Friday, January 22, 2021

Fighting for LGBTQ+ on Day One


In June 2020, the United States Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The previous administration refused to enforce the ruling. Whether the last president was smart enough to know this little fact, he emulated his “hero,” Andrew Jackson. In 1832, the Supreme Court issued a decision on Worcester v. Georgia in which Chief Justice John Marshall laid out in the opinion that the relationship between the Indian Nations and the United States is that of nations and built the foundations of the doctrine of tribal sovereignty in the United States. Jackson disagreed with the decision and backed Georgia’s attempts to discriminate against and encroach on the Cherokee Nation's lands. In what was probably a bit of apocryphal history, Jackson reportedly responded: "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" While our 45th president neither praised nor criticized the ruling, he stated in response to the decision that "some people were surprised" and said that the court had "ruled and we live with their decision." Yet, he did nothing to enforce it. In fact, his administration actively interpreted the decision very narrowly to decrease its effectiveness.

The inaction of the previous administration changed on Wednesday. On his first day, newly inaugurated President Joe Biden issued an executive order implementing the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County and repealing guidance from the previous administration related to nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people. The Human Rights Campaign issued the following statement emphasizing the importance of Biden’s Executive Order:

Biden’s Executive Order is the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president. Today, millions of Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their President and their government believe discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not only intolerable but illegal.

 

By fully implementing the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Bostock, the federal government will enforce federal law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, health care, housing, and education, and other key areas of life. While detailed implementation across the federal government will take time, this Executive Order will begin to immediately change the lives of the millions of LGBTQ people seeking to be treated equally under the law.

When I was a teacher at a private school in Alabama, I feared for my job every day of those five years. If my sexuality had become public while I was teaching there, I would have lost my job on the spot. I will always believe that suspicion about my sexuality was why after five years, my contract was suddenly not renewed. At the time, the headmaster was trying to decide between not renewing my contract or another teacher’s contract. (The other teacher was a married heterosexual woman.) The school had hired a new coach, and he needed to be assigned classes to teach. While I had overt problems with the headmaster, it became more and more apparent to me that he did not like me for some reason. He refused to support our drama club, which I served as advisor and was generating money for the school. He refused to attend any of the productions, though he was at every sporting event. I can only assume that he had a problem with my closeted sexuality though he could not prove it. I know it wasn’t my teaching that he had a problem with. Parents (and most of my students) praised my teaching and constantly remarked on how much their children learned in my class. I was told numerous times when I was teaching that students were often excited to come to my class. Many parents contacted me after discovering that I would no longer be teaching there that I would be greatly missed. In the years since, I have heard many lament that the coach they replaced me with never taught anything and only gave worksheets. He also never won a football game. He last only a year or so. With that being said, I know that some students and parents, and apparently the headmaster, were not comfortable with my unspoken sexuality.

 

Had Bostock been decided while I was there, they may have thought more about the repercussions of not renewing my contract. Luckily, I found my current job in a state whose political climate could not be more different from that of Alabama. The university I work for has a stringent nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual and gender identity. We even had a major donor and transgender woman on the Board of Trustees. However, before Bostock, this could have easily changed as a new college administration took over and new board members took their seats. It was unlikely, but without Bostock, I had no clear protections. The millions of other LGBQ+ Americans also had the same fear of losing their job because of their sexuality, especially teachers in more conservative areas of the country. Yes, some organizations and businesses had protections for LGBTQ+ individuals written in their nondiscrimination policy, but as I said, that could have easily been changed. Now, we have the Supreme Court's protections and the full protection of the federal government to enforce nondiscrimination for LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace.

 

Biden’s executive order is significant as it extends nondiscrimination protections to millions of LGBTQ+ people concerning housing, education, immigration, credit, health care, military service, Peace Corps service, family and medical leave, welfare, criminal justice, law enforcement, transportation, federal grants, and so much more. While a president’s executive orders are always vulnerable to court challenges, this one is essentially bulletproof. It merely implements the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock, something the previous administration refused to do. Technically, Bostock involved only one statute, Title VII, but, as Justice Samuel Alito pointed out in his dissent, more than 100 other federal statutes also forbid “sex discrimination” in language nearly identical to Title VII. He was attempting to point out that those were not included in Bostock. However, under the court’s reasoning in Bostock, each of these statutes should now be read to protect LGBTQ+ people.

 

I don’t think I can stress enough how important and groundbreaking this executive order is. Biden’s order directs agencies across the federal government to bring their rules and regulations in line with Bostock. It instructs agency heads to “review all existing orders, regulations, guidance documents, policies, programs, or other agency actions” that involve statutes prohibiting sex discrimination. And it compels these officials to revise each rule and regulation in light of Bostockby extending existing protections to LGBTQ+ individuals. In some instances, this process will simply entail updating language to note that anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination is unlawful. In others, it will require the agency to write a new rule expressly disallowing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. One landmark law does not forbid sex discrimination: Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws discrimination in public accommodations—but only on the basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin.” So businesses will not be compelled to serve LGBTQ+ people. However, states and municipalities retain the authority to fill in this gap. Furthermore, Democrats are expected to pass the Equality Act, which would not only preserve Bostock in federal statute but amend Title II to bar anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in public accommodations.

 

Biden showed us on day one of his administration that he will fight for LGBTQ+ individuals. It is a vital step in the right direction.

 

 


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Pic of the Day

A New Era

Joe Biden officiating the wedding of White House staffers Brian Mosteller and Joe Mahshie.


We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes — as my mom would say, ‘Just for a moment, stand in their shoes.’

—Joseph R. Biden, Jr. 


Full of emotion and with tears of joy in my eyes, I watched the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Vice President Kamala Harris. I was emotional because of the social distancing necessary because of the previous administration's inaction. Even more so, I was emotional because of the massive number of troops needed to keep our government safe from domestic terrorists because the former president gave them sanctuary and support. The last four years have been long and horrifying as an aspiring dictator tried to destroy American democracy. That horror ended at noon yesterday, and a new era of hope began. I have never been so proud of a person being inaugurated as President of the United States. He is a truly deserving person who overcame so much to get to this point in history. It took Biden 50 years of public service (he took office as a member of the New Castle County Council on January 5, 1971) to reach the pinnacle of his career, President of the United States, and we will be better for it.

 

More than just believing in the potential of Biden’s presidency, I think we're entering a period of the most LGBTQ+ friendly administration in the history of the United States. Biden and Harris have been supporters of LGBTQ+ rights for many years. They did not support our rights because poll numbers told them it was okay to do so. They did it because it was and is the right thing to do. Biden has promised to pass the Equality Act within his first 100 days as president, launching landmark legislation that will prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system. Describing his support for equality, Biden harks back to a story from his youth when as a teen, he saw two men kissing. “Joey, it’s simple. They love each other,” he says his father told him.

 

For LGBTQ+ people, visibility has always been the cornerstone of our fight for equality and acceptance, and it was growing by leaps and bounds before the 2016 election. President Obama famously lit the White House in rainbow colors after the historic passage of marriage equality in 2015. LGBTQ+ advocates were invited to White House policy roundtables. Obama regularly congratulated LGBTQ+ notables when they came out and included LGBTQ+ Americans in Pride month and World AIDS Day proclamations. Those leaps forward began being eroded before the last president’s inauguration ceremony ended. From day one, the highest office in our country began a rollback of LGBTQ+ visibility that would soon be paired with rollbacks of LGBTQ+ policies and an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. During that weird inauguration four years ago, the LGBTQ+ page on the official White House website was removed. The previous administration proceeded to ban transgender military service and appointed many anti-LGBTQ+ judges at every level of the judicial system. While some of the previous administration’s attacks were front and center, many of the attacks on the LGBTQ+ community were silent and sinister. The new administration has a lot of work to do to correct the wrongs committed over the past four years and put LGBTQ+ rights back on track for the future. As the Biden administration begins, we must start our healing and vigilance for equality both as a nation and the LGBTQ+ community itself. Yesterday, we inaugurated the most LGBTQ-inclusive administration in American history; we must clean up the mess left behind by the previous administration.

 

Biden has led the way for national politicians to support LGBTQ+ equality. In 2012, during Obama’s reelection campaign, Biden surprised the political world during an appearance on Meet the Press by becoming the first national leader to support same-sex marriage publicly. At the time, the country was split on whether it should be legalized, and many privately supportive politicians were publicly avoiding the issue. Back then, Biden’s strong statement was seen as another of his political gaffes, primarily because of President Barack Obama’s reluctance to tackle the issue.  Biden made history at that moment but faced criticism in some quarters for supposedly putting other Democrats in a tough position. Instead, his remark — that he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage — seemed to galvanize progressives and made a case for marriage equality an accessible one for many skeptical moderates. And now, nearly 70 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, including half of Republicans. Yet, far more telling is Joe Biden’s history of support for transgender and non-binary people. A week before the election in 2012, Biden told the mother of a transgender child that discrimination against trans people is “the civil rights issue of our time,” at that moment the most assertive public statement of support by any national leader specifically addressing trans rights. Biden is not a politician who publicly supports LGBTQ+ people then betray us in private. His commitment to equality runs deep. For Biden, what matters is that all people can live and work in their full authenticity and provide for their families without threat to their safety and dignity. To him, we are not LGBTQ+ people in need of enhanced cultural framing but people who happen to be LGBTQ+ and deserve to have an equal stake in society just like everyone else, no better or worse.

 

Like our new president, Vice President Kamala Harris, a devoted LGBTQ+ rights advocate, fought for same-sex marriage and has promised to end the epidemic of violence against trans people. As California’s Attorney General, Harris led the opposition to California's gay marriage ban in 2008. The Human Rights Campaign has given Harris a perfect lifetime rating. She has turned words into actions and will hopefully continue doing so. Harris publicly backed several decisive moments that benefited the LGBTQ+ community. After marriage equality was restored to California in 2013, Harris officiated the first marriage as a bold statement. As a senator, Harris introduced legislation to protect LGBTQ+ Americans from discrimination. In 2018, she introduced the Do No Harm Act to prevent the use of religious beliefs to be used to discriminate against the community. Harris has often been vocal against the former administration, condemning the president’s removal of LGBTQ+ health-related information across federal websites. Harris also vocalized her support for allowing transgender people to have equal access to public restrooms.

 

Biden and Harris have been clear about their goals for LGBTQ+ equality. On his first day as president, Biden issued an executive order reinforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids the federal government from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity, a policy that reverses action by the previous administration. The new White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Wednesday that Biden will soon reverse the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military. Biden and Harris support ensuring the Equality Act is passed and signed into law, making the act a priority of their administration. Despite marriage equality and employment protections being affirmed by the Supreme Court, LGBTQ+ people still face outright discrimination in housing, credit, education, public accommodations, federally-funded programs, and jury service in most of the United States. Trans and non-binary people — particularly Black women — are experiencing an ongoing epidemic of fatal violence, with 2020 being the deadliest year on record. There is much work to be done.

 

Biden and Harris have not been perfect on LGBTQ+ rights throughout their political careers, but they have evolved on the issue, and they have evolved much quicker than many of their counterparts. There are many issues that the previous administration and many Republicans have used to fuel what Biden referred to in his inaugural address as an “uncivil war.” LGBTQ+ rights are often at the top of conservatives lists, along with abortion rights, to incite their hate-filled audiences. Conservatives, especially the religious right, see us as undeserving of equality because they see us as sinners while ignoring their own sins. They oppose equality for all those who don’t look like them. Biden will be a leader for all Americans, and he is off to a good start in restoring the setbacks of the previous administration. I believe he will expand those rights in his time in office. There is a lot of hope for the future of LGBTQ+ rights.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Pic of the Day

Patryk Stawinoga

Goodbye to Hatred and Hello to Hope


“So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight” or better yet…just get the fuck out. Donald Trump will be leaving the White House for hopefully the last time this morning, and his reign of terror will be over. He has done everything he could to destroy this country, to take away hard-fought civil rights and civil liberties from American minorities. He has destroyed our relationships with our allies and made the United States the laughingstock of the world. He ignored the pandemic, which has led to the death of 400,000 Americans, more than anywhere else in the world, with his ineptitude and inaction. Now, the disastrous and deadly four years of his presidency are over. For the most part, Donald Trump quit being president after the election. He focused not on the final days of his presidency but conspiracy theories about a stolen election, inciting the destruction of democracy, and probably most important for him, playing golf.

 

On November 3, 2020, the election of Joe Biden with more votes than any other president in history was a victory for “We the People.” Biden pledges to be a President who seeks not to divide but to unify. The restoration of the soul of the United States begins today at noon. Democrats have won the presidency, they have retained control of the House of Representatives, and they have taken control of the Senate, even if it’s by the slimmest of margins. 

 

Biden brought together the broadest and most diverse coalition in history. He was elected with the support of Democrats, Republicans, Independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives, people young and old, urban, suburban, and rural Americans, gay, straight, transgender individuals, and people of all races: white, black, Latino, Asian, and Native American. Biden will be a president for all Americans, not just those who supported him. He has pledged to be blind to red and blue partisanship. Biden will work to make the promise of the country real for everybody — no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability.

 

Biden is unlike any politician I have ever studied. Many politicians are very self-centered and ambitious. Too many are like Trump and have an emotional void that needs to be filled with the praise and the devotion of others. With Biden, his drive and ambition come from his empathy. Americans often choose the opposite of the previous leader, and no one could be more of the opposite of Donald Trump than Joe Biden. I am not claiming that Biden has been unambitious in his career; he has wanted to be president since he was a kid. However, Biden is a man known for his humility and realism that resulted from his upbringing and the lessons learned from a series of devastating personal tragedies. I firmly believe that Biden is right for this moment in our history. He is a politician driven not by a cause but by his desire to ensure a fair shot, stability, and the two most intimate of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms: freedom from want and from fear.

 

With Biden comes some extraordinary people. Kamala Harris will make history today as the first woman, first Black woman, first woman of South Asian descent, and first daughter of immigrants ever elected as Vice President. As Biden’s website says, “It’s long overdue, and we’re reminded [today] of all those who fought so hard for so many years to make this happen. But once again, America has bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice.”

 

Though we do not elect the First Lady and Second Gentleman, we are getting the service of two people who could not be more opposite of the counterparts they are replacing. As an educator myself, today is a great day for America’s educators. We will have one of our own in the White House, and Jill will make a great First Lady. Articulate and elegant, Jill Biden replaces a nude fashion model who could barely speak English. Melania Trump hated and made a mockery of the role of the First Lady. Jill Biden will restore respectability to the role of First Lady. Doug Emhoff will become the first Second Gentleman and the first Jewish spouse of a U.S. Vice President. He is a distinguished visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center, meaning our First Lady and Second Gentleman will both be educators. In his role as Second Gentleman, Emhoff plans to focus on equal access to justice and legal representation.

 

Furthermore, for the first time, a president’s administration will be the most diverse in history. Biden pledged to create a Cabinet that looked like America. He stated, “I’m going to keep my commitment that the administration, both in the White House and outside in the Cabinet, is going to look like the country.” Biden’s nominations are historic will set records in diversity. If confirmed, his nominees will make history as the most diverse group ever to lead America’s federal agencies. The twenty-four-person Cabinet includes thirteen men and eleven women, and, according to Biden, “more than a dozen history-making appointments, including the first woman secretary of treasury, the first African American defense secretary, the first openly gay Cabinet member, and the first Native American Cabinet secretary.” 

 

The United States is at one of its most critical moments in history. As Biden said in his victory speech on November 7, 2020:

America has always been shaped by inflection points — by moments in time where we’ve made hard decisions about who we are and what we want to be. 

 

Lincoln in 1860 — coming to save the Union. 

 

FDR in 1932 — promising a beleaguered country a New Deal.

 

JFK in 1960 — pledging a New Frontier. 

 

And twelve years ago — when Barack Obama made history — and told us, “Yes, we can.”

 

We stand again at an inflection point.

 

We have the opportunity to defeat despair and to build a nation of prosperity and purpose.

 

We can do it. I know we can.

 

I’ve long talked about the battle for the soul of America. 

 

We must restore the soul of America. 

 

Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses.

It is time for our better angels to prevail.

With four years of disaster and deteriorating diplomatic relations, the whole world will be watching what Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and the United States do in this moment. They will watch to see if we will get past this “inflection point.” They will watch to see whether Biden will be able to heal the “soul of the nation” and deal with a bitterly divided country.  The world will also be watching to see if Trump will continue to be a thorn in the side of American democracy or if he will receive the punishment he deserves for his crimes. Time will tell, but I believe that we are at a point “Of History and Hope.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Pic of the Day

Of History and Hope


Of History and Hope

1997 inaugural poem 

by Miller Williams

 

We have memorized America,

how it was born and who we have been and where.

In ceremonies and silence we say the words,

telling the stories, singing the old songs.

We like the places they take us. Mostly we do.

The great and all the anonymous dead are there.

We know the sound of all the sounds we brought.

The rich taste of it is on our tongues.

But where are we going to be, and why, and who?

The disenfranchised dead want to know.

We mean to be the people we meant to be,

to keep on going where we meant to go.

But how do we fashion the future? Who can say how

except in the minds of those who will call it Now?

The children. The children. And how does our garden grow?

With waving hands -- oh, rarely in a row --

and flowering faces. And brambles, that we can no longer allow.

Who were many people coming together

cannot become one people falling apart.

Who dreamed for every child an even chance

cannot let luck alone turn doorknobs or not.

Whose law was never so much of the hand as the head

cannot let chaos make its way to the heart.

Who have seen learning struggle from teacher to child

cannot let ignorance spread itself like rot.

We know what we have done and what we have said,

and how we have grown, degree by slow degree,

believing ourselves toward all we have tried to become --

just and compassionate, equal, able, and free.

All this in the hands of children, eyes already set

on a land we never can visit -- it isn't there yet --

but looking through their eyes, we can see

what our long gift to them may come to be.

If we can truly remember, they will not forget.

 

 

In honor of Joe Biden's inauguration tomorrow, I wanted to post a poem read at the inauguration of another Democratic president. In 1997, Miller Williams, a poet and the father of the singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, was honored as the country’s third inaugural poet, reading his poem “Of History and Hope” at the start of former President Bill Clinton’s second term. Williams published, edited, and translated over thirty books. He was born in Hoxie, Arkansas, in 1930, the son of a Methodist clergyman and civil rights activist. Miller’s work is known for its gritty realism as much as for its musicality. Equally comfortable in formal and free verse, Williams wrote poems grounded in the material of American life, frequently using dialogue and dramatic monologue to capture the pitch and tone of American voices. 

 

As a child, Miller Williams seemed to be more gifted in science than in writing. Though he entered college as a double major in English and foreign languages, an aptitude test revealed “absolutely no aptitude in the handling of words,” Miller said in interviews during his lifetime. He changed his major to hard sciences to avoid “embarrassing my parents.” Williams earned a BS in biology from Arkansas State University and an MS in zoology from the University of Arkansas. He taught science at the college level for many years before securing a job in the English department at Louisiana State University, partly with his friend Flannery O’Connor’s help. In an interview, Miller told the story: “We became dear friends, and in 1961, LSU advertised for a poet to teach in their writing program. Though I had only had three hours of freshman English formally, she saw the ad and, without mentioning it to me, wrote them and said the person you want teaches biology at Wesleyan College. They couldn’t believe that, of course, but they couldn’t ignore Flannery O’Connor. So they sent me word that said, ‘Would you send us some of your work?’ And I did.” Williams’s appointment began a long career in academia: as a professor at Loyola University New Orleans, he founded the New Orleans Review; while at the University of Arkansas, where he taught until his retirement in 2003, he founded the University of Arkansas Press, serving as director for twenty years. He also founded the MFA in Translation at the University of Arkansas. A selection of Miller Williams’ papers is archived in the Special Collections at the University of Arkansas library.

 

Williams collaborated with his daughter Lucinda, and he was compared to another great country musician with the same last name. According to Williams, “One of the best things that has ever been said about my work was said by a critic who wrote that ‘Miller Williams is the Hank Williams of American poetry. While his poetry is taught at Princeton and Harvard, it’s read and understood by squirrel hunters and taxi drivers.’” Williams died on January 1, 2015, of Alzheimer's disease. Sixty-two years earlier, Hank Williams died on his way from Montgomery to a New Year’s Day concert in Canton, Ohio.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Pic of the Day

My Monday Agenda

I have an eye doctor's appointment today. This is only my second time going to this eye care place. I had to find a new one because the one I had been using since moving up here quit taking my insurance. I also needed a place that gave diabetic eye exams. At this new place, I saw a female optometrist the last time I went, but she has left the practice and so they called and asked me if I was okay seeing another one of their optometrists. I had no attachment to the one I originally saw, so I let them change my appointment to this new guy.

I doubt much has changed. At my last appointment, they changed the type of contacts that I wear but not my prescription. I was wearing Acuvue 2 contacts, and I was told that no one still wore them, and I needed to change to Oasys contacts, which are also made by Acuvue. I can't tell a difference in the feel of the contacts in my eyes between the Acuvue 2 and the Oasys, but I have noticed that I don't always see as well when I am reading. This only started after I got these new contacts. When I called my eye doctor about it, I was told that it was most likely due to age, and I needed to get a pair of low prescription reading glasses. The reading glasses do make reading a lot easier. My old eye doctor had told me that I'd likely need bifocals at some point in the future.

The good news is that my prescriptions for my glasses and my contacts (they are two different strengths) have not changed in the past several years. Hopefully, my contacts won't change as I still have several pairs from my current prescription, and I like my current glasses, though I rarely wear them. So, we shall see what I get told today.


In other news, we have gotten nearly a foot of snow over the weekend. It started in the early hours of Saturday morning before I woke up and when I went to bed last night, it had not stopped. The heaviest snowfall was Saturday morning when we got more than half of the snow that fell over the weekend. Since I moved to Vermont just over five years ago, we have only gotten 3-6" of snow at a time. This winter has been different. In the snowstorm we got just after Christmas, we got 9" which at the time was the most snowfall I had seen at one time since I moved here. That snow was dry fluffy snow and was easy to brush off my car and patio. The snowfall over the weekend has been heavy wet snow that was difficult to clean off my car. Luckily, I did not have to clean off my patio because my neighbor and her kids came yesterday morning and cleaned off the patio and stairs for me.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Pic of the Day

Millennialism, Evangelicals, and Being Lost in the Wilderness

They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.

—Psalm 107:4-6

  

White evangelicals believe they see truths that you and I cannot. This is one of the most dangerous aspects of evangelicalism. As law enforcement tracks down and identifies the insurrectionist terrorists of January 6, it has become more clear who they are and what they wanted. Amid the QAnon adherents, anti-Semites, neo-Confederates, and revolutionary cosplayers were the evangelical faithful: those who see themselves as the vanguard of God’s end-times army. Their proud participation in the riot represented some of the most extreme political actions that any group of evangelicals has taken in recent history. These evangelical participants in that mob believed they were part of a holy war. Insurgents carried signs that read “Jesus Saves,” “In God We Trust,” “Jesus 2020,” and “Jesus Is My Savior, Trump Is My President.” One man marched through the halls of Congress carrying a Christian flag, another a Bible. They chanted, “The blood of Jesus covering this place.”

 

These “Christians” apparently believe that they had no choice but to try to overthrow Congress. For months, various evangelicals have claimed in sermons, on social media, and during protests that malicious forces stole the election, conspired to suppress Christian liberties, and aimed to suppress on their freedom to worship and spread the Christian gospel. This message is not something new. It has been a message of the Trump era to the Christian faithful warning them that only Trump could save Christianity. Evangelical leader Franklin Graham threw his support behind Donald Trump throughout his 2016 campaign and continued to do so during Trump’s presidency. Most of the evangelical community followed suit. Now, Graham is still firmly behind Trump, even though the president incited an insurrection and repeated baseless lies that the election was stolen from him. In fact, Graham championed those conspiracy theories, and now, he’s comparing the Republicans who voted in favor of impeachment with the Christian disciple Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus for thrity pieces of silver. Like many in the far-right Christian conservative movement, Graham believes that Donald Trump is Christianity’s new savior.

 

Liberty University’s think tank, the Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty, which was launched in 2019 and named after its co-founders: Jerry Falwell Jr., the now disgraced and former Liberty University president and Charlie Kirk, the political activist and founder of Turning Point USA, has gone so far as to try to take Christ out of Christianity because they perceive Him as too weak. The Falkirk website states: “Bemoaning the rise of leftism is no longer enough. Although we do, as Jesus taught, turn the other cheek in our personal relationships, we cannot abdicate our responsibilities on the cultural battlefield. There is too much at stake in the clash for the soul of our nation. Bold, unapologetic engagement and initiative is needed on the part of every conservative American.” Falkirk churns out a steady stream of propaganda to convince Christian conservatives they are oppressed victims in society, church, politics, culture, child-rearing, and every other dimension of life. Commentators at the center do not believe “a real Christian can vote Democratic” because of the “blasphemous accouterments” of the party. People who disagree with Falkirk’s politics are treated as part of the shadowy, undefined cabal of “they” and “them” that persecutes and hates conservative Christians. The Falkirk Center doesn’t like it when other groups—racial minorities, for example—describe reality in terms of oppression and power, because this is a central part of Falkirk’s propaganda. They believe that if Christian patriots have power, they must use it to reshape culture and push out the leftists. If Christians have lost power, they must regain it before they are crushed by the elites. On January 6, the day of the storming of the U.S. Capitol and the certification of Joe Biden’s election, Falkirk perfunctorily denounced the violence at the Capitol. But just one day later, the center was still peddling fears of massive voter fraud, saying that the fraud “debate” will be an open question for years to come. The Falkirk team seems utterly oblivious to the fact that it was precisely their brand of rhetoric—besieged, terrified, Christian nationalist, and masculinity-obsessed—that stirred up the anti-democratic rioters of last week.

 

The photograph above is from a 2017 Oval Office meeting of religious right leaders "laying hands" on and praying for Trump. The picture has been featured in advertising by the Falkirk Center. The ad features text above the picture that reads, "Pray for Our President."


The “Christian” insurrectionists believed that the final days of history were at hand and that the Capitol was the site of a battle so important and significant it would have the power to usher in a new era of Christian dominance. As one evangelical from Texas told The New York Times, “We are fighting good versus evil, dark versus light.” This belief comes from a movement in Christianity (and a few other religions) called Millennialism. Christianity and Judaism have both produced messianic movements that featured millennialist teachings—a belief that an earthly kingdom of God is at hand. These millennialist movements often led to considerable social unrest. Many if not most millennialist groups claim that the current society and its rulers are corrupt, unjust, or otherwise wrong and will soon be destroyed by a powerful force. The harmful nature of the status quo is considered intractable without the anticipated dramatic change. The French sociologist and Dominican priest Henri Desroche observed that millennialist movements often envisioned three periods in which change might occur. First, the movement's elected members will be increasingly oppressed, leading to the second period in which the movement resists the oppression. The third period brings about a new utopian age, liberating the members of the movement. The current millennialist movement believes that Donald Trump is their messiah and will deliver them from the oppressive nature of liberals, i.e., the Democratic Party and especially its progressive wing. Trump and his followers love to invoke the word “socialism” as the greatest evil that exists. I have heard many times, “I don’t want to live in a socialist country.”

 

Much has been made about the evangelical community’s relationship with Donald Trump. Typically, observers tend to view this alliance as purely transactional, with evangelicals holding their noses and pledging their support to the least Christian of men to get something in return—most notably, a trio of religiously conservative Supreme Court justices. The misguided and short-sighted belief that evangelicals are overlooking the unchristian behavior of Trump is dangerous. I have talked to some of these people, and they honestly believe that Trump is the most Christian president in history, though they can never articulate why they think this other than the misguided belief that he is pro-life. If you think that evangelicals are just overlooking his behavior, they are not. They are blinded to it, and they are so caught up in a religious fervor that they cannot see what is staring them in the face. They have lost their way, and they are not just wandering in the wilderness. They don’t even realize that they are lost or even in the wilderness. The Capitol attack revealed in all its gruesome detail the extent to which Trump channels the apocalyptic fervor that has long animated many white evangelical Christians in this country. They believe the end times are near and their flawed but “King David-like” leader Donald Trump will save them.

 

From the moment that Christian separatists landed on North America's shores, they have espoused end-times conspiracies. Their messages have been relatively innocuous most of the time, part of the broader millennialist outlook shared among most major religious traditions. But these conspiracies can have dangerous consequences—and sometimes they lead to violence. Take, for example, the results of Jonestown. On November 18, 1978, 909 individuals died in Jonestown, from apparent cyanide poisoning, in an event termed "revolutionary suicide" by the cult leader Jim Jones. Jones led a left-wing oriented cult, but current evangelical millennialists have taken up the same religious zeal. Throughout American history, every evangelical generation has seen some of its believers driven to extreme conspiracies that blend with other strains of militant political faith. In the Trump era, with the destabilizing impact of a global pandemic and a devastated economy, white evangelical Christianity has become entangled with a broader revolution against the government to keep Donald Trump in office, culminating (so far) in an insurrection in the name of Jesus Christ breaking out in tandem with the Trump voter fraud coup. What might be the most fighting aspect of this is that the violence of January 6 is, in all likelihood, a foretelling of where this group might go once Trump is finally out of office and their desperation reaches a fever pitch.

 

Evangelical apocalypticism is grounded in a complicated and convoluted reading of the biblical books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation, some of the most violent books in the Bible. Because of a confluence of factors such as the death and destruction caused by the Civil War, massive immigration, growing religious diversity in the United States that threatened Protestant power, and new secularizing forces, such as Darwin’s theory of evolution, a small group of evangelical preachers, businessmen, college professors, publishers, and laypeople began reading their Bibles with new eyes. This group became increasingly influential and took hold as a reaction to the Roaring Twenties and later to the spread of communism in the 1950s. Factor in the civil rights movements of minorities and evangelicals are downright apoplectic. Four years ago, this apocalyptic zeal has found a national leader in the most unlikely of men, Donald Trump.

 

According to evangelicals, the current age will climax with the restoration of Jews to Palestine and the emergence of powerful empires in Rome, Russia, and Asia. Seeking to unite the world’s nations and end chaos and war, a new leader will appear promising peace and security. Unwilling or unable to recognize that he is the prophesied Antichrist, most political and religious leaders worldwide will cede their sovereignty and independence to him through an international agency. Just before the Antichrist is revealed for the threat that he is, all true Christians will vanish from the earth in “the rapture,” joining the resurrected Jesus in heaven. Shortly after that, the imposter will lead the world through seven years of tribulation, at the end of which Jesus and the saints will return to earth and battle the forces of evil at Armageddon (a literal place they believe is in Israel). Christ will defeat the Antichrist and establish a millennial kingdom of peace and prosperity on earth. Such convictions made evangelicals astute students of world events, and it is probably also the reason they are so accepting of Trump’s lies. They are dangerously gullible. They were and are continually lining up global changes with their reading of their apocalyptic prophecy. I remember the syndicated program Jack Van Impe Presentshosted by the late Jack Van Impe and his wife, Rexella. Week after week, Van Impe predicted a date for the end-times becoming more desperate as the day drew near until it eventually passed, after which he chose a new date. His program consisted of a commentary on the news of the week through an interpretation of the Bible. Many evangelicals hung on his and the words of other “prophets.”

 

Most of these evangelical millennialists do not believe that the U.S. is described in the Bible’s end-times history. They hope through their perseverance that the U.S. might be one of the few faithful nations, an end-times stronghold where true Christianity is practiced, the gospel is preached, and the power of the Antichrist is challenged continuously and subverted until Christ returns to save them. While evangelicals hope for this, they fear that, unless they act decisively, the U.S. might relinquish its independence and align with the Antichrist. They have merged Christian universalism with American nationalism, remaking evangelicalism as a Christian nationalist movement through this belief. This apocalyptic thinking has defined the evangelical movement for the last century and a half. It was central to the ministry of almost every prominent American evangelical megachurch pastor, radio preacher, or television pioneer, from Aimee Semple McPherson to Billy Graham to Jerry Falwell. Evangelist Billy Sunday said, "Christianity and Patriotism are synonymous terms, and hell and traitors are synonymous."

 

Evangelicals' apocalyptic beliefs foster a sense of urgency and certainty and a vision of the world defined in absolute terms. Many evangelicals believe that they are engaged in the ultimate game of good versus evil. They have no time or regard for incremental change or for reasoning with those who disagree with them. They call for drastic and immediate solutions to the problems they see around them. For evangelicals, apocalypticism fills the in blanks, rationalizes their choices, and connects the dots, culminating in their unceasing devotion to Donald Trump, while making their actions more urgent and compromise unlikely.

 

Evangelicals have eagerly embraced Trump’s conspiratorial lies. They believe that Barack Obama was born in Africa and is a Muslim. They partner with QAnon activists in accusing Democrats and Hollywood stars of secretly committing atrocious immoral acts that include cannibalism and pedophilia. They argue that George Soros is using his vast wealth to build a one-world government. They see lies as truth and truth as lies. In their world, Joe Biden stole the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump. A fake election pushing Trump out of the way means Satan can bring his plans for globalization and world domination, through the Antichrist, to fruition.

 

The apocalypse that evangelicals have been predicting for generations seems for some to have finally begun. A Biden administration, they are confident, is not only illegitimate but will also align with the forces of evil, from the U.N. to a cabal of international Jews, to persecute all true Christians. This white evangelical segment sees itself as a besieged minority, surrounded on all sides by the forces of darkness, sin, and secularism. This makes them just as dangerous as a wild animal that is cornered and scared. They believe that, in the last days, governments will turn against them, and their religious liberty will be suppressed. From COVID-19 shutdowns to alleged election fraud, their reading of current events tells them that the end times have begun. They believe that the Bible demands that they go to war against the Antichrist and all of his minions. Suppose Joe Biden and the other leaders of the U.S. government—now including even staunch Christian conservatives like Mike Pence—represent the forces of the Antichrist. In that case, the faithful have no choice but to organize against them. They need to stop the Antichrist by any means necessary. God demands no less than insurrection.

 

Evangelicals do not understand that they are following evil and excusing it by claiming to follow God. They misinterpret the false prophets and teachers described in 2 Peter to mean that those opposed to their beliefs are these false prophets. Second Peter 2:1-3 says,

 

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

 

They continually pervert the Bible to be interpreted to fit their apocalyptic and fanatical beliefs. They use to oppress others and impose their brand of government that would allow no dissent to their beliefs.

 

Matthew 4:1 says, “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” The devil has tempted evangelicals, but instead of resisting temptation, they have allowed Satan to control them. The Devil thrives on lies, sedition, and hubris. I won’t go so far as to say that Donald Trump is doing the Devil's bidding, but I will say that Donald Trump is not following the will of God. Evangelicals in America have gotten lost because they chose the temptation of power over the command of brotherhood and faith. Paul's teaching on the Christian's relationship to civil government is outlined in Romans 13. Romans 13:1-2 says, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." 

 

At the heart of Christianity is selflessness and love. The heart of American conservatism is personal freedom and individualism at the expense of oppressing those who do not fall under their white evangelical personification. Sadly, far-right Christians such as Liberty University have chosen the latter while calling it the former. Brad Littlejohn, a fellow at the conservative think-tank the Edmund Burke Foundation, championed selfishness and wrote in 2019 that in an unselfish world, “parents couldn’t really give each of their children a Christmas gift—something perfectly chosen for that child’s interests and developmental needs. As soon as they gave the gift, the child would look for another sibling to give it to. Pretty soon, the children would be passing all of their gifts around in a confusion of constant sharing, rather than going off to their rooms to practice for an hour on their new ukulele. By the next day, they would probably have given all their gifts away to the neighbor kids. Indeed, in this world, parents wouldn’t have given their kids gifts in the first place—come Christmas, they would’ve scanned the world for the neediest person they could find and given everything they could to that person instead. Or rather, they would have long since given away all their earthly possessions in a frenzy of selflessness (even as other equally selfless people tried to load them with new possessions).” This statement, though hyperbolic, is a clear rejection of the selfless teachings of Christ and one that attempt to portray selfishness and greed as a Christian virtue.

 

For years we have seen people try to convince themselves that America is a “Christian” nation. But when their ideals of America collide with their ideals of Christianity, such as selflessness and charity, evangelicals believe that we must remake Christianity into their perverted capitalist, white supremacist beliefs. Sadly, evangelical conservatives in the Republican Party have chosen their brand of American patriotism over Jesus. They have lost their way, and we must pray that they can find truth and repentance before they destroy us all by continuing to back power-hungry, egomaniacal politicians like Donald Trump. Politicians of this ilk will continue to use apocalyptic fear to have influence over and support from delusional evangelicals. Trump may be losing his grip as many turn against him after he incited a terrorist attack against Congress, but another will replace him. Already, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are jockeying for that position. We have to be diligent and stop their brand of apocalyptic extremism.