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October 13, 2022

An essay by Andrew L. Seidel, vice president of strategic communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, appeared In Sunday’s DALLAS MORNING NEWS Opinion section, denouncing so-called “Christian nationalism” as as “existential threat” to American democracy. Seidel believes this threat is a clear and present danger –- in fact, he has said it’s THE most serious threat we face as a country.

Gosh, now that we know about China making incursions into this hemisphere and Putin possibly contemplating “limited” nuclear attacks, I can think of a few threats that pose more danger, and I don’t mean angry parents at school board meetings. I have never spoken with Mr. Seidel and can’t say for sure that he’s pathologically obsessed with the dire threat supposedly posed by Christian nationalism, but a search of his other writings suggests to me that he is.

Here’s the DALLAS MORNING NEWS piece, but the DMN is subscription-only, and I would recommend not bothering with that to get this particular “member-exclusive content.” I think I can judiciously paraphrase without distorting what he has to say.

Now, I feel uniquely qualified to answer Mr. Seidel’s concerns, as I have spent my life in no religion bubble –- whether Christian, on-the-fence or Christian-averse. My upbringing was agnostic but reflective of basic Judeo-Christian ethics, I attended Vacation Bible School and sang in church choirs, and today I write for what I have found to be the finest and most compassionate audience there is, Mike Huckabee’s, which is overwhelmingly Christian. The Governor himself was a Baptist pastor before entering politics. Yet I spent years as literally a card-carrying skeptic, a member of a regional skeptics organization, and regularly discussed issues relating to religion with people who were almost uniformly atheist liberal Democrats.

(And, yes, I have to say there was an element of hostility and condescension among some “skeptics” towards Christian believers and political conservatives. In fact, one reason I’m not active any longer is that I found the group, ironically, too wedded to their own opinions, not skeptical ENOUGH of their own conclusions. In other words, I was too skeptical to be a member of the Skeptics.)

Anyway, Seidel looks at the most extreme manifestation of the so-called Christian nationalist movement --- the members who, relative to the population at large, could meet in a phone booth (remember phone booths?) --- and greatly magnifies the threat posed by them. He was doing this before January 6, and he went into overdrive after January 6 along with the rest of the Democrat Party. But I don’t think he realizes the shock and horror most Christian conservatives experienced while this so-called “insurrection” was unfolding on TV. Even so, as we watched slack-jawed, we never in our wildest dreams feared that the United States government might be overthrown by Viking Hat Guy and other passionate but unarmed participants. The idea is laughable. The Ship of State would manage somehow to remain afloat!

We’ve talked plenty about January 6, strongly condemning those who committed violence –- even if egged on by Capitol Police, which appears to have happened –- but also decrying the stunning lack of due process given to nonviolent detainees held in near-solitary for long months without bail, especially when our ‘Justice’ Department failed to enforce the law against far more violent agitators on the left. (At least in this essay, Seidel never mentions what the secular left has been doing to erode basic rights in this country.)

January 6 didn't overthrow the government, but it did have tremendous political fallout, all favoring the left. That gives me reason to suspect a method to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s madness of failing to station National Guard troops, as that riot was SO CONVEEEENIENT to Democrats’ political ends. If the riot hadn’t happened, I said at the time, Democrats would’ve had to make it happen. We know they contributed; no need to get into that again here.

I suppose someone who believed J6 detainees represented our biggest existential threat might've been minimally concerned with safeguarding their constitutional rights. Certainly that would account for the abusive treatment of them.  But Seidel is a constitutional attorney and is supposed to care about such things. On the contrary, he seems vastly more concerned about the rights of the non-religious, against whom he sees the concept of religious freedom being “weaponized.” While the vast majority of Christians do not want the American government to be molded into a Christian theocracy, Seidel seems to think they do. And the concept of separation of church and state, at least as framed by him, can easily turn the courts into an enemy of religion.

I would even suggest his hard-line approach against religion has contributed to the toughening stance of some Christian groups, the very circumstance that keeps him up at night.

This excerpt from Seidel's piece, with its pointed choice of words, will tell you where his head is: “Christian nationalists have become ever more emboldened since they helped Donald Trump cobble together an electoral college victory in 2016. When they failed to do so in 2020, they attacked the beating heart of American democracy on Jan. 6.”

He blames Christian nationalism for this, saying it “created a permission structure that gave the insurrectionists the moral and mental license they needed to attack our government and attempt to overturn a free and fair election.” (Note: If he assumes it was fair, he’s no skeptic, that's for sure.) Funny, I thought almost everyone came to the rally because they thought the election HADN’T been fair, hoping Congress would pause and look at some serious anomalies before certification. You know, to safeguard our democracy.

For the record, I think the worst “existential threat” we face as a free country is the control of communication, by way of a shared strategy among the current administration, intel community and private entities, using computer algorithms to shut down speech as “mis-” and “disinformation.” America cannot function democratically without the free exchange of information. In fact, in my Top Ten List of America’s Existential Threats, Christian nationalism wouldn’t be there at all.

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