IVF, authoritarians, and Christian Nationalism Skip to content

IVF, authoritarians, and Christian Nationalism

What is the ideology driving the MAGA movement? One part of it is Christian Nationalism. Ken Wolf dives into this scary movement.

Photo by Greg Rosenke / Unsplash

Do you ever wonder if there is a coherent set of ideas, an ideology, that guides the behavior of the right-wing Trump party (formerly known as Republican)?

It might be hard to see, since Donald Trump’s stream-of-consciousness talks touch on many topics – most of them focused on the ideas and people he wants to attack with anger on that particular day.

Yet, even though Trump is not known to be religious, we should be aware that there is a powerful and dedicated “theology” motivating many of Trump’s followers: Christian Nationalism. This zealous religious movement is the linchpin of the MAGA attack on democratic government in general and the rights of women in particular.

So what do Christian Nationalists believe? While this idea has roots in American religious history, a February 25, 2024 New York Times column by David French does a good job of identifying the main ideas in this religio-political philosophy.

French writes that in 2022 “a coalition of right-wing writers ... published a document called ‘National Conservatism: A Statement of Principles.’ In it they wrote ‘where a Christian majority exists, public life should be rooted in Christianity and its moral vision, which should be honored by the state and other institutions both public and private.’”

Now that is quite a mouthful, isn’t it? Let’s break down what that sentence means.

First, this program invalidates the First Amendment statement that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.” This would have the effect of making non-Christians, or even Christians who might not share the exact “moral vision” of this group of authors, second-class citizens. That category includes most of us, since we know that those who wrote this document do not represent a majority of Americans. Indeed, they are only one-third of the MAGA base.

Second, Christian Nationalists want rule by a minority – only those who share their moral vision, who believe in God as they define God. This happened before in Christian history. In the sixteenth century John Calvin subjected the citizens of Geneva, Switzerland, to his version of godly rule. The city was a Theocracy, literally “ruled by God.” And when God is in charge, voting is unnecessary, perhaps even sinful.

Those of us who watch the news are aware of the media attention given to the decision of the Alabama Supreme Court declaring an embryo an “unborn human being.” This caused In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) clinics in that state to shut down, fearful of being accused of murder for destroying non-viable embryos unfit for implantation in women who spend thousands of dollars to have a child.

 Now, since not even all MAGA voters believe that an embryo is a person, we have also seen some panicked back-pedaling by the Trump party on this issue. Trumpist leaders now will pass a state law to nullify the Alabama court decision. They know that 2% of babies born in America are the result of IVF, and that some of their mothers are Trump voters.

Despite the recent Republican panic, the Alabama decision was not an accidental one. It followed logically from the 2022 Dobbs decision by the U.S. Supreme Court ending federally-protected abortion. If you believe that life begins at conception, as the Catholic Church and some evangelical Christians do, it makes moral sense to forbid IVF since some embryos are discarded.

That is why the Republican House of Representatives “introduced a national personhood bill as soon as they took control in January 2023.” In 2021, Senator Rand Paul introduced a “Life at Conception Act” which now has 18 co-sponsors, all Republican.

These actions clarify the undeniable religious motivation of MAGA Republicans. They want Christianity, defined narrowly in their image, to take primacy over the Constitution. They seem to think that we should change the first three words of the Constitution from “we, the people” to “we, the right-wing Christians.”

This is far different than letting your personal religious views influence your political behavior within a democratic context, something that Americans like Martin Luther King and others of us have done.

 By contrast, theocracy — rule by their God — is nothing less than a religious test for full citizenship. Is this what you want? If not, get involved in this year’s elections. Because Christian Nationalism is definitely on the ballot.

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Ken Wolf

Ken Wolf spent 40 years teaching European and World History, punctuated by several administrative chores, at Murray State University, retiring in 2008. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

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