It should not surprise anyone that the front page of the Jan. 26 paper would include reports about an upcoming KKK church “conference” in Lamar County and a report about the visit of state Republican Chair Lt. Col. Allen West since we see threads of white nationalism as an acceptable belief within the Republican party and evangelical Christianity.

White nationalist/white supremacist groups and Christian evangelicals are among the most vocal supporters of former President Donald Trump, and both groups seem to be operating in a fact-free alternate reality perpetrated by plutocrats of the political right whose primary interest is maintaining political power by manipulating public opinion. Among the most visible perpetrators of the insurrection that Trump encouraged were white nationalists, but there were several “Jesus Saves” placards as well.

West’s repetition of the Republican trope that mail-in ballots are a source of voter fraud has been widely discredited by the courts and by Republican election officials across the country. Military personnel and seniors have voted by mail in Texas and other states without incident for decades. The expansion of that process to others during the pandemic was good public policy and saved lives. Spreading lies about widespread voter fraud is simply another attempt at voter suppression.

The Rev. Roger Olson wrote in a current article: “Political idolatry is spreading like wildfire across America. People are breaking up families and churches over their political beliefs and convictions. Anyone who does not agree with them about politics cannot be authentically Christian and cannot be their friend — even if they are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents.” Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, decried the unholy blend of politics and religion when he wrote: “This week we watched an insurrection of domestic terrorists, incited and fomented by the President,” and “We should be counter-cultural in loving God and loving our neighbors in ways that ought not to make sense except for the grace of God.”

Belief in white supremacy has, for far too many, become an idol even though its adherents have little in common with Jesus of Nazareth.

The trend that culminated with the election of Donald Trump with the support of white nationalists and evangelical Christians makes clear the reason that our nation’s founders enshrined separation of church and state in our governing documents. Ku Klux Klan leaders and members were commonly members of local churches but didn’t let the teachings of Jesus or the Ten Commandments stand in the way of murdering Black community members for minor real or imagined infractions of social norms without benefit of legal process.

This country suffered through four years of enmity and divisiveness, which I believe was promoted mostly by right wing media and Donald Trump. Thankfully, Trump’s tweets have been silenced for now, and President Joe Biden is actively working to unite the country. Hopefully all Christians will return their focus to the major themes of Jesus’ ministry: love, compassion, inclusivity, generosity and forgiveness and allow their faith to inform their politics rather than letting politics drive their religion.

Gary O’Connor is a Powderly resident and Lamar County Democrat Party chair.

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