There is a movement in the U.S. that is seeking to fundamentally alter several key institutions.

First, school boards are facing radical agendas from people within the community.

So, as they belittle, bombard, threaten and shout at school board members, vacancies are developing on these boards. And who is going to fill them? Unfortunately, these positions are likely to be filled by the very people promoting a radical agenda.

One candidate running for the school board in Round Rock, Texas, where I live, promoted his campaign with this phrase: “Teach ABC, 123.” That is his agenda. No history, no social studies, no literature, nothing else, and a library devastated by censoring gone wild.

One superintendent drew a line in the sand, saying that if people (students) wanted books on racism, sexism, LGBTQ+, they could go to the city library. Of course, wise folks know that this put a target on the community library system, which radicals will likely try to have censored or defunded.

Second, they are targeting the foundational mechanisms of our voting systems.

Believing the baseless lies about a stolen election, their strategy is to harangue, harass and threaten those who have served in various capacities to give us the best, fairest and freest elections in the world.

City and county governmental boards are also targeted because these people don’t understand power, responsibility or representative government, but they know what they and theirs want. So, the potential of rowdy city council meetings and county commission meetings is before us.

In addition, restrictive voting laws have been passed, or are being considered, by several state legislatures under the pretense of “election integrity” – a term used by those believing and promoting the demonstrably false claims of widespread voting fraud.

In my years of being a pastor, I have pastored all kinds: the good, the bad and the crazy. Their organizing center is sometimes down your street at a local church.

Part of the ministry of churches is to help work with the crazies. Every church has them, and some more than others can become a problem. The wise, patient pastor is able to shepherd them while containing damage within and without the church.

However, in our time, some of the more extreme expressions in politics and religion have made their way to Congress, and they seem to have carried some really troubling baggage to their position.

I am not sure when authoritarianism began to be more appealing than democracy and when defending Russia became more patriotic than standing up for a nation that was attacked for no other reason than the war criminal next door wanted Ukraine. That is, sadly, the times in which we live.

I would think a basic criterion for serving in Congress would be a belief in, and allegiance to, the rule of law, and to our Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Apparently, that is no longer a requirement.

Third, this movement is promoting and advocating for a nationalistic expression of Christianity that is both toxic and unconstitutional.

Their vision violates the basic tenets of the Constitution, which clearly states in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So much of our life in the United States is embodied in this amendment. And yet, there is a movement trying to redefine religious liberty by making the First Amendment say something it has never said and mean something it has never meant.

Not learning their lesson from being persecuted in their country of origin, some of the earliest immigrants to North America attempted to reproduce a coercive state church that favored their particular expression of faith.

Roger Williams showed a different possibility by establishing Rhode Island as a colony with religious freedom. Baptists and other persecuted minorities were among the religious groups that championed free expression of religion for all, favoring or establishing no tradition over or against any others.

Far from establishing Christianity as the nation’s official religion, the First Amendment enshrined freedom of religion. Until recently, that has been well understood as a wall of separation between church and state. The toxicity of Christian nationalism steals the place and the power of a free church in a free state.

The United States has never witnessed such an attack on our identity, our government, our institutions and our faith as we are seeing in these days. We must not let these extremist movements succeed for the sake of freedom and democracy.

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