In a shockingly anti-white and anti-Christian dialogue, Salon staff writer Chauncey DeVega sat with University of Pennsylvania religious studies professor Anthea Butler, referring to “the Republican fascist movement” as “objectively evil,” hoping that “people of color” die out in the battle against “multiracial democracy,” while accusing “white Christians” of embracing lies, terrorism, white supremacy and fascism.
The interview, titled “Religion scholar Anthea Butler on ‘White Christianity’ and its role in fueling fascism” was published in Salon last Tuesday and begins with DeVega claiming the conservative movement has increasingly been governed by faith since at least the 1980s.
“[T]his means that the Republican Party and the larger right-wing movement’s policies and ideology across a range of issues — the economy, the environment, science, health care, democracy and the rule of law — have little if any basis in fact,” he writes.
Stating that, “in the Age of Trump, movement conservatism has metastasized or devolved into its purest form: American fascism,” which he describes as a form of religious politics “taken to its most illogical extreme,” he accuses conservatives of spreading lies and falsehoods.
“Facts, truth and even the conception of reality itself are being replaced with lies, fictions, and fantasies that serve the American fascist movement and its leader,” he writes.
Citing public opinion polls and “other research,” he then states that “white right-wing Christians, especially Protestant evangelicals, have pledged their loyalty to Donald Trump and his movement,” with many viewing the former president as “a literal prophet or savior.”
DeVega also claims that the January 6 U.S. Capitol riot “dramatically illustrated” that “violence is a key feature of the new American fascism,” as he accuses “Republican fascists” of embracing terror:
Trumpists and other Republican fascists, many or most of whom identify as Christian, have widely embraced political violence, including outright terrorism, as a necessary measure to “protect” their “traditional way of life” against “radical socialist Democrats”, Black and brown people, Muslims, LGBTQ people and pretty much all Americans who still believe in the constitutional separation of church and state and the rule of law.
“Together, these forces exist in a state of collective narcissism and shared malignant reality,” he added. “In that relationship, white right-wing Christianity is a nexus or type of glue.”
Claiming white Christians in America “tend to do very different things” than black and other Christians, Butler explained that true believers in Jesus would “have to be for the poor and all that comes with that” whereas “white Christianity” may overlook poverty.
She defined “white Christianity” as a religion based on white supremacy:
White Christianity is a Christianity that is based on the following: Jesus is white. Jesus privileges white culture and white supremacy, and the political aspirations of whiteness over and against everything else. White Christianity assumes that everybody should be subsumed under whiteness in terms of culture and society.
After DeVega claimed the language of “religious freedom” is “central to the power of white Christianity in America” despite it referring in practice to “‘freedom’ of white Christianity” alone, Butler replied by stating that white Christians actually seek to suppress the freedoms of others.
“The rhetoric of freedom is being used to elevate ‘freedom’ for white Christians and to suppress freedom for everyone else,” she said, adding that “[l]imiting women’s reproductive freedoms is a way to keep everybody in check.”
Violence, Terrorism, and Fascism
Butler, a professor of religious studies and Africana studies who’s featured many times in the media, then discussed “the phenomenon of ‘white’ Christianity’s alleged role in the January 6 Capitol riot “and the ascendant fascist movement.”
In his words, Butler “warns that too many white people have erroneously convinced themselves that racial privilege will protect them from escalating right-wing Christian terrorism and related political violence.”
According to DeVega, Butler goes on to claim American democracy is in its “last moments” and the decision to “fight back” or die must be made imminently, adding that Democrats are counting on black Americans standing in line for hours to vote while ignoring that “Democrats have not done much for them.”
Speaking on the “right-wing culture war narrative,” which sees “connections between such militant language and actual right-wing violence,” Butler claimed that such rhetoric has a long history:
There’s war imagery all through Biblical scripture. There are war songs that people sing in churches. This idea about battling for the Lord, whether we’re talking about the Crusades or the Civil War or fighting communism and everything else, is embedded in our history. That language of war and fighting is being used to incite people now.
Explaining the role of “white Christianity” in right-wing “disruptions and threats of violence at local school board meetings” over issues such as incorporating CRT curriculum in schools and nationwide vaccine mandates, Butler blamed Christians, specifically Evangelicalism:
It is as though nobody remembers the 1950s, when white people were standing outside yelling and screaming and cussing Black children who were actually integrating these schools. These were Christians who were in churches, who were out there yelling and spitting and screaming. Women especially. Evangelicalism and harsh rhetoric have always been part and parcel of this.
“We need to quit talking about evangelicalism as though it is some type of coddling religion and understand it for what it has been and what it is doing,” she added.
Describing the Capitol riot as “an act of white right-wing Christian terrorism against multiracial democracy,” DeVega then asked why the media refused to highlight the “Christian iconography,” such as crosses, prayers, and horns, present.
“It’s intentional,” Butler replied. “They cannot come to grips with the fact that the Christianity of America is just like any other fundamentalist religion that gets weaponized in order to hold on to power.”
She also claimed that the large cross reportedly raised on the Capitol steps was intended “to be like the crusaders during the European Middle Ages.”
After DeVega noted political leaders and others claiming to be Christians while virtually ignoring “the many forms of evil both summoned and empowered by the Age of Trump,” Butler said that “many of these Christians are the devils at work in this society.”
When asked how “white Christians” explain away the behavior of the “objectively evil” former president and “Republican fascist movement,” Butler claimed they are often victims of misinformation.
“Because they’re in a bubble,” she said. “Their pastor is reinforcing these messages. The people they live around are reinforcing these messages.”
“They listen to Fox News,” she added, claiming they live by “the scriptures that are written by their politicians and their pastors.”
DeVega then accused right-wing leaders of “summoning God and their faith to encourage people not to take proper health precautions” during the current “deadly [coronavirus] plague”:
As a matter of public policy, Christian nationalists, dominionists and other Christian fascists are trying to impose their End Times eschatological fantasies onto secular America in opposition to the Constitution and the separation of church and state.
“These are fantasies of death and destruction,” he added. “These white right-wing Christians literally seem to be seeking out death.”
Agreeing, Butler claimed white right-wing Christians desire to live “without restraint,” warning that, at some point, “it is death for you, but it is not death for them.”
She then suggests that right-wing leaders oppose masks in the hopes that “people of color” die out, but were dismayed when many “white folks” did.
“[W]hen the pandemic started and many of these red-state and other right-wing leaders were telling people not to wear masks, they were kind of hoping that the ‘right people’ would die,” she said. “We know who the ‘right people’ are”:
Now, people in red states are dying and those Republican and other right-wing leaders can’t get out of the spiral of telling people not to get vaccinated. They were hoping that all the people of color were going to die. But now in the red states, it’s a lot of white folks dying.
Butler is no stranger to controversy.
Earlier this month, Butler stated that evangelicals followed the Republican Party and not Christian scripture:
When you look at the statistics of white evangelicals right now, they are least likely to welcome immigrants. It flies in the face of what their Christian doctrine is supposed to be. You welcome the stranger. You’re supposed to do that as a Christian, but they’re not listening to what scripture says. They’re listening to what the Republican Party says.
“[S]top calling evangelicals when they say they’re all about morality. They’re not,” she added. “Morality is a shield. Morality is a way for them to get power. What is good for them is not good for you.”
In May, she claimed evangelical Christians are white racists who “may end up killing us all.”
“If evangelicals don’t change, they pose an existential crisis to us all,” she warned. “They are part and parcel of the reason why we cannot move forward, because they say they have religious beliefs.”
“And because they are being selfish and because they don’t care, their racism, their sexism, their homophobia, their lack of belief in science, lack of belief and common sense may end up killing us all,” Butler added.
In 2015, Butler made headlines again after suggesting Dr. Ben Carson deserved a “coon of the year” award.
In 2013, the professor faced backlash after calling God a “white racist.”
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.