A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

January 6, White Christian Nationalism, and How We Got Here, with Bradley Onishi

August 10, 2023 Randy Knie & Kyle Whitaker Season 3 Episode 28
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
January 6, White Christian Nationalism, and How We Got Here, with Bradley Onishi
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

We speak with Dr. Bradley Onishi, a religion scholar whose latest book, Preparing for War: The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism and What Comes Next, explores the rise of the extremist religious right in America and its evolution from the 1960s through the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

We discuss his personal transformation from conservative Christian to scholar to unbeliever, his insights into January 6 and why he believes he could have been one of the insurrectionists, why evangelicals embrace conspiracy theories, the role religion played (and didn't play) in shaping the Republican party, and several interesting tidbits about everyone's favorite Family Man, James Dobson. We also delve into the American Redoubt, a survivalist and prepper movement that dreams of a Christian society within the United States, and its earnest preparations for a looming civil war.

Dr. Onishi offers a stark and unsettling warning: the distrust in our civic spaces and the readiness for religious violence could indeed be harbingers of our future.

The beverage we tasted in this episode is Penderyn Legend single malt Welsh whisky.

To skip the tasting, go to 5:33.

You can find the transcript for this episode here. Please note that it was auto-generated by an artificial intelligence and has not been reviewed by a human. Please forgive and disregard any inaccuracies, misattributions, or misspellings.

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Cheers!

Randy:

I'm Randy, the pastor, half of the podcast, and my friend Kyle is a philosopher. This podcast hosts conversations at the intersection of philosophy, theology and spirituality.

Kyle:

We also invite experts to join us, making public a space that we've often enjoyed off air, around the proverbial table with a good drink in the back corner of a dark pub.

Randy:

Thanks for joining us and welcome to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk Into a Bar. So white Christian nationalism is something that is quite depressing to me and is all over the news. We've interviewed Kristen Dume, we've interviewed Paul Miller. We've talked about white Christian nationalism, but it's something that we have to talk about more and more because it's coming to the forefront more and more. It's not even just kind of behind the veil and some weird revival in Tennessee happening. Politicians on CNN are arguing for why they're okay with Christian nationalism and that label. Now I mean it's getting that mainstream. So our guest today is Bradley Onishi and he wrote the book called Preparing for War the Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism and what Comes Next. And within this book Brad makes the case that Trump and Maga Nation in January 6th was not just an anomaly. It wasn't just something that just combusted and exploded out of nowhere. It's been building for the last 60 years and maybe even more, and there might be something that comes next and it's kind of stark and startling, but it's really important, I think.

Kyle:

It is. So this is, I don't know third-ish kind of maybe more than that kind of conversation in this vein about this topic that we've had. It's something that we keep coming back to because it's extremely important. It's very current. This is the most I used the word polemical in the interview. It's the most you said stark. There's a strong warning in this book, more so than you get in some of the others. It's very I don't know what the right word is it's honest and also dire, and I think it might be right. So Brad's a scholar of religion. He's a co-host of a podcast called Straight White American Jesus with some of our listeners might be familiar with a co-host with another religion scholar. He teaches at the University of San Francisco. He really knows his stuff and we talk a bit about his religious history, very similar to our own. He makes the strong claim that he, if he had continued on the trajectory that he grew up in, could very easily have been one of the insurrectionists at the January 6th event, but instead became an academic and is now not religious at all. But yes, has very important and very timely warnings that a lot of us need to pay close attention to. This is one of our more political episodes. We don't actually do those very often and some of our opinions come out in this one so yeah, fair warning.

Randy:

Buckle up. Speaking of buckle up, what are we drinking here today?

Kyle:

Kyle, yeah, I hope this is a buckle up whiskey. I'm really not sure I've had it once, and it was a long, long time ago, and I don't remember anything about it other than that I liked it well enough to buy a bottle, which I then promptly forgot about. So apparently there is only one whiskey distillery in Wales and it's called yeah, it's called Pindaren, so we've had Scotch on the show, we've had Irish whiskey on the show, we've had Japanese whiskey on the show. We've never had anything from Wales, and that's because there's only one.

Randy:

I've never had anything from Wales.

Kyle:

Yeah, so this is a single malt Welsh whiskey, finished in Madeira casks. It's called Legend.

Randy:

It's lighter than Japanese whiskey, I mean it's almost yellow and clear.

Kyle:

I do remember thinking this is nothing like Scotch, this is nothing like Irish whiskey, it's its own thing.

Randy:

I get a little Scotch in the nose, a tiny bit.

Kyle:

It does have that Japanese kind of smell.

Randy:

Yep, yep, it's its own thing. It's like a very mild Scotch, without the all the oak and perfuming.

Kyle:

I think that's the Madeira coming through it is that's got to be the finishing cast, but it retains that floral character that I associate with Japanese whiskey Very light-bodied, easy drinking. Elliot, you said it almost looks like champagne in the glass.

Elliot:

And floral is exactly the word. This one's as much about the nose.

Randy:

I don't get the floral on the nose, but I definitely get it in the palette.

Kyle:

I really like it. I'm glad I'm congratulating my past self for buying the bottle. It's really nice. It's completely unique.

Randy:

It is and this would be a great entry-level whiskey. I want to say it doesn't have any of the objectionable flavors besides the fact that it's whiskey, but it's again kind of bright, kind of floral. It's not going to burn your face off, I don't do. You know what the ABV is?

Kyle:

I think it's 41%.

Randy:

Okay, so it's a lower cut too. It's very pleasant.

Kyle:

I'm very curious about the mash bill. I don't think they're going to tell If it's a straight single malt, it's just going to be barley. So I'm not sure what else they're doing differently. If they're stills are different, I should look into that, but it's really great.

Randy:

It is very good. Yeah, if you're confused and you're listening to us for the first time wondering why we're tasting whiskey, this is what we do. We are a pastor and a philosopher walking to a bar. We love to have conversations that you have in a bar and we like to have an alcoholic beverage to sample. That kind of sets the mood. So what is this? Again, one more time, kyle Pendarin legend Cheers, cheers.

Kyle:

Dr Bradley Onishi, thank you so much for joining us on the Pastor and the Pastor.

Randy:

Thanks for the invitation Great to be here. Brad, can you just tell us and our listeners just how you got here, who are you, what do you do and why you wrote this book?

Bradley:

Yeah, so I grew up in Southern California Orange County, and I think a lot of people, particularly in the Midwest, might think of California as a liberal place. You know hippies walking around in sandals and everything else. Where I grew up is really the Bible Belt of Southern California. So I didn't have a religious home growing up, but I converted at age 14 at an evangelical megachurch when my like eighth grade girlfriend invited me to Bible study.

Kyle:

So she dumped me pretty quick.

Bradley:

But I stayed at church and it kind of became my second home and by the time I was 20, I was a full-time minister at that church. I was married to my high school sweetheart and ready to start seminary. So my conversion was not just a kind of passing fad or something that you know I was sort of lightheartedly doing. I was a true Jesus freak in the evangelical sense, and by the time I was in my early twenties I'd gone to seminary. I was reading a lot and basically the more I read in history and philosophy and theology, the more I started to think that the faith I'd been brought into was more about a conservative political agenda and a certain idea of America than it was about the gospel. And so that led to just decades of more reading, more exploration, more theological training, philosophical training and eventually writing a book about white Christian nationalism that really uses my story to tell that story.

Kyle:

Yeah, so how did you tell the story of how it? Because you went to Oxford to study theology, and pretty much directly out of a fundamentalist ministry context, if I read correctly. So how did that happen?

Bradley:

Short answer is I completely bamboozled the University of Oxford until I got into a master's degree.

Randy:

I thought you were going to say Brad. I thought you were going to say it's a God thing, no, no, I mean, at the time I thought that the longer story I'll just.

Bradley:

I prepared fastidiously to go to graduate school out of seminary and my then wife, who had been my partner since freshman year of high school, was a basketball player, so she wanted to like play some my professional basketball. I wanted to go to like graduate school and be a theologian. We decided we would move to England. So I applied to like all these places you know, oxford and Birmingham and Edinburgh and then we went and visited. We'd never been out of the country before and so, except for mission trips to Mexico, we'd never been to anywhere else except for those mission trips. So we get there to Oxford and I'm like dressed in a suit and tie. She comes with me to meet this world famous theologian and it's like all right, I'll meet you back here in an hour. Well, right, when she said that he was coming to the door to meet me and she, she like freaked out and like I don't. She was wearing like sweatpants and tourist clothes and she was. We were both out of our element, super embarrassed, like we don't know how to act. So he comes to the door and he says oh, bradley, you've come a long way to meet me here. Please come in, come in and I thought like, and I looked around I didn't see her. I'm like, well, I guess I don't know what happened here, but I guess we were good. And right before we walk in the door he's like just tell me one thing, who's in my bushes? And he like points to the bushes and my wife's like waving from there and we he's like you should come in too. So she comes in and this professor, this theologian, was also like a somebody very into literature. Well, she was a literature major. They ended up talking for like an hour and a half about literature and to this day I'm convinced that that meeting is what bamboozled the university.

Kyle:

It'd be funny if they admitted her instead of you. No, I think.

Bradley:

I think they would have preferred to admit her but she didn't apply, so they admitted me.

Kyle:

Nice yeah, who was that professor?

Bradley:

It's a guy named Paul Fittis who's a Baptist theologian who sort of in the Baptist world in the UK is kind of a in the pantheon of theologians, but somebody who wrote a lot about the Trinity, somebody who wrote a lot about eschatology and a lot about theology and literature and he has a if you look him up, friends, if you're listening last name FIDDES. He has a very distinctive look. He looks like his facial hairs out of the Abraham Lincoln genre and he also is very short. So when he was coming towards me 20 years ago from his his flat in Oxford I knew exactly who he was, because it was like Abraham Lincoln meets somebody who sort of looks the size of a, you know, a little bit bigger than a hobbit, and anyway, it was all very intimidating but it worked out and he ended up being one of my advisors at Oxford and, honestly, one of the best people I've ever met.

Kyle:

What a fantastic story. I didn't know there were Baptists at Oxford, so that's awesome.

Bradley:

Yeah, my, my college back. Sorry, I'm talking a lot about this. I apologize.

Kyle:

My fault that I asked. I'm talking to you all this stuff.

Bradley:

but the Baptist college I went to is the only non-Englican college at Oxford and it backs up to the Eagle and Child where, so like, we shared a wall where with the pub where Tolkien and Lewis used to meet every week with the Inklings. So I'm like a fundamentalist I've never drank a beer, and my first week at Oxford we go to the pub where, like Lewis and Tolkien used to hang out, and that's where I had my first beer.

Randy:

So that's a good place to have your first beer. So you converted Christianity in 1995 into the evangelical world. That's like right in my will house. In your book you said that evangelical Christianity you converted to is just as much, or was just as much, about a particular myth about the United States as it was about the gospel of Christ. Can you explain that for us?

Bradley:

Yeah. So where I come from in Southern California, there is this incredible concentration of evangelical Quakers. And I know some of you are just some of you perked up. You're driving right now and you're just like what is an evangelical Quaker? So my church is Richard Nixon's church. So if you, if you're familiar with Richard Nixon at all, his family were Quakers, and so if you think about Quakers usually like oh, peace, egalitarianism, social justice well, we didn't do any of that. We were just a run of the mill, white mega church, right Like we, like the people at my church who are in charge would have rather emulated Rick Warren than George Fox. And so by the time I'm like 22, 23, and I've read all this Quaker history and theology, I'm like looking around, thinking we have a prayer meeting every Tuesday morning and every Tuesday we pray for the police and the military like 300 times, because that's what everyone in the church asks us to pray for. Not one time have we ever prayed for peace, for the end of war, for the end of hunger Never, and that was like a light bulb moment of like how can we be not only Quaker, but how can we be Christians if these are not things we pray for and hope for, and that was really one of the kind of like doorways that opened up for me this idea that everything that I'd learned about being 100% anti-abortion or quote unquote pro-life, everything I'd learned about, you know, the gospel of Christ is not really telling people to give up their riches to follow you know the savior, all of the things I'd learned about American exceptionalism after 9 11 in our church they all started to crumble and I started to think this is about American exceptionalism and conservative politics, not about the radical gospel of the Sermon on the Mount. And that was kind of the beginning of the end for me.

Kyle:

Yeah, I didn't know there were nationalistic Quakers either.

Randy:

I'm learning all sorts of new stuff.

Kyle:

It's almost like an oxymoron. So you've also mentioned in the book that you're no longer a Christian at all anymore. You've just left the tent entirely. Would you mind telling us what that trajectory was like?

Bradley:

Yeah, you know, and it's not really. It's not a kind of angry exit. I'm like I still do so much work with pastors and Christians. I'm honestly, if you ask me to speak, I'm still most comfortable speaking in church. You know what I mean. So none of it is like you know, religion is the worst. I'm on a mission to get rid of religion in the world. You know, it's none of that. It's really like I got to Oxford and it was the first time in my adult life that I was not in ministry. I'd been in ministry since I was 18. And it was the first time in my life I was away from my hometown. So like I was used to going to the grocery store and seeing 10 people from church, right, so I get 6,000 miles from home and in my mind I'm like finally I can visit the kinds of churches I've been reading about. I can go to literally the church where John Wesley used to preach and see what that's about. I can go to the high church Anglican service and like, figure out what liturgy is. Never done that before, right, and I did that. And I just ended up at a point where I started to live my values and I started to live my, my kind of beliefs in a way that just wasn't part of a church community. So you know where I stand in 2023, it's hard to identify myself because I don't want to sit here and say, oh, I'm an atheist who blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, because I don't think I am. That said, if I'm honest with you, I don't participate regularly in a Christian community. That said, I tend to hang out with a lot of religious people clergy, christians, church going folks and often find them to be the people I enjoy talking to the most. So it's I'll just say it's complicated.

Kyle:

Sure, as it is for all of us. I appreciate that. So the launch point for the book really is kind of the insurrection on January 6th and you say several times and well, take, take me back to what was happening when that happened for you, what your experience of it was like and how the idea of this book came out of it.

Bradley:

Yeah, I like a lot of us. January 5th 2021 is when Raphael Warnock and John Ossef were confirmed as winners of the elections to be the senators for Georgia. So now it's like Biden's president and there's going to be a slim majority of a slim Democratic majority in the Senate, and Congress is controlled by the Dems. Here's the point. I woke up on January 6th pretty hopeful about that, thinking. You know, this doesn't mean a revolution, but it means something different than the last four years. So I got up at like dawn and I went surfing and it was 39 degrees. I know for y'all that's nothing, but you know for California me, that's too cold and it was. You know, the water was cold and 50 degrees. But I was alone and I was staring at the horizon and thinking better days are ahead and I should have known better Like I do know better. But I got in the car, drove home and as soon as I start work that morning, there's just people streaming across the screen who are like tearing down the Capitol and, like everybody, listening. I was horrified. But within a couple of minutes I realized I could have been there, because I was so zealous when I converted, I was so committed to my faith that if a man in the church had said, hey, next week we got to go stop this election from being stolen. I bought you a plane ticket. Are you in? 18, 19, 20 year old me would have been like let's go. Yeah, I'm in, I'll go there. I learned later that there were people from my old church who were there. There were others who were there on December 12th at the first Jericho March, and so that hit me, that hit my bones. My body started to sort of like tense up when that all came to a head and then I thought all right, I really want to explain this history. Yes, january 6 will always be an aberration in American history, but there was a history that led up to it that can help people understand how we got here. And that's really when I decided yeah, it's time to write all this down.

Kyle:

Yeah, so you said, just like you alluded to just now, several times in the book it's kind of I don't know a theme that that could have been me. I could have been there, I could have been one of those people. Do you really believe that though? I mean, some people might say that you know, if you're a smart and independent enough thinker, you'll eventually see your way out of any kind of cultist group thing that would lead to some actually insurrection, violent event like that. But you seem committed to the fact that if your life had gone somewhat differently, that really could have been you. Is that right?

Bradley:

Yeah, so I think. So I think back to me when I converted at age 14. And so by the time I'm like 15, my mom asks me what do you want for Christmas? And I said to her you know, mom, I don't want you to buy me any presents. And I pulled out these pamphlets for my backpack and I was like I want you to spend all that money on Bibles to send to these countries in South Asia, because there's people there who've never heard about Jesus, right. And so she kind of looked at me my mom was an Christian. She looked at me like I really wish you were a normal teenager, which is like smoking pot and like sneaking out of the house. But she's like fine, all right, I'll do that. I let a Bible study once a week in my public high school, so I'd sit on this bench at lunch and, like you know, people would hang out sometimes and we would talk about the book of John or whatever. Other times at lunch I would walk around the schoolyard and ask people if they knew Jesus and if they realized they were probably going to go to hell. A lot of my Friday nights were spent outside of the movie theater, so when people would come out like my age. I'd be like hey, what's up, I'm Brad, you know, have you met the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Here's. My point is, like that's who I was. I was captain of the basketball team in high school, but I was the only person with no Letterman's jacket, because it costs like $200. And I told my mom once again like hey, you want to buy me a Letterman's jacket, why don't we spend $200 on Bibles for people in South Asia? Anyway, that track record of like zealotry leads me to think that, like that, you know, if you catch me the summer after I graduate high school and you're like we got to go to DC to save our country from like Godless ruin, there's a good track record that says I might have been there. Yeah, I might have done it. And if I had not been there, I would have been praying for those who were there as a kind of supporter.

Kyle:

Sure, I appreciate that honesty really do.

Randy:

Yeah, go ahead.

Kyle:

Yeah, so let's talk about James Dobson.

Randy:

Exactly Good, good.

Kyle:

Only as an example. So you describe how, for a lot of evangelical leaders in the 80s and 90s, like Dobson, the time when America really lost its way, really foresoaked morality, was not the 1860s and prior to that, you know, when we thought enslaving other humans was great, it was rather the 1960s, which seems horribly ironic to me. But can you explain that, why they thought that, and describe a bit of that history and if you can draw a line from there to where we are today?

Bradley:

Yeah. So you know, there's data that backs us up, that shows us that a lot of folks who identify as white evangelical or who scores Christian nationalists just really think that the time America was great was not the 1950s and the time that led to the supposedly catastrophic state were now is the 1960s. So the 1960s include what? They include the Civil Rights Movement, they include a Voting Rights Act. They include sweeping immigration reform. They include expansive liberation movements for women. They include expansive liberation movements for queer folks, not to mention the Loving Case, which protects interracial marriage in all 50 states. Feminine Mystique is published in 1963, stonewall 1969, I could go on and on and on. If you look at the writings of someone like Dobson, if you look at the writings of Focus on the Family executives, if you read literature by any number of luminaries writing in the evangelical world, what they will tell you is that the 1960s is when the social order was disrupted and the country fell away from God. And so to me, that's them telling on themselves. Because if you're saying you want to go back to the 1950s, you're saying you want to go back to a time before the Civil Rights Movement, the Voting Rights Act, immigration reform and everything I just talked about. And so their answer would be yes, because that is when, supposedly, the nuclear family fell apart, that is when divorce rates skyrocketed, that is when being a gay person in American culture became mainstream, that is when the sexual revolution happened, and on and on and on. So that is the time when they would say that the American fall from God's plan really took place, and we've been on a slippery slope ever since.

Randy:

In the book you paint this, you go all the way back to slavery in the 1860s and I love the case you make. It stunned me as I was reading it where you talk about how the argument supporting slavery in the 1860s, or the same arguments that were to fight against the Civil Rights Movement, were the same arguments to fight against the Equal Rights Act, to make equality for women a thing in the workplace, and even not for LGBTQ rights and all of it is. We have to protect the family, we have to protect family values. Whether it's slavery, whether it's civil rights movement, whether it's women, whether it's LGBTQ, it's all the same. Tell us about how you discovered that kind of familiar strain and theme.

Bradley:

Yeah. So if you look at the pro-slavery theologians and the many of the pro-slavery Christian voices of the 1850s, what they're going to do is outline something that goes like this there is a God given social order that society should follow, and that God given order includes a man who is the patriarchal head of the family, a woman who is submissive to his authority and takes care of the children, children who view their father as the voice of God, and a sense that the household is really a microcosm of society, that that patriarchal family should extend to the whole of society. The argument also says that anyone in the household is part of that family structure. Now, the household in the 1850s for many southern plantation owners included enslaved people. So the argument went those who are in my household, meaning those who are working the fields on my plantation as enslaved folks, are also to submit to the authority of the patriarchal head of the family. And they are my children, because those who are not white can never reach a stage of development that is anything beyond grown-up children. That's family values, 1850s style, right, that's pro-slavery family values. What you hear in the wake of everything we just talked about the 1960s is well, family values, yeah, we should have a nuclear family where a patriarchal father is in charge, a submissive wife is alongside him, children who are equally submissive to their father and society working in the same fashion as that patriarchal family. That's why the sexual revolution, that's why families that don't follow that structure, families that have two dads or two moms, are somehow different than what we just talked about, are not only different or something that I'm not used to, but they're an aberration from God's plan for society. Right, and so you can see how family values has been touted as a defensive tactic. Hey, we're just good old people of faith, god and country Americans. We're just out here trying to protect our kids. I don't know why you're out here trying to change everything and make everything different and upset the social order, when, in fact, in my mind, when I hear family values, that's a tactic of offense. You're going on offense. You're saying we have a vision for society and we're here to impose it on everybody and we're going to claim that it's God's vision and therefore it has divine legitimacy. So family values when I hear that, I'm like. Family values has always been used as a discourse, from the 1850s to the 1950s to the 2023s, as an argument against things like interracial marriage right Cigaration in schools. Always so, anyway. I could go on and on, but that's how I got there.

Randy:

Yeah, it's a stunning thing that seems so like. What can you say when somebody says, well, I'm just for family values, man, I'm for protecting my family, for protecting the family? It's almost the trump card.

Bradley:

In many ways it's really hard rhetorically to get around it because, just like moms for liberty right, moms for liberty show up and they're like look, I'm just a mom, I'm a mama bear who cares about my children. Yeah, how do you get around that rhetorically? Because mom is one of the highest moral authority positions one can hold. If you you just said it I'm for the family, right, definitive article right, Definitive article, right. I'm for the family, meaning there's one kind of family, and I'm here to protect it. And I think for me, the answer is look, I totally understand that you want to do what's best for your family, but what you're telling me is that my family and the ways that others create relationships full of love and care, familial ties, the ways that people are kin, you're telling me that you need to do away with their versions of love and care and family in order for your version of the one and only family to exist. That's not okay. Yes, wanting what's best for you and your children, I'm on board. Let's do it. I want that too, yeah. But when your vision means eradicating others ways of living and flourishing, then you're not just for family values, you're for something totally different. Yeah.

Randy:

Yeah, yeah, I mean, as I was reading it just struck me you know the pro-slavery white Christian saying I'm standing up for my family. Slavery needs to stay in place. Then, in the 50s, integration in public schools comes along and these same white Southern evangelicals are saying you don't get to tell my family that they're going to be in class with black kids. So all of a sudden the private schools and homeschooling revolution begins because they don't want their kids to be around black kids. Then the Equal Rights Act comes in and it takes decades to pass because white American evangelicals are standing against having women have equality and equal pay in the workplace. Now LGBTQ people are fighting for rights and they're saying no, this is white American evangelicals saying no, I need to protect my family, you don't get any rights. I'm going to this is a strong question, but I really am interested in your take, bradley. Would you say there's a people group in the history of the US who has fought against equality for human beings more than the white American evangelical church? I think my, and I hope there is. I really hope you say there is another group that fought against equality harder than our tradition.

Bradley:

I don't think there is, but here's the way I want to frame my answer. Okay, so I think I'm going to say that you will hear from your conservative uncle at your barbecue about yeah, on my show we call him Uncle Ron, right? So you're at the barbecue, you're just trying to get your hamburger and here comes Uncle Ron. He just watched Fox News. He's hot off the press, just listened to Charlie Kirk or somebody. Joe Rogan told him some stuff. All right, hey, uncle Ron, how you doing. And he says you know blah, blah, blah, blah, black on black crime. Can you you know? I mean, can you imagine how many you know? And he starts telling you about statistics, about how black people are violent. And my response to all Quran is that if you look at the history of this country, even before it was a country, there is no disputing the fact that white people have been the most violent and the most criminal throughout that 400 years, whether it comes to the middle passage, enslaving other human beings, whether it comes to the attempted genocide of indigenous folks, whether it comes to, you know, the just horrific violence against Asian and Asian Americans on the West Coast from the 1880s to the 20th century and during COVID, whether it comes to talking about borders and where you know, the Mexico starts and the United States stops, and vice versa. So when I answer this question, I want to say yes, but I also want to do so without letting everyone else off the hook, because it's easy to be like, yeah, you know those white evangelicals. Just they just been fighting progress for 400 years. And that's true, yes, it is. There's no, there's no. I mean, there are. There are moments of that, you know, being a little different. We can talk about the Wesleyans of the late 19th century or something.

Kyle:

So, you know, I know someone's going to email me and be like what about this?

Bradley:

So that's totally fine, okay, but I don't want to let the mainline Christians off the hook, I don't want to let the secular folks off the hook, I don't want to let, like anybody else, just be like, well, I'm glad I'm not part of that group, because we clearly got it right. Because I think if we look at the country's history, there's really no way to think that if you examine it as a whole. So anyway, that's my long answer. That's good and it's one that's an affirmative, but with that kind of framing, yeah, let's talk about Barry Goldwater.

Kyle:

So for people he takes up a large chunk of at least one of the chapters in your book, and for people like me that don't know anything about him we've heard heard of him. He's the guy that lost to Jimmy Carter, right, but kind of surprisingly actually he lost to Linda Johnson. London Johnson. See, I don't even know who he lost to. He's the guy that came close to winning but didn't. But the way he was, the way you describe it but the way he describes it in the book. It's astonishing that he didn't win.

Randy:

It's astonishing that he got the nomination.

Kyle:

But okay, so describe Barry Goldwater and describe what he did to American politics and how he prefigures, in some ways, donald Trump, because today it's surprising that Barry Goldwater didn't win.

Bradley:

For sure, no, for sure I loved. I'm a Barry Goldwater, if I'm honest. So all right, here we go. This is like one of my favorite topics and I'm going to try and make it as exciting as I can. So in 1964, we have a presidential election and everybody, you know, hopefully remembers that John Kennedy had been assassinated, right, only a little bit before that. But everybody thinks the Republicans are going to nominate Rockefeller and Rockefeller that the heir to the Rockefeller, you know, fortune, all that stuff. Governor of New York, he's the country curb Republican. He's the Mitt Romney, right, okay, he's that that kind of Republican, okay. But Barry Goldwater is this senator from Arizona and he fashions himself when he shows up in public. He's the cowboy senator, okay. He's a maverick, okay, much like John McCain who is his successor in the Senate in the 80s. So Barry Goldwater talks tough, he's not interested in policy, but he is bombastic. So he's going to tell you that you know, if we use nuclear weapons in Vietnam, that that's a solution. He's going to tell Southerners and others there's no way I'm going to sign laws that are going to enforce civil rights. You all just figure that out for yourself. Wink, wink, wink, right. He's going to say that libertarianism and the government backing off is the best solution, not the government doing things like, I don't know, putting into place voting rights acts and other things that would ensure fairness. Okay, when this guy goes on the campaign trail he's magnetic. He's got this baritone voice. He's got a square jaw. You know, he's one of those people that, if you asked folks from the 60s, the men wanted to be him. They're like oh my God, barry Goldwater. And there was, like you know, so many, so many women who wanted to be with Barry Goldwater. That was how he was framed. He somehow becomes the GOP nominee for president in 1964. Well, how did that happen? It happened because in the Southwest of the United States Arizona and California and in the South he became the emblem of right wing, conservative, libertarian, christian, nationalist politics. If you remember and I know most people don't the only Republican president before that in the last, like previous, two decades was Dwight Eisenhower. Dwight Eisenhower was famous for the middle way. He was like I'm a Republican but I work with everybody right. What's his most famous thing? He like created our highway system. So he's like a Republican who invests in infrastructure and spends a lot of tax dollars. There are so many people by 1964 that are like we don't want the middle way, we want our way. So we're going to vote for this extremist who's going to use nuclear weapons and do nothing for civil rights. We're going to vote for the guy, okay, who is going to tell us and this is his most famous line that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. In essence. Telling you, the white conservative Christian person, if you want to keep your country, if you don't want the black people who are starting to organize in a civil rights movement, if you don't want immigration reform, if you don't want women right marching into the workforce en masse, then extremism is the antidote. My argument throughout the book is that he lost that presidential election. If you all go read your presidential history, lyndon Johnson destroyed him. It was an absolute slaughter. But the foot soldiers of that campaign, they never forgot those lessons. The lessons were extremism, no compromise and the will to power, and that is what they tried to put in place for the next six decades. And that is part of the story of how we get Donald Trump.

Randy:

You kind of make this case that it's almost a straight line from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump, which I have some Republican friends who would really quibble with your the way you characterize Ronald Reagan.

Bradley:

Tell us about that line in those three individuals, sure so happy to talk about Ronald Reagan any time because Ronald Reagan, just like Barry Goldwater, was most at home in my backyard Southern California. Ronald Reagan, politically, grew up in Southern California and Ronald Reagan learns his political chops from Goldwater and other extremists in the Southwest of the United States. Where does where does Reagan kick off his campaign when he's when he wants to run for president? He kicks it off in Delaware, mississippi. I don't know the place where 15 years earlier three civil rights activists had been murdered by white supremacists. Right, and he did so under the guise of states rights. And if you read historians on this issue they're like. This was a clear symbolic gesture to many in the South of how Ronald Reagan would be as president. Reagan's approach to things in my mind followed upon Goldwaters. He was just much more media savvy, much better in front of a camera and much better at playing himself as a kind of conservative who wanted what was best for America, rather than as a brusque extremist who was going to use nuclear weapons in South Asia. Reagan's really important to the story, because who does Reagan beat when he runs in 1980?

Kyle:

Jimmy Carter, I know this one You're a philosopher.

Elliot:

You don't have to know history, it's unimportant.

Bradley:

Yeah, but Jimmy Carter's like built in a lab for the white conservative Christian right. Jimmy Carter is a Southern Baptist by his families, or Southern Baptist. He grows up in rural Georgia on a peanut farm. He marries a high school sweetheart, he becomes a military officer and then when his daddy dies he goes home to take over the farm. That's his family values as a gets yeah Right. What more do you want in a presidential candidate if you're a white evangelical? And yet who do they choose and this is going to sound familiar the divorced Hollywood guy who was kind of wishy-washy on abortion when he was governor of California, did not have a great relationship with his children and really was pretty religiously illiterate, and yet garnered the vote of who? The religious right, the moral majority Jerry Falwell, pat Robertson, billy Graham. You can start to see the lineage from Goldwater to Reagan and you can start to see the foreshadowing of Donald Trump and the evangelical support that he got.

Randy:

Yeah, that was. I didn't put this in the outline, brad, but that was one of my small beefs with what you brought there, which is kind of this Reagan versus Carter, you know, contrast and saying, well, all the people who should have voted for their own in Jimmy Carter didn't, and they voted for, for Ronald Reagan. And I want to say I kind of think we all would do that, like, I think, progressives, liberals if we had somebody who matched our religion, say, or yeah, who matched our religion but didn't match up at all with what we believe politically, we would vote for the people person who votes with us politically. I mean, I think, when it comes down to it, we'd vote for Mormon and Mitt Romney if he matches our priorities or we would vote for Bill Clinton if he matches our, you know, if he votes the way we want them to vote and all that stuff. I kind of think that's a, that's a human condition. What are your thoughts on that?

Bradley:

So I hear you and I think here's my claim is that I don't know who one should have voted for in any election. What I do know is that what the Reagan Carter election shows me is that the people who claimed that are what our government needs is more piety. What our country needs is more faithful people. What our country needs is a good Christian in charge who will do what God wants when it comes to tough decisions. Those people saw that guy not as the Southern Baptist who teaches Sunday school and leaves the house with a Bible under his arm. They thought of that Christian in government as again the divorced Hollywood actor right, who was really religiously illiterate. The people who are claiming piety is one of the most important parts of being a leader are the ones who are willing to vote for the impious person who would do their bidding when it came to policy, and that, to me, is the hypocrisy here. So I totally get it. We all want to vote for the best candidate, but the people I'm talking about are usually the ones preaching to the rest of us that what's wrong with this place is all the impiety, and then they often vote for the person who seems to most of us to be the least pious, the least moral, the least trustworthy, and I think Donald Trump's kind of example A of that.

Randy:

Oh yeah, I mean, if 1980 didn't do that, 2016 definitely told us Totally Doesn't matter what your faith is. And we were actually just talking to Rob Schenck. I don't know if you know Rob or know of him, but we worked out in two months, tuesday and he brought us into Pat Robertson's 80th birthday party in Washington. A bunch of all the evangelical powers that be were there, and that was in 2011 and Donald Trump. This is the first time Robert's seen Donald Trump on the scene and as a Republican, shaking hands, making speeches, and he told us there was a speech that Donald Trump gave, and Rob looked around at his tables, which was full of evangelical luminaries and he said guys, what is this guy doing here? And one of them, who's very famous he wouldn't tell us who, which I would have loved to know, though some of them.

Kyle:

He might have told us off. We didn't ask off the record.

Randy:

But one of them looks to. The one says that guy is just the perfect A hole. Who's going to get all of the policies pushed forward that we want pushed forward? And that sounds a lot like your case.

Bradley:

So to me that encapsulates Trump in a nutshell, right. So I think there is a lineage from Goldwater to Reagan to Trump. But I think Trump is an is an acceleration and a kind of heightening of certain aspects of the story. Here's my take on this If you get to George W Bush right, you have what evangelicals think of as like we finally got an evangelical president. I don't know about y'all, but when I was in church in like 1999, 2000,. The adults were saying, hey, he's a really evangelical. He got changed his heart, he saved him from alcoholism, he reads the Bible, blah, blah, blah. Okay, and by the time we got to the end of George W Bush, I think a lot of people feel like he didn't scratch the itch. It was like, yeah, he might be a Christian but still got a lot of gay people running around and a lot less people seem to be Christian than they should be. And you know, 9, 11 happened in this whole war on terror that he concocted is still going on. And then what happened? Like he didn't scratch the itch. And then you got eight years of Barack Obama. And if Jimmy Carter was built in a lab for the white Christian, barack Obama was built in a lab to scare the white evangelical like he's. Mixed race dads from another country got black wife. He's got black kids. He's spent most of his childhood in Hawaii. Is that even a state? That's what they're thinking?

Randy:

Right.

Bradley:

His name is Barack, his name is Hussain and now gay people can get married, all right, and by the end of it, you know what they're thinking. They're thinking exactly what that evangelical luminary said. They're thinking we need an asshole who will brutalize the people that need to be brutalized to get this country back in order. Yeah, I don't want my cock could be a pastor. I don't want Ted Cruz to get up here and do whatever Ted Cruz does. I want to brutalize. I want a barbarian that will destroy the people that need to be destroyed, so this country will be back how it should be.

Kyle:

Yeah, that's a compelling take to me. I'm not an expert, I'm not a historian or political scientist, but that rings true. I wonder if poor Jimmy Carter might have played a role in normalizing that or making that distinction easier to make the kind of Falwell Jr we want to. We want to. What did he say about Trump? I'm not voting for a pastor, I'm voting for a whatever. Because Carter was so sincere and so meek and so genuine in his Christianity that it might have led a lot of evangelicals realize maybe that's not what we want. He wants actually something different. Maybe religion isn't that important to us in a leader.

Bradley:

Well, and I know, like Christian Dumea, has stopped by to talk to y'all, and this, I think, speaks to the masculinity piece, right? So I think the connection between Carter and Obama has always been that the goal for their political opponents was to try to emasculate them, right? Is Carter a real man? Carter wants diplomacy. He doesn't want to like fight the Iranians, he wants to like negotiate with them. Carter's going to give the Panama Canal back to Panama. Are you serious? Barack Obama drinks lattes and, like, wears dad jeans as he a man. Yeah, yeah, you know he's shown up in a tan suit and you know Vladimir Putin is like riding a horse with no shirt on and he just tackled a bear and somehow and like. So one of the pieces here is masculinity. Right, it's an. And this is where someone like Goldwater really prefigures Trump, because Goldwater was this aggressive, brusque, quote, unquote man's man who just talked tough and took action and, you know, faced the consequences later.

Elliot:

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Kyle:

So I'm going to ask a charged question that puts all my cards on the table politically, but our listeners at this point are not going to be surprised. So can you comment on the conservative tendency to turn whatever they happen to want at the moment into a religious right, or to make whatever affects their affluence a matter of religious liberty? This is a trope at this point, yeah. And just get your thoughts on it.

Bradley:

So my take on this is that it is very similar to why I think Christian. You know there's a lot of debate out there as to whether or not talking about Christian nationalism is actually helpful. Is it just academics and commentators who talk about Christian nationalism? But to me, the value of talking about Christian nationalism is this Christian nationalism, the Christian part, gives a divine cover right to things that are otherwise seen as negatively abhorrent. If you just show up on the scene and you're like you know, white nationalism, should we give it a shot again? People are like go away. If you show up on the scene right up until recently, this is not true anymore, right? And you're just openly, vitriolically homophobic, it's not going to play. Now things have changed. Let's just be very honest, 2000,. You know, the last two, three years have seen a turn in that rhetoric. What's the point? The Christian and Christian nationalism provides a cover for xenophobia, homophobia, queerphobia, racism and so on. Religious liberty does the same, because if you cloak something as this, is a matter of my religious conscience and my religious freedom rather than my desire to be a bigot. It's a much more compelling case, right? It's just like the family values issue we talked about a little bit ago. It's just like the Moms for Liberty stuff. If you show up and say I cannot do this based on my Christian faith, I cannot make this cake for your wedding, I cannot make this website for your wedding, I cannot do your hair that way because that's a gay hairstyle and that would go against my Christian creative you know expression. You're basically saying that when I show up in public, anything that I deem as divine is my right. That's a much more compelling case in the American legal system in public square than just saying I don't want to serve gay people or black people at my bar, at my barbershop or my salon, so I'm going to just put that sign up. So to me, that's what it comes down to. I'm happy to have like a little bit more of a complex discussion on that, but I think that's the heart of it.

Randy:

The interesting thing, or what this reminds me of, is I've seen a couple of articles about this recently and I've even experienced it where, when you think of two groups of people, groups who are dead set against each other more than you could think of traditionally in the last 20 years since 9 11. It's been evangelical Christians and Muslims and that's a one sided hate right Like evangelicals have done. You know a lot and a lot of terror said a lot of terrible things, done a lot of terrible things to the Muslim community. But what I think a lot of people are finding now is that Muslims and evangelical Christians have homophobia and really want to keep LGBTQ rights down. They have that in common. They're realizing it and they're realizing that there's not many more people in the in our country who actually think like us and you're seeing them kind of move together. Almost because of that, I do these lunches where Christian leaders and Muslim leaders get together and we talk about things that are affecting our communities. It's really brilliant time. The last two times in a row the Muslim leaders, leaders of mosques, imams have wanted to sympathize with us and talk about how the culture is set against us with all these LGBTQ stuff and those of us from my church who are inclusive and affirming like oh okay, let's talk in a different way about this, you know, but they completely thought we were going to have this common bond Over talking about suppressing rights from LGBTQ community. Have you heard or seen any of this as well, brett?

Bradley:

Yeah, so I think I would just start by saying it's, it's, there are, like it's not all Muslims. Right, there are certain Muslim communities, right, just like we would. You know we wouldn't say all Christians Exactly, you know we would. We would be specific. We would say you know, there are non affirming evangelicals, and then there are. There are many mainline folks and others who are affirming, right. So I just want to be very clear yes, thank you. It's not a blanket statement for for all American Muslims or all Muslims Period. What I have seen, what I, what I can speak to, is that, just as you're seeing some of that in your pastoral and interfaith lunches and meetings, I think that is where moms for liberty is having a lot of success. So they're, they're approaching other religious groups and saying, hey, do you want your children reading right Books that have LGBTQ characters? Well, we may not be the same religion, but what if we're? What if we are allies in this fight? So I do think that if like, for example, if people look up Glendale, california, right near Hollywood, there was literal physical violence where parents who are Christian and Muslim were fighting against folks who were, who were arguing that you know, the curriculum should be inclusive and include those kinds of materials. So this again is a strategy. It's a strategy that says that you know, the the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and so we can team up here and maybe homophobia is the way for us to get together. This is true in other places. If we look at like wellness communities, there's a lot of like yoga moms who are hanging out with a lot of like evangelical moms because they both agree that, like COVID, vaccines are the worst, right. So you're kind of seeing these strange ally ships pop up in various places. Interesting.

Kyle:

Yeah, can I ask one more question about James Dobson? Yes, tell us about the atheist eugenicist who he RA'd for. I did not know this.

Bradley:

Yeah, so James Dobson was a kind of mentored by this man named Paul Popano, and Paul Popano was eugenicist who opened up, you know, various institutions, family institutions that were meant to, in his mind, protect the American family, but more specifically to protect the white American family. Paul Popano was very much in favor of white families, white women, having as many babies as they could so that they could not allow other races to replace them. Especially in the United States and its demography, that should sound pretty familiar to people. That should sound a lot like the great replacement theory that is often peddled on the right today. Well, james Dobson came sort of to professional age under Paul Popano. He was Popano's assistant, he worked for him, and people forget that Dobson got a degree from the University of Southern California, so he was in and around Los Angeles, and so my argument would be and this is really following work by Audrey Claire Farley and Sarah Maslin and others that Dobson puts Popano's eugenicism and his white supremacy into a theological paradigm. Popano was an atheist, and yet what Dobson's able to do is put a lot of that teaching into a kind of fundamentalist theological frame and pedal it as what I don't know something we might have talked about tonight family values, right. So it all kind of. It all kind of fits together and it's really sinister when you start to dig into the like, the details of it all.

Randy:

Yeah, there's, and there's similarities, like you were saying, between what Popano said and what Dobson actually was advocating for Speaking of. I mean, james Dobson is just this kind of poster boy for religious right political world and you make this statement in the middle of your book that I kind of arrested me because I grew up in one of these families. You say that abortion was not the central factor that motivated white evangelicals to get involved in politics, but rather racism. Now, that's interesting and I want to. I just want to bring my little bit of pushback in my experience. Now, my experience is my, only my experience, not the whole thing. But I mean, I grew up on Saturday mornings being dragged by a parent of mine to stand in a picket line and abortion clinic yeah, almost every single Saturday for for a long time. And I can tell you that parent didn't do that because they were motivated by race or racism. They did it because they were horrified by, you know, abortion and all that. So I think a number as I read a book like this, as I read Preparing for Wars, I read Jesus and John Wayne, or as I read Paul Miller's book or Sam Lee Perry's book I try to listen through the lens of some of my conservative friends, to do, you know, be fair to them. This seemed like one of those times that maybe wasn't fair to them, but tell me why you wrote that.

Bradley:

Yeah, totally, just a great Saturday morning tradition. I'm sure you're oh, it's so fun. Yeah, pancakes, and then here we go, yeah, okay, here's my, here's my point. There there are so many folks like you and in some case, like me, who were convinced that the most important political issue of our time was abortion. Right, so don't get me wrong. I am in no way trying to disregard your experience or the experience of many, many, many other evangelicals who were basically like, who were taught that, hey, you need to get involved in politics because of the unborn babies. Right, I, when I was 15, I used to take like tracks and pamphlets to school that had grotesque images on them and pass them out to my classmates. And be like this is why you should be against the board, right, the whole thing. The statement that you're referring to is meant as a historical statement that goes like this it's really easy for evangelicals to tell a story that says well, you know, traditionally we weren't really into politics, we were just into saving souls and we just wanted people to really have salvation. But you know what, when they started murdering babies, we had to get involved because we're just not going to stand for that and God's not going to stand for that. So in the 70s and the 80s and 90s we just had to get mobilized and get out there campaigns, picket lines and voting. That's what we did for God and for this country stand up for the unborn. The historical record shows us that evangelicals on the whole got involved in politics in mass. They were mobilized as a voting block by things like the integration of schools and the threats by the IRS and others to not allow churches and segregation of schools to be tax exempt. So the statement that you're referring to there is really meant to say that. If you ask Paul Weirich and some of those that were trying to mobilize evangelical voters in the 1970s, they tried abortion and they largely weren't successful. When they tried segregation and white kids going to school with black kids, they were successful. If you look at the historical record, like in 1969, 90% of Texas Baptists were for abortion in some form. The head of the Southern Baptist Convention was for abortion in some form. So there's a switch that gets flipped. So my statement is not to disregard your experience. My statement is to say that when it comes to a mass mobilization of white evangelicals, the first trigger was really race and racism, even if, eventually, abortion became a really, really, really influential way to get people out on the picket lines and voting and so on and so forth.

Randy:

You also highlighted some religious right leaders and how they've looked to Russia, and Vladimir Putin in particular, as kind of the model for what a pure nation that white Christian nationalists aspire to. I feel that I feel also feel like it's a strong claim, but I think we see that. Can you explain that? What's behind that pure nation that?

Kyle:

what.

Randy:

American nationalists could look to, or white Christian nationalists could look to and say that's what we're looking for.

Bradley:

Yeah. So let's, let's connect a whole bunch of dots we've been talking about tonight, so let's go back to James Dobson. James Dobson is going to teach people all about having the right kind of family, okay. So what is he going to say? He's going to say look, you want a family with. You want a family with a patriarchal father and husband, a submissive wife and children. Okay, you're going to discipline those children corporal punishment, all that stuff. We have gender roles that need to be enforced. Okay, great. If you read closely in the Dobson literature and the other sort of teachings about family values, there's a kind of subtle discouragement of interracial marriage. Right, unequally yoked, not going to work out, not, not sure that's part of God's plan for a lot of people. My argument is this if you're a white Christian nationalist, you are part of the original purity culture, because you have always envisioned the ideal state of the country as being one in which the American body politic. When you imagine the American body, it's a white body, it's a patriarchal body, it's a Christian body, it's a body that speaks English as its first language, right, it's a body that is a straight, white American body. Okay, so what's happened over the last four or five decades in the minds of white Christian nationalists is the American body is no longer looking like it should and in fact, it's been invaded by outside forces. It has been infected with certain diseases. That is immigration and all these folks apparently coming over the border and infecting the country. That is queer families and queer people who are disrupting how the family and the nation and the body should look. Okay, that is all these folks who are no longer Christian. The largest, you know, fastest growing religious group in the country are the nuns, those people who are not religious. I can go on and on about how they think of the American body as infected, as impure and as having been totally taken over by a set of people who are not upholding its constitution how it should. When you put Barack Obama in the White House and he's the executive of the country, he's the commander in chief, when the face of the country is a mixed race man with a black family, the white Christian nationalists may not say it, but they feel in their bones. They feel it like this isn't right. You know how like I'm, like I'm super old now I'm like in my 40s and I wake up and my knee hurts and I'm like why is my knee hurt? What did I do yesterday Like go rock climbing? Nope, just in my 40s knee hurts. And then I got to figure out like, I got to reverse engineer it. Like, how did I hurt my knee? Oh, I stepped off the curb because I'm in my fort. No, did I like play basketball for seven hours? Nah, just in my 40s knee hurts. They feel it in their bones. And then they reverse engineer right, why the country's gone bad? They find the reason post facto. Now they eventually realize we don't have the numbers, we don't have, like, the votes. We are a minority. So Paul Weirich, one of the founders of the religious right, starts going to Russia. He starts looking to Russia in the 1990s as a kind of like antidote to the problem. Hey, the American body. It's starting to look a lot more racially diverse, a lot less Christian, a lot more queer. What are we going to do about it? We don't have the numbers to win elections. Wow, vladimir Putin. Who is this guy? Well, vladimir Putin is an authoritarian leader. He doesn't wait for Congress, he doesn't ask for permission, he doesn't go through democratic processes and he does everything he does in terms of violence against immigrants, jailing gay people and ruling with an iron fist in the name of what? Russia's Christian history, its spiritual values and its family traditions? When you listen to Vladimir Putin, he's always talking about the spiritual heritage of Mother Russia and the great Christian values that it is upheld for millennia Right. So, all of a sudden, vladimir Putin is this ultramasculine authoritarian figure who's able to rule a country that looks pure and in order and the way God wants it, and you start to get a lot of American Christians who are like, huh, why can't we have that? So, like Lauren Vitsko, the Senate nominee in Delaware from the Republican Party in 2020, openly says I identify more Vladimir Putin than Joe Biden. She actually said in one video I wish Vladimir Putin would invade America and save us from Joe Biden. So I'm not making this up. This isn't just like sort of theory. This is all based in like many, many, many instances of conservative white Christian nationalists in the United States thinking of Putin or his Orban right in Hungary as the exemplar of the Christian leader in the face of someone like Barack Obama or Joe Biden or whoever maybe.

Kyle:

So one of the things we like to do around here for our Patreon subscribers is ask a question that only they get to hear the answer to. So the next one is going to be that, and it's about QAnon and the John Birch Society, which is another thing I didn't know anything about and learned about in your book. So compare and contrast QAnon and the John Birch Society for our listeners and explain how one maybe prefigured the other.

Randy:

This is something that I think should get all of us, if you consider yourself a follower of Jesus or a Christian, to think a little bit. You shared your history of being enthralled by the apocalyptic and cryptic imagery of the Book of Revelation. In high school, going to this Bible study, that was normally really small and then all of a sudden exploded in size when you started talking about revelation. Because and I think this is all of our experiences as current or former evangelicals we loved that shit. We loved the Book of Revelation and all the cryptic, crazy imagery and the interpretations of it that came from it, all the dates that we said the world's going to end in and who's going to be the Antichrist and who's going to be the beast from the sea, and blah, blah, blah. And you kind of correlate the evangelical community's proclivity to believe somewhat sensational and extreme interpretations of apocalyptic imagery in the Bible to the evangelical propensity to believe conspiracy theories. Makes perfect sense to me, but tell us about that connecting thread.

Bradley:

Yeah, so there's data on this. It's not just me, you know, sort of opining on this, you know my argument would be this that if you are willing to enter into a religious context where you are told and I'm not sure about you, but when I was a teenager, you know, we had all the rumors right that the European Union which had formed in the 90s was really the sign of the Antichrist, that the Euro, this like currency, was going to be the sign of, you know, the rise of the end times. They were going to put chips in our, in our wrist, and we were going to have a barcode and we had the whole thing. If you enter into a religious space that teaches you to think that way not nothing based on evidence, nothing based on a deep reading of a text, based on its historical context or its linguistic context, but one that enters into a kind of a line of reading that goes from here's what this symbolic book of Revelation says that directly applies to events in the European Union or elections in Romania, or something my argument is this you're primed to think in conspiratorial terms and I know that not a lot of people there's people listening. They're not going to like that, but there's data on this. Paul Jube, who's a sociologist at Denison University, has done great work showing us that white evangelicals score so high I mean, we're talking like an 80% tiles when it comes to believing in conspiracy theories such as QAnon. If you score as a white Christian nationalist, there is a very high chance that you're going to believe in certain forms of conspiracy, about Illuminati, kapal's of elites, election fraud and so on and so forth. So we have sociological evidence that points us to the fact that if you believe things like we're discussing here regarding the end times or other fantastical religious doctrines, you have been primed, you have been sort of trained to enter into a conspiratorial cosmos, and the two don't seem incoherent. I'm not saying that about all religion. So, please, if you're thinking that, that's not what I'm saying, I'm not saying that all religious spaces prime people for this, but I think certain ones do. I'm not going to back off from that claim, and I think our experiences speak to that, just in terms of how we used to think of the end of the world.

Randy:

Yeah, no, I think there's a fair amount of truth in that. So I love the way you connected the Jericho March Group, which called the white Christian nationalist to descend on DC in January 5th. So the Jericho March Group on, I think December 12th you said, called all Trump loving Bible believing Christians to Washington, to march around Washington, pray for a reversal of the election and pray for you know the right thing to happen. Then on January 5th they did the same thing Everyone come to Washington, come in March. We're going to. We're going to the Jericho March and January 6th. We all know what happened and you equate that to. You even call it Joshua 6 meets January 6th and you kind of make this case. That says, if you're a person who believes in Joshua 6, it's, you know. We all know the Bible story where God says march around the city seven times and the walls will come crumbling down. They do. But then God says go and kill every man, woman, child, animal, leave nothing alive. And you kind of say well, if you are raised to think that God can tell a people, go, kill every man, woman and child in that city and for my righteousness and for my namesake, you might have no problem marching around Washington and then going and invading the Capitol. In this you know, quote unquote, sacred space, because God told us to do it. Maybe and even you kind of paint pictures of every time there was an advance on January 6th in the Capitol, people would stop and pray. Or there was Kerry Job's Revelation song get being sung as they would make another events in other events and they're worshiping and praising. It sounds a lot like that story. Tell us about that connection you made.

Bradley:

Well, I think for me, the first part of this is that a lot of us who grew up in church at least evangelical church we heard about Jericho a lot. I don't know about y'all, but like when I was a youth pastor and I needed like a lesson quick because I hadn't prepared very well, jericho is like really easy, because you go to Jericho you're teaching a bunch of 15 year olds the Bible and you're like look, y'all just trust God, even when the world thinks you're crazy, and God will do a miracle. Look at happening Jericho. And everyone's like, yeah, great lesson, you know. And then there's always a kid who raises his hand, is like or her hand, and is like you know, yeah, but they went in and killed everyone. Why did they? Why did God want them to do that? And you're like, yeah, lessons over. All right, I think we got a game Is there donuts left. All right, go grab a donut on your way out, we'll see you next week, all right? And my point with that is I think a lot of people who went to the Jericho March thought, yeah, we're going to march around our nation's capital, around our state's capital, and the walls are going to fall down and we're going to drive out the interlopers and the evildoers, the Canaanites. But if and yeah, and if you think about the story though the story is one of that says when the walls fall down, go in there and kill everything. If that's what you're using, is your rally cry December 12, january 5, you're telling me what you're intending to do, but it's easy to miss, even for the people who are participating, because they're thinking, yeah, jericho, god does miracles, walls are going to fall down. We trust God when the world thinks we're crazy. But all of a sudden, you have the legitimacy right. You have the legitimacy to say, yeah, I'm at the capital today. I just broke a window. Am I a treasonous human being? Am I a criminal? No, I'm a holy warrior. I'm like those guys in Jericho 6. I'm doing exactly what God wants and in fact, I'm going to stop to pray so that we can all remind ourselves and tell ourselves that when we're characters in the story, we're not characters in the story who are the bad ones, the criminals, the treasonous, the seditious. We're the ones who prayed. God let the walls down and now we're doing what he wants, and that is overrunning the capital violently in order to make sure an election does not get certified.

Randy:

Yeah, yeah, startling. You also say in the end of your book it culminates brilliantly. And you say that maybe January 6 is not like the culmination of something, but maybe the tip of the iceberg of something. Maybe there's more going on here. And in particular, you talk about this incredible thing that I think most of us on the eastern half or even in the Midwest of the United States don't really know about, which is this idea of American redoubt. Can you tell our listeners about this phenomenon of American redoubt?

Bradley:

Yeah, it's a really fascinating thing and a really scary thing. So for the last decade or so there's been this movement for people to move to what they call the American redoubt. Redoubt means a refuge or safe place or stronghold, so they're eventually, they're in essence, moving to a safe space. Let's just put that out there Next time Uncle Ron tells you about a safe space. Just keep that in mind. And the safe space is Idaho, wyoming, montana and the eastern parts of Oregon and Washington. And the argument for the American redoubt is this is a place of refuge where we can build the kind of society that we want, a society that is based on Christian values and, in some cases, theocratic values, that we can build a Christian society. And there are people who are part of the American redoubt that want to secede from the union, they want to leave the United States. There are people who are part of the American redoubt that are openly saying that there should be violence against those who are not Christians and who are not elected officials who profess the Christian faith. The American redoubt has really taken hold, and so if you look at the politics in somewhere like Cordillane Idaho, like northern Idaho, you have some of the most conservative politics in the country, because people are moving to that region from southern California, from Seattle, from the northeast, and they're doing so not just to relocate, right. It's not just like, hey, we're gonna move to a place that's cheaper to live in terms of real estate and less congestion and no traffic and there's rivers and there's lakes and don't get me wrong one of the most beautiful parts of the country. But in their mind they're like we're going there to shape a public square into a Christian version of what we want, so we're gonna run for mayor, we're gonna run for school council, we're gonna run for county supervisor. You know there's a lot of fights right now of like, hey, why are these books in our libraries? Why do we have books by gay authors in our libraries? That's what you're hearing moms for liberty say. A lot of the arguments from these folks is why do we have a library at all? I don't want taxpayer money going to that. We don't need a library. Like, the government shouldn't be ponying up a hundred grand a year to support a local library. Get rid of it, right. So if you and there's no way for me to do justice to this movement in a minute or two. But if you read that chapter, what you'll find there is basically people who think that the next civil war is coming. They're getting ready for it as survivalists and preppers and those arming themselves, and when it happens, they're gonna emerge victorious into a new American society that is built on the theocratic principles.

Kyle:

So that's my last question for you, brad, and it's a terrifying one to end on. I wish I had a more optimistic question to come to close out our time. But the last two words in your book are civil war. War is in the title. Your book stands out from some of the other political books that are more historical, more you know political science that we've read and featured on the show by being a little more.

Randy:

This book is very historical.

Kyle:

It is, but it's also a little more polemical and it's a. It pulls no punches and especially at the end, the warnings are really dire. So do you really think that our religious political situation is zero some? If so, why? And are you really concerned about another civil war?

Bradley:

Yeah. So I think I'm not. I don't think it's zero, some, by any means. The reason I called the book Preparing for War is not because I think that I want to prepare for war. This is not like, hey, anyone who'll listen, let's prepare for war. It is more to say, there are folks who've been preparing for war for 60 years. The American Redoubt I just talked about is kind of the most extreme, distilled version of that. But there are people who have thought of extremism as a virtue, as I said with Goldwater, for a long, long time. So they have been preparing for war. They see many in the country as their enemies, not their political opponents, not somebody who disagrees with them, but as their enemies who are from Satan, demonically occupied and need to be destroyed. That's how they see them. So that is why I called it Preparing for War. Now I think, when it comes to civil war, do I imagine a kind of North versus South conflict? Not necessarily, but when I look around our country, what I see are little fires everywhere. I see conflicts, right. I see people who are willing to destroy power grids so that you can't have direct Queen story hour, right. I see people who are willing to terrorize librarians to the point that they quit because they don't want books by LGBTQ authors or BIPOC authors in the library. I see people willing to sit outside a voter drop box in Arizona with AR-15s and basically watch, quote, unquote, that drop box as people take their ballots to be counted. I see folks who are willing to memorialize J6 as a great American battle in which martyrs died and martyrs who should be remembered, people that inspire further action as we go forward. So when I think of civil war, I don't think of North versus South. What I think of is, if you miss the little fires, the conflicts that are broiling around us now, the ways that so many people feel unsafe, whether in a library, whether at a school board meeting, whether when they're trying to vote, when they're trying to go to target, and people are just tearing up like displays with pride, products and celebrations, I think you start to see that we live in a time when the distrust in our civic spaces is at a very high level and people are willing to gesture towards all kinds of violence in order to do what they think needs to be done. So, once again, am I predicting civil war? I'm not. What I'm saying is is there is a lot of people who've been preparing for conflict for six decades, and January 6th should not be one of those things where we're like well, that happened, but at least we controlled it and it didn't stop Biden and the election from going forward. We should think of it as that's a warning as to what could become our normal, and I think that's really the takeaway.

Randy:

Yeah, it's stark. I mean there's more you could go down. The governor of Michigan was almost kidnapped. I mean there's so much. This is a call for level headed, sober minded Democrats and Republicans to say we're losing our mind as a nation, we're giving into the extremists and we're giving our votes to the ones that we think are the biggest A-holes who can push our policies forward, and we need to check ourselves. There was a person who walked the earth, I believe 2,000 years ago who said that we need to repent because the kingdom of God is here, and I think this is a moment where we as a country need to repent. But, bradley Onishi, it's a stark, kind of dark book, but it's just a really good piece of history that brings us into how we got to where we are. It's called Preparing for War the extremist history of white Christian nationalism and what comes next. Thanks for writing this book. Tell us about your podcast again, or the name of your podcast one more time.

Bradley:

Thanks so much for having me, and I promise I'm more fun at parties than this book. So the podcast is straight White American Jesus. So we talk about this stuff every week. We do the show three times a week. We've been doing it for five years and so we break down every aspect of this. Like you, we were evangelicals and evangelical ministers. We're now scholars of religion, so we study this stuff historically and sociologically and we have done for the last 15 years, so we provide that lens on things, and so we have great guests. We have a weekly roundup every Friday and we pull no punches and we try to be on flinching in our analysis.

Randy:

Awesome. Well, thanks for your time, bradley, it's been a pleasure. Thanks so much for having me, gil.

Kyle:

Thanks, appreciate it. Well, that's it for this episode of A Pastor and a Philosopher. Walk Into a Bar. We hope you're enjoying the show as much as we are. Help us continue to create compelling content and reach a wider audience by supporting us at patreoncom. Forward slash a pastor and a philosopher, where you can get bonus content, extra perks and a general feeling of being a good person.

Randy:

Also, please rate and review the show on Apple podcasts, iTunes and Spotify. These help new people discover the show and we may even read your review in a future episode if it's good enough.

Kyle:

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Randy:

Catch all of our hot takes on Twitter, at ppwbpodcast, at Randy Nye and at Robert K Whitaker, and find transcripts and links to all of our episodes at pastorandphilosopherbuzzbrowcom. See you next time, cheers.

Introduction
Beverage Tasting
Interview
From Faith to Doubt
Family Values and Resistance to Equality
Political Leaders
The Rise of Reagan and Trump
Evaluating Evangelical Perspectives on Presidents
Christian Nationalism in Politics
Evangelicals, Politics, and White Christian Nationalism
Evangelical Beliefs and Conspiracy Theories
American Redoubt