I live in Lancaster County, PA, a bucolic area known for its landscapes dotted with farms, its large population of Anabaptists – the Amish, Mennonites, and Church of the Brethren – its welcome of refugees, and the small city of Lancaster at the heart of it all. For the aforementioned Anabaptist groups, their Christian faith is of paramount importance to them and those in their communities of faith. The same can be said for mainline Christians, as well as those who describe themselves as evangelicals or fundamentalists. The latter two groups are of concern here, because unlike the Anabaptists and mainline Christians, the hard right evangelicals and fundamentalists are trying to force their beliefs on others whether they are Christians or not. This can be seen during this election cycle where a Christian nationalist, and current state representative, Doug Mastriano is running for governor of Pennsylvania. He espouses some truly dangerous views in interviews, and on the campaign trail, in addition to participating at the capitol on January 6, 2021, and being a proponent of the Big Lie that Trump won the election. I can without equivocation state that Mastriano, and those of his ilk, are dangerous because they want to force others to adhere to their authoritarian, white supremacist, antisemitic, patriarchal version of the Christian faith. To Mastriano, building a theocracy, first here in Pennsylvania, and then nationwide, is the point.
Mastriano has made no secret about his theocratic ambitions. He’s had a self-styled “prophet” named Julie Green with him at times at campaign events. Among the more bizarre things Green has said is that Nancy Pelosi drinks the blood of children, that Joe Biden is actually dead and the man we see masquerading as president is really an actor. (1) Another so-called “prophet”, Lance Wallnau of Pennsylvania, has said that Mastriano is “anointed to lead as-one movement,” a la a military battle formation, and then had participants at a Mastriano rally do a salute eerily reminiscent of the Nazi salute. He then claimed that leftists were wrong in equating it with the Nazis stating, “I had the crowd raise their hand and bring it down ‘as one’ to commemorate day 2 Little Round-top at battle of Gettysburg. Nazi? You putz, I’m part Jewish!” (2) Getting people en masse to raise their arms in salute to an “anointed” leader is dangerous despite his protestations, and Wallnau was reaching for plausible deniability with his explanation after the fact. A salute is a feature of fascist, and other authoritarian style, movements and Mastriano using a salute and being a Christian nationalist puts him in that category.
His goal is not governance in the sense that we are used to, rather it is establishing his version of Christian dominion over the state of Pennsylvania, its citizens, and governmental institutions. This type of ambition is precisely why the settler colonialists’ government established the separation of church and state in the U.S. constitution, to preclude religious fanatics from foisting their views on everyone else through the power of the state. Mastriano, and others like him, thinks he is called to this work and as recent history has shown, the ends (an authoritarian Christian theocratic state) justifies the means (electing Trump, insurrection, perjury by SCOTUS nominees, etc) as long as the desired end result is achieved. Mastriano has gone on record stating the as governor, he would have the power to decertify “every machine in the state,” (3) in order to overturn an election whose result he doesn’t like, just as he repeatedly attempted to do as state rep after Trump lost his 2020 reelection bid. (4) For Christians who think and believe like Mastriano, they see him as Wallnau does – chosen by God, and therefore there is unlikely to be anything one could say to convince them otherwise. For conservatives who may not be Christian, they likely will vote for him anyway simply because he is a republican and not a Jewish lawyer from Philadelphia. That should scare anyone with common sense and decency.
That a Christian nationalist like Mastriano is the gubernatorial candidate for the republican party in any state is alarming, even more so in a state the size of Pennsylvania. His religious views are extreme and would lead to rights and freedoms being taken away from Pennsylvanians, in particular women and others capable of giving birth, LGBTQIA people, and likely people of color given Mastriano’s Christian nationalism and cosplaying as a Confederate soldier. There are far too many others like him running for office, or who have already been elected. Just this week a Florida state rep, Anthony Sabatini, tweeted out a quote from Spanish fascist dictator Francisco Franco, and then stated that Mike Pence must be eliminated in order to Make America Great Again. (5) That is brazen fascism, including a thinly veiled calling for the execution of a political rival, all on social media. John Daniel Davidson writing for The Federalist intimated that because there are fewer religious people in America that conservative Christians must foist their views onto the rest of the nation to avoid the government and corporations persecuting Americans. In other words, to ensure that family values are maintained, conservatives must be the persecutors, not the persecuted in America. (6) He literally is calling for fascism to be the mainstream conservative movement. Given the history of fascism, it is ironic that the party that most often makes a noise about being “freedom loving” is nakedly calling for fascism, and often a theocratic form of fascism that literally limits the freedom of others. Again, they don’t want to govern, they want to win a culture war that they consider to be spiritual warfare. This is Christian extremism and should be treated as such.
Theologically speaking, fascism is morally bankrupt. I know of no place in scripture that says Christians should force their views upon on other people by wielding the power of the state and brandishing the Bible as a weapon. We cannot love our neighbors in so doing. Nor can we maintain any semblance of a pluralistic, secular society with an ostensibly democratic form of governance by enacting fascism and establishing a theocracy. As much as conservatives like to pretend that America is a Christian nation, it has always been a secular one according to the founding documents written by the white supremacist elites of the day. History has shown repeatedly that religious fanaticism and fascists movements destroy lives and often do so through violence, oppression, and terrorism. Hitler invoked Christianity as one means of justifying the horrors of the Nazi regime. We’ve already seen in the last few years, and during the early settler-colonialism period, what religious fanatics are capable of here in the United States, therefore we must do all we can to prevent the Mastriano’s of American politics from every being in power and push them back to the margins of society where violent extremists belong. They are the kinds of false prophets the Bible warns people about. They are the kinds of religious extremists whose actions taint all religious faiths and undermine societies. I pray that we stop them here before it is too late.
(1) Eric Hanoki, “Doug Mastriano’s campaign “prophet”: Political executions are coming, Biden “is no longer alive,” Pelosi drinks “children’s blood,” – https://www.mediamatters.org/qanon-conspiracy-theory/doug-mastriano-campaign-prophet-julie-green-political-executions-are-coming
(2) William Bender, “New ‘prophet’ on the campaign trail with Doug Mastriano is a prayer-coin salesman who calls Biden the ‘antichrist’,” – https://www.post-gazette.com/news/election2022/2022/09/22/doug-mastriano-lance-wallnau-preacher-prophet-prayer-coin-salesman-pa-governors-race-2022/stories/202209220134
(4) Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board, – http://In Mastriano’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, a chilling template for future races | Editorial
(5) Anthony Sabatini Twitter posts – https://twitter.com/AnthonySabatini/status/1582947194780323841
(6) John Daniel Davidson, “We Need To Stop Calling Ourselves Conservatives,” https://thefederalist.com/2022/10/20/we-need-to-stop-calling-ourselves-conservatives/