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Toxic Conservatism Has Created Its Own Warped Religion, While Casting Jesus Aside

North Carolina state Rep. Larry Pittman (R), a Buy Bull school graduate, was appointed to the legislature in 2011 and has been re-elected 5 times since. His record indicates that he’s certifiably insane— just like the folks in his Carrabus County district prefer their elected officials. Some of the bills he’s best known for are HB 147 which would permit North Carolina to secede from the Union again. The bill passed the House but not the state Senate. HB 780, citing the Bible, would end the state’s recognition of same sex marriage. It also passed the House and then died. Crazy enough? Nope. Pittman’s HR 158 was meant to define abortion as first-degree murder and permit anyone to use “deadly force” to prevent it— legalizing shooting doctors or pregnant women. He also called for doctors who perform abortions to be publicly hung. These bills didn’t pass but Pittman was reelected over and over after sponsoring them. Is this the Republican Party? Damn straight it is!

And by the way, Pittman also wrote that Hitler and Lincoln were the same kind of guys. “Lincoln was the same kind of tyrant and personally responsible for the deaths of over 800,000 Americans in a war that was unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

Writing for The Guardian over the weekend, Area Mahdawi noted that “even though the [abortion] bill was largely performative, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously. The far right constantly introduce extreme bills like this into state legislatures with the full knowledge that there is zero chance they will pass. It’s part of a broader strategy to further their agenda that can be summed up as exhaust and inure. Exhaust: the more they overwhelm legislatures with extreme legislation, the harder it becomes for liberals to fight them. It becomes a game of ‘Whac-a-Mole’. Inure: proposing extreme ideas like this via legislation helps gradually desensitize people and shifts the Overton window to the right; step by step the unthinkable becomes mainstream.

All this isn’t just my personal opinion, by the way: it’s extracted from a playbook written by Christian nationalists. A few years ago a researcher called Frederick Clarkson uncovered an initiative from a coalition of far-right Christian groups called Project Blitz that gave their supporters detailed instructions on how to codify their views into law and gradually destroy the division between church and state. I highly recommend reading Clarkson’s writings on Project Blitz: they are essential for understanding the current moment. As Clarkson said when he first found the playbook: “It’s very rare that you come across a major primary source document that changes the way you view everything, and this is one of those times. This is a 116-page strategy manual hidden away on a website explaining at least what a section of the religious right are doing in the United States.”
Bills like the one in North Carolina, it can’t be stressed enough, are not just frivolous one-offs by extremists. They’re part of a coordinated— and highly effective— strategy to consolidate power by the right. Democrats should really be paying more attention to these tactics and learning from them. So many centrists are afraid that suggesting things like free healthcare will make them look like radicals hellbent on bringing communism to America. You think the right care about looking “radical”? Of course not. They care about power. And they’re very good at doing whatever it takes to get it.
Want another example of that “Whac-a-Mole” strategy in action? South Carolina state senators recently introduced legislation that would make it illegal to host a website or “[provide] an internet service” with information that is “reasonably likely to be used for an abortion”. This is incredibly far-reaching language that means even news stories related to reproductive rights could be censored. This bill is unconstitutional and it’s not clear that it will be law anytime soon. But, again, that doesn’t make it any less worrying. As one expert told the Washington Post: “These are not going to be one-offs. These are going to be laws that spread like wildfire through states that have shown hostility to abortion.”

Pittman, as you might have already guessed, is a pastor, a graduate of Atlantic Christian College (Barton College) and the Southeast Baptist Theological Seminary. In case you missed it, let me repeat what David Gushee wrote on Friday for Baptist News readers: “Many people appear baffled about the hard-right turn in U.S. conservative religion. It’s not just a turn to politics, or to hard-right politics, that is problematic. It is the apparent amorality, the cruelty, bigotry and snarling spirit that is so impossible to reconcile with the Spirit of Christ. It’s the nasty cast of characters who are most associated with ‘Christians’ in politics today, including (just for a start, the list is endless) the rogue’s gallery of Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, Colorado Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate and election-denier Doug Mastriano, the supposedly newly converted Trump dirty trickster/pardoned criminal Roger Stone, and of course Donald J. Trump his very own self. It’s the way the crowds at the rallies of these people eat up the toxic red meat these figures throw to them. Christians used to be the victims in the Roman Colosseum. These ‘Christians’ are more like the Roman leaders and their debased crowds, baying for blood.”

And let’s leave off this morning with a little video about Frederich Nietzsche’s view of Christianity, namely “Don’t Be A Christian.” It’s a view from the extreme right, the extreme right that has come to incorporate a sick and twisted malign version of American Christianity-sans-Jesus. Watch:

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