Juan Williams: The GOP’s sad embrace of Christian nationalism

Look at these quotes with alarm.

“We need to be the party of nationalism and I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists.”

That is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) calling for today’s GOP to insist its members be evangelical Christians or get out. 

Here’s a second quote hammering the same religious intolerance. 

“I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk – that’s not in the Constitution.” 

That is Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) insisting Congress and the government follow only Christian evangelical church teaching. 

Her words stand in defiance of constitutional protections for the United States as a nation based on laws and not religious orthodoxy. 

Now, here’s a third explicit call for the GOP to be a party of religious hatred. 

“We’re not bending the knee to the two percent anymore,” said Andrew Torba, founder of the right-wing-friendly social platform Gab, referring to Jewish people in the United States.

Gab is characterized by CNN as “a haven for QAnon conspiracies, misinformation and antisemitic commentary.” The platform was paid a “consulting” fee by Doug Mastriano, the Republican running for governor in Pennsylvania. 

Mastriano downplays his ties to Toba. He has said, “I reject anti-Semitism in any form”. But he has campaigned by pledging that “we are going to take our state back, my God will make it so.” 

His talk about his “God” is particularly chilling because Mastriano’s Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial race is Josh Shapiro, who is Jewish.  

Taken together, these Republican voices are now pushing Middle Eastern-style religious hate to enlist followers and demonize rivals. 

Greene’s comments drew a sharp rebuke on Twitter from Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.). “I oppose the American Taliban,” he wrote.  

More voices need to call out the hostility to American values displayed by these “ultra-MAGA” disciples of disgraced former President Trump. 

Here’s James Madison, the fourth president of the United States and a father of the Constitution, writing in 1803: “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” 

A Christian group of social activists called Faithful America described Greene’s call for Republicans to be “Christian nationalists,” as having “essentially declared that America has no place for Jews, Muslims, or the LGBTQ community.” 

The group noted that Greene is selling t-shirts with ads calling for Americans to “stand against the Godless Left.” What happened to “loving your neighbor or following the Prince of Peace,” the group asked. 

This tide of hatred is rising due to political strategies. 

A focus on culture wars, specifically opposition to abortion, contraception, and gay marriage, now defines the Republican Party.

That open antagonism is now covered by preaching obedience to religious doctrine. 

One of the Trump-inspired crowd who laid siege to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was photographed carrying the Christian flag and another banner proclaiming “Jesus is King.”

Long gone are principles that once defined the GOP — low taxes, defense of democracy around the world, and celebration of individual rights. 

The far right’s goal now is to oppose the rising secular, liberal politics of educated women, racial minorities, and gay people. 

The leading edge of their fight to impose Christian orthodoxy is by taking control over judges, and the politicians who appoint judges.   

Their biggest victory was the Supreme Court’s reversal in June of nearly half a century of constitutional protection for a woman’s right to have an abortion.  

Justice Clarence Thomas gave a preview of coming attractions on the Christian right’s shopping list in his concurring opinion. He said the Court should reconsider its decisions offering constitutional protection to same-sex marriage as well as gay sex and contraception.  

The political alliance between the GOP and evangelicals has long been a reality. 

Rev. Billy Graham’s rise as a political player in alliance with former President Nixon remains the root of the movement. 

I wrote in my 2016 book “We the People” that the target audience for the famous preacher and his favorite president became “older white church-going voters concentrated in the South and Midwest…many of whom disapproved of the 1964 Civil Rights Act… [and of the] women’s movement that championed sexual liberation and the increasing use of birth control pills.” 

Graham and Nixon used opposition to abortion as a wedge issue to win votes. It worked as evangelicals shifted to the GOP. In the 2020 presidential election, 28 percent of voters described themselves as “born-again or evangelical Christians,” according to exit polls — and three-quarters of them voted for Trump.  

I was at the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego when the GOP’s nominee for president, Bob Dole, took a stand against religious bigotry within the party.  

Dole said the party is “open to citizens of every race and religion,” as the “Party of Lincoln.” He then famously told the crowd in the arena, “the exits, which are clearly marked, are for you to walk out of as I stand this ground without compromise.” 

Where are such Republican statesmen today defending the tradition of Madison and Jefferson in their own party? 

They have been drowned out, silenced by the hellish forces of bigotry given license by Trump. 

We are standing on a dangerous edge. Good Americans of all religions and no religion need to lift every voice and sing.  

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.