Rick Saccone is a former state representative and adjunct professor at St. Vincent College in PA. He once ran and lost an election against a current member of the House of Representatives from PA, Conor Lamb. He also once sought the GOP nomination to run for Senate in PA and had Christian nationalist icon David Barton’s endorsement. More recently, Saccone showed up on January 6th as a part of the crowd that stormed the Capitol. In fact, he filmed himself describing it.
He then issued a statment minimizing his earlier words. In this KDKA report, part of that statement is provided.
I don’t buy his explanation since he said they were going to run the evil people and “Rinos” out of their offices. Shortly after this video was posted on Facebook, he resigned his adjunct position at St. Vincent and took the video off of Facebook.
I am posting this because I want to draw a line between Saccone’s Christian nationalist beliefs and his appearance in a mob willing to “storm the Capitol.” I realize this is one person and not all persons who hold Christian nationalist beliefs are willing to go as far as Saccone. However, Saccone is a case of an individual who articulates a pious Christianity on one hand but on the other justifies aggressive action when he perceives that his ideology isn’t dominant.
Here is a Saccone on Christian television, Cornerstone TV:
Saccone’s evidence that the Lord is working in America is Trump’s leadership and a good economy. He says as long as “the Lord is leading us,” America will be fine.
But what happens when Trump (or the current messianic political figure) isn’t in power?
Apparently, for at least some Christian nationalists, it is time to take to the streets and storm the Capitol. If your Christianity doesn’t include nationalism, you simply accept whatever happens in each election and continue to pursue the Kingdom of God. However, if your Christianity requires America to be run by Christian rule, then when your preferred candidate loses, your faith is threatened. These are incompatible visions of what our mission here is about. One leads to peace and preoccupation with redemption and service to all. The other leads to political preoccupation, division, discord and sometimes violence. I have a pretty clear idea about which one I think is right.
On today’s NYT opinion page, Sarah Posner brings attention to the growing presence of QAnon among evangelicals. Posner makes several important points in this piece. One is that the QAnon conspiracies are recycled stories floating around evangelical circles for many years. As an old-timer, I recall one world government worries and the satanic cult fears going back to high school days. The Clintons have lived rent free in evangelical heads since they came on the scene out of Arkansas.
With the advent of Trump, the various stories have morphed to form Trump as the Savior archetype in the QAnon narratives. Only he can save us. Furthermore, Trump is the bridge between the delusional and the deceived. He is the gateway drug for many from irrational support of a man to a world of make believe.
As I say in the article, those not quite yet in the QAnon snare will latch on to QAnon messaging if it helps make Trump correspond to the archetype of savior president. It doesn’t matter where it comes from or who spreads it. Christians appear to be some terrible offenders since, for many of them, Trump is the one defending their faith. Since there is only one Defender of our faith, this is a significant problem for Christianity. The Christian nationalist heresy in combination with the QAnon delusion is a powerful drug.
Go read Sarah’s op-ed and engage in the discussion in the comments.
Again this summer, David Barton is separating students from their money. Last summer via Glenn Beck’s Mercury One charity, the historical document collector started a summer internship program designed to prepare students ages 18-25 to educate their professors in history. Round two is this summer and Barton carries on his war with professors via his students.
Barton: Racists? What Racists?
I feel sorry for the students but it is too late for those who have already gone through it. Last summer, some came away with some problems they had to unlearn. In this post, I want to focus on something Barton said in the OneNewsNow interview.
And contrary to reports from liberal media outlets and academics, the country was not founded by a bunch of slave-owning racists, he [Barton] argued. “Once we separated from Great Britain, then you find that three out of four Founding Fathers released slaves, freed slaves, started abolitionist societies, went on to crusade against slavery,” he offered as examples.
While I don’t trust his math, I don’t need to have an exact percentage to assess what happened at the founding of the United States. Whether most founders owned slaves or not (I believe they did), what matters is what they did when it counted. In Christian America, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention decided that preserving the union was more important that ending slavery. We all know the history. Slavery didn’t end because noble founders “released slaves, freed slaves, started abolitionist societies, went on to crusade against slavery” or any such thing.
Some founders never owned slaves and were always opposed to slavery and in good conscience refused to support the union. Others condemned slavery, but owned slaves and held racist attitudes. Still others believed Africans were destined by God to serve whites. The situation is far more complex than Barton portrays it to be. No rationalization or math trick can change what happened or make it all better. It is only in the current white evangelical Republican echo chamber that such a whitewashing can be considered informed and wise commentary.
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Evangelicals have been a big puzzle since Donald Trump has come on the scene. Why would these moral crusaders fall behind a womanizer who bragged about sexual assault? A new study from sociologists Andrew Whitehead, Joseph Baker and Samuel Perry in a recent edition of the Sociology of Religion journal provides some answers.
The study, which is also summarized by the authors in Monday’s Washington Post, points to a belief in core tenets of Christian nationalism as a major factor associated with Trump support. To assess Christian nationalism, the authors asked participants in the Baylor Religion Survey the following questions:
“The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation,”
“The federal government should advocate Christian values,”
“The federal government should enforce strict separation of church and state” (reverse coded),
“The federal government should allow the display of religious symbols in public spaces,”
“The success of the United States is part of God’s plan,” and
“The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.”
The authors found that the more a person believed America is or should be a Christian nation, the more likely that person was to vote for Trump. This was true across party affiliation. The image below taken from the study demonstrates that Democrats with Christian nationalist beliefs were three times more likely to vote for Trump than Democrats who didn’t have those beliefs.
Item five above is one which can be interpreted without a Christian nationalist meaning. Christians of many stripes see God as having a general plan which includes the success and failure of nations in it. One need not see America as having a special plan to endorse this item. Otherwise, I think the items assess important components of Christian nationalist beliefs about church and state.
Make America Christian Again
In short, the more you buy into David Barton’s way of looking at history, the more likely you are to be a Trump supporter. Christian nationalist voters reason that Trump will move America toward their vision of a Christian America even if he isn’t personally devout. Once upon a time, Christian leaders told us that character counts in leaders. Now, power is what matters. Trump voters want policies in place which will coerce a Christian consensus — make America Christian again.*
The authors also found that anti-Muslim sentiment related to Trump support. Christian nationalists, such as David Barton, have demonized Islam beyond the historical record and at least one Christian “religious liberty” group denies religion status to Islam.
After reading this study, I feel on the side of the angels by fact checking Christian nationalists historical claims (e.g., Getting Jefferson Right). Christian scholars have a special responsibility to present the facts and withstand the pressure from Christian leaders to corroborate a false Christian nationalist narrative.
If Ed Young, pastor of Fellowship Church in Texas isn’t reading this op-ed by Marty Duren in WaPo, he should be.
Ed Young is going to have Mormon Glenn Beck in this weekend to teach his congregation providential theological history. Beck says he isn’t going to teach theology but a providential view of the founding era is theology in the LDS church. Young’s going all in.
Surely, he isn’t alone. David Barton is probably speaking somewhere at some church.
In his article, Duren notes that most Christians think God has a “special relationship” with America.
But with 53 percent of Americans still believing “God has a special relationship” with the United States, I am mystified. Among evangelicals 45 and older that figure is a staggering 71 percent. They may be the majority, but they will not read of National VIP status in heaven.
I am over 45 and definitely in the minority. In my view, the statement “God has a special relationship with the U.S.” is a theological one. And it is in error. Practically, it makes no sense. Who does God meet with to discuss this special relationship? Who represents the U.S. to God? Who is the American Moses? Glenn Beck? Franklin Graham? Kenneth Copeland? Chuck Pierce? Sorry if I left out any candidates.
Lots of wannabes but really, there is no American Moses.
I love America. I love freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. I would rather live here than anywhere else. But the Bible has to be tortured, just like history, to get America as the New Israel.
John Eidsmoe was Michelle Bachmann’s mentor* at Oral Roberts University and Ricki Pepin runs something called the Institute on the Constitution. Pepin’s website leaves no doubt about the type of course being offered. She says she provides “educational opportunities for learning about your American and Christian heritage.” Here course is different from other courses, which just teach the Constitution. Her course teaches kids how to think biblically.
GROUP CLASS DISTINCTIVES – Why are we different from other Constitution courses? Restoration begins with education. The root meaning of the word “education” is to “pour in and draw out.” We pour information and knowledge in, but unless we understand and know how to practically apply it (draw it out), true education has not occurred. Educated activism, therefore, is the key to restoration of America to her principled roots. For this reason, our Constitution course teaches you how to USE this document, not just learn its contents. Other Constitution classes – Hillsdale College, National Center for Constitutional Studies, Heritage Foundation – are good entry level classes to learn the basics of the Constitution, to set the foundation. But, when we build a house, the foundation is just the beginning. If we build no house on top of it, the foundation is unused and will never fulfill its intended purpose – to provide a home and shelter for a family. Likewise, if we are to restore Constitutional law to this country, we DO have to lay the foundation, but then we have to BUILD upon it until we learn to USE it for its intended purpose – to protect and defend individual’s right to life, liberty and property. The IOTC class is a 12-week course on the Constitution, with three important distinctions from other Constitution classes: First distinction – We begin with history. It has been said that history is to a nation what memory is to a person. If a person has amnesia, they are living in absolute confusion. They don’t know who they are, where they came from, what they believe in, what’s important to them, what their hopes and dreams are for the future. The same confusion reigns in a nation where citizens don’t know their history. It’s where we are today as a nation, lost and confused, not knowing where we came from, or where we’re going or what vehicle to use to get there. Our Constitution classes will show you. We teach the history of law and government as it originated from God as recorded in the Bible. Going forward, we trace the progression of this foundation through Columbus, the Pilgrims, our founding fathers and we study their belief systems. As students learn these foundations, they begin to see our nation’s history as part of who they are. They begin to see it as their HERITAGE, their inheritance. It’s truth. It’s powerful. It’s motivating. It gives individuals a sense of their purpose and destiny as Americans. Second distinction – We teach how to USE the Constitution. After laying the historical foundation, we do teach the Constitution, but we don’t just teach about it. We relate its principles to current events during class discussions. There is much interaction and many, many opportunities given for application of what the students are learning. Because of the first distinction – their knowledge of their heritage and ownership of this nation – many, many of our graduates get very involved in their local communities. Some of them are running for offices we didn’t even know existed before like Precinct Committee Chairmen. Others are attending various city, county, state board meetings, and offering Constitutional solutions to the problems discussed at these meetings, not just venting another opinion. Still others are starting up citizen action groups to hold their elected officials accountable. Third distinction – We teach students HOW TO THINK. While teaching the Constitution, we help the students turn on their brains. We show them how to reason through current events from a Biblical and principled foundation, so they will not be deceived by the media or anyone else. How do we do this? By introducing them to the Principle Approach to education (the method used by our Founding Fathers). Defining our terms from Noah Webster’s original 1828 Dictionary, asking leading questions, using primary source documents, what the founders themselves wrote, not what somebody wrote about them. This method of learning is incredibly thought-provoking and exposes principles and truths that are then applied to our modern-day government situations. Won’t you join us in this movement of educated activism? – The Constitution cannot defend itself. We the people must do it. No matter who we elect, educated patriots must hold our leaders at every level of government accountable to the Constitution. We can’t do that if we don’t know what it says. Join me and other IOTC graduates in the cause of preserving our God-given liberty and restoring our Constitutional Republic. If you don’t, who will?
When the state of Ohio passed a law requiring schools to teach about the founding documents, I wondered if the stage was being set for the introduction of Barton’s materials into the classroom. These summer courses are supposed to be evaluated for use in the school system to help meet the requirements of the law. There is another one day course apparently written by Cleon Skousen (one of Glenn Beck’s favorites) which will also be evaluated.
It is clear from the promo material and the teacher’s website that the course establishes one particular religious view under the guise of the public school. Furthermore, as regular readers know, the accuracy of the content is questionable given Barton’s video sequences used to reinforce the Christian nationalist teaching.
*Eidsmoe says he deplores racism but has spoken to white supremacist groups. See this article for more…