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“Unveiling a Spiritual Battle: Do Christian Nationalists Pose a Threat to Shaping the US as a Religious State?” | US News

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The pastor lights his cigar as he sits down on the sofa, casting the lit match aside. The floral upholstery starts to burn, the flames get bigger.”It’s not the job of the preacher to be a firefighter,” Doug Wilson says, as the fire spreads. “We’re supposed to be arsonists in the world.” Wilson leads a church in Moscow, Idaho. It’s a small city nestled beside mountains and surrounded by green, home to the University of Idaho. It voted for Joe Biden in 2020.But Wilson, who opposes same sex marriage and rails against the Pride flag, wants to turn Moscow into a “Christian town”.Stirring across America is a movement focused on tearing down the wall separating church and state. Conservative Christians are moving to remote states to live a rural life according to their values. A real-estate company in Idaho that sells survival homes to such people offers buyers an AR-15 rifle as a “closing gift”. Image: Controversial Pastor Doug Wilson in his office in June 2022 Christian nationalism is the belief that America should be governed as a Christian nation according to faith.While it is not a new concept, some experts argue it has gone from a fringe ideology to a force in Donald Trump’s Republican party and is now a threat to the very fabric of American democracy.One professor said the movement uses Christian ideals to mask racist ideas, but others say the Christian nationalist label is simply used to dismiss any Christians who want to be involved in politics. More than half of Republicans are at least sympathetic to Christian nationalist ideas, according to a recent survey.Religious leaders like controversial pastor Wilson and political actors like ex-Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn are considered key figures in the movement. Image: Crosses and flags saying “An Appeal to Heaven” were seen at the January 6 riots So how much of a danger is Christian nationalism?At the January 6 insurrection, flags saying “An Appeal to Heaven” and “Jesus is my savior” appeared alongside neo-Nazi iconography as rioters poured into the Capitol.And while hundreds of people have been charged following the events in Washington DC, experts fear that Christian nationalism poses the “greatest threat to democracy” in America, amid talk of a “spiritual war”.”Well I gotta get home for dinner,” Pastor Wilson says as the video draws to a close. The clip then ends with sped up footage of the sofa engulfed by the fire.’They will tell you being gay is wrong’Bradley Onishi spent seven years as a minister before becoming disillusioned and leaving his church.Dressed in a flat peak cap and a black t-shirt, he cuts a fashionable figure as he warns of the dangers posed by what he calls white Christian nationalism.”Christian nationalism is all about order”, he says. “They want everything to feel like it’s in its proper place.”They want to go back to a time when they understand there to be two genders, a clear patriarchal structure to the family, a restricted approach to immigration, black people and other people of color knowing their place in the country, socially and politically.””They will tell you that being gay is wrong, in all cases. Some of them will tell you openly that interracial marriage is a sin,” he adds.When asked if he considers Christian nationalism to be a white supremacist movement, his answer is definitive.”Would I say that? Totally. Are they gonna tell you that? No.” According to Onishi, large numbers of Christians are leaving more liberal states to settle in Idaho, where they are trying to exert control over local political institutions.Onishi is from Orange County, California but says that he could find 100 people he knew that have now moved to Idaho.He was inspired to write his book, Preparing For War: The Extremist History Of White Christian Nationalism – And What Comes Next, by the sobering sight of rioters storming the Capitol building in Washington DC on 6 January, 2021.”I was pretty horrified that people I knew were there and that if I hadn’t left (the church) maybe I would have been there. That’s pretty terrifying to think of.”Read more:Trump-backing ‘fake electors’ chargedLeader of far-right militia jailed for 18 years over US Capitol riotMoving to Idaho to prepare for civil war?The American Redoubt movement marries Christian nationalism with the idea of armed rural living in preparation for doomsday, and civil war.First coined in an online essay posted to a survival blog by former US Army intelligence officer James Wesley Rawles in 2011, the so-called American Redoubt refers to a mountainous area where around 90% or more of the people are white.It covers Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and parts of Washington and Oregon, in America’s sparsely-populated northwest.Rawles encourages “freedom-loving Christians” to vote with their feet and congregate in the American Redoubt and prepare for the collapse of society.He has predicted that increasing polarization in American politics will lead to armed conflict.”It will be the second civil war, here in America and caused by the gulf between the right and left – or between the godly and the godless – or between the libertarians and the statists – or between the individualists and the collectivists.”It’s hard to estimate how many people have been inspired to move to the American Redoubt, but there’s certainly no shortage of estate agents advertising “redoubt” homes online.One company, Flee The City, tells prospective customers it will find them rural properties that will give them the “safety and security we all require during turbulent periods”.Customers who purchase a property receive an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle as a closing gift.While Flee The City’s website says its clientele “hails from diverse backgrounds” all customers must “respect the Constitution and Bill of Rights”. Image: A deadly gift for buyers of survival homes. Pic: Flee the City This is far more muted language than that used when the company was known as Black Rifle Real Estate and ruled out “snowflakes, liberals, socialists, Marxists, communists and other tyrants that hate our constitutional republic”.”The reward for taking a stand and seeing your family safe as the sanctuary cities are burned to the ground? Priceless,” it told customers on a now-archived version of its website.Flee The City did not respond to a request for comment.How popular is Christian nationalism?And it’s not just in the American Redoubt that Christian nationalist ideas have been taking hold, but nationwide.A poll of more than 6,000 Americans by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Brookings Institution asked if people agreed with various statements including “God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society”.The survey found that more than half of Republicans were at least sympathetic to Christian nationalism.Christian nationalism was also tightly tied with support for Donald Trump, the data suggests, with 71% of adherents holding a favorable view of the former president. Image: Some of those adhering to Christian nationalist views are also highly supportive of Donald Trump “White Christian nationalism is the greatest threat to democracy and the witness of the church in the United States today,” says New York Times bestselling historian Jemar Tisby.Speaking at a panel discussion of the survey’s findings in February, he said the racial dimensions of Christian nationalism cannot be overlooked and that it typically sees a resurgence around times when black rights are expanding.”Christian nationalism turns around a sense of loss,” chimed in Kristin Kobes du Mez, a professor of history at Calvin University.She said there are “clear anti-democratic impulses” in Christian nationalist beliefs, with some adherents holding the law of God above that of democracy. Image: Mike Flynn has been taking his talk of ‘spiritual war’ across America. Pic: AP ‘Spiritual war’ – Trump ally’s ReAwaken America tourFormer three-star general Mike Flynn was appointed as Trump’s national security advisor but resigned after just a few weeks. He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and was later pardoned by the former president.More recently he has been known for his ReAwaken America tour and the Christian nationalist ideas he has been preaching far and wide.”If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God, right?” he said at a church in Texas.He has said that a “spiritual war” is going on in America. Image: Mike Flynn signs a picture of a girl at a church in New York state. Pic: …

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