Recommended Reading: Fighting Flesh & Blood
"Dehumanizing rhetoric precedes acts of political violence."
Programming Note: I continue to work on wrapping up v1 of my manuscript this week, so writing here will be sparing. I will share some of my post-manuscript plans for this newsletter soon.
Last week, The New York Times dispensed with both-sidesism to directly address the rise of violent right-wing rhetoric leading to real-world violence:
“The armed attack this week on an F.B.I. office in Ohio by a supporter of former President Donald J. Trump who was enraged by the bureau’s search of Mr. Trump’s private residence in Florida was one of the most disturbing episodes of right-wing political violence in recent months.
But it was hardly the only one.
In the year and a half since a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, threats of political violence and actual attacks have become a steady reality of American life, affecting school board officials, election workers, flight attendants, librarians and even members of Congress, often with few headlines and little reaction from politicians.”
Kristin Kobes Du Mez, author of the Jesus and John Wayne, elaborated upon Alan Feuer’s article on her own Substack, Connections, highlighting the various ways that this violent rhetoric has also escalated within white evangelical circles.
The entire post is worth reading, here is an extended quotation:
“All of which is to say, when I began my research on white evangelical masculinity and militarism, the similarities between the rhetoric I was reading in popular evangelical books on Christian manhood and the rhetoric of the German Christians that Lackey pointed me to were already apparent to me.
Now is probably a good time to say that Trump is not Hitler, and (the vast majority of) Trump’s supporters are not Nazis. Not even close.
But there are lessons that history offers us:
Dehumanizing rhetoric precedes acts of political violence.
Promoting false claims like the “stolen election” has very real consequences.
Stoking fear to promote your own power, using language of us vs. them, talking in terms of an epic battle for truth and righteousness, claiming that God is on your side against the forces of darkness—all of this has consequences.
When attempting to understand what is unfolding around us, I keep coming back to a recent survey that shows that 60% of white evangelical Protestants believe the election was stolen from Trump (far more than any other demographic), and that 26% of white evangelical Protestants (also more than any other demographic) believe that “true American patriots might have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”
In light of this, history offers us another lesson, one that we should all give some thought to. What allows rhetoric to devolve into violence is when too many people say nothing. When people shrug their shoulders at escalating rhetoric and threats of violence. When they respond to incidents like the January 6 attack on the Capitol with phrases like, “Well I don’t condone violence, but…” When they prefer to keep their heads down and stay quiet to avoid potential conflict. When they deny the seriousness of the situation, until it’s too late.”
Listen to my 2020 interview with Kristin Du Mez here:
Read my review of Jesus & John Wayne, and buy the book at my affiliate Bookshop.org store:
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