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5:22 PM / Wednesday June 12, 2024

2 Jun 2024

Coalition hosts film screening of ‘Bad Faith’ in response to the rising influence of Christian nationalism in U.S. government

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June 2, 2024 Category: Local Posted by:

By Amy V. Simmons

Ensconced in the oft cited First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States is the following pronouncement:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

There has been some political activity within religious institutions over the years, but it has largely been limited to the hosting of polling places, voter registration drives, and related events, which have all largely stayed within Constitutional guidelines.

There has, however, been a concentrated effort by Christian nationalists in recent decades to blatantly promote an ideology that threatens not only the First Amendment, the Constitution, and democracy itself, but decades of progress made by women, people of color, and other groups.

According to Christianity Today, Christian nationalism, by definition, is “the belief that the American nation is defined by Christianity, and that the government should take active steps to keep it that way.” They believe that if it means taking “back” that government, dismantling it and forcing the issue, it’s all the better.

Repairers of the Breach, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and a group of impacted people, faith leaders and advocacy groups have been co-hosting screenings and “teach-ins” of the documentary “Bad Faith” around the country as a part of the “Keeping the Faith: National Preaching, Teach-in and Film Screening Tour.” The Philadelphia screening event took place at the historic First Unitarian Church, located at 2125 Chestnut St. in downtown Philadelphia on May 19.

The multistate tour was launched in response to the rising influence of Christian Nationalism in the U.S., began on April 11 and will continue until to June 29 ahead of the “Mass Poor People’s & Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington & to the Polls,” on June 29.

The stated goal of the tour’s organizers is to “build awareness about the dangers of religious and Christian Nationalism and need to focus on the true moral issues of our time, including living wages, universal healthcare, voting rights, and environmental justice amongst other issues.”

“Bad Faith” was directed by Stephen Ujlaki and Christopher Jacob Jones. The film features interviews with a diverse coalition of secular and interfaith leaders, including Bishop William J. Barber, II, DMin, national co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, professor of public theology and public policy, and founding director of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale Divinity School.

From the origins of the KKK to the Moral Majority Movement to 21st century groups participating in the January 6, 2021 insurrection, Christian nationalism has been part of the American political story, leaders appearing in the film explain.

At the core of the belief is based on the supposition that the United States of America is a “Christian nation,” and was established as such. The nation’s founders, however, vowed to never again submit themselves to the so-called “divine right of kings” or to a state religion from its inception.

The film also explains how white supremacy, a belief that white males are predestined leaders, plays a major role in Christian nationalism. During the post-Civil War era, the European immigration wave around the turn of the century, and the Civil Rights Movement, this belief system flourished. It always does.

“For decades and decades, there has been a strain of Christian nationalism in the American popular consciousness, but it seems to re emerge during times of intense cultural and political conflict, especially when those who have traditionally been in power,” Samuel Perry, author of “Taking America Back for God,” says in the film. “White conservative Christian men especially feel like that power is threatened.”

The film reveals the architect of the current iteration of this movement — the late Paul Weyrich, an enigmatic figure who combined religious fanaticism, white supremacy and political ideology to create the Council for National Policy, a secret society whose membership rolls and meetings are mystery to the public.

Yet, by influencing conservative evangelicalism through the Council’s rhetoric and propaganda, he transformed the Republican Party into an organization determined to dismantle democracy and replace it with a theocratic — namely, white Christian only — system.

One of the means he used to spread this dogma was the so-called “Moral Majority” movement — coalition of white evangelical leaders, composed of popular figures like 700 Club founder Pat Robertson and televangelist Jerry Falwell.

In the beginning, as a cynical tactic, the pro-life movement was used by these leaders to conceal the actual issue at hand — challenges to segregation at federally funded institutions, namely, Falwell’s Liberty University and Bob Jones University.

Despite Weyrich’s death in 2008, his influence continues to negatively affect all aspects of American life and public policy.

Christian nationalism must be challenged, Barber said.

“We’ve got to challenge Christian nationalism, that tries to teach us that real faith is being against gay people and for tax cuts and believing that Jesus was a founding member of the NRA,” Barber said in the film. “We’ve got to challenge all of that, and say no.”

“Bad Faith” is many things at once — enlightening, terrifying, upsetting, but also necessary. As disturbing as the film’s rhetoric and images are, its careful, detailed chronological history helps transform an emotional response into one fortified with knowledge and information to deal with these volatile and incendiary times.

After the screening, those present were asked to summarize their thoughts about what they had just watched in one word.

“Afraid,” “hopeful,” and “determined” were some of the responses.

A speakerphone conversation with Barber followed, and he told the attendees that the current Christian nationalism movement and the destruction it will cause should it succeed should be taken seriously.

According to the Poor People’s Campaign, if eligible poor and low income voters went to the polls at the same rate as higher income voters, they could effectively sway election outcomes in every state. Pennsylvania alone is home to 3.3 million eligible poor and low income voters who make up nearly 30% of the electorate, the organization states.

Barber also briefly outlined the 2024 general election mobilization strategy that will begin in earnest at the Mass Poor People’s & Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington & to the Polls,” on June 29. By strategically targeting this population at the grassroots level in key states, the Poor People’s Campaign and other stakeholders hope to force political leaders to recognize the voting power of this constituency.

In the film, it is clear that those who oppose Christian nationalism must be just as organized or even more so than those who support it. Besides mobilization efforts such as those spearheaded by Barber, voter education will require a concerted campaign encompassing a variety of strategies.

“Bad Faith” is key tool in that effort, whether by individuals renting it or renting it to show to their family, friends, colleagues or groups. The more people understand how Christian nationalism began, the more they will understand what they are fighting against now, and with knowledge comes power.

“Bad Faith” is currently streaming on Apple TV Plus, Amazon Prime, Google Play and YouTube. For more information, visit: www. badfaithdocumentary.com.

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