I write and speak about the dangers of the growing Christian Nationalist movement in America especially as it relates to antisemitic activity. The comments I receive about my alarm are often dismissive and indifferent—“Nothing to worry about here,” they say. “Just another hyped up and paranoid fringe group of lunatics that will fade into oblivion,” they say. “A movement with no consequence or threat,” they say.
On the contrary, I’m of the belief that the kind of antisemitic Christian nationalism expanding around us is a tinder box waiting to be ignited, and when it is—when the tipping point comes— the movement may well follow the historical pattern of Christian nationalists and respond with violence against American Jews.
Charles R. Gallagher, Associate Professor of History at Boston College, shares this conviction. Charles is the author of a fascinating book entitled The Nazis of Copley Square—The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front (Harvard University Press, 2021). I started reading The Nazis of Copley Square over the weekend (Copley Square refers to the Boston neighborhood where the Christian Front was headquartered) and I’m stunned by how little I know about the history of the Christian Front that flourished in Boston in the 1930’s and early 1940’s. The inside cover describes the book this way:
“In the Nazis of Copley Square, Charles Gallagher provides a crucial missing chapter in the history of the American far right. The men of the Christian Front imagined themselves as crusaders fighting for the spiritual purification of the nation, under assault from godless communism, and they were hardly alone in their beliefs. The front traced its origins to vibrant global Catholic theological movements of the early twentieth century, such as the Mystical Body of Christ and Catholic Action. The front’s antisemitism was inspired by Sunday sermons and by lay leaders openly espousing fascist and Nazi beliefs.”
The parallels between the Christian Front and today’s far-right Christian nationalists are eerily similar and the rhetoric fomented by today’s Christian nationalists comes straight from the playbook of the Christian Front. In the end, the religious leaders of the front would inspire Christian mobs to perpetrate violence on Jews living in Boston. Men like Father Charles Coughlin whose hate-filled, Jew-hating radio program, Hour of Power, commanded a weekly listening audience of over 30 million people, and Father Edward Lodge Curran, principal theologian of the Christian Front and president of the International Catholic Truth Society of Brooklyn.
Throughout 1943 under the tutelage of Coughlin and Curran, gangs of Christians roamed the streets of Boston, beastly attacking Jews and spilling their blood. Historian Stephen H. Norwood describes the violence against Jews in Boston at this time as “pervasive.” One writer describes the outbreak against Jews as Boston coming to “flame.” The constant mixing of religious piety with hate-filled antisemitism in church pulpits and Christian antisemitic rallies eventually brought the tipping point that led to Christian violence against Jews—the tinder box ignited.
The following are just a few parallels I found between the Christian Front and today’s Christian nationalists in the opening pages of Gallagher’s (a devout Catholic) book The Nazis of Copley Square.
”Their goal (fronters) was to install in the United States a temporary dictatorship that would eliminate communists and Jews.”
That line sounds all too familiar. The following are just a few quotes from today’s Christian nationalists:
“If you haven’t figured it out yet, the evil we are facing will not give up until we (Christians) take over” (Former National Security Advisor under Donald Trump in a speech at Trump’s National Doral resort in Miami during the Christian Nationalist Reawaken America event in May 2023).
“If Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Jewish woman, didn’t die last year, so that Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic woman, could be appointed to the bench, we would still have Roe V. Wade. Now you tell me this is a Judeo-Christian country…You tell me it doesn’t matter that we have a lot of Jewish people in government…Jews can be here but can’t make our laws” (Devout Catholic Christian Nationalist and political operative Nick Fuentes in a live stream on his website in June 2022).
“Fronters believed firmly in deicide, the idea that Jews had killed Christ, and their leaders moved them from this age-old position toward a distinctly modern and violent blend of antisemitism and anti-Communism.”
Christian Nationalist and keynote speaker at the upcoming August Reawaken America rally in Las Vegas, Pastor Greg Locke, in a May 7th, 2023 sermon at his Global Vision Bible Church in Tennessee stated: “If the Jewish people are really God’s people, then how come all these centuries they’ve had so many problems, and there’s a curse upon them…The religious people (Jews living at the time of Christ) declared a curse on themselves generationally. They said, ‘His blood be on us and our children’s children….And (Jews) have been in punishment and torment because they spoke that curse over themselves.”
“Every member of the Christian front saw the myth of Judeo-Bolshevism as true. The Judeo- Bolshevist idea alleged that, because (secular Jews) held so many positions in Lenin’s original soviets, it was axiomatic that Leninist Communism was a product of global Judaism—which was already suspicious, owing to the deicide. For those on the far right, Lenin, who had some Jewish ancestry had militarized the benign economic ruminations of Marx, also a Jew, for the purpose of installing an atheistic absolutism. Jews had killed the earthly body of Christ before. Now, under the guise of Bolshevism, Jews were persisting in that most horrifying sin by killing Christ’s Mystical Body as well.”
Devout Catholic writer and social media personality E. Michael Jones was invited to be a speaker at the May 2023 conference Hope is Fuel: Catholic on Purpose. Jones is a well-known poisonous antisemite and Holocaust denier with a large Catholic following. In a message to his audience about the upcoming conference Jones talks about his book The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit in which he declares that Jews who have not accepted Jesus are “the Mystical Body of Antichrist.” In January 2023 Jones appeared on Iranian television and called the Holocaust a foundational “myth” of the American “empire”. Jones has accused Jews of being “the main supporters of feminism, homosexuality, transgenderism, and abortion” and says that “abortion is a fundamental Jewish value…a sacrament (and) a way of becoming Jewish.” In speaking of Catholic/Jewish relations Jones says “The Church can have unity or she can have good relations with the Jews, but she can’t have both. In opting for good relations with the Jews, the Church has destroyed Catholic unity and with it any ability the Church might have had to influence the world culture positively.”
Christian Nationalist Rick Wiles, founder of the cable/radio/online outlet “TruNews” and pastor of Flowing Streams Church in Vero Beach, Florida regularly blames Jews on his media outlets for ‘“attacking American Christian culture” and warns Jews that Christians plan to impose a “Christian rule in this country.” Wiles foments things like “A day is coming (when Christians are going to lose their lives as they confront the synagogue of Satan…they (Jews) are coming for you…there will be a purge…when Jews take over a country…they kill millions of Christians.”
Christian Nationalist Scott McKay, also known as “Patriot Street Fighter” has a streaming program on Rumble and is a speaker at the Reawaken America rallies. McKay has stated that “Hitler was fighting the same people we are trying to take down. These people are so elusive and slippery and cunning that we ended up having WWII…the same group of people that has done a very good job at hiding under the religion of Judaism.”
“Moran (the Catholic lay leader of Boston’s Christian front) opposed Britain’s war because it was a war for the benefit of Jews, the enemy of Christ and the Church. And he worked for Scholz (a Nazi spy posing as the German Consul at the German Consulate in Boston) not because he was a committed proponent of Nazi ideas but rather because the Nazis were fighting both Jews and communists. The Fascist relationship with Christianity was complex but Moran, like many other Christians of his time, believed that, between Fascism and Communism, the choice was obvious.”
This clearly explains why Christian nationalists today can willfully embrace the tyranny perpetrated by Michael Flynn, white supremacists, and Donald Trump—think January 6th, 2020. When faced with the choice between tyranny and the Marxist humanism they believe is being forced upon America by Jews—for them, tyranny is the better of the two.
“…we must avoid generalizing too greatly the rhetoric and ideology of the Christian Front and thereby losing sight of its uniqueness. The Front arose in a particular moment. As the historian Oscar Handlin noted n 1975, ‘Between 1930 and 1940, Antisemitism developed to a point at which it threatened to alter the whole character of American society.’ During the 1930’s at least four million, and perhaps as many as ten million Americans enlisted in such organizations as the Ku Klux Klan, the Silver Shirts, and the Christian Front.’ Handlin feared that, unless rigorously examined, such groups would simply ‘be slotted under a common rubric with other manifestations of hostility, disagreement, or approval.’ If that happened, we would ‘understand little about their appearance, or ultimate disappearance.’ I argue that Handlin’s fear came to pass. The front became just another manifestation of some easily refuted tendency toward intolerance. This failure to reckon with what was distinctive about the front has been a boon to those who perpetuate its mission, which still percolates close to the surface of mainstream America.”
In his book Nazis of Copley Square, Charles Gallagher has opened a forgotten window into American Christianity’s historic romance with tyranny, fascism, and rabid Antisemitism. It is not too late for Christians who have embraced the evils of Christian nationalism (which is neither Christian nor patriotic—see Timothy Snyder’s book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century) to choose to follow the words of Jesus and love their neighbors as themselves.