Conservatives urge American Christians to reject authoritarian New Right impulses

There is no shortage of available evidence to prove that American conservatives are no longer in love with democracy.

Fox News host Tucker-Carlson and conservative writer Rod Dreher, for example, have praised Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who in recent years has consolidated power and suppressed political opposition in the name of protecting family values ​​and Western civilization.

While many Republicans have rejected former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of a fairly decided election in 2020, many Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed laws that would allow their party to stand interfere more easily with the results after the next elections.

Tech oligarchs like Peter Thiel are funding U.S. Senate candidates like JD Vance, who won the Republican primary in Ohio this week and spoke darkly about Trump’s return to power and challenging the Supreme Court to remake the federal government.

Photo illustration: Yahoo News;  photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

But it’s not just Republican politicians, Silicon Valley technocrats and opportunistic media personalities. The drift towards illiberal and anti-democratic impulses has also been embraced by a significant portion of the conservative religious community.

Catholic intellectuals like Adrian Vermeule and Patrick Deneen promoted for a few years what is called “Catholic Integralismthe view that Catholicism should be the foundation of public law and policy. And in another sphere of Christianity that is very different from Catholicism – a low church, charismatic or Pentecostal stream known for its expressive singing and its belief in miracles and healing – there has also been a change in the last decade towards the belief that Christians should take control of the government.

They are “people who really want to tie church and state together tightly,” said David French, a conservative writer and editor of the Dispatch. French began a formal effort to persuade American Christians, especially those on the conservative end of the political spectrum, to reject these ideas.

“The fundamental reality is that none of these movements really have a high degree of respect for individual liberty. In particular, they don’t have a high degree of respect for free speech or the free exercise of the rights of those who disagree with them,” French said in an interview on “The Long Game.” , a Yahoo News podcast. “It’s a movement that is being built.”

French said these ideas don’t yet have “enormous power in numbers,” but that is changing because these notions of politics as an all-or-nothing battle with opponents “are modeled on partisan animosity.”

An abortion rights activist tries to block an anti-abortion lawyer during a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in response to the leaked draft ruling to overturn Roe v.  Wade.

An abortion rights activist tries to block an anti-abortion lawyer during a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in response to the leaked draft ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“If you really don’t like the other side, if you’re driven by a lot of animosity and motivated by a lot of animosity, when someone comes along and says, ‘Well, here are some ideas to really bring it up to your enemies — even if they’re post-liberal ideas, even if they’re ideas that undermine the First Amendment — people put their arms around them,” French said.

“The more the animosity builds between parties, the less people are interested in the freedom and flourishing of their political opponents, and the more they are interested in their defeat and domination,” he added. .

The French said intense polarization fuels skepticism towards democracy right and leftbut that the problem is “worse and more widespread” on the American right.

“I’ve been a First Amendment advocate and First Amendment advocate my entire career. It’s harder for me to make a First Amendment argument to conservatives, to people on the right, right now than it ever has been in my life,” he said.

French launched an effort with another Christian leader, Curtis Changto “rally American evangelicals in support of liberal democracy at a time of growing peril.”

French and Chang, a former pastor who is now a consulting professor at Duke Divinity School and a senior scholar at Fuller Theological Seminary, began a podcast titled “Good Faith” and strive to create videos and other online content to educate and persuade Christians that they should care about democracy.

A man carries a large wooden cross during an event and concert hosted by evangelical musician Sean Feucht on the National Mall on October 25, 2020 in Washington, DC.  (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

A man carries a wooden cross during an event and concert hosted by evangelical musician Sean Feucht at the National Mall in Washington in 2020. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

“The evangelical community is increasingly leaning toward Christian nationalism and other forms of authoritarian approaches that reject free speech, civil discourse, tolerance, and other core tenets of classical liberalism,” French and Chang on their website, advertising for a leadership position for the “Post Partisan Christian Project”. “Addressing this threat requires evangelical voices to advance a biblically based cause for democratic values.”

French told Yahoo News that the actions of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis penalize Disney for opposing the state’s so-called Don’t Say Gay law is an example of what he wants to persuade conservative Christians not to support.

“Honestly, I don’t carry a lot of water for Disney. I really don’t like how he kowtows to a genocidal Chinese regime and then takes a strong moral posture here at home,” he said. “But they have their constitutional rights. The idea that we are going to use the power of the state to punish them for exercising their constitutional rights is deeply alarming and problematic.

On the other hand, Dreher wrote on Friday in praise of DeSantis’ actions against Disney.

“If the state doesn’t step in to protect families and institutions from the predation of entities like the Walt Disney Company, who will?” writes Dreher. “The forces deployed against family, religion and tradition are so powerful that only the state can offer a meaningful measure of protection. … American conservatives must become less cautious about using the state in this way.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a campaign event for Nevada Republican Senate candidate Adam Laxalt.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at a campaign event for Nevada Republican Senate candidate Adam Laxalt in April. (Ronda Churchill/Getty Images)

French told Yahoo News that American Christians should continue to support American democracy because “the great virtue of the American foundation and most functioning liberal democracies is that it combines this lofty view of human worth and dignity with this realistic view of human nature, to protect human rights while decentralizing power.

“More authoritarian structures often overestimate the inherent character of authoritarianism and downplay and denigrate the basic dignity of the citizen,” he said.

Dreher, however, is among a growing number of conservatives who believe democracy is actually impossible because in his mind, progressives want to eliminate those like him and his way of life.

“I would prefer the flawed liberal democracy that we had in our country until about thirty years ago, to the illiberal secular democracy that is emerging…which makes people like me enemies of the people,” he said. Dreher said. written last year to a New York journalist who profiled him.

“We all seem to be headed for a future that is neither liberal nor democratic, but which will be either left illiberalism or right illiberalism,” Dreher wrote. “If that’s true, then I know whose side I’m on: the side that’s not going to persecute me and my people.”

But for the French, this kind of talk by Dreher is a philosophy of the end that justifies the means that deviates from fidelity to Christian teaching.

“The central idea of ​​what it means to be a Christian is the imitation of Christ, and the imitation of Christ is [to] take up your cross,” French said. “It’s just a paradigm shift; it is not a paradigm of domination.

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