How do we engage with Christian nationalists?

How do we engage with people who part of this movement we call Christian nationalism? In this interview, Doug Pagitt helps us understand engagement and empathy, which he urges as our response to the people.

Doug Pagitt is the Executive Director and co-founder of Vote Common Good – an author, pastor, and social activist. A leading voice for progressive Christianity, Doug makes frequent national media and speaking appearances. He has a new book, Outdoing Jesus. Visit his website to learn more –DougPagitt.com.

Doug calls himself a possibility enthusiast. For two decades, he has been leading the conversation on progressive faith and politics. Through creative, entrepreneurial and generative efforts, he works to enlist people to join in the hopes, dreams, and desires God has for a more beautiful world. 

“The threat to democracy,” Doug says, “comes when government begins to do its work in order to fulfill its purposes by Christian means,” but not everyone in the movement is in agreement about how to do that. “There’s a continuum of where people are and the kinds of ideas they hold. There’s not a unified view in the movement, and people are not motivated by the same thing. They fight with one another.”

Watch this interview with Doug, then read more below the video about the kind of response he recommends.

How do we engage with empathy in our personal relationships? Political or governmental engagement is important, but personal engagement remains critical to making a difference. Convinced that people cannot be persuaded to change their minds or their beliefs, most of us do not even try. Here’s what Doug said: “Many people are ready to swap one belief for another, but we all need a meaningful alternative belief before we let go of a harmful belief.” So personal, empathetic engagement may be saying to someone: “I have a different way to look at this. Would you mind looking at it with me?”

Empathy includes understanding why people believe what they do. We need to put ourselves in their place as much as possible to have a sense of why they say or believe what they do. One question to ask, Doug says, is this: “What function does that belief have in your life?” It does something for them. It provides something important in their lives. What is that and why? Once we have a good idea about the answer, we can talk with them about it.

Another fascinating idea in the interview is that most stories have heroes, villains, and victims. None of us sees ourselves as the villains, of course – just a hero or a victim. We sometimes do, however, see other people as villains, which is never helpful.  “We must engage people as heroes or victims,” Doug says, “in whatever role they see themselves. Replace the hero narrative with another hero narrative, not make them villains in a story.”

Toward the end of our interview, Doug focused on what he calls “a sojourner narrative,” – a narrative of shared experience. Rather than heroes, villains, or victims, can we see ourselves as sojourners on a common journey? He suggested looking to migrants for help in this. What is their story as they learn “to live in a new land”?” What could we learn from that story about being sojourners together on a path to a better life, a better future?

If you find this interview helpful for considering an appropriate response to people involved in Christian nationalism, you might want to visit the Vote Common Good website. They offer a free course on “Confronting Christian Nationalism” that you might also benefit from. Thank you for watching this interview.

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Another resource you may want to explore is a free eBook called “One thing YOU can do,” available for download here. Learn the 2 ways to do that one thing and when and how to do it.

You are invited to join our new Imagine Learning Community where you will find interviews and resources from a variety of leaders and groups engaging with people in this movement. Click here to learn more.

Interview with Mikey Weinstein

U.S. military regulations prohibit discrimination based on religion. Diversity of religious expression and faith or non-faith is legally protected, and any action designed to harass or manipulate service members based on religion is illegal and unethical. Thousands of men and women in uniform fight a constant battle against such harassment.

Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, works every day to help them win the battle. His group seeks to restore the obliterated wall separating church and state in the United States armed forces. His family has a proud military history, with six family members graduating from the United States Air Force Academy. He served 10 years in the JAG Corps and 3 years as White House legal counsel under President Ronald Reagan – once a mainstream conservative Republican.

Facing personal experience with antisemitism as a Jewish family and the growing influence of a specific version of Christianity in the military, Mikey took up the battle against far-right radical religious fundamentalists. On the Military Religious Freedom Foundation website, you can find examples of vicious hate mail he has received over the years as a result of defending the constitutional rights of religion and free speech of men and women in the U.S. military.

Meet Mike Weinstein in this interview today:

Mikey Weinstein Interview

There are more than 80,000 reasons for this work of the MRFF:

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is dedicated to ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Just over 81,000 active duty, veteran, and civilian personnel of the United States Armed Forces, including individuals involved in High School JROTC around the nation, have come to our foundation for redress and assistance in resolving or alerting the public to their civil rights grievances, with hundreds more contacting MRFF each day. 95% of them are Christians themselves.

Mikey and Bonnie Weinstein have several books you may be interested in reading. One is “No Snowflake in an Avalanche,” which goes deep inside the world of religious extremism in America s military and political infrastructure. Weinstein’s war pits him and his small band of fellow graduates, cadets, and concerned citizens of varying religious backgrounds against a program of Christian fundamentalist indoctrination that could transform our fighting men and women into right-thinking warriors more befitting a theocracy than a democracy.

Please go to the MRFF website today. You will find an array of interviews, videos, books, including his multiple honors and awards. Contact them and find out how you can help our proud men and women in the United States armed forces.


ALSO….please “like” our new Imagine Facebook page and go to our Imagine learning community site where you can find out more about Mikey and many other leaders organized to offer alternatives to Christian Nationalism for a better world.

Challenge or Persuade?

I gave up “bridge-building” years ago – at least with people who will never choose to cross over or even meet in the middle. When we are in direct conflict with our goals and values, I can challenge it, but not persuade anyone to change. When it comes to the movement now called Christian Nationalism, I have decided to challenge the movement with a goal of minimizing its power but without a goal of changing it.

At the same time, a new book (Anand Giridharadas, The Persuaders) tells stories of social activists and political leaders who have learned that some people – the “persuadables” – can be persuaded to see another way. Loretta Ross – activist, public intellectual, professor – says that we can do more than “call out” someone with whom we disagree. We can also “call in” with love. Here’s what she says:

“For me, calling in is a callout done with love. You’re actually holding people accountable. But you’re doing so through the lens of love. It’s not giving people a pass on accountability—like you don’t have to pay attention to the fact that they said something racist or that they caused harm to another person. No. It’s not ignoring it. But it’s about seeing a pathway or multiple pathways for addressing accountability through the lens of love.”  (p.47)

Ms. Ross reminds us that most people see themselves as good people with good motivations. Rather than challenge their self-image (if you don’t agree), she says, “help them lean into that internal exploration of themselves and show them how to bolster that self-perception of them being good people by walking them through examples” of how they would choose in certain situations to do what is good. That’s where we find common ground. And she continues:

“You have to be in a loving, healing space to call anybody in. You can’t do it from anger, because it’s just going to end up badly. So you have to assess why you’re doing it. What’s your motivation? Are you trying to help this person learn, or are you actually trying to change them?” … “You can’t change other people. You can’t even change the person you’re married to. You can help people. You can expose people to different information and help them learn—if you do so with love.”  (p.55)

Her story and approach to persuasion with people who seem to be opposed offer a core strategy for engaging people in a movement we oppose. Whether our goal is to CHALLENGE or to PERSUADE, empathy and compassion for the person – even if their words or actions appall us – are necessary. To be in that “loving, healing space,” refusing to let anger motivate us, we engage the person with concern for their good (which is what love is). And our goal is to “expose people to different information and help them learn.”

George Lakoff’s model of Strict Father / Nurturant Parent values – with its moral and political impact – has been a major influence on my thinking and practice since I discovered it 15 years ago. Sometimes I think “these people live in a different world.” In a way, we do live in different “worlds,” with different worldviews – ways of understanding how the world “works” – when we operate out of one set of values or the other. There is always overlap, of course, but it’s important to understand the basic difference. Here’s his summary:

The strict father is moral authority and master of the household, dominating the mother and children and imposing needed discipline. Contemporary conservative politics turns these family values into political values: hierarchical authority, individual discipline, military might.

The nurturant parent model has two equal parents, whose job is to nurture their children and teach their children to nurture others. Nurturance has two dimensions: empathy and responsibility, for oneself and others. Responsibility requires strength and competence. The strong nurturing parent is protective and caring, builds trust and connection, promotes family happiness and fulfillment, fairness, freedom, openness, cooperation, and community development. These are the values of strong progressive politics.

You can find much more detail about Lakoff’s model on our Imagine learning community site, along with an introduction to Christian Nationalism, interviews with national leaders, and other learning resources. I hope you will take some time to see what’s there and decide to join our learning community working for a better world.

Interview with Jennifer Butler

Jennifer Butler founded Faith in Public Life in Washington, D.C. A Presbyterian minister and global justice activist, she leads this national movement of clergy and faith leaders united in the prophetic pursuit of justice, equality and the common good. They are leading the fight to advance just policies at the local, state, and federal levels. They have a network of 50,000 leaders who engage in bold moral action that affirms just values and the human dignity of all.

Jennifer and I met this past August when the Reawaken America Tour came to Batavia, NY. She joined the public opposition to the event, and I attended the 2-day event. We have both since been writing and speaking to challenge the movement and change the conversation around Christian Nationalism. You can read her article in The Philadelphia Inquirer here.

Jennifer Butler, Founder of Faith in Public Life

Rev. Butler also wrote Who Stole My Bible? Reclaiming Scripture as a Handbook for Resisting Tyranny. I hope you will read it. In the introduction, she wrote:

The usurping of moral norms, like human dignity and loving your neighbor, is at the root of so much chaos. These beliefs are being undermined in favor of unbridled greed, ethnic nationalism, and xenophobia. A large percentage of white Christians is marching to the drumbeat of white nationalism and leading the way in the corruption of our values. Given all of this, nothing could be more important than reclaiming this radical book called the Bible and acting to make its vision for radical justice, equality, and liberation a reality.

After today you will find this interview – along with interviews of other people challenging this movement and changing the conversation – at Imagine, a learning community working for a better world. Sign up for free (for 30 days). Then for $10/month, you will have access to resources, interviews, and updates – and an Introduction to Christian Nationalism – all of which can help you learn and work for the kind of world you want to live in.

I don’t want to live in the authoritarian, power and fear-driven world this movement works to build. Rather, I want to live in a compassionate, just world, filled with hope. I can imagine it, and I am learning and working for that better world. Will you join me?

Freedom – mine or ours?

Binary thinking – all or nothing, black or white, right or wrong – undergirds the worldview of a global authoritarian movement which includes Christian Nationalism. We’ve all heard the language:

  • My way or the highway.
  • You can’t have it both ways.
  • We can’t both be right.
  • Those are the rules.
  • It’s the principle of the thing that matters.
  • Love it or leave it.

    This way of understanding the world leaves little room for complexity or nuance. It’s about following the rules, and there is little room for empathy. It’s about principles, not people. Justice means people getting what they deserve, not setting people free who don’t deserve what they are getting in life.

    George Lakoff’s family model for understanding the morality of politics – all of life, really – makes sense of the deep divisions we experience. You can find more research than you want on his website or by just searching for Strict Father and Nurturant Parent, which are his terms for describing two foundational worldviews at the heart of our divisions, one based on Authority and one on Compassion.

    At first glance, this seems binary in itself, as if each one of us sees the world as “strict fathers” or as “nurturant parents.” Lakoff, however, reminds us that life is a continuum. It’s not either/or. Sometimes we act more as strict fathers and sometimes more as nurturant parents, depending on the context. Still, he insists – and I agree – most of us strongly favor one more than the other in how we view the world – how the world “should” be.

    One primary difference is whether we see responsibility as primarily individual or systemic. For instance, if I don’t feel that I’m better than someone of another race, does that mean I’m not racist? Or do I – as a white man – acknowledge the privileges and freedoms I have simply because of the color of my skin? Is racism only a matter of individual responsibility or is it a systemic reality in which we all participate, either having or being denied those privileges? And so I share responsibility for changing it?

    Or consider poverty. Are people poor primarily because they don’t individually take the initiative and work hard enough? So they don’t deserve any help from the government? Charity from a religious or nonprofit agency is okay, but not any publicly-funded programs? … Or does poverty have multiple, interrelated causes – including racism, poor education, sexism, low wages, and a system designed to keep people poor? Does government (at all levels) share responsibility for such a system, and do we as citizens in a democracy also share responsibility to change it?

    For people with a Strict Father view of the world, individual freedom is most important. Freedom from “the burden” of paying taxes. Freedom from “government control” of just about anything, such as education, guns, business. However, an exception to government control is made if it’s a matter of what they consider to be moral issues, such as reproductive freedom or LGBTQ rights, because those are matters of individual responsibility that must be limited for the sake of the nation. Or so the reasoning goes.

    For people with a Nurturant Parent view of the world, a desire for everyone to enjoy freedom is tied to justice – and all of it is systemic. What’s good for the greatest number of people – the common good – requires a democratic government (of the people, by the people, for the people) to use its resources to help people who have been denied freedom and justice by the system. We pay our taxes and pool our resources to provide education, enhance infrastructure, build better neighborhoods and housing, improve healthcare, and regulate corporations for the well-being of our communities. As many have said, no one is free until all are free. Individual responsibility ties directly to systemic responsibilities. One without the other reinforces injustice and denial of freedoms for many people.

    Lakoff’s paradigm helps make sense of our divisions. Christian Nationalism, more political than religious, can best be understood in this way as well. Does it seem at times like we live in different “worlds”? We do – and this is why. If we can understand both “worlds” better – though we might disagree vociferously – we can learn to “tell the story” of the kind of world we want to live in so it makes sense to more people.

    Call it hate

    The first headline I saw yesterday morning was “Gunman kills 5 at LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs.” An unknown motive so far. Being investigated as a hate crime. Was it? People wonder – and argue.

    Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert tweeted: “The news out of Colorado Springs is absolutely awful. This morning the victims & their families are in my prayers. This lawless violence needs to end and end quickly.” Many were quick to point out how public condemnation of LGBTQ folks from “the right” is one reason for such violence. She is not alone in this, but her words are an example. She has repeatedly used language like …. perversion, monstrosity, mutilation, butchering, grope young children – and how such people are “spitting in God’s face.”

    Does that not sound like hate? Yet she – and millions of other people who share her views – deny that they hate anyone. At Reawaken America Tour events, the same language dominates the rhetoric with words like enemies, demonic, perverted, evil. If you heard all of this in reference to people like you, would you not experience it as hate? I would. I do.

    People who claim the name of “Christian” direct such violent, hate-filled words toward the LGBTQ community, but not to them alone. Liberals and Democrats and “woke” people are public targets of the same language of hate and the violence it provokes. BIPOC communities (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) are openly attacked, not just with hate-filled language, but with violent acts, such as the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde and the ongoing abductions of Indigenous girls and women.

    As they have been for centuries, Jews also bear the brunt of this hatred. Antisemitism has been on the rise for several years, with attacks on synagogues, schools, cemeteries, and Jewish centers. About 10 days ago, FBI Director Wray said that “…antisemitism remains ‘a pervasive and present fact,’ and vowed to protect American Jewish communities against unyielding threats of violence. ‘Jewish people continue to face repeated violence and very real threats, from all kinds of actors … simply for being who they are.’”

    Confronted with the hate-induced violence so pervasive in our country, how do people respond when challenged about their hate? They deny that they hate anyone or that their language is hateful. The ideas and language of anything systemic are anathema to this movement. Only individual responsibility matters to them, and hate only exists (in their minds) if an individual consciously hates another person. In their minds, they don’t “hate” their enemies – liberals, Democrats, LGBTQ folks, Jews, or Blacks – for instance – they just oppose them because “they are evil.”

    None of this is new, especially in the context of Christian Nationalism, a movement led by people completely convinced they are the defenders of morality, of what God wants, and of what they call “a Christian nation.” Historically, religious certitude of what is true and moral has divided tribes and nations for centuries. More recently, founders of this modern movement in the U.S., like Jerry Falwell, claimed absolute knowledge of God’s will according to their interpretation of “God’s Word.” And their “interpretation” includes what they see as the “evils” of abortion and homosexuality, the “destruction” of marriage and family, and the undermining of white male supremacy (although they deny that term).

    Someone asked me recently (as a Baptist minister) what this movement does with the teachings of Jesus. For the same reason, I’ve often asked aloud: “how can Christians act like this?” At the core of this movement is a worldview that allows little space for difference of opinions or empathy for people. It is a rules-based, authoritarian movement, firmly entrenched in one version of traditional Christian religion where the power rests with those who defend “the truth” and oppose “evil”. And in that tradition, there is no room for people outside the boundaries they have set. Far too often, people on the outside become the target of hate-filled language and sometimes the literal target of deadly violence. Let’s call it what it is. Call it hate.

    How do people change?

    Why and how do people change? My doctoral thesis began with those words. My research led me to define imagination as the human ability to interpret what we experience in a meaningful way. How do we imagine the world to be? How do we see it?  That’s what gives meaning to our experience of life. If we can imagine it differently – see it another way – we change our experience of it and live in a different way.

    Many people see Christian Nationalism as scary and terrifying, and they often equate people caught up in it with the movement itself and its leaders. Perhaps, though, many of those people are themselves afraid. Afraid and confused – and listening to movement leaders because what they say seems like common sense. If that’s true, then why not give them another way of seeing the world and making sense of what’s happening?

    In The Persuaders, Anand Giridharadas tells stories of a dozen people whose work focuses on changing the way people see the world and, as a result, making different social and political choices. Anat Shenker-Osorio, a messaging consultant, uses the term “persuadables” for people who are moderates. Why? Because, she says, “they toggle between competing views of the way the world works, and whatever they hear repeated most frequently becomes ‘common sense’ and ‘what everybody thinks.’” This 50-year-old movement has done that for a long time.

    Giridharadas summarizes her approach to persuasion this way:

    “If Shenker-Osorio is right that persuadables aren’t looking for an average of two positions but rather for what is normal, common sense, how the world works, then the way to persuade them of your view is by making it ubiquitous around them, inescapable. …. Repetition is a really big deal. More familiar messages are rated more convincing. Never mind the content. Repetition creates cognitive ease, so people rate familiar ideas as more favorable, more convincing, and more positive.”

    One of her slogans is “Painting the beautiful tomorrow.” Don’t argue with people. Don’t debate issues and policies and “truth.” Help people see a better world.

    “People aren’t stirred to reduce harm. They’re motivated to create good. As many have remarked, Martin Luther King did not get famous for saying, ‘I have a complaint.’ He certainly did not get famous for saying, ‘I have a multi-bulleted list of policy proposals.’ There has to be a dream. …You’ve got to sell people on the beautiful tomorrow.”

    Shenker-Osorio also gives a word of caution: “When you open with anger, what you can’t achieve is the second step—the hope. It’s not that people don’t think our ideas are right. It’s that they don’t think our ideas are possible, and so why bother?”

    Do we? – Do we believe our ideas are possible? That a world of empathy and compassion for people is possible? If we can see such a world, then we must learn to describe it. To talk about what it’s like and how it can “work” for everyone. The movement drives people with fear. We want to empower people with hope. We do that by telling a different story –  helping people “see” the world we want everyone to live in – and living together in that world.

    Moving from fear to hope

    Scary and terrifying! Common words people use to express their reactions when they learn about Christian Nationalism, but is that what we want? Do we want people to be afraid? I don’t. Fear is what this movement uses to drive people, to get them to do what is necessary to gain power. A global authoritarian movement, of which Christian Nationalism is one part, heightens fear and anger already present in people to gain their loyalty and increase their power.

    I oppose Christian Nationalism because I don’t want to live in a world it wants to build. Where they see the world through the lens of authority and rules, I see the world as a place of compassion and empathy. In that world, people with the power make the rules and enforce them with little mercy. In the world I imagine, power is shared, people take priority over rules, and compassion leads toward a healing, restorative justice. [Image below suggested by George Lakoff’s model of Strict Father/Nurturant Parent]

    People often say, “It seems like we live in different worlds.” We do. One values authority, rules, and power over the well-being of people. The other values compassion, empathy, and mutual care and working together for “the common good.” They are very different worlds, and I want to live in a compassionate world. That’s why I work against this movement.

    Movement leaders deny it, but their anger comes from fear of losing property, privilege, and power from 400 years of white men (mostly nominally protestant Christian in the U.S.) having the authority to make and enforce the laws. This nation will soon be majority non-white and non-Christian, and people are afraid and angry of losing what they had. Women and people of color who benefitted from that historical reality share the fear and anger as movement supporters.

    How do we challenge the movement and change the narrative? How do we move from fear to hope? Is it possible to persuade people in this movement to see a different world and to value a world of compassion and empathy over authority and power?

    I’m reading a book by Anand Giridharadas, The Persuaders, that stirs a hopeful “yes” in me. An interview with Loretta Ross, a pioneering activist and theorist in the Black radical feminist tradition suggests a path in that direction. One conclusion from the interview says what I’m experiencing:

    “In the realm of electoral politics, these are people on the diametrically opposite side from you. They don’t share a vision with you, nor even a basic worldview, nor even necessarily fundamental values or language. They may use the exact same words and mean completely different things by them.”  

    (Giridharadas, Anand. The Persuaders (pp. 49-50). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition)

    All of life is a continuum, and some people do share elements of both worldviews of authority or compassion. Too many seem to be on “diametrically opposite sides,” and most do seem to mean different things even when we use the same words. What can we do? How can we challenge and persuade at the same time? Loretta Ross reminds us that most people see themselves as good people, so we can use that:

    “…Help them lean into an internal exploration of themselves and show them how to bolster that self-perception of them being good people by walking them through examples: ‘Well, if you saw a Black person that needed a kidney donation and you were a match, would you do it?’ That kind of thing. Make them really question that interior set of values that they think they have and see if they’re willing to actually go down that path of exploring those values.”

    Giridharadas, Anand. The Persuaders (p. 50). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

    Then Ms. Ross challenges us to do our own personal work if we hope to persuade others to see the world differently. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

    She told them that before they worry about those they were trying to win over, they should look at themselves. “You have to be in a loving, healing space to call anybody in,” Ross told me. “You can’t do it from anger, because it’s just going to end up badly. So you have to assess why you’re doing it. What’s your motivation? Are you trying to help this person learn, or are you actually trying to change them?” It was a striking distinction—helping a person learn versus trying to change them. When we speak of changing someone’s mind, winning someone over, aren’t we attempting both at once? Not for Ross. “You can’t change other people,” she told me. “You can’t even change the person you’re married to. You can help people. You can expose people to different information and help them learn—if you do so with love.”

    Giridharadas, Anand. The Persuaders (p. 55). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

    With over 50 years as an activist, working especially with Black women (one of the most oppressed groups in our nation), Ms. Ross has every reason to be angry and combative in her work, but she speaks of love. She reminds us that we must do our personal work first, assessing our motivations, and then “help the person learn” – not try to change them, but help them to learn.

    Back to the two worldviews – ways of seeing the world and imagining that this is how it “works” … This is not either/or, just one or the other. People are at different places in life. Some may be so enmeshed with the movement that they remain “diametrical opposites” to us, but not everyone. Some are tired of living with fear and anger driving them, and there may be an openness to learning – to a new way of seeing the world. This is where we begin.

    What about antisemitism?

    Joyce Herman, in Rochester NY, responded to what I have been posting about Christian Nationalism. She focuses, especially, on White Nationalism and the antisemitism that accompanies it. Her comments deserve a wider audience than a “reply” at the bottom of a post. With her permission, I am posting what she wrote:

    Thank you for adding your voice to the conversation about the radical White Nationalist Christian Right. As we know, they have morphed from what seemed like a fringe group into a large force that is tolerated, if not embraced, by the Republican Party.

    Comparisons to the tactics and rhetoric of Germany in the 1930’s are hard to ignore. (See Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny, written originally in 2017, Graphic Edition 2021).  As we look at the underlying and sometimes slyly hidden bedrock of their beliefs, antisemitism is more than the elephant in the room. In their intergroup communications they explicitly blame Jews as the all powerful force promoting the “Great Replacement” plan.  This Great Replacement narrative, actually a version of the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion, now serves as code for directing blame onto Jews for white people’s feared loss of power.

    Eric Ward, senior consultant for Southern Poverty Law Center and the founder of the Western States Movement opened a lot of eyes, including mine, as to just how central antisemitism is to the White Nationalist movement in Skin in the Game: How Antisemitism Animates White Nationalism I highly recommend his article for anyone seeking to understand the underlying dynamics.  Also, you can read about Eric Ward here.

    As antisemitism has exploded in the last couple of years, and until this week, I had noted the curious dynamic of invisibility that had muffled antisemitism reports. In retrospect, even after Charlottesville, where marchers carrying tiki torches yelled “Jews will not replace us” as they went back and forth in front of a synagogue on shabbat, most media reported that they were “racists,” as if that covered it … without mentioning antisemitism. I find even folks who want to be allies to Jews tend to talk about “hate” without specifically mentioning anti-semitism, or Jews.

    I was pleased to see that you did mention antisemitism early in your talk, although Jews were only assumed included when you report that speaking of “the enemy” was central to their talks.  White Nationalists vitriol for the hated “enemy” is likely to conjure an image of Jews in their followers’ minds.  Barbara Love, another Black liberation leader (Ward is Black) has pointed out that failure to talk about antisemitism is part of the problem and increases the chance of it escalating. 

    Invisibility and erasure are indeed part of many oppressions. Our Black siblings speak of “erasure,” when their obvious and horrendous history is not taught. LGBTQ+ folks history and treatment has been hidden.  It seems to me that allies not naming and condemning acts of antisemitism is a similar hurt.  Further, as Ward understands, not exposing the various ways antisemitism is perpetrated is ultimately a threat to everyone. He says that racism will never be solved so long as antisemitism is unaddressed.  The “oldest hate” has long been used by tyrants to derail progressive movements.

    I am aware that even as I write this, the picture is changing, with more coverage of the most egregious antisemitic rants, which then cite the huge rise in antisemitic incidents. New York Times columnist Bret Stevens “thanks” Ye (Kanye West) for bringing antisemitism out in the open.

    I appreciated your thoughtful suggestions about how to proceed If we are to meet the challenges that our country and the world face now and in the near future. God knows we need to be vigilant and active on many fronts as our society is collapsing. I’d like to suggest adding the following strategies against the rising threats.

    1. Stay awake and aware.  Notice both what is in plain sight and what is lurking beneath the surface.  Do not allow yourself to be hoodwinked by insinuations and dog whistles and other tricks that are designed to point blame and scapegoat Jews or others.
    2. Do not go silent:  Be vocal about what you see 
    3. Seek ways to build alliances across identities. Reach out to those who are different. Form common cause with them. 
    4. Stay in the room with allies even if if gets uncomfortable.  This is not a time to be defensive, compare oppressions, or leave if things get tricky.
    5. Affirm goodness, kindness, connection, beauty… and love …  and bring them into relationships as widely as possible.

    What is a Conservative?

    How do we define “conservative” in 2022? Depends on who we listen to. Compared to today’s conservative movement, Ronald Reagan was “center left,” and Dwight Eisenhower was “liberal.” At the National Conservatism Conference in Miami, Florida in September, prominent speakers promoted a new conservative worldview. Here’s a promo for their conference:

    Promo for National Conservatism Conference

    The Heritage Foundation, founded almost 50 years ago, leads the way. As perhaps the #1 conservative Think Tank for decades, their power to impose conservative policy was apparent when Donald Trump was president. In the 1980s the Reagan Administration used the Foundation’s policy series, Mandate for Leadership, to guide its work. Under President Trump, the Foundation placed its own people in positions of power to enact conservative policies.

    Heritage Foundation President, Kevin Roberts, spoke at the conference about “the betrayal by the Republican Party of the families, community, and nation it exists to serve.” He went on to clearly distinguish the Republican Party from the “national conservatism” he was advocating for. Today’s conservatives are no longer Republican in any traditional sense.

    A report on the conference in The Daily Signal, the foundation’s media arm, puts the new conservatism on full display in the language and ideas of Kevin Roberts:

    “I come today to this convention as president of The Heritage Foundation to extend my gratitude for the ideas and energy national conservatives have injected into the national debate, and my fellowship with principles you advance to rescue America from the barbarians inside the gates of our very own institutions.”

    Roberts “commended the national conservative movement for restoring a ‘proper’ public orientation of virtues like patriotism, courage, honor, loyalty, wisdom, religion, and family in American society.” And he spoke of “the rot coming from within: The tragedy of our universities, the stratification of our economy, the gelding of Congress, the farce of our news media, the weaponization of government against its people, and the popular culture against their values; these were all inside jobs.”

    Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., spoke at the conference as an advocate for Christian Nationalism, part of the larger movement:

    “The left is engaged in a project to undo the American Revolution and separate the nation from its biblical, Christian moral heritage. We are a revolutionary nation precisely because we are the heirs of the revolution of the Bible. This is a revolution that began with the founding of the nation of Israel, of Zion, and continued with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth in the days of ancient Rome.”  

    Sen. Hawley’s words do not fully explain what he envisions as the “revolution of the Bible,” but he continues in the same direction:

    “Without the Bible, there is no modernity. Without the Bible, there is no America. The Bible’s centrality in our politics is the question of the age.  The ‘woke left’ is desperate to unseat its influence in American life, to ‘remake’ this nation. It’s doing this by making Americans believe that the country is ‘irredeemably racist and oppressive,’ that men can become women, and that the family is repressive. Their real target in all this, I submit to you, is the inheritance of the Bible. What they particularly dislike about America is our dependence on biblical teaching and tradition. What they particularly dislike about our culture is the Bible’s influence on it. And now they want to break that influence for good.

    The conference program included Balasz Orban, political director for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (no relation to Viktor Orban). He represents a global conservatism. With intended humor, he said their language has no word for “woke” and added that “we are lucky enough to not have to come up with a word. Obviously, we’re doing anything we can do to ensure that it stays that way.”  

    He attributed a widespread practice of “kneeling” at sports events as a “woke” influence in their country. And he continued, saying “the radical left further tried to influence Hungary by targeting the country’s children, similarly to what the left does in America. The turning point came when we realized that the woke propaganda was being used against our children. They started targeting our children, brainwashing young kids with ideology.” He “concluded his speech by encouraging leaders and conservatives across the world to stand strong against wokeness coming from America.”

    Where will this new conservatism take our nation? Leaders of the movement make no apology for seeking power to change the laws and impose their understanding of morality upon everyone. They like to claim they are the “victims” of “the woke left” – their favorite new term for the rest of us – through the media, arts, education, business, and government, which are all controlled by this imagined “left.” If we do not want that future for ourselves, we must act now to change it.