can’t be rolled back. Since Shelby County v.  Holder, when SCOTUS gutted the Voting Right Act, the “Brennan Center has consistently found that states previously covered by the preclearance requirement have engaged in significant efforts to disenfranchise voters.”

Books being banned and challenged usually highlight black people, brown people, gay people, trans people… you get the drift.

My Christmas wish is for people to register and vote, not just in presidential years. Folks should be voting in school and library board selections, city and town council races, state and county legislative contests, etc. If possible, get involved in campaigns. Or – if you’re brave enough, and in this social media environment, it is brave – run yourself.

Famous people I’ve met, posthumous edition


Oddly, I found the exercise of noting 70 people in my life who have passed therapeutic. So, I figured I’d list some famous people I’ve met who have since died.

Rod Serling:  When you grew up in Binghamton, NY, in the early 1960s, Serling, born in the Syracuse area but grew up on the West Side of the Parlor City, was a big deal. The Twilight Zone television series was chockful of Binghamtonian references, from a rundown bus station to a carousel, which looked much like Recreation Park’s merry-go-round.

In 1970, I, as president of the student government, was given the honor of introducing Serling at a schoolwide assembly. Rod had been the student government leader thirty years earlier.

His favorite teacher, Helen Foley, who was namechecked in a TZ episode, wrote me a too-long introduction that mentioned him being a paratrooper in World War II.

While briefly mortified then, I understood why he came out on stage during my introduction. After the assembly, he spoke to La Foley’s last-period public speaking class, which I got permission to attend. Rod smoked incessantly in the classroom. The coffin nails killed him five years later at 50; fame doesn’t immunize one from disease.

Earl Warren: My Constitutional hero., as recently noted. I never did figure out how my SUNY New Paltz professor, Ron Steinberg, managed to arrange for his class of about 15 students to meet a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

A former Weaver

Pete Seeger: Reading my diary, I noticed I had seen Pete sing at least thrice in the autumn of 1972, including twice in one day. I estimate that I’d seen him perform at least 30 times.

When the Springboks rugby team from apartheid South Africa was scheduled to play at Bleeker Stadium in Albany in September 1981, with the approval of long-time mayor Erastus Corning II, there was a call for protests. I was at the demonstration, along with over a thousand others.

There might have been an even larger response, except it was POURING. But Pete was there, and we were standing outside the stadium getting soaked, umbrellas notwithstanding, while discussing the moral necessity to respond to racism and other evils.

Ed Dague: My favorite newsperson in the Albany market. Somewhere in the attic, I have the transcript of an April 1994 11 p.m. news broadcast on WNYT-TV, Channel 13, that I got to watch being broadcast while near the set.

Back when he had a mustache

Alex Trebek: My sense of the JEOPARDY host was that he enjoyed the show’s rhythm in the Los Angeles area—two or three shows, a meal break, then three or two more episodes.

When I saw him at the Wang Theater in Boston in September 1998, I sensed he was uncomfortable doing a series of interviews with the Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, and other media outlets. I got to watch him a lot because there was a lot of waiting around.

He was explicitly annoyed with not getting into our hotel, the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, quickly that first evening because of a Bill Clinton fundraiser, which followed a massive demonstration both against Clinton and against special prosecutor Ken Starr, who had put out explicit information online regarding the President and Monica Lewinsky. I don’t know if his irritation was political/cultural – he tended to be rather conservative – or merely the inconvenience.

Regardless, I’m disappointed I don’t have a photo with him because he was doing the bunny-ears thing with his fingers behind my back, which I saw on a monitor.

1973: the class trip to DC

New Paltz Democratic Club

I intend to finish my 1973 diary recollections by the end of 2023.  Though I found nothing I wanted to share in the first two months, the class trip to DC was particularly noteworthy.

Wed, Mar 7: I was famished that evening and was going to eat. But the Okie said she was going to bring food. Then my parents and my sisters arrived, surprising me near or on my birthday for the second year in a row.

We were about to leave when a car with a little girl barreled down the street in reverse. Dad tried to stop it, but he couldn’t. It rammed into another vehicle. The girl was okay. She was trying to adjust the radio station and released the brake. My family went to a Chinese restaurant called Great Wall.

Tues, Apr 10: I attended, not for the first time, a New Paltz Democratic Club meeting. Ralph Kulseng nominated me to be the acting recording secretary. Someone whispered, “Who’s Roger Green?” I whispered, “I’m Roger Green!”

[I joined the Club after I was allowed to register to vote in the town. The law in New York State at the time was that no one would gain or lose the right to vote by attending college. The Republican registrar was going to deny me the chance to vote there. But the Democrat, noting that the Okie was already registered in Ulster County and that it would be silly for a married couple to have to be registered in different counties.]

I won the election and was given postcards, the membership list, etc.

Sat, Apr 14: I was back in Binghamton. I met a legislative assistant of my Congressman Howard Robison at the Federal Building about war, Watergate, and other issues.

District of Columbia

Sun, May 13: My classmates (Sid, Andi, Ivy, Gary, Jay, Mitch, Stu, Charles, Jerry, Tom, and Linda ) and I drove down to DC for a trip arranged by our professor, Ron Steinberg.  We ate at the Mayflower Diner. Nixon arrived at the Washington Monument grounds by helicopter, causing chaos. We stayed at a hostel.

Mon, May 14: After breakfast at a greasy spoon, we take a bus to the Supreme Court. They ruled 8-1, Rehnquist dissenting, that a servicewoman could claim her husband for benefits as easily as a serviceman could claim his wife. (As I read the case now, it was a bit more nuanced than that.) We talked with chief clerk Rodak, a real PR man, about court caseloads.

At the Justice Department, we talked with Phil Locavara, deputy solicitor general, who was very candid, even about Watergate.

The last day in DC

Tues, May 15: We had a meeting at the EPA with a guy named Stuart, who was very interesting and informative. I got lost going to the Common Cause meeting, seeing an Ethiopian parade en route. Later, the FCC PR man gave us terse, frustratingly evasive answers.

Wed, May 16: Took a bus to the New Senate Office Building. I hated carrying around my duffel bag, which was searched every time I entered there or the Supreme Court. Ron, Sid, and I ate at the NSOB cafeteria. We got Senate passes from the office of Senator James Buckley (C-NY). I went to the Senate on the subway, but only four Senators were on the floor.

We went to the Old Senate Office Building for a meeting with a subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary with two of the staff on Senator Sam Ervin (D-NC).

Then we went to see former Chief Justice Earl Warren. Ron made only an introductory statement and asked the last question over an hour later. )I wrote about this here.)

We all drove back to New Paltz, very tired.

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