Bad Faith (2024)


Bad Faith Review

Christian Nationalism has followers that would like to see a theocracy. Another Trump presidency could help them achieve this, according to a film by Stephen Ujlaki and Chris Jones which sends shivers down my spine more than any other I’ve seen recently.

“Bad Faith: Christian Nationalism’s Unholy War on Democracy” is probably one of the scariest movies I have ever watched. This documentary delves into the rise and spread of Christian Nationalism in America; many of the things that it shows you about how the Christian Right mutated into something that openly disavowed any allegiance to democratic principles has been written about extensively in newspapers over the past few years. However, what sets this film apart from others on this subject is its focus on history: where did these people come from? What do they believe? How can we stop them? And what happens next if Donald Trump wins again? Because even though most liberals don’t think he will (I think they’re kidding themselves), everything changes now when viewed through the lens of another four years under his rule with religious fanatics running rampant throughout our country unchecked by anyone except themselves.

Trump was limited once he took office in 2017 – by checks and balances on governmental power and legal restrictions. He didn’t become anti-democratic until after losing re-election last year when he claimed victory anyway saying ‘Joe Biden stole it’. During those years between presidencies though while still setting himself up as an authoritarian leader who believes only him should make decisions for America based off what’s best for him alone, there were plenty opportunities taken advantage of by President-elect Donald J Trump; all fitting quite nicely into place alongside desires harboured within certain groups such as Christian Nationalism whose ultimate goal involves replacing US democracy with their own version – one governed not under Constitution but rather Bible law derived from divine interpretation white Christians claim they alone possess access rights too.

Forrest Baird

The most terrifying thing about “Bad Faith” is that it shows how the dream of a theocracy has been at the heart of the American right for almost as long as it has existed. When the so-called Moral Majority was formed, in 1980, all eyes were on its leader, Jerry Falwell. (One corrupt twist of this movement was that as televangelists like Falwell and Pat Robertson, and later Joel Osteen, became fabulously wealthy and famous their wealth was said to be evidence that God had chosen them to lead.) But Falwell, despite being better known than anyone else in his movement, wasn’t even its founder.

That role belonged to Paul Weyrich, an owlish conservative religious activist who created the Council for National Policy a group that brought Christian-right leaders together with Republican politicians year after year after year back when CPAC still refused to let James Dobson speak. Weyrich is the one who approached Falwell and Pat Robertson with the idea of blending their mailing lists into a single Christianist juggernaut that could be more powerful than either of them alone.

The machine he built had some 72,000 pastors in its network; it pioneered methods of “micro-targeting”; and its aim was nothing less than to turn white evangelicalism into a political movement. The G.O.P., henceforth referred to by some members as “God’s Own Party,” would never be able to win another election without white evangelicals; meanwhile Weyrich’s alliance would give him what he’d always wanted: total control over America’s government.

This film does an excellent job presenting some really difficult concepts in ways people can easily understand! For example there’s this part where Reagan talks about making America great again and I’m thinking wait did Trump steal his whole campaign?

Weyrich could be thought of as a Steve Bannon type, a political rabble-rouser behind the scenes. He wrote a manifesto calling for the destruction of the government through guerrilla tactics and stuff like that. And from the beginning, he signaled that there should be a culture war and maybe a civil war over what America is going to look like (“Our strategy will be to bleed this culture dry,” “Make no mistake about it: We are talking about Christianizing America,” “We will weaken and destroy the existing institutions”). But 15 years ago, all that sounded like crazytown. Now it’s where the Republican party lives.

Randall Balmer, an Ivy League historian of American religion who wrote “Bad Faith,” is interviewed in the documentary, and he makes an amazing point: There’s a mythology that says that the Christian right was galvanized by Roe v. Wade in 1973 but that’s not true, Falwell didn’t preach his first anti-abortion sermon until 1978. Balmer says that what actually got them going was this lower-court ruling on school desegregation in 1971 which held that any institution so discriminatory or segregated as to not be charitable ipso facto does not have tax-exempt status.

This law had some combustible qualities. Churches such as Jerry Falwell’s weren’t integrated; they didn’t want to be integrated; integration wasn’t part of their deal with God. However! They also wanted those same tax exemptions granted to other charities under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (of which there were many). This law essentially forced them to choose between desegregating their schools and paying taxes on them or keeping their schools racially exclusive and being taxed just like football clubs for rich people are taxed. So it was this law not abortion rights or anything else! that tapped into the anti-government veins of the Christian right in America, much as Ruby Ridge and Waco would later do for the militias and then the alt-right. It also established that Christian Nationalism and White Nationalism are Siamese twins, which was not news to anyone who knew about how friendly the Ku Klux Klan has always been with Jesus.

“Bad Faith” convincingly argues that Christian Nationalism is built on a lie: that America was originally established as a “Christian nation.” Yes, it’s true that many of our laws are based on Judeo-Christian moral traditions. But also! The freedom of religion clause in the First Amendment was placed there precisely to prevent religious tyranny from ever taking root here. At the time, this was an earth-shaking idea: Not only should people be allowed to worship whatever kind of God they want to they should also get to decide how and what God He is! In short, Christian Nationalism directly undermines both the Constitution’s guarantees of liberty and its creators’ views on free will. You can’t choose to follow Christ if somebody makes you do it at gunpoint.

But that is what Christian nationalists long for. According to the movie, almost a third of this country’s population either belongs to or sympathizes with this movement. That is a staggering number if it is correct. However; even though these Christian nationalists talk like they’re true believers, really they just represent money and corruption in politics. In the Reagan era, Paul Weyrich struck a deal with billionaires oil tycoons Charles and David Koch primarily among them: the movement would make the case for eliminating corporate taxes and regulations; in return, they would fund it. Which fits right into Trump’s agenda: corporate tax breaks; demagogic rabble-rousing; deregulation.

He will owe them big time if they help bring Trump back into office but then again, wouldn’t you know it? Democracy itself is now considered by Christian nationalists as something to be controlled and destroyed rather than protected. It’s convenient how their goals have aligned with each other at this point: We are witnessing nothing less than a deal with the devil…though in some cases it’s difficult to tell whether Donald Johnathan Trump himself presents more danger or if he represents an alliance between him & his cronies on one hand and fire-breathing Christian totalitarianism on another.

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