Oliver Cromwell (painting after Samuel Cooper [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons)

Christian Nationalism? Been there, done that

Ivonne Rovira
Ivonne Rovira

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene doesn’t know that Christian Nationalism has been tried before. Of course, she doesn’t. Here’s a woman who thought June 31 was an actual date, who thinks California’s fires are caused by Jewish space lasers, that the Highland Park shooting was a false-flag operations. She’s so dumb she gives Congressman Louis Gohmert a run for dumbest person in Congress.

But the English did give Christian Nationalism a whirl — albeit under a different name — and, predictably, it ended with nine years of war.

England had already been ricocheting between Roman Catholic rule and Protestant rule by the time Charles I ascended to the English throne. During Protestant rule, Catholics were imprisoned, their properties seized, and their priests jailed and executed. But the ensuing English civil war wasn’t Catholic versus Protestant (that would be the French from 1562 to 1598): It was Anglican versus stricter Protestants (the latter were the Puritans, the folks who packed up for what became Massachusetts).

King Charles I waged a disastrous wars in Scotland and Ireland without consulting Parliament. In 1641, the Parliament unveiled a long list of grievances against the king — which he blew off. When Charles I went personally to arrest five members of Parliament, the Parliament seized London and Charles fled. By 1642, the Royalists (a.k.a. Cavaliers) loyal to Charles were at war with the Parliamentarians (more often referred to as the Roundheads for their unflattering haircuts).

Eventually, Charles was captured, tried, and executed. But the war went on. A member of Parliament named Oliver Cromwell had risen to general by 1644. He had been incredibly cruel in the battles in Ireland, as he hated Catholics. Cromwell saw these Papists as traitors who’d ally with any Catholic country against Protestant England. That should have given people an idea what Cromwell was like, but, of course, it didn’t.

In 1653, Cromwell was made Lord Protector of England — and he sure protected folks from any fun or deviation from the religious script. Puritans believed that people needed to be pure — and they decided what that looked like. Pubs, theaters, and inns were closed; sports were banned. Swearing and working on a Sunday were crimes. A woman doing more on Sunday than necessary in her own house could end up in the stocks! And beware walking anywhere but church on Sunday! That was a crime, too! Since Puritans thought fasting brought you closer to God, everyone had to fast one day a week. These so-called Christian Nationalists are always blathering about freedom — well, the English version were sure not into that!

When religious fanatics are in charge, women are one of their major areas of interest. Women had to dress in a godly fashion. Too colorful or revealing? That was a crime, too. Woe to any woman who wore any makeup! Soldiers would grab her and scrub it off her face!

Donald Trump and his minions are always pretending that they are being stopped from saying “Merry Christmas,” but what they really want is to control other people and force them to say it. Oliver Cromwell would understand the controlling impulse, but his went the other way. He felt that people spent Christmas in gluttony, drunkenness, and debauchery (which, in fairness, was true). So Cromwell launched the first (and only) actual War on Christmas. No church services unless Dec. 25 fell on a Sunday; fines to those who practiced Christmas; openly displaying holly or mistletoe brought a fine. Soldiers would burst in if someone was cooking a goose, as central to an English Christmas as a turkey is to American Thanksgiving.

Cromwell died in 1658, a thoroughly hated man. How hated? Two years after his burial in Westminster Abbey, the resting place of kings and great people, Cromwell’s body was dug up, “tried” for treason and regicide, and “executed” by hanging. No one knows what became of his body, but Cromwell’s head remained on a pike on display in London for years.

Of course, today’s Christian Nationalists know nothing of this history, of the Christian overreach, of the religious wars, or of the infighting that I didn’t even get into.

But you know who did? The Founding Fathers, those men who put the Separation of Church and State first when they amended the U.S. Constitution. They remembered the years of religious wars, the religious persecution, the arbitrary regulation of daily life. They didn’t want that here. Neither should we.

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Ivonne Rovira

Ivonne is the research director for Save Our Schools Kentucky. She previously worked for The Miami Herald, the Miami News, and The Associated Press. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

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