In the aftermath of the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings—and the 54 mass shootings (and counting) that have happened since—America’s right-wing Christians have been busy defending their “god-given” right to own AR-15s. Like they always do. In response, Twitter has lost its collective mind, as offended Christians (and even some non-Christians) bend over backwards to flood the site with impotent and counterproductive declarations that pro-gun Christians “aren’t really Christians” at all.
The latest brouhaha involves the clownish Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert, who faces a primary challenge from a state politician with a more respectable image in a contest that will be decided later this month. The American Muckrakers PAC, which infamously released the salacious Madison Cawthorn nude “horseplay” video, is hoping to take Boebert down in the same way they tanked Cawthorn, in this case by pushing a thus-far-unsubstantiated rumor that Boebert previously worked as an escort and has had multiple abortions. But while plenty of Twitter users are running with this likely-false narrative to accuse Boebert of hypocrisy, that’s not where the cries of “fake Christian” are mostly focused.
Dear Lauren, there's more honor in being a sex worker than there is being a fake Christian.
— Chronically Annoyed (@NikSeattle) June 15, 2022
No, those are directed primarily at a couple of incendiary comments Boebert recently made to a church audience that have circulated in viral videos, prompting many Twitter users to insist that her views fall afoul of “true” Christian beliefs. In the first instance, Boebert told the church crowd at Charis Christian Center in Colorado Springs that she prays Psalm 109:8 for President Joe Biden: “Let his days be few, and let another have his office.” Although at least one journalist claimed to be “shocked” by this behavior, praying for a president’s death is nothing new for right-wing American Christians. They did the same thing to former Democratic presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
And given that most white evangelicals and similar conspiracy-oriented Christians view politics through a lens of “spiritual warfare,” casting Democrats and support for abortion access and LGBTQ rights as literally “demonic,” none of us should be surprised. This way of thinking is violent and dangerous, but this apocalypticism is a type of violent extremism that clearly contains authentic religious content. Dismissing it as “un-Christian” is nonsensical except in the context of internal Christian polemics, which will never be settled, and which are irrelevant to how Christianity affects people outside that context.
In the second instance attracting attention on social media—part of the same church service—Boebert quipped that Jesus “didn’t have enough AR-15s to keep his government from killing him.” In context, the line was clearly a joke of the “to be taken seriously but not literally” variety popular with Christian nationalists and other fascists. Nevertheless, the Noble Knights of Twitterdom leapt at the chance to dunk on the theological heterodoxy of the comment:
She has literally no clue that Jesus gave up his life. He didn’t pursue power over others, but sacrifice for others.
This is the fruit of Christian nationalism. It is rotten. https://t.co/sOtTlMkLjZ
— Andrew Whitehead (@ndrewwhitehead) June 15, 2022
This person is not Christian https://t.co/ltbs7Q8ykJ
— Jeff Yang (@originalspin) June 15, 2022
This is a woman who has not read the Scriptures. https://t.co/0hcOAzyu64
— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) June 15, 2022
Periodic reminder that Christian Nationalism rejects some fundamental tenets shared by Christians the world over in order to temporalize Christ as an avatar of righteous violence for American greatness https://t.co/0oPeJcpyGz
— Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) June 15, 2022
Sometimes, they also throw in antisemitism of the inexcusably ignorant “Old Testament bad, New Testament good” variety:
— Grace Alexander (@GraceAl38236563) June 15, 2022
Boebert is a fake Christian who cherry-picks the Old Testament to justify her hatred and bigotry.
— Michael Reinholz (@mikereinholz777) June 15, 2022
While these Twitter users carry on acting like someone died and made them the Universal Grand Poobah of Christian Theology and Absolute Arbiter of Who is Really a Christian™, Christian nationalists continue to organize and amass greater power. They also continue to benefit from the Christian privilege and hegemony that are reinforced every single time someone indulges in the defensive, knee-jerk impulse to dismiss authoritarian Christians as “fake Christians”—as if any religion, let alone one with as violent a history of imperialism and colonialism as Christianity, were always or inherently benign.
As you read further, that’s the fundamental point to remember: I am not here to defend the authoritarian Christians who viciously call queer people like me “groomers,” intimidate us at Pride, and want to take our rights away or even criminalize our existence. I consider Lauren Boebert to be one of the most vile and contemptible Americans living today—and that’s saying something, as she has lots of competition.
I am here to point out that many terrible people, including Boebert, are Christians—Christians who often do harm by acting on their Christian beliefs, which is possible because Christianity comes in many interpretive varieties (many, but not all, of which are harmful). If you see my insistence that toxic Christians are in fact Christians as a defense of them, you’ve internalized the false assumption that Christianity can only ever be a force for good, and I suggest you step back for a moment and ask yourself why you’re so invested in defending the reputation of the dominant religion in our society, which frankly doesn’t need the help. Further, the Christian supremacist assumption that “Christian” is a synonym for “good” comes at the expense of nonbelievers and adherents of minority religions, who are never given the same benefit of the doubt as Christians.
For what it’s worth, by the way, it turns out that Boebert, who attends New Creation Church in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, does understand and affirm orthodox Christian atonement theology about Jesus’s crucifixion. It didn’t take much effort to dig up video of her, in 2021, fluently quoting the New Testament and rhapsodizing about how Christians “love freedom so much… because it’s ingrained in our being as new creations in Christ.” She goes on, “We came to Jesus, because we were bound, we were not free. But Jesus paid the ultimate price to set us free for all of eternity.”
No, there’s simply no tenable case to be made that Boebert is not a “real” Christian. She is very much a Christian. She is also a terrible person. And if we can’t get it through our heads that it is very possible to be both of those things at the same time, we will never effectively counter the corrosive, anti-democratic force of Christian nationalism, which thrives on our unwillingness to acknowledge and begin to dismantle the Christian privilege that pervades American society.