Sam interviews Dr. Thomas Lecaque about apocalyptic Christianity, the GOP in 2022 and the medieval roots of support for secular fascists like Trump from Christian Nationalists. Read his recent articles Patriot Front and the Next Stage of the Culture War, “Jesus, guns, babies”: Religious violence is now at the core of the Republican Party, and this piece from 2019 in The Washington Post: The apocalyptic myth that helps explain evangelical support for Trump.
Also mentioned in this episode:
Gospel According to the Klan by Kelly Baker
Check out the latest statement at riseup4abortionrights.org: The Overturning of Abortion Rights Is ILLEGITIMATE! This Decision Must Not Stand. Into the Streets to Demand: The Federal Government Must Restore NATIONWIDE LEGAL ABORTION NOW!
Music for this episode: Penny the Snitch by Ikebe Shakedown
Episode 118 Refuse Fascism
Mon, 7/11 7:26AM • 49:45
Dr. Thomas Lecaque 00:00
The level of atrocities that are coming through the Supreme Court is one of those things that I am starting to lose track of because everything is so awful. Things that they are passing are designed to kill people. The cost is staggering and it has to be fought. It has to be fought every single day in whatever ways that you can. The moral arc of the universe, if such a thing exists, is long and we have to bend it. You have to reach up and grab it with both hands, and however small a nudge we can make in our own lives all of us together have to grab it. We have to bend it towards justice, not just once, but every day, every year, every generation over and over and over and over again.
Sam Goldman 00:35
Welcome to Episode 118 of the Refuse Fascism podcast, a podcast brought to you by volunteers with Refuse Fascism. I’m Sam Goldman, one of those volunteers and host of the show. Refuse Fascism exposes, analyzes, and stands against the very real danger and threat of fascism coming to power in the United States. Thanks to everyone who goes the extra step and rates and reviews on Apple podcast, shares comments on social media or YouTube to help us reach more listeners — and we read every one. So after listening, go help us find more people who want to refuse fascism by sharing and commenting on social media, rating and reviewing on Apple podcasts or your platform of choice. In today’s show, we’re sharing an interview with Dr. Thomas Lecaque, focusing on Christian theocracy, violence and what we should learn from the Crusades.
Sam Goldman 01:59
To start today’s show, I want to give a shout out to people who took to the streets on July 4th in over 50 cities under the banner “July 4th — July farce. If women are not free, no one is free. Legal abortion nationwide now.” I want to shout out all those who took to the streets again this Saturday, July 9th nationwide, raising the demand “Legal abortion nationwide now”, especially those who brought this demand straight to the White House. In an action organized by the Women’s March, people tied green bandanas to the White House fence. These bandanas read “bans off our bodies,” and they held a sit-in. My voice is a bit raw from chanting “Democrats we call your bluff, voting blue is not enough. Legal abortion now.” Last but certainly not least, I want to shout out the four courageous women in Los Angeles who chained themselves to City Hall, held up the green bandana, wore bloody pants and poured blood down the steps of City Hall because when abortion is illegal, it’s deadly. To see photos and video and learn more, see RiseUp4AbortionRights on Instagram.
Sam Goldman 03:08
Before turning to our interview, I want to speak briefly to the executive order Biden issued this past Friday. As Greg Sargent noted in the Washington Post: “Buried in the order are provisions that hint at looming troubles in our evolving national battle over abortion. It’s a story in which red states pursue women seeking abortions across state lines, which may become common in our brave new post-Roe world.” The danger at the moment cannot be overstated. We need to look at where this is headed if we don’t act. The fact that Biden went from stating: “The only way we can secure a woman’s right to choose and the balance that existed is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade as federal law. No executive action from the president can do that,” the day after Roe is overturned to Friday’s executive order in just two weeks shows that our rage, our mobilization, our relentless determination matters. It’s why I feel that now is the time to push with everything we’ve got for the codification of abortion rights across this land. And let’s be real, it would be unconscionable to rest content with what’s in Biden’s executive order. Anything short of the full restoration of legal abortion across this entire country is unacceptable. It’s why I feel that now is the time to raise our voices in the streets for the girls who have been forced to travel out of state for abortions in order to avoid being forced to have their rapist’s baby, and for the women who saved every last penny to get to a clinic only to arrive at shuttered doors. We must do this because lives are endangered, futures are closed and women are reduced to incubators anywhere effects all of us everywhere. One of the co-initiators of Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, Sunsara Taylor, had said immediately following Biden’s Executive Order, something that I thought really resonated that I wanted to share, she wrote: “Biden used the signing of his feeble executive order as an opportunity to lecture women to vote November. Relying on voting for the Democrats who continue to capitulate to fascists got us into this atrocity. We need to be in the streets rising up now to compel those in power to restore legal abortion rights nationwide, now.” This assault on abortion rights is a battering ram and linchpin of a whole fascist program. What do I mean when I talk about fascism? Well, as we discuss on our website, RefuseFascism.org: Fascism is a qualitative change in how society is governed. Fascism foments and relies on xenophobic nationalism, racism, misogyny, and the aggressive reinstitution of oppressive “traditional values.” Fascist mobs and threats of violence are unleashed to build the movement and consolidate power. What is crucial to understand is that once in power, fascism essentially eliminates traditional democratic rights. Fascism has direction and momentum, dissent is piece by piece criminalized, the truth bludgeoned. Group after group is demonized and targeted along a trajectory that leads to real horrors. This American fascism is the one on our show we seek to expose, analyze and stand against. Now, here is my interview with Dr. Lecaque.
Sam Goldman 06:47
I am excited to get the opportunity to speak with and for you to hear from Dr. Thomas Lecaque. He is an associate professor of history at Grandview University in Des Moines, Iowa. His work focuses on the nexus of apocalyptic religion, religious violence and politics from the Crusades to the contemporary era. Unfortunately, his work is becoming increasingly relevant. So welcome, Dr. Lecaque.
Sam Goldman 07:15
Thank you so very much for having me.
Sam Goldman 07:18
Let’s start with the 7th century myth. In 2019, you wrote a Washington Post article about the 7th century myth of the Last World Ember, which helped explain the Christian fascist movements — you probably would use a different word — support for the notoriously secular, though still patriarchal fascist, Trump. I was hoping that you could talk a little bit about that myth, how we should understand it and how it influenced the Crusades and how much of that myth is still at play for what I call the Christian fascist movement, what you might call the Christian nationalist movement, in the United States now that Trump is out of office and continuing to try to claw his way back in, whether it’s through his own being or his series of protégés.
Dr. Thomas Lecaque 08:05
I don’t think any medievalist likes feeling relevant to the contemporary moment. Maybe there are some who do. There are medievalists who study really happy things and I think that sounds so cool. Crusade historians, by and large, hate being relevant to the contemporary moment, because what we study is awful and anytime it intersects with the present, it’s worse. So the legend of the Last World Emperor is one of the many strands of Christian Apocalypticism that never quite goes away. Christianity is an apocalyptic religion. The idea of a second coming is bedrock in Christianity, and it leads to the end of the world. When I think about the end of the world, when, I think, most people think about the world, we might think about nuclear bombs falling, and then it’s the post apocalyptic wasteland, or, if you happen to have really been going to the movies that summer in the 90s, you’re either thinking a comet or an asteroid, depending on if you’re an Armageddon or a Deep Impact fan. Nowadays, it zombies. For me it’s always the levees breaking for Hurricane Katrina; that’s how I pictured the end of the world coming. In the Middle Ages and in Christianity in general, the apocalypse is hopeful. The Apocalypse is not something to be feared, the apocalypse is something to be anticipated eagerly, because it’s the end of this world and the coming of the kingdom of heaven. The legend of the Last World Emperor originates in an apocalyptic sermon by an author we call the pseudo-Methodius. We call him the pseudo Methodius because he’s not Methodious. He takes the name of a previous saint and writes in it, but he’s very much not that guy who’s been dead for centuries at that point. It’s written sometime in 685-690 AD after the Muslim conquest of the Middle East. It is a story prophesying a Byzantine, a Roman king who could lead a successful war against the forces of Islam and establish a new era of peace. There would be this kind of calm spell for a decade or so, at which point the forces of Gog and Magog, who are these kinds of giant monstrous figures that appear in a bunch of apocryphal literature, would attack, and instead of setting out to resist them, he would travel to Mount Golgotha to lay down his crown, fulfilling the prophecy of Daniel, and setting the stage for the second coming in the final apocalyptic battle between good and evil. Now, the Last World Emperor demands a secular hero. It takes a king and puts them directly into salvific history, you need this secular figure, to come and be your apocalyptic hero. In the Middle Ages, and I think even to the present, almost all of these secular heroes are based on the model of King David. As with many Bible stories, we really like the warm and fuzzy ones, so we love the idea that David’s just the shepherd and he’s playing a lute, and then he kills Goliath with the sling. Then we kind of fast forward through everything else that happens. We neglect the rape of Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. We neglect the fact that David pays for that. Because his sons rebel against him and despite his attempt to have his son spared, his son is killed and then is forced to survive and rule anyway, and he does wiser, sadder, still the beloved of God but properly chastised for his crimes. The flawed secular hero is an important model of this, and the sexual impurity aspect is an important part of this model. So this story gets translated into Greek, gets translated to Latin, it becomes a big deal. There are other versions that take this and riff off of it. In Western Europe, this becomes a Frankish King — you don’t necessarily want to be fully Roman, because you’re not really Romans anymore. Who’s going to unite Christendom before retiring to Jerusalem at the arrival of the Antichrist? Again, pure apocalyptic battle. Charlemagne, who attempts to rebuild the Western Roman Empire, becomes the model for this for centuries, despite pervasive rumors that he is sleeping with his daughters or his sister, which just become kind of pop culture rumors, but enough that his biographer has said there are all kinds of rumors floating around, and they’re not true. If your biographer has to say that, that’s a bad sign. The German Emperor Otto the Third, in year 1000 claims this; people on the First Crusade claimed this in 1096; Charles the 5th of Spain does this. It informs the thinking of Christopher Columbus. We usually kind of neglect his writings, but he writes a book of prophecies and he depicts Ferdinand and Isabella in the kind of dual role of the last world emperor. It doesn’t really go away. These kinds of apocalyptic legends stick around. Trump is a very flawed secular figure, and yet people keep ignoring or even embracing his flaws because of what they believe he will give them. And unfortunately, I think with the Supreme Court’s decisions last month, we can see why they’d be willing to overlook it, because this is clearly part of God’s plan for the people who are championing the overturning of Roe versus Wade, who are excited about no longer having Miranda rights, who are… The list goes on and on and on and on — the despair is great. But it’s the idea that your flawed secular hero becomes a tool of God. Now, could he be that again in 2024? Sure, but he also doesn’t have to be, because the thing about the last World Emperor is that, oh, well, we were wrong this time. Great, we have a new one, right. This is a plug and play story. You were wrong about who the last World Emperor was, well, maybe it’s this guy, or in some ways, like, you were wrong about who the Antichrist was, maybe it’s this guy. You can always put in the new figure to be part of this apocalyptic legend. So it is a theology for a time of crisis, real or imagined, and the imagined part is very important because Christians are not being persecuted in America. Cisgender people are not being persecuted in America. Heterosexual people, not being persecuted in America. As a white man, white men are not being persecuted in America. As a man, men are not being persecuted in America. This is not real. The only freedom that has been lost is the freedom to oppress, and bless their sweet little hearts, that power has not been lost unfortunately. Would that we could wake up in an America where the right to oppress was actually stripped away, but we’re not there yet. But, it’s the imagined crisis where you have to respect people who are not exactly like you, and you have to treat them as humans who deserve to live and who deserve to exist and who deserve the same rights and freedoms and privileges you have, is apparently a crisis so big that this has to be the end times; as it has always been, for 2000 years running. That’s why the last World Emperor still functions. If you are constantly expecting that these are the End Times, why not latch on to the hope that this is the guy who’s going to tip it over the edge for you.
Sam Goldman 14:33
You can definitely sense now why it would be really, really helpful as a myth. What traction that has and how, right now; those who have that worldview must really feel like they were right. To me that is absolutely horrifying, because there’s the danger of when again — my term, not Dr. Lecaque’s term — but Christian fascists, when they’re delivered a defeat, there’s danger there. People talk about not wanting to upset them, and there’s so much concern about not wanting to upset them and the revenge that they’ll unleash, but what about when they win? What about when they’re delivered a victory? It’s not like they stop; that is like off to the races, here we go! [DTL: Oh god, yes.] Sam Goldman: I want people to sit with that, because I think there’s a lot of illusions that there can be some kind of compromise or a workable framework with these people, and there’s not. As you put it, they have an apocalyptic worldview, and this is what they’re going for. They are going for elimination. Elimination of whole classes of people. You cannot work with people who wish that you did not exist, who wish you were not alive. That really ties nicely to a recent piece that you wrote for Salon, which I read several times — it’s in the show notes, y’all, so definitely be sure to read it. It is Jesus, Guns, Babies. It’s about how religious violence is now at the core of the Republican Party. Just look at the last week, any news story — you can see that it is violence. If you don’t think force first is violence, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. You’re probably not listening to this show. If you don’t think trans erasure is an act of violence, I don’t know. But I think that we’re also seeing more and more from the hearings themselves, which I don’t think we’re a central part of it. You alluded to Boebert’s involvement, but it wasn’t about the hearings itself, but you look at that, and that is violence in a different way, and still violence. There were two questions I had off of that piece. I’ll start with the big one. You wrote, “As with so many aspects of contemporary Christian nationalism, give the line people can not along to and hold back the violent context.” In that, you’re talking about a prayer for the death of the President that Lauren Boebert made, and you go on to say that it has become normal for the Republican Party to talk about in this way; wishing the use of prayer as a wish for death, without saying all of it. So: I didn’t really mean that. I didn’t really say that. But you did. I was wondering if you could just talk a little bit more about why you think that is important. Why it’s important for them. But why it’s important for us as well to recognize what’s going on here.
Dr. Thomas Lecaque 17:35
Yeah, absolutely. This is Nixon’s version of the Southern strategy, right. This is simply taking exactly what you think he’s saying, but just moderating the tone enough that you are not screaming out the racism, you’re just dog whistling. So you always have plausible deniability, and the people who believe things implicitly, really believe it in their heart of hearts, but want to come across as nice and polite and genteel, never get put in a situation where you have to defend someone saying it out loud. I think this carries on nicely with Stormfront, the neo-Nazi groups’ tactics for the internet, where you turn Nazi propaganda into jokes and memes. So, you always have that kind of line of plausible deniability. Are you serious? Are you joking? Ha, ha, ha, ha. While normalizing this kind of rhetoric, right. This is an ongoing problem with meme-ification where you say and advocate genuinely horrifying things, but because it’s a meme, you’re like: Are they serious? Are they joking? We’re not going to take down this post. We’re not going to press criminal charges. We’re just going to let it stand.
Sam Goldman 18:36
Not to interrupt, but is that part of what’s at play with TikTok?
Dr. Thomas Lecaque 18:39
Oh, I think so. I think there’s a good deal of that on TikTok, and people who are very savvy with the algorithms, managing to not just skirt the line, but pole vault over the line, because they know what they can and cannot say to get caught by the moderation policies and what they can get away with. I think that we are fundamentally unprepared for how savvy people actually are about using their apps, and how easy it is to get around moderation policies. Anyone who’s ever been on Twitter and reported something that was very clearly a call for violence, and then immediately gotten Twitter’s reply back — like this doesn’t violate our policies — knows the feeling very well. But this is true everywhere, that there are keywords that you avoid, and all of a sudden, you can do almost anything you want on the internet. Now, the thing I think with the use of Psalm 1098, is that I think people really fall for the schtick that a lot of politicians use to seem like they are not threatening. I see this often when people are discussing Lauren Boebert or Marjorie Taylor Greene. This was George W. Bush, that: Oh, these people are uneducated and they don’t know what they’re saying, and let’s laugh at their gaffes, while they are building in actual power. Like this was George W. Bush’s: I’m just a good old boy from Texas with a Connecticut boarding school pedigree, but okay, sure, whatever. He’s just folksy and charming. Let’s ignore literally everything about his background and the fact that however much we may laugh at his gaffes, his administration is building unprecedented war powers, and then took us into war in two countries and botched the response to Hurricane Katrina, and we could go on at enormous length, right. On Marjorie Taylor Greene platforms, there are the farthest right possible ideas, and we’re laughing about “peach tree dishes” because she deliberately makes gaffes so that everyone spreads these clips of her saying really scary things and then we laugh about them. Instead folks saying: Oh, hey, this is an elected official of Congress who is saying these really scary things. Lauren Boebert is not dumb. Lauren Boebert knows exactly what she’s doing. Lauren Boboert is very well aware of how to use the Bible and religious rhetoric and religious language, and she’s not making gaffes. We take these clips that get spread through social media, and they go viral, and we discuss them, and we laugh about them. It’s exactly what she wants. If you look at them in context, she knows exactly the theology she’s promoting. She knows how to play to a crowd. She knows how to use religious rhetoric. She is selling Christian nationalist ideas. And while we’re all laughing and promoting them, everyone else hears what she’s doing. “1098 May his days be few and another take his office” is a great one, because you’re just leaving out the second half of it. We’re all laughing. David Perdue of Georgia invoked death against Obama in 2016. It became an anti-Obama slogan on bumper stickers. But 1098 reads “Let his children be fatherless and his wife, a widow.” This is a prayer for death, and people read the Bible, right? I think we live in this weird world like: Oh, let’s just like with verse of the day app, it’s going to decontextualize things. Great. And if all you’re doing is listening to the words she’s saying, and not considering context, great. It’s like: Oh, man, that’s just kind of rude. People actually read the Bible. People know what the next line is. People know that this is the second half of it, and we’re all laughing along, and it’s all funny. We’re all very amused by the idea that Jesus was killed because the government took his AR-15s away. Obviously, the people in that room know that the crucifixion is necessary for the resurrection of Christian theology, and that’s what they’re waiting for the Second Coming for. That’s not the point. The point is that a Christian society is an armed society, and that’s scary. We’re laughing, and we should possibly stop laughing and stop mocking and start listening to what they’re saying, because they’re shouting at us.
Sam Goldman 22:11
They’re shouting it again and again and again, and if we’re honest, they’ve been doing it for decades. [DTL: Yes] Now it is at such a volume that you can ignore, but because people haven’t been listening, it’s been normalized, and people don’t even hear it, or if they hear it, it’s somehow minimized in the ways that you were talking about the laughing at the buffoonery — and this was true for Trump, too — and negating the danger posed. As if people cannot be both buffoons and extremely dangerous. As if people cannot be folksy and theocrats. You can actually do both, and they have, and they are, and they’re getting better at it. I think also there is just a little bit of misogyny in there, in that undercutting the danger posed by Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene — they’re just the crazy women, you know. Instead of like, no, no, they’re pretty serious, dangerous women. That’s just my two cents.
Dr. Thomas Lecaque 23:15
I think you’re absolutely [right]. You know, the kind of gross attacks on Boebert that Occupy Democrats were pushing out — gross, misogynistic, completely unsupported by any data, and people went along with it to a staggering degree. It’s like, oh, no, this is the problem, right. You understand that when you’re sharing crap like this, you are also the bad guy, but we simply — I do not count myself in the we, but lots of people simply — went along with this, and it’s the same thing: We’re simply going to ignore the possibility that they are both serious and good at what they’re doing. Because that does not fit the narrative we want. We feel very comfortable with, treating Mike Pompeo or Bill Barr very seriously when they spread Christian nationalist rhetoric, when they’re spreading the same kind of Christian nationalist rhetoric using the same kind of language and the same kind of gaslighting, this is a serious threat, but when the women who are coming out of rural communities do it, suddenly, it’s a joke. We do not have time to grapple with all of society’s problems, but it’s just something that every time it happens, you want to shake people [SG: mmhmm], because who we’ve decided is valuable and who we’ve decided matters and who we’ve decided we need to take seriously has all the problems that everything else in society has. They know what they’re doing. They’re really good at it. We’re really bad at dealing with it. That’s an “us” problem, unfortunately.
Sam Goldman 24:27
I agree, and that the “us” is big and varied, and that’s important to recognize too. People in this country have a lot of issues, but one of them is there is a lot of populist epistemology in this country, and if it’s out there and people that I know are spreading something, it must be true therefore I’ll spread it too. I think that’s extremely dangerous. It’s just as dangerous on the “left” as it is on the right, in that way; in the the lack of wanting to find evidence for truth, let alone importance. There was another aspect of your piece in the Jesus guns and babies — that comes from a slogan from a Georgia GOP primary candidate, for the governor’s race and — you use this to make a larger point about the GOP. It was a ridiculous slogan on one level, and yet, this Kandiss Taylor lost her election. So I was wondering if you could talk about why it encapsulates so much more of the essence of the GOP these days, that Jesus, guns, babies?
Dr. Thomas Lecaque 25:33
It’s the big tour bus, right. It’s the picture of Kandiss Taylor with her giant tour bus that says Jesus Guns Babies on it that we laughed at. By “we,” I mean just the internet. The internet thought this was hilarious, which makes no sense why it was hilarious, she’s just saying the quiet part out loud. Every aspect of her campaign was marked by her saying even more things that you would think you’d want to keep quiet, screaming them through a bullhorn. She told followers to pray for good sheriffs, that corrupt ones would be executed for treason, and pushed kind of the constitutional Sheriff doctrine, which is extremist and legally completely unfounded — the idea that sheriffs are arbiters of what the law is in their counties, not enforcers of it. They get to decide what the law is, they don’t just have to enforce the law, which is terrifying. She said at a campaign rally, we’re gonna do a political rally, we’re going to honor Jesus, we’re not gonna tell separation of church and state. We are the church, we run the state, and everyone’s like, man, this is crazy. How many times have we heard that in the last month, up to the Supreme Court? Sure, she’s the crazy one. Sure, that makes sense. Now, of course, she also called Governor Brian Kemp’s administration a Luciferian regime. Too bad that idea is just percolating through far right circles. That’s not her, that’s everywhere in QAnon and far right circles right now. She said she’d release an executive order against the satanic elites — QAnon vowed to tear down the satanic Georgia Guidestones, which were bombed this week and are gone. So yes, you’re losing candidate can say things like that, and then here you are. She championed the genocide of indigenous peoples in this country. She said the First Amendment right, which is our right to worship Jesus freely, that’s why we have a country, that’s why we have Georgia…that’s why we had our founding fathers come over here and destroy American Indians’ homes and their land. They took it. We shouldn’t be surprised, because America is literally built on the genocide of indigenous people, but usually people shut up about it. At best, of course, we don’t expect that anymore, because we are going back — in the fall, they’re going to visit the Indian Child Welfare Act is going to be revisited by the Supreme Court. I mean, the level of atrocities that are coming through the Supreme Court is one of those things that I am starting to lose track of, because everything is so awful, but I think that’s on the docket for the fall. And, of course, when Kandiss Taylor lost, she refused to concede the election because that’s now become standard. But the Jesus is the end of the separation of church and state, because these are Christian nationalists and what they want as a Christian nation, and they mean that not in a warm and fuzzy, informed kind of sense; they mean that in terms of the theocracy. What’s always fascinating about this is that they’re not very good at specifying which version of Christianity they mean, and the First Amendment is very important that the freedom of religion is also the freedom to not have one protestant denomination take over because the people writing this, who were not Puritans, did not want Puritans ruling anything. If you’ve looked into British colonial history at all, there’s a reason they don’t want Puritans running anything if they’re not Puritans. No one wants the Quakers to take over and build a Quaker Bay State — which is too bad on a number of levels. People are terrified of the Catholics. America is built on anti-Catholic sentiment; it’s there, it’s bedrock, it’s bad. Maybe the justices in the Supreme Court should think about that, the ones who are Catholic, who are happy handing it over, because that’s not going to go well for anyone. You’re building a series of alliances on the idea that there’s a unified Christianity. I would ask the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to contemplate the fact that in Missouri they didn’t repeal the law allowing you to murder Mormons in Missouri until like the seventies. Things have changed in America but we can all remember when the denomination of presidential candidates was something that was used specifically to attack them. JFK Jr. or JFK — JFK Jr. is the QAnon thing — we’re never going to speak about that. Let’s move on and pretend those people are gonna go home someday. JFK was accused of being like a Papist plant. Mitt Romney and the nomination attacks on his LDS background were standard fare. I grew up in a town where I knew people who talked about that there are the Christians and then there are the Catholics as two separate things. But, fine, they’re gonna blur those lines and that’s a problem for them if they win, we’ll all be dead by that point, that won’t be our problem, I wish the misery. That’s the Jesus part. The guns part, the guns part is everywhere. I don’t even know what to say about the guns part. The guns part is the news. I’ve written too many pieces about it. I’m working on another one. Anytime you turn on the news, there’s another mass shooting and all we’re gonna get is thoughts and prayers — pure despair fodder. The babies part is interesting, especially right now. I wrote about how the dreams of a forced birth legislation are everywhere in it and have a whole host of different ideological backings, but it’s just getting worse. For me, I read it in the context of the great replacement theory, this kind of horrific conspiracy theory that is cited in multiple mass shootings — the idea that non-white people are being brought into western countries to replace white voters with a specific political agenda of supposedly leading to the extinction of white people, which makes no sense, but whatever. Why would you make sense when you can fuel racism and xenophobia straight into a murderous frenzy that leads to multiple mass shootings; Buffalo, El Paso, Pittsburgh, Christchurch? Forced birth laws are also part of this. You have movements like Quiverfull, that are pushing not only female submission to husbands and fathers, deeply in the Christian patriot movement, but really pushing having the maximum number of children possible. These are all part and parcel, and the problem is that there are so many things going on simultaneously that we lose track, not only of what’s happening now, but we never quite have time to see how they’re all interconnected.
Sam Goldman 30:50
Yeah, I think that’s part of the idea. [DTL: yeah] If it all happens, all at once, there’s the paralysis — there’s the belief that you can’t understand it all. I think that you can, if you look for the theme that undergirds the different phenomena. The theme here is theocracy. There’s commonality between many of these things in that it serves this purpose. That can help us understand each of those individually as well. We touched on this a little bit before, but now that the right to abortion has been revoked by the highest court in the land and states that are dominated by fascists are now not only criminalizing the procedure, criminalizing those who perform the procedure, moving to criminalize women themselves who induce their own abortion or have a miscarriage, I was wondering what you see the Christian fascist movement focusing on. Where do they go from here?
Dr. Thomas Lecaque 31:45
Historians make really, really, really bad prophets. I don’t know which of the many horrific places we’re going next. I worry that we’re gonna get more things like the Texas GOP official platform, where individual states now go very aggressively all in on this notion as part of their platform. The Texas GOP laid out principles — if you have not read this document, and you want to stop sleeping at night, this is a great way to go… or just never sleep again. The sanctity of innocent human life created in the image of God, which we equally protect from fertilization to natural death is in their platform from the bedrock in their section on abortion and healthcare. The Texas GOP actually makes an excellent traumatic read when you’re thinking about all the ways they could go. They say that self-sufficient families founded on the traditional marriage of a natural man and a natural woman, is part of their platform. So you have questions about traditional families and traditional marriage but natural man and natural woman, so you’re managing to attack Obergefell and also managing to put in transphobic language into a single sentence. Well-played, Texas GOP. How low can you go line after line? Well-played. We support prayer, the Bible in the Ten Commandments being returned to our schools, courthouses and other government buildings. These are just the first five pages. I have a list of examples. I have a piece coming out in Dame magazine next week.
Sam Goldman 33:03
And Biden is not President?
Dr. Thomas Lecaque 33:05
Oh, god, yeah. There’s that — full blown big lie. They literally have a passage attacking drag queen story hours. In here, by name, they call for passage of a law more comprehensive than the Florida law that prohibits instruction in sexual orientation and gender identity in school. They saw the “don’t say gay” law, and thought: “That doesn’t go far enough.” They have an entire section attacking homosexuality and gender identity issues, that opens the line that homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice. This is the official platform of the Texas Republican Party. So, I don’t know where the Supreme Court is going next. There are so many places, all of them are horrifying, but I think the problem is we expect it to just be one place, and then we’re always surprised that they go everywhere all at once. That’s the thing, is that we’re in a place where we are waiting for Dobbs versus Jackson and we are terrified of what is going to be and in the lead-up to that we also get the destruction of your rights against kind of police invasion. We get the crumbling of the walls between church and state. It’s all of the things, all at once. And it is a relentless assault, because we are trying to analyze things one at a time and try to really understand, and before we finish analyzing the last horror show, six new ones have happened, because they’re just so many different facets of this. They don’t necessarily all work together perfectly. I don’t think by and large, most of the people who are part of Patriot Front are the people who are invited to Sunday brunch while you’re discussing how to dismantle Obergefell, but they’re going to be very happy to allow Patriot Front to continue attacking pride events while they’re destroying the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals to exist in America. We have a hard time with the fact that whether or not they’re directly connected, they see everything we’re seeing and they nod and they get back to work. That’s the part that we’re having a hard time with, that there’s just too much to stop any of it effectively because we’re still shocked, right. I think that’s the problem, that we’re still surprised every single time it happens, we’re still surprised. How could you do this? I thought this was settled. This isn’t America, which is my least favorite refrain because this is America. This has always been America. Every podcast I do, I try to shout out Kelly Baker’s brilliant book, The Gospel According to the Klan, my favorite book on American history, where she starts with a premise: What if you take the religious rhetoric of the second Klan seriously? It’s a brilliant book. I mean, it’s on my shelf, it’s such a brilliant book. It’s right here, it never leaves. This is a book everyone should read. Because these are people who are really excited about the idea: What if we could go back to the 20s. We’re like: The 20s, the Jazz age. They’re like: The 20s, fascism! Whoo. Yeah, you have your people with your white hoods, you don’t need a new clan, you still have a clan. It’s the third Klan, but like it’s still percolating around. But every time I see Patriot Front marching and Proud Boys marching and the Oathkeepers, and the Three Percenters and the Klan marching, it’s like, okay, you’re really excited about this. And we’re really focused on this. The horror show of the 20s and 30s is that every picture you see of the long running domestic terrorism campaign to murder African Americans in the South, every picture is an entire town of white people in their Sunday best showing up to a lynching. You don’t need the Klan to bomb the Black community in Tulsa, because the entire damn town shows up to do it. We like to sweep that shit under the rug and pretend it’s all about the Klan, the Klan’s gone now. Or it’s the Klan, but they’re all like backwoods yokels that we don’t have to take seriously, like Marjorie Taylor Greene. Well, no, it’s a bunch of middle class dentists in all 50 states in a bunch of provinces in Canada, and they have money and they have status and they had kind of social appeal at the time. They also want to murder some elements of America, everyone knows this and everyone nods along with it. That’s the kind of stuff that terrifies me, that this the vision that they want. This is the vision of the past that they’re nostalgic for. What they want is Jim Crow laws, and then to expand that out to even bigger swathe. How many groups can you persecute simultaneously? What if we persecute all of them? The part that’s always fascinated me is that everyone’s like: Oh, this is Gilead. Well, listen, Gilead is fiction, based on all of these historic events that actually happened. They just didn’t happen for white folk. The obsession with using The Handmaid’s Tale as kind of our model for how we think about what’s happening now pisses me off. I’ve taught The Handmaid’s Tale repeatedly, because it makes a good kind of gateway to talk about history, but these are real things that happen to marginalized communities. It’s going to happen to those same marginalized communities again before it gets to us. We’re just finally paying attention to it, but we should have been paying attention to it all along.
Sam Goldman 37:45
My two cents is I think that’s part of what makes it powerful is that everything came from somewhere. I think that that was he intent. I also think that some of the decrying that is done obscures what was in the book, and what did happen to people of color, and they didn’t have the same fate. So there’s what we feel and there’s other things that are there, too. So that is my thought. The biggest lesson I think of the book is that you need to act before it becomes too late. And that is the part that gets obscured. That is the part that isn’t talked about. I think that if that was more of the conversation — if the conversation was more about when do we act and what are the lessons that we’ve learned from all of these examples? It’s like the boiling in the bathtub. That is what is now and I think that that is the part that is relevant. While as many of it, it didn’t exist in the real world, and most importantly, it’s happening now. It’s happening now in the real world, to real people, real people that are being declared as having no value other than being an incubator. I think that is where people are really reckoning with because people continue to be like: We’re just gonna keep going about life as normal, and normal is so gone, baby. It’s so gone. If you thought that was something worth getting back, then we should try, because I don’t think it was. But even if you wanted it, it’s not coming back. Given that situation, how do we carve out a world of possibility in that and I think that that is a question that different people can have different views on. But right now, that is a conversation worth having, because I don’t know how we’re going to get free if we don’t.
Dr. Thomas Lecaque 39:37
Do you ever read the epilogue of the book where it’s a historical conference a century after the events? [SG: Yeah] When you read that you’re like: Oh, this is why historians get so mad any time it’s like history is going to judge them. Not gonna help us, not gonna help us. I hope that they’re historians like 200 years from now talking about what a gigantic mess the early 21st century was in America, and like, man, that was some weird stuff. That would be great for them — doesn’t help us. It doesn’t make anything better.
Sam Goldman 39:37
Also, with what we face now, there may not be future generations on this planet.
Dr. Thomas Lecaque 40:10
The University of Nunaved is doing it…we’ll see what the earth is like in a decade, let alone a hundred years from now.
Sam Goldman 40:17
It’s the other one, like: No. I want judges to judge them now in court. [DTL: YES!] So I wanted to close out with if there’s anything that we don’t know, but need to know, for the sake of truth, the historic record about maybe the Crusades or something else that we didn’t talk about that you want to make sure that you have the opportunity. Any of those things that impact world politics, and Christian nationalist ideology today.
Dr. Thomas Lecaque 40:44
On the briefest note, the Crusades were bad and the Crusaders were by and large bad people, and wanting to emulate the Crusaders. It’s not a red flag; it’s a giant red billboard like: Run from this, this is a terrible idea. They’re fascinating, they’re important to understand, they’re important because their ideology spreads and continues and carries on, but these are not good people. These are not people who we should want to make our heroes. That’s a conversation that I could go on with endlessly. I like to end conversations like this with a silver lining of hope. I don’t know how to fix things. Again, I’m a historian, and by and large, I study bad things. And so like solutions are not a thing that I’m great at, but the things that are happening now are new. History does not repeat itself. It’s just that people don’t change nearly as quickly as technology does, and so the constant grasping attempt by a minority population to hold on to power, no matter the cost in lives — literally the cost in lives — the things that they are passing are designed to kill people. The bills that are being passed and state legislatures across the country, especially the anti-trans bills, are not designed to protect. They are literally designed to make trans people die. They are monstrous, and every assault that we see is going to kill people. What we see over and over and over again, is that you have minoritarian rule that desperately tries to cling on power at all costs. The body count is horrific, and they fall at the end. And that’s not hope in a warm and fuzzy way because the cost is staggering. The cost is staggering. It has to be fought. It has to be fought every single day in whatever ways that you can. I think we really love the kind of TV shows where everything’s the Rebel Alliance, right. I love Rogue One. Rebellions are built on hope. Yes, rebellions are built on hope. Lives are built on hope. We get out of bed in the morning, because we have hope that today will be better than the day before, or that we can try to make today a better day than the day before, and you just have to hold on to that, no matter what. Because what they want is despair. What they want is the belief that it’s over and that you can’t change it. And this is simply the way it is and the way it will always be until the end of time. They always fall in the end. It’s why it’s always about to be the end times and it never actually gets there, because no matter how desperately they want this to be the final kingdom, it’s not there. Even if they got their wish, I have to believe that based on everything I’ve read in the Bible, Jesus will descend and ask them: What the fuck have you been doing? I don’t know how to fix things. I teach, and I try to impart a little bit of wisdom and a little bit of hope in the classroom. I write and I try to inform a little bit about some of the weird stuff that I see going on and how it connects to other stuff. I don’t know how to fix things, but I know that what you have to do is you have to find whatever it is in this life that means enough to you to keep taking those steps forward and to keep fighting and whoever and whatever that thing or person or place or moment or belief whatever it is, you latch onto that. My favorite historical figure is not a figure from the Middle Ages. My favorite historical figure is Theodore Parker. We love Theodore Parker because he gets quoted out of context by Martin Luther King Jr. and Obama who loved the idea that the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. Theodore Parker believed that you bend it towards justice. You don’t wait, you don’t sit around. He formed committees to violate the law to make sure that escaped enslaved people got the fuck out of Boston before slave catchers could catch up with them and kept going. He funded John Brown’s raid as one of the secret six, and then defended it afterwards. The moral arc of the Universe, if such a thing exists, is long and we, we have to bend it. We have to reach up and grab it with both hands, and however small a nudge we can make in our own lives, all of us together have to grab it. We have to bend it towards justice — not just once, but every day, every year, every generation, over and over and over and over again.
Sam Goldman 44:30
Thank you so much, Dr. Lecaque, for sharing your perspective, your insight and your expertise with us. And for people that want to read more from you, should they follow you on Twitter? What should they do?
Dr. Thomas Lecaque 44:44
Following me on Twitter is an easy way if you want to be exposed also to my my ramblings, not all of the topics. If all you want are to read the pieces I write without any of the commentary, I exist on LinkedIn. It’s the clean version of everything else.
Sam Goldman 44:57
Thank you so much and folks can check links to those in the show notes.
Sam Goldman 45:02
The subjugation of women is essential to the Christian fascists being all but ruptured into power by the compounding crises of the American empire. This is an enormous, intensely pressurized fault-line in the transformation of society that they seek. Even with all their internal contradictions, the horrors they have constructed in their various insular communities, from Amy Coney Barrett’s handmaiden cult to the patriarchal megachurches, from the hippie traditionalists to the Proud Boys, western male chauvinism, all the way to Trump’s crude consumption of women as objects, they seek to violently impose on all of society. Now, despite being voted out through unprecedented numbers, they have been given a mandate by the Supreme Court to violently enforce their will. And they have been positioned in state houses across the country to exercise this as well. With the weight of this, they are attempting to and succeeding in pushing it as much of their white supremacist, anti-LGBTQ, xenophobia through behind this Dobbs decision. When we talk about the overturning of Roe, we are talking about the lives of millions of individual women and girls, as well as trans men and non-binary people who can become pregnant. We’re talking about whether a full half of society, women, will be openly and increasingly dominated by the other half. On the one hand, this is crushing, and at the same time, under that crushing weight, cracks are opening in the facade of this whole fascist onslaught. And, in my opinion, of this whole capitalist imperialist system. This is a historic moment. If they are able to succeed in this moment, it will be a truly historic defeat for the people of this country and of the world. It is a historic moment. But history is not yet written and if we are able to flip the switch on even a significant fraction of the people who do not want this to go down, who are being jolted awake to un-ignorable realities, but I’ve yet to realize that they are the force that can change the course of history. We could drop the full weight of this nightmare back on the Christian fascists, but only if we transform the vast, endless sea of despair and anxiety and impotent rage into action in the streets to shut this country down. With that, I want to thank you for listening to Refuse Fascism.
Sam Goldman 47:57
I want to hear from you. Share your thoughts, your questions, ideas for topics or guests, or lend a skill. Tweet me at @SamBGoldman, or you can drop me a line at [email protected] or leave me a voicemail by visiting anchor.fm/refuse-fascism and clicking the message button there. Want to support the show? It’s simple. Show us some love by rating and reviewing on Apple podcasts, or your listening platform of choice. And of course, follow/subscribe so you never miss an episode. Chip in to support our pod and content creation to help people understand and act to stop fascist threat. You can donate by visiting RefuseFascism.org and hitting that donate button. Thanks to Richie Marini, Lina Thorne and Mark Tinkleman who produced this episode. Thanks to incredible volunteers, we have transcripts available for each episode, so be sure to head on over to RefuseFascism.org and sign up to get them in your inbox each week. We’ll be back next Sunday. Until then, in the name of humanity, we refuse to accept a fascist America.