Dispatches: “In a Christian Nation State” – A Plea from Texas

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” —Sinclair Lewis 

A Christian Fascist country disguised as freedom and democracy has always been the Moral Majority’s plan, and their greatest asset is that the public believes that evangelicals are such buffoons that we don’t need to take them seriously. But look at the history of all empires – they all had their share of narcissistic buffoons. Every time we think conservation evangelicals are finished, they always find a way to restabilize their base, reinsert themselves into key positions of power, and dramatically slow down this country’s path toward progress. Jerry Falwell might be dead, the deconstruction movement might be on the rise, but make no mistake: The foundation that the Moral Majority has been building since the 80s to stabilize their power is still solid and still has many openings to shape the United States definitively in its image. Trump losing in 2020 might have been a hitch in their plans, but this is far from the first snag they’ve encountered throughout their troubling history of infiltrating every level of this country’s lawmaking. 

Right now, evangelicals seems perfectly content to let Texas lead the way, clear the path, set the example, and create ripples that will influence policies all across the country. And their strategy seems to be effective. 

If you identify outside of any demographic than conservative white evangelical, what’s going on in Texas right now should alarm you. Not only because of the vulgar violation of human rights blatantly happening out in the open, but because Texas has more or less become a prototype of the kind of theocratic nightmare that the Evangelical Right would like to see become of the whole country. If you think that such fascism is unlikely, you’re not paying attention to what is happening right now in the Supreme Court or other red states that are quickly adopting similar laws regarding reproductive rights for women.  Not only does Texas represent the country that Evangelicals want, it reveals their continuing influence over so much of this country and the landmark steps they’ve taken to turn America into a Christian Nation State. 

So how do we stop this juggernaut? That’s a subject of an ongoing conversation, and it remains essential that this conversation continues to evolve and increase in participants. A step like funding research into religious trauma to make it a diagnosable condition is an important signpost (donate here). So is continuing to hold Evangelical leadership accountable for its continued enabling and protection of sexual predators. Certainly utilizing the internet is one of our greatest tools: The continuing rise of the deconstruction community online is certainly changing the conversation, and we should continue to provide opportunities for those who are in a safe place to lend their voice. 

Any chance I have to enable such a voice is my honor. Shana Nielsen, who has already contributed two powerful pieces from her own experience to this blog (read them here and here) is one of my favorite exvangelical warriors. She’s also in the frightening position of living in ground zero for the prototype for an Evangelical theocracy that has become the state of Texas. When I asked her to write a piece about what she’s seeing as an exvangelical mother living under this oppression, she was more than willing to provide a dispatch to share with my readers. So once again, it is my privilege to step aside and give her the platform. 

Shana, thank you for the courage it takes to write, to spread the awareness, to be part of the conversation – even though doing so could put your safety at risk. Readers – thank you for taking the time to absorb her words and for sharing them. For those whom are suffering silently in Texas and beyond – we see you, we love you, and you are not alone. You’re not broken.

* * * *

Shana’s Dispatches from Texas

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. A lot of regular, innocent people like you and me are being stomped on for different reasons, by different powerful entities. If you’re thinking of Ukraine, or Africa, or the Middle East right now, I’m right there with you. There’s enough pain that I feel a little shy about writing about what’s going on in my home state of Texas. But if you thought that pain and anger, loss of freedom and invasion were only happening somewhere else across the world, you’d be wrong.

It’s happening right here in the United States, in my state of Texas. You may remember many months ago that Texas has all but managed to ban abortions, and not only banned them, but turned every citizen of the state into vigilantes able to seek bounties (up to $10,000) for turning in women who received an abortion or anyone who helped them. Here’s a link to that, if this is your first time hearing about it.

This week the state of Texas, in the personages of its Attorney General Ken Paxton and Governor Greg Abbott, again turned the use of their power on the most disadvantaged and most vulnerable of their citizens, and once again turned every citizen of the state into a potential vigilante (or criminal). No longer satisfied with restricting health care for adult women, they have now done so for children as well. Specifically, transgender children, their parents, and anyone who tries to help them. I’m linking an editorial piece, not a straight news piece, because it is vitally important to understand the ramifications of this “new interpretation of existing law.”

In Paxton’s new interpretation of existing state law, gender affirming health care for children is considered child abuse.  Anyone assisting a child by offering gender affirming care, including puberty blockers or other medical treatment, or potentially counseling that affirms their choices, is guilty of committing child abuse and will face jail time.  Any parent attempting to seek that care for their child, or affirming their child’s gender by allowing them to wear the clothing of their choice or use the bathroom of their choice, would also be committing child abuse and face jail time. With the added bonus that the child in question would then become a ward of the state.  

Please stop and read the Slate article linked above – it has great information on how gender affirming medical care for transgender youth is life SAVING care, not abuse. The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and every major medical association in the United States has published research and established policy that gender affirming medical care for transgender children dramatically improves their well-being and quality of life, and decreases the risk for self-harm and suicide. In my state, however, scientific research is not the gold standard for health care: Faith and belief trump decades of careful research. Political power (and retaining it) is more important than the very real, very harmful impact of such guidance.

But the actual lives of transgender children don’t matter in my state.  If they did, it would be child abuse to withhold gender affirming care from them. What does matter in my state is that the evangelical utopian vision of a “Christian nation state” is realized. In a Christian nation state, women do not have the same rights as men and one of their foundational reasons for being is to bear children, per evangelical Christian beliefs.  So medical care is withheld if it goes against those beliefs. And in an Evangelical Christian nation state, transgender children really should not exist, since guidance from their interpretation of the Bible is that they are wicked or sinful or don’t really exist to begin with. If you think a literal interpretation of the Bible is so “out there” that it would never become a reality in the 21st century, please reconsider. Because it is happening here, right now, with every new legislative session. The same politicians who vehemently decry “Sharia Law” on US soil are, piece by piece, building a state built on “Evangelical Christian Law.”

Let’s talk about those politicians briefly. It’s no coincidence that this new guidance came out the week of the primary elections, where both Attorney General Paxton and Gover Abbott are up for reelection and being challenged in the primaries by other Republicans. And it’s no coincidence that the general election for both positions happens this November.  Many people have the privilege of waving their hands and saying, “Oh, they are just ginning up support for their base; they won’t really enforce any of this.” But that’s just not true – abortions of the state of Texas have dropped by over 70% since the enactment of the new abortion law in October, and while this “new interpretation of existing law” is not even a week old, major pediatric healthcare facilities are already scrambling to revamp their operations and policies when caring for transgender youth, to protect themselves and their providers.

It ultimately does not matter if a single parent or medical provider is ever accused of child abuse under this guidance – the damage is already done. Transgender children and their families are in real, immediate danger in Texas. They are in danger of being denied health care, of increased suicide rates, of increased anxiety and depression. They are in danger of being stalked, bullied, harassed, outed, and vilified by the communities where they work and go to school. None of that matters to the politicians who are using this law to maintain and gain political power and seek re-election to office. It won’t be considered a “real consequence.” But it will absolutely have a powerful effect on the lives of the citizens of Texas – especially the most vulnerable among us.

This state, my state, is not interested in the welfare of its citizens. It is very interested in the creation of an evangelical nation-state, and is moving as fast as possible to bring that into reality.

If you think religion doesn’t have a place in politics, please reconsider. It’s already here.

If you think this can’t happen where you live, please reconsider. It’s happening now where I live, and it’s coming to a state near you very soon.

If you think this won’t have an impact on your life or someone you care about, please reconsider. This affects all of us, because it affects the most vulnerable of us. Last fall, it was women. Earlier this month, it was high school libraries. This week, it is children. Next month, it will be you.

I want you to think about this statement: The Governor of Texas has effectively outlawed proven, researched,  life-saving medical treatment for children. And he has done so because of his religious beliefs, and the religious beliefs of his political base of support. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will. I live here. I am terrified for the kids in my community, all of them. Because this affects every single one of them, no matter their gender or sexuality. It affects the choices they make on what they wear, who they talk to, where and who is safe.

Please send help.

If you are concerned about the LGBTQ+ children of Texas you can start with the link below, which directs you to the Dallas Resource Center’s website. They’ve been providing services and programs to the youth and families of Dallas (including housing assistance for youth who have lost their homes) since 1983.

As an exvangelical who walked away from organized religion in my teens, unable to take any more of the purity culture or the hypocrisy, I never imagined a day when my former religion would literally stalk me through my adult life, bringing all of its most vile beliefs into legislated reality. I never imagined a day when the separation of church and state would be all but non-existent, and I depended on that separation to shield me from the harmful tenets of an abusive religion. My shield is gone. And I have only a pen with which to make a difference. Please send help.

2 thoughts on “Dispatches: “In a Christian Nation State” – A Plea from Texas

  1. Pingback: Exvangelical Meditation: Global Center for Religious Research – Surviving the Spirit

  2. Pingback: Dispatches: Cognitive Dissonance in Cattle Country – Surviving the Spirit

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