Notes and quotes for my research on Swedish immigration — from an article on a “Jericho march” protesting Pres. Donald Trump’s defeat in the Nov. 3, 2020, election …

Citation: Harry Bruinius, “Will election become a new ‘lost cause’ for evangelical conservatives?” Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 16, 2020 https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2020/1216/Will-election-become-a-new-lost-cause-for-evangelical-conservatives?

A summary from the Monitor, under headnote “Why we wrote this,”

A “lost cause” narrative around the 2020 election is arising among conservatives, particularly religious conservatives, reminiscent of the South after the Civil War. What will be the long-term effects of Christian nationalism?

Verbatim excerpts, beginning w/ this nut graf (or maybe it’s my takeaway)

… The president and his allies lost over 60 suits to date save one, a minor case early on. Those losses include two terse dismissals from the Supreme Court, of which three of nine justices were appointed by President Trump and which is itself dominated by Catholic conservatives.

A new ‘lost cause’?

While the judiciary has said the law and evidence come down decidedly on one side, “I’ve seen a lot of historians and others say that we will probably watch a new ‘lost cause’ kind of mythmaking basically happen in real time now, just like with the Civil War what happened in the South,” says Andrew Whitehead, professor of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. It is a framework with which he agrees.

“A lot of people are trying to understand this current cultural moment in light of religious history, given how widespread support for President Trump remains, and what this might mean,” he continues.

The mythology of the Lost Cause was rooted in a sense of cognitive dissonance and historical revisionism that would recalibrate a Southern sense of identity. That identity is mostly rooted in 19th-century forms of evangelical Protestantism, says Bill Leonard, founding dean and professor of divinity emeritus at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

“It portrayed the South as the prime preserver of the original myth of America as Redeemer Nation,” a form of Christian nationalism long embedded in the larger American psyche, says Professor Leonard. “For these Southern Protestants, the Lost Cause meant that the people who lost the war retained that vision. The defeated people, even in defeat, would be more moral, more orthodox, and more ‘Christian’ than their northern counterparts had been or ever could be.”

Indeed, on their website, the organizers of the Jericho March proclaim this idea using another famous trope of American exceptionalism and Christian nationalism.

“America is a city on a hill and light to other nations, and God’s favor is still upon her,” the site proclaims. “We are proud of the American system of governance established by our Founding Fathers and we will not let globalists, socialists, and communists destroy our beautiful nation by sidestepping our laws and suppressing the will of the American people through their fraudulent and illegal activities in this election.”

But in the complicated histories of American evangelical Protestants there has also long been a particular understanding of how a person is able to perceive truth, says Kristin Kobes Du Mez, professor of American history at Calvin University, an evangelical institution in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In many ways, ever since the Scopes trial nearly 100 years ago, American evangelicals have remained skeptical of secular science and any kind of expertise divorced from a religiously-based world view.

Excerpt on race (it always gets back to race in America)

While Professor Whitehead and his colleagues have correlated the impulses of Christian nationalism with a deep skepticism of science and the reliability of secular elites, one of its primary characteristics is “this belief and this desire to see a particular type of Christianity privileged in the public sphere again” – one of the reasons the Trump campaign’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” has resonated so deeply with religious conservatives. 

At the same time, too, President Trump and many conservatives have focused their most intense allegations of widespread election fraud in cities such as Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, each in battleground states Mr. Biden won. (Mr. Trump actually performed better in several of those cities than he did in 2016.)

“‘Democrat-led city’ – that’s code for Black,” the Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the civil rights group Repairers of the Breach, told The New York Times. “They’re coupling ‘city’ and ‘fraud,’ and those two words have been used throughout the years. This is an old playbook being used in the modern time, and people should be aware of that.”

Us vs. them mentality

And like the Lost Cause mythologies of the post-Civil War South, there is a deep sense of victimhood undergirding the kind of Christian nationalism that has engulfed many Trump supporters. As the president said at a rally in Georgia this month, “We’re all victims. Everybody here, all these thousands of people here tonight, they’re all victims. Every one of you.”

“This helped create this entrenched us-versus-them worldview,” says Professor Du Mez. “Why would you want to empower people who don’t have access to truth, people who deny the truth of scripture, people who don’t have Jesus in their hearts? And I think this is where the real anti-democratic impulses we’re seeing lie as well.”

Indeed, the rhetoric of those insisting the election was stolen has become more militant and at times violent. 

Gen. Michael Flynn and others last month urged President Trump to “temporarily suspend the Constitution,” impose martial law and have the military oversee a revote, and “silence the destructive media.” Trump attorney Lin Wood posted pictures of Republican officials in Georgia wearing face masks designed as Chinese flags, saying, “They will soon be going to jail.”

‘Christian nationalism’

Prominent evangelical thinkers such as Beth Moore and David French have decried “the dangerous idolatry of Donald Trump” in evangelical circles and rallies such as the Jericho March. “They believe that Trump had a special purpose and a special calling, and that this election defeat is nothing less than a manifestation of a satanic effort to disrupt God’s plan for this nation,” Mr. French wrote in The Dispatch. “They were not ‘holding their nose’ to support him. They were deeply, spiritually, and personally invested in his political success.”

And the current commitment to Christian nationalism and a lost cause of a stolen election stands in tension with the wider traditions of the Christian faith, says Professor Du Mez, author of “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.”

“It’s a cause that really works against any perception of the common good, or any idea of loving your neighbor as yourself, or any idea of common grace, that there can be goodness and human flourishing and truth outside of your church, your sect, or, you know, your base,” she says.

Harry Bruinius, bio on Monitor website

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