In 2023, white Christian nationalist lawmakers and voters yet again escalated their war on truth, freedom and life.

Denial of truth is a key strategy in Christian nationalists’ war against America’s democracy. Many far-right Christians in the United States still deny the truth that Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election, sharing an ideology of Christian authoritarianism with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.

Forsaking truth, in turn, opens the door to stripping freedom away from disliked “others.” This is the cornerstone of a Dominionist theocratic vision Christian Nationalists have of establishing a so-called “Christian nation” based on a “biblical worldview.” Forbidding freedom is an indicator that human lives, other than their own, do not matter to Christian nationalists. 

As the year draws to a close, extremist Christian nationalist Mike Johnson is speaker of the House and now second in line to the White House. Speaker Johnson was a supporter of the January 6 domestic terrorist insurrection and no friend of truth, freedom or life. With a straight face, he once lied that “we don’t live in a democracy,” but rather a “biblical” republic. 

With biblical verses blazing, Johnson has called for Christian nationalists to take freedoms away from many of their fellow Americans. This is the same man who callously turned his back on his own father’s life by refusing his father’s pleas to stop a proposed toxic burn site near their family home.

Johnson’s white Christian nationalist political cult has taken freedom away from women in fourteen states, each of which has placed women’s bodies under government control by eliminating access to abortion. This year in South Carolina, Christian nationalist legislators introduced a bill to punish women who have abortions with the death penalty. Fortunately, the bill has not become law.

In December, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an injunction to prevent a pregnant woman whose fetus had a fatal diagnosis from obtaining an abortion, even though the woman’s health and fertility were in peril if she did not receive the procedure. She fled the state to save herself

In 2023, the anti-life, anti-abortion agenda of Christian nationalists led to a rise in infant mortality rates and an increase in maternal deaths, in addition to rising birth rates and poverty rates among poor Black and Hispanic families who have historically been denied critical resources to raise children.

Christian nationalists in 2023 also expanded their anti-life, anti-freedom war against the LGBTQ+ community. As the year draws to a close, a total of 507 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been signed or are in the legislative pipeline across the United States. The widespread determination of White Christian nationalists to place the bodies of non-heterosexual people under state government control resulted in only three states not enacting some form of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. 

Successfully placing female and LGBTQ+ bodies under government control requires far-right extremist indoctrination of entire populations of people, indoctrination that mirrors that of contemporary Russia and Hungary, and Germany of the 1930s. The alliance of white Christian nationalism with the authoritarian Donald Trump produced a willing extremist political cult now intent on indoctrinating all of America by seizing control of the levers of education. 

Still angry that Brown v. Board mandated the racial integration of public schools, from which white Christian “segregation academies” emerged in defiance, white Christian nationalists in 2023 made remarkable progress in taking over public school boards and implementing many “educational intimidation bills.” In various states, these anti-truth bills force schools to promote conservative white Christianity and forbid teachers from discussing truths such as systemic racism, evolution and climate change. 

Alongside the legislative intimidation, “Thirty-one percent of school district leaders nationally report that their teachers have received verbal or written threats related to politically controversial topics during the 2021–22 school year,” according to a January 2023 RAND / Center for Reinventing Public Education survey

History, in particular, is increasingly in the cross hairs of white Christian nationalist legislators, who in 2023 introduced at least 110 “educational gag orders” – legislation restricting the freedom to learn and teach – in K-12 schools and institutions of higher education. At least eighteen state laws in fourteen states now prohibit the teaching of Black or Native American history without express government approval.

Books perceived as inappropriate increasingly came under censorship in 2023, with more than 1,000 attempts by Christian nationalists to ban some 3,000 books from schools and public libraries.

What is the endgame of white Christian nationalists’ war against education? Taking over America’s public education systems and placing them in submission to their violent, war-mongering God.

Nevertheless, white Christian nationalists’ far-right authoritarian agenda did not go unchallenged. 

“Through brute legislative force, state lawmakers are transforming our schools into ideological battlegrounds, forcing students and educators to operate in a pervasive climate of fear,” Jonathan Friedman, director of Free Expression and Education Programs at PEN America, acknowledges. “But these tactics remain as unpopular as they are dangerous, and the vast majority of people who value the freedom to learn will not stop resisting their pernicious efforts.” 

In both red and blue states, a majority of Americans are now pushing back on white Christian nationalists’ crusade to imprison women’s bodies. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, abortion has been on the ballot in seven states. In every instance, and with broad bipartisan support, voters chose to protect women’s bodies from government control.

Standing up to anti-LGBTQ+ hate legislation, voters across America in 2023 elected 238 LGBTQ+ candidates into public office, the most significant number ever for an off-year election. 

Defenders of public schools, too, rallied for truth and freedom and defeated many anti-education Christian nationalist extremists trying to take over school boards. Currently, lawsuits in several states are challenging legislative book bans.

The expansion of voting rights saw significant victories in 2023. This year, “there have been nearly three new expansive [voting] laws enacted for every restrictive [voting] law,” notes the Brennan Center for Justice

The more people engage in the democratic process by voting in elections, the greater the advancement of truth, freedom, and life.

Still, there is no reason to hope that Christian nationalists will abandon their authoritarian ambitions. Large far-right extremist organizations such as the America First Policy Institute and the Heritage Foundation are spending massive sums of money to try and return Trump to the White House in 2024 and transform our federal government into an authoritarian state.

In 2024, Christians of good faith and all persons of goodwill must advocate, vote and legislate for, and more than ever, create and expand community space for truth, freedom and life.

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