Resolute Square

Thickening Webs On The Christian Right

"If you're not already paying attention, you need to be," warns Kristen Du Mez of the deep and dangerous ties between a second Trump term and Christian Nationalism, "What are we looking at if Trump wins the presidency? It won’t be a repeat of his first term. It will be all that and more."
Published:March 18, 2024

*To read more of Kristen Du Mez's essential work, visit Du Mez Connections and read her outstanding book, "Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation"

By Kristen Du Mez

As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about the future of democracy and tracking the ever-shifting world of religion and politics, I’ve been sensing a widening disconnect between those of us watching these spaces and members of the general population. It can be a lot to keep up with and the media is often a few steps behind in their coverage. Without a deeper understanding of the organizational history and evolving networks of the Christian Right, they’re not always putting the pieces together.

To bridge a little of this chasm, I thought I’d share with you a few pieces of the puzzle.

First, let’s start with Project 2025.

What are we looking at if Trump wins the presidency? It won’t be a repeat of his first term. It will be all that and more. In Project 2025, they’re making their plans public for all to see. (Well, most of their plans are public; some they’ve deemed wiser to keep hidden until they’re securely in power.)

spider web close-up photography
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Here’s more, from PBS NewsHour:

Led by the long-established Heritage Foundation think tank and fueled by former Trump administration officials, the far-reaching effort is essentially a government-in-waiting for the former president’s second term — or any candidate who aligns with their ideals and can defeat President Joe Biden in 2024.

With a nearly 1,000-page “Project 2025” handbook and an “army” of Americans, the idea is to have the civic infrastructure in place on Day One to commandeer, reshape and do away with what Republicans deride as the “deep state” bureaucracy, in part by firing as many as 50,000 federal workers.

“We need to flood the zone with conservatives,” said Paul Dans, director of the 2025 Presidential Transition Project and a former Trump administration official…

…Trump-era conservatives want to gut the “administrative state” from within, by ousting federal employees they believe are standing in the way of the president’s agenda and replacing them with like-minded officials more eager to fulfill a new executive’s approach to governing.

The goal is to avoid the pitfalls of Trump’s first years in office, when the Republican president’s team was ill-prepared, his Cabinet nominees had trouble winning Senate confirmation and policies were met with resistance — by lawmakers, government workers and even Trump’s own appointees who refused to bend or break protocol, or in some cases violate laws, to achieve his goals….

…“The president Day One will be a wrecking ball for the administrative state,” said Russ Vought, a former Trump administration official involved in the effort who is now president at the conservative Center for Renewing America.

Who’s behind Project 2025? There’s an “Advisory Board” of “over 100 conservative organizations,” including the Heritage Foundation, Hillsdale College, Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council and the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, Liberty University, Eagle Forum, the Mackinac Center, Moms for Liberty, Turning Point USA, and The Center for Renewing America.

Over at Politico, we have more coverage of the project from Alexander Ward and Heidi Przybyla, highlighting the involvement of Russel Vought, Trump’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget and current president of The Center for Renewing America, an organization that includes “Christian nationalism” as one of its top priorities. Other priorities include:

invoking the Insurrection Act on Day One to quash protests and refusing to spend authorized congressional funds on unwanted projects, a practice banned by lawmakers in the Nixon era.

CRA’s work fits into a broader effort by conservative, MAGA-leaning organizations to influence a future Trump White House. Two people familiar with the plans, who were granted anonymity to discuss internal matters, said that Vought hopes his proximity and regular contact with the former president — he and Trump speak at least once a month, according to one of the people — will elevate Christian nationalism as a focal point in a second Trump term.

The documents obtained by POLITICO do not outline specific Christian nationalist policies. But Vought has promoted a restrictionist immigration agenda, saying a person’s background doesn’t define who can enter the U.S., but rather, citing Biblical teachings, whether that person “accept[ed] Israel’s God, laws and understanding of history.”

Vought has a close affiliation with Christian nationalist William Wolfe, a former Trump administration official who has advocated for overturning same-sex marriage, ending abortion and reducing access to contraceptives.

Yes, that’s the same William Wolfe who has been one of my regular trolls for several years now.

One of the journalists providing the best coverage of this evolving network is Jennifer Cohn over at Bucks County Beacon. If you’re on “X” you should be following her.

Approximately 100 right-wing organizations have signed onto Project 2025, an expansive plan for controlling (and in some cases dismantling) federal agencies in the event that Trump or another Republican wins the presidential election this year. Many of these organizations are led by Christian fundamentalist political operatives, suggesting that they may use the plan to force all Americans to submit to their extreme religious beliefs. 

The Bucks County Beacon has just found explosive new evidence that seems to validate this concern. 

The Beacon’s discovery follows an earlier report by Politico journalist Heidi Przybyla, which tied the Center for Renewing America (CFRA), an official Project 2025 partner, to an internal memo expressly listing “Christian Nationalism” as a priority for a second Trump term. 

Przybyla further reported that CFRA founder Russ Vought, a Project 2025 co-author, had stated last year on X (formerly Twitter) that he’s “proud” to work with William Wolfe, a former Trump official and Visiting Fellow with CFRA, “on scoping out a sound Christian Nationalism.” In a social media post, Wolfe had called for an end to no-fault divorce and abortion and for reduced access to contraception. (Link to archived tweet.) Wolfe, who has attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has also called himself a “Christian Nationalist.”

Soon after Politico’s report, Wolfe changed his social media profile to remove the reference to his work with CFRA, thus burying his connection to Project 2025 leader Russ Vought. Wolfe is also an alumnus of Heritage, the lead organizer of Project 2025.

Meanwhile, Vought and other Project 2025 leaders have tried to mitigate the damage from Politico’s report not by rebuking Wolfe, but rather by attacking Przybyla. After Przybyla correctly stated in a TV interview that Christian Nationalists believe their rights come from God, they accused her of attacking mainstream Christianity and launched a blizzard of targeted media hit pieces, as well as a petition to demand that Politico publish a formal apology…

Despite this hurricane of attempted deflection, the Christian Nationalism promoted by Wolfe is extreme, not mainstream, as evidenced…by a shocking online manifesto found by the Beacon, which identifies Wolfe as an editor….(an archived copy is available here)

The manifesto’s authors include Oklahoma Senator Dusty Deevers (a Southern Baptist who supports charging women who get abortions with murder). In addition to Wolfe, its editors include Joel Webbon who has tweeted that the the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was a “bad idea.” 

The manifesto, titled “The Statement on Christian Nationalism”, begins with a definition of “Christian Nationalism” that strives to implement a Scripture-based system of government whereby Christ-ordained “civil magistrates” exercise authority over the American public. 

Specifically, it states that “Christian Nationalism is a set of governing principles rooted in Scripture’s teaching that Christ rules as supreme Lord and King of all creation, who has ordained civil magistrates with delegated authority to be under Him, over the people, to order their ordained jurisdiction by punishing evil and promoting good for His own glory and the common good of the nation.” 

The manifesto then states that, pursuant to Scripture, these “civil magistrates” have “lawful authority to punish civil crimes like assault, murder, rape, theft, fraud, man-stealing, and false witness, and to ensure proper due process through the civil courts, payment of liability for verifiably proven harm, and proportionality of punishment.”

This idea of forcing the American public to submit to the authority of Christian “civil magistrates” isn’t new. It was also championed by Christian extremist Stephen Wolfe (@Perfinjust on “X”) in his book, “The Case for Christian Nationalism,” an infamous screed, which William Wolfe enthusiastically promoted in a tweet that he later deleted.

…The manifesto denies that “civil authorities have the right to coerce or command obedience to the dictates of men apart from God’s Word.” (Emphasis added.)

The manifesto further denies “the authority of rulers to squelch civil disobedience if [in the authors’ opinion] the free and necessary worship of and obedience to the True One God is being hindered.” (Sounds like January 6.) 

It also strives to invalidate public education: “We deny that civil authorities are tasked with being the caretakers of citizens or educators of children, as these duties belong primarily to the Church and to families, respectively.”…

Project 2025 organizations cannot legitimately characterize this terrifying manifesto as representative of mainstream Christianity.

William Wolfe, however, seems primed for the fight. In a video posted by Right Wing Watch last year, he declared that “We are getting close” to Christians taking up arms. 

The Family Research Council (FRC) — one of the leading Project 2025 partners attacking Przybyla — is similarly militant.
Its Executive Vice President, retired Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin, has said that, when Jesus returns, he’ll be carrying an assault rifle. Boykin sits on the board of the Oak Initiative, a nonprofit founded by Rick Joyner who publicly expressed support for a military coup against Obama. Boykin also presided over the first “commissioning” of the “Black Robe Regiment of Virginia” (aka “America’s Black Robe Regiment”), a militant pastors group whose founder, Pastor William Cooke, sported an Oath Keepers shirt during the December 2020 Jericho March contesting Trump’s election loss. 

FRC’s board chairman, former Representative Michelle Bachmann, is a protege of New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) leader Jim Garlow, a proponent of the “Seven Mountains Mandate,” which instructs Christians to conquer all aspects of our government and culture for God, as we previously reported

There’s more in Cohn’s piece, including on Doug Wilson’s role in all of this.

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Kovensky is covering another piece of this evolving web:

It sounds like the stuff of fantasy, but it’s real. The group is called the Society for American Civic Renewal (the acronym is pronounced “sacker” by its members). It is open to new recruits, provided you meet a few criteria: you are male, a “trinitarian” Christian, heterosexual, an “un-hyphenated American,” and can answer questions about Trump, the Republican Party, and Christian Nationalism in the right way….

The members identified by TPM don’t necessarily fit the profile of the disaffected, disgruntled loner or the amped-up, testosterone-fueled militia types often found on the paranoid right-wing fringe. TPM’s reporting has identified as SACR members the president of the influential, Trump-aligned Claremont Institute, Harvard Law grads, and leading businessmen in communities scattered across America.

The group speaks earnestly about itself and tries to downplay its more controversial views.

But TPM uncovered a trove of emails from a Claremont official named Scott Yenor:

The trove reveals SACR’s core mission: to create a mini-state within a state, composed entirely of Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian men. It’s explicitly patriarchal, demanding that group members assume a dominant role at home, and celebrates the use of force and existence of authority. Amid all the hearkening back to the founding fathers, America’s first principles, and patriotism, there are few mentions of democracy in the materials TPM reviewed.

The group includes such luminaries as Ryan P. Williams, president of Claremont Institute and a SACR board member; Nate Fischer, a venture capitalist, alum of Harvard Law and Calvin University (and another frequent troll of mine); and Charles Haywood, a wealthy former shampoo manufacturer and SACR board member.

To Haywood, American government is a house of cards waiting to be blown over — …Haywood says he can see what will likely come next: a new feudalism, an archipelago of local “armed patronage networks,” a vision inspired by the groups white settler farmers formed in southern Africa as Blacks struggled for majority rule. 

On the blog where he explains these ideas, Haywood refers to himself as “maximum leader.” 

In October 2022, Haywood appeared on a podcast with with former Trump official and “Flight 93” essay Michael Anton and others for a discussion about caesarism — the idea that a strongman is needed to solve America’s problems. After referring to an unspecified “secret event” that brought the group together, Haywood said that he “wholeheartedly” endorsed “national divorce” as a solution to the country’s problems. 

…South Africa, with its visions of white settlers driven away from status and wealth, appear consistently in Haywood’s writings, and in Fischer’s as well. The Broederbond, an Afrikaner-only, Calvinist-only group of elites which functioned as a series of hundreds of independent “cells” across the country, offers an eerie reflection of SACR’s structure. Williams told TPM that the Afrikaner Broederbond came up in conversations over what SACR would be, but denied that it served as a model for the group. 


Women are not allowed in SACR, whatever their faith. The group emphasizes a traditional role for the man in the household, a robust and muscular exercise of temporal authority by men, and the forceful application of male dominion in civic affairs. 

On Monday, I talked with Kovensky for his follow-up article:

Charles Haywood...shares in the belief that America is a house of cards waiting to collapse, and has tweeted that he anticipates a collapse as soon as 2026. As an antidote to this apocalyptic outlook, Haywood has described on his blog a reorganization of society that he calls “foundationalism.” It advocates for the state to “prefer” Christianity — in one example by mandating that all public school teachers be “practicing Christians.”

Whether you decide to call all of that “Christian nationalism” may be beside the point.

Kristin Du Mez, a professor of history at Calvin University, told TPM that she thinks of it in terms of Christian supremacy over the norms of a plural society.

“Do all Americans have an equal right to bring their faith traditions, or no particular faith, to bear on the public sphere? If the answer is no, then we’re talking Christian nationalism here,” she said.

It’s a basic question of political equality, one that’s familiar to anyone who has followed American politics in recent years. Do people of different political persuasions have equal right and ability to bring their views into the public sphere? In this case, it’s applied to religion: do different faiths — or denominations within Christianity — have the equal right to public participation?

And, one more thing. This week Politico also came out with an article on how “Ralph Reed’s army plans $62 million spending spree to boost evangelical turnout”:

Faith & Freedom, a conservative-leaning organization, intends to spend $62 million registering and turning out evangelical voters, texting and calling supporters, and door-knocking — $10 million more than it spent four years ago. The group is expected to, among other things, hand out 30 million pieces of literature in 125,000 churches — many of them in battleground states.

The goal? “Returning Donald Trump to the White House.”

The Right has always been better at organizing, mobilizing, and uniting around a common agenda. In the run-up to the 2024 election, the rest of Americans should take note.

Also, there’s a reason several of the guys popping up in this coverage have been targeting me for years, calling for me to be fired, calling me demonic, an enemy of Christ, and the like. They know that fellow Christians have the power to foil their plans.