A collage of the current SCOTUS, symbol of the "Patriot Front," title of "National Conservatism: Statement of Principles," logo for "The American Conservative," the name "Christopher F. Rufos," and problematic definitions of homosexuality.


The Galloping Fascism of the Christian Right

In just the month of June 2022 alone, far-right conservatives launched physical, legislative, and cultural attacks on American society in an attempt to forcefully remake it in the image of Christian nationalism.

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There is a flood rushing around us, breaching the dikes we throw up to try and maintain sanity, wearing us down and ripping us downriver. It is a flood of atrocities, of harms, of legislation, and of violence both rhetorical and physical. It is a flood of Christofascist assaults on human rights in the United States, and June 2022, as a microcosm, is the biggest wave so far. It has crashed through and pulled away the veneer of civility we overlaid on the myth of America: a country where human rights were respected, where progress was being made, where the incremental nudges we’d made to the moral arc of the universe might be sufficient.

A short list alone is appalling. Far-right groups launched physical attacks on Pride parades, Drag Queen Story Hours, and other events throughout Pride month. The Edmund Burke Foundation published their “National Conservatism” manifesto in The American Conservative in preparation for their next big conference bringing far-right figures from the United States and Europe together. The Texas GOP released their political platform actively promoting secession, Christian nationalism, and anti-LGBTQIA+ ideology. The Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade—among numerous other abominable rulings—setting the stage for the National Right to Life Coalition’s draft legislation to be considered, legislation that advocates for building a surveillance state to criminalize abortion nationwide. Oh, and Q, of QAnon, came back. The short list.

These events occurring in such quick succession are evidence of the ongoing Christian nationalist assault of this country—in the courts, in state parties, in think tanks, in the streets, and in cesspools of the internet. While each has their own purposes and flavors, they are all part of the same attack on the fabric of our society and government, and they must not be viewed as isolated incidents.

This is no surprise: Christian nationalist assaults on American society have, historically, never happened in isolation. The Second Klan was born on Stone Mountain in 1915, adopted the imagery of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of the Nation (released that same year), and spread to all 50 states and numerous Canadian provinces. Their Christian Nationalism and deep Protestant core was overt and violent in nature, as Kelly Baker’s brilliant The Gospel According the Klan has shown. But they did not have to act alone. They had the legislatures across the South, which meant they had Jim Crow laws. The American corporate and political machine gave them an aggressive imperialist attack across the Caribbean and Central America, including, again in 1915, the occupation of Haiti until 1934. And entire towns were primed for murder thanks to the media pushing the Lost Cause mythos, race science, eugenics, and nostalgic and violent dreams of the antebellum South—and the result of all of these was a massive campaign of domestic terrorism against African Americans.

The current moment is no different: a rush of galloping fascism is attacking all aspects of our lives. It is no longer a remote threat, but one that affects health care, freedom of speech, and education. And this means that we can no longer pretend defeating it is as simple as voting out a president; it is a movement all around us, rising floodwaters that can’t be ignored.

Let’s start with the physical attacks. On Saturday, June 11, 2022, at a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, police arrested 31 members of Patriot Front, a fascist, white supremacist hate group, charging them with conspiracy to riot and preventing them from joining members of other extremist groups stalking the crowd. The group’s leader, Thomas Rousseau, was one of the people arrested, and some members have been connected to other far-right groups in the region. This was far from the only far-right attack on Pride events in June. A series of attacks in Texas got huge amounts of far-right press and support. And those far-right figures used the internet to push it heavily—Chaya Raichik’s “Libs of TikTok” alone directed hate groups to focus on and attack a number of events, including Coeur d’Alene. Chris Rufo, the far-right activist whose fictionalized vision of critical race theory became a basis for attacks on public education, has applied the same model against the LGBTQIA+ community and against drag queens. And the number of attacks, and threatened attacks, on drag queen events had risen over the month. The anti-trans campaigns of the right push far-right violence, and then far-right media figures push for more extreme violence. The model is not complicated: What these groups want is to literally kill the LGBTQIA+ community. And if the stormtroopers who have been summoned are the most visible stage, the 238 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills filed just in the first three months of 2022 are the long game.

The far-right, of course, attempt to reputation launder these ideas. If Rufo’s attempts to create objectively false descriptions of critical race theory and Drag Queen Story Hours are the rhetoric in the gutter, groups like the Edmund Burke Foundation are the rhetoric in the penthouse. The Edmund Burke Foundation, based in the Netherlands, published their manifesto in The American Conservative on June 15, with a list of signatories including Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College, Rod Dreher, Charlie Kirk of TurningPoint USA, and, of course, Rufo. The manifesto pushes their narrative of “national conservatism,” effectively attacking traditional conservatism and providing an intellectual foundation for Trumpism. But more aggressively, “national conservatism” is, effectively, “proclaiming fascism without ever wrapping sticks around the ax.” The manifesto also pushes Christian nationalism. In their fourth point, “God and Public Religion,” they write:

No nation can long endure without humility and gratitude before God and fear of his judgment that are found in authentic religious tradition. For millennia, the Bible has been our surest guide, nourishing a fitting orientation toward God, to the political traditions of the nation, to public morals, to the defense of the weak, and to the recognition of things rightly regarded as sacred. The Bible should be read as the first among the sources of a shared Western civilization in schools and universities, and as the rightful inheritance of believers and non-believers alike. Where a Christian majority exists, public life should be rooted in Christianity and its moral vision, which should be honored by the state and other institutions both public and private.

This is of course rooted in a Western chauvinism that makes assumptions of Christianity and Euro-American heritage (not surprising given the signatories) but also in the kinds of far-right ideas they want to bring together. Their conferences unite far-right figures in Europe—including Viktor Orban of Hungary—with far-right and right-wing figures in the United States, like J.D. Vance, Tucker Carlson, Peter Thiel, John Bolton, Sen. Josh Hawley, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, and others. This is reputation laundering for fascism: softening the language (like Nixon’s Southern Strategy), filtering through important political figures, and providing a foundation for the next step.

At the same time, the Texas GOP passed an official platform that not only calls for removing the separation of church and state, but also violently attacks the LGBTQIA+ community, accepts secession as a right, and pushes the “Big Lie.” They’d laid out principles like “the sanctity of innocent human life, created in the image of God, which should be equally protected from fertilization to natural death,” so aggressively anti-abortion on a much bigger scale; “Self-sufficient families, founded on the traditional marriage of a natural man and a natural woman,” as direct assault on Obergefell; “We support prayer, the Bible, and the Ten Commandments being returned to our schools, courthouses, and other government buildings,” so eliminating the separation of church and state. And this is just a scattering in the first five pages. The Texas GOP specifically attacked “Drag Queen Story Hour” alongside pornography and adult sex businesses in point 106, calling for “passage of a law more comprehensive than the Florida law that prohibits instruction in sexual orientation and gender identity in schools,” so desiring something worse than the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. And they have an entire section attacking homosexuality and gender identity issues, starting with the line, “Homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice.” This is the official platform of a traditional Republican state’s Republican Party.

And then we get up to the Supreme Court. There is too much to say about this session’s rulings, but the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that repealed Roe v. Wade—and sets up an ongoing assault on human rights by calling into question numerous other decisions—is one that demands attention. Even before the ruling was issued, the National Right to Life Committee (whose website has been down since news organization began examining their work) released draft legislation that would set up a Christian nationalist surveillance state to criminalize all aspects of abortion rights. As the draft legislation says, after banning abortion, “The second part is an effective enforcement regime. Traditionally, abortion laws relied on criminal enforcement to make pro-life laws effective in protecting unborn life. However, current realities require a much more robust enforcement regime than reliance on criminal penalties.” They call for building a structure to use RICO laws against anyone involved in abortions—not only providers but anyone who helps give information. They aren’t the only ones saying this; John Stemberger, the head of the Florida Family Policy Council, echoed that sentiment, for RICO to punish doctors. The model law would also target websites that “encourage” abortion, part of a suppression of free speech that is rife in the draft and would be targeted against a much broader swath of society. It also allows civil action to be filed by the father of aborted fetuses and the parents of a minor against doctors, defines fertilization as “the time when the penetration of a male human sperm into a zona pellucida occurs” and “unborn child” as “a living individual organism of the species homo sapiens throughout all stages of the unborn child’s development within a pregnant woman’s uterus from fertilization until birth.” And of course, it would not stop there, any more than Dobbs v. Jackson stops at abortion: the surveillance state that this legislation would build would be weaponized to surveil birth control, sexual orientation, sexual practices, the works. Christian nationalism does not stop. It keeps going until it has taken everyone who is not the winning denomination.

And on the day Dobbs v. Jackson was released, Q, of QAnon fame, posted for the first time in two years. And if his return is met with skepticism, because the movement has grown beyond the need for an oracular shitposter on 8kun, QAnon as a movement has not diminished. As PRRI has found, QAnon beliefs have actually increased in America since 2021. QAnon conspiracies are believed by one in four Republicans. And QAnon believers, by and large, express strong Christian nationalist beliefs

This is just one month in America, and it is a series of snapshots of an important handful of the many, many, many assaults of human rights in this country. The far right is attacking the country on so many fronts—physical and intellectual and legal and structural. Fascism is not just marching in America but galloping through the streets and our society. And things are going to get worse before there is the chance of them getting better. But we have to fight it. We cannot give up, because Christian nationalists will only keep taking until they are stopped. And if June, just June, is any lesson to us, it is that they will take everything they can get.

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