The Power Worshippers”: Dianne Post Reviews Katherine Stewart’s Latest (Terrifying) Book
She’s done it again — she’s terrified me. Katherine Stewart has another great book in The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.
I don’t know how she:
- gets into these religious meetings;
- convinces these people to talk to her; and
- manages not to lose her mind.
As Stewart says, Christian nationalism is a political ideology, not a religious one. It’s also not a grass roots movement, but a grab for ultimate power driven from the very top. They have captured the Republican party and seek to undermine American institutions that are the bulwark of democracy. The Republican party is now ranked internationally as authoritarian as are the political parties in Turkey or Hungary. They are totally in bed with the Russian Orthodox church which is one of the most authoritarian in the world – working hand in hand with the Russian state, just as in the time of the Czars.
Christian nationalists’ reading and interpretation of the Bible is at odds with centuries-old mainstream religious beliefs. In a George-Orwell-style reversal, they want to punish the poor, destroy the environment, and expel the strangers. Poverty is due to lack of spiritual growth, and multiculturalism introduces pagan and new age ideas, such as Gaia, and social causes such as environmentalism
Ending Public Education: Theocracy, Segregation and Greed
The move to end public education is part of the religious nationalists’ campaign to transform America into a theocracy. They claim public schools are too secular. It’s also about segregation, just as private schools were in the 1960s. But what they really want is to get their greedy hands on the money that goes to public schools — the real gravy train.
Church planting is one method of using public school dollars. They “plant” a church inside a school campus so Monday through Friday it’s a school, but Sunday it’s a church. They don’t pay for the school or the upkeep or the utilities, and the “rent” they pay is minuscule compared to the costs the taxpayers have borne to build and maintain the school. The Harvest Preparatory Academy in Yuma is one of these, with its World Harvest Church run by the same people “planted” in the same space.
Total Submission of Women
The total submission of women is another Christian nationalist main theme. They argue that if women don’t want male “protection” then they are agreeing to be raped. They also urge the complete obedience of children to the tune of beating little ones in a high chair for not following orders. The abortion issue is entirely a political calculation, nothing to do with morality or life or ethics or religion.
It is ironic how the religious nationalists don’t believe in government, but they want government to impose their choices on us. They don’t believe in masks because “my body, my choice,” but that doesn’t apply to women who want to control their bodies. They believe preachers should be able to preach politics from the pulpit, but doctors cannot tell women truthful scientific health information in the privacy of their own offices.
Some mainstream Christians and progressives have stood up against this juggernaut, but not strongly enough. Some of the nationalist groups are burrowing within to destroy even those.
Stewart lists corporations whose funding drives the movement, as well as the people (and even whole families) who control the trajectory. She outlines the inner workings of the outer manifestations we see. She divulges a litany of delusional people with very bizarre ideas about holy war, property in slaves, health care, and education. Though poor whites are the system’s biggest losers, they have bonded — like Stockholm Syndrome victims — with the oppressors to seek to “take back” the country to a time that never was.
The Courts are Already Packed
Biden cannot pack the courts because twenty years ago, Christian nationalists already started packing the courts… and they have pretty much done the job. Legal decisions since then show that they want to imprint Christianity in society as privileged and use the court system to create an exception for them from the general law.
The ruling that invocations at public meetings and crosses on public lands are allowable because they are symbolic only engrains those religious symbols in public spaces and into the public consciousness. The Trinity Lutheran ruling — that churches can compete for government funds for physical renovations — was the camel’s nose under the tent; money is fungible and what is not spent on the parking lot will be spent on proselytizing.
In the Town of Greece v Galloway decision, they pretended that religious speech was the personal speech of the speaker so that to prohibit it would be discrimination. In fact, the speakers are public officials at a public meeting. Yet when a public official says an obvious truth, i.e. religion has been used in many terrible ways to harm people, that is found to be discrimination against religion and required reversal of the decision!
Claiming to Seek Neutrality is a Farce, When One Sect Already Has a Leg Up
“Sincerely held religious beliefs” are simply code to be able to discriminate against anyone you want. To claim they seek neutrality is a farce when one sect already has a leg up. Religious freedom to them means privilege for those with the “right” religion.
In the Espinoza v Montana case, the court said that to prohibit religious schools from public money is to discriminate against religious schools. That “reasoning” renders meaningless the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from establishing religion.
A recent case in Maine rejected that foolishness by ruling that to deny religious schools from publicly funded vouchers is not discrimination based on religion, but based on the fact that they would spend government money in the way government money must not be spent: to establish religion.
Health Care by Priests, Rather than Doctors
Stewart covers a breadth of topics, from the minister’s housing scam to the lies of the Good News Clubs. She devotes a chapter to the problem of Catholic health institutions, relating story after story of how such institutions put women’s lives in danger. They take public money but deny reproductive rights and end of life requests, and lie to patients about legal rights and medical options. Often, they are the only medical resource available, resulting in health care by priests rather than doctors.
Arizona is a hotbed of these religious nationalist groups. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Arizona is the home to a large number of illegal armed domestic gangs, white supremacist groups, and of course the infamous Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
Arizona is also the petri dish for vouchers and has a sordid history of corruption in charter schools, as reported in the Arizona Republic in 2018. The vouchers were cash cows on the public dime. Eddie Farnsworth, a representative and then senator, made $14 million as he voted again and again not to regulate vouchers.
Senator Yarborough was another who retired to enjoy his ill-gotten gains. Glen Way got $18 million in no-bid public monies contracts to build charters. Yet these same people are wailing crocodile tears about a surcharge of 3.8% for those earning above $250,000 to pay for the public education that they have decimated.
Another religious nationalist case was argued to the Supreme Court the first week in November, with religious zealot Barrett not afraid to bare her colors.
As religious nationalists point out, it only takes action from 10% of the country to make radical changes. We need you to be that 10%.
Step up: join; volunteer; take action; run for office; write letters to the editor; protest; donate; lobby: no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.
Katherine Stewart will be the keynote speaker at the annual Secular Summit on December 5. Become a member of Secular AZ and show up at this virtual event.
Legal Director, Secular Communities for AZ
November 5, 2020