Max Miller isn’t the person you would expect to condemn Christian ‘bigotry’ on Twitter. A GOP House member from Ohio and an advisor to former President Trump, Miller has essentially marched in lockstep with the MAGA movement.
But last week Miller fired off a tweet that created an uproar in the MAGAverse—in particular among its Christian nationalist contingent. After Lizzie Marbach, Communications Director at Ohio Right to Life, tweeted “There’s no hope for any of us outside of having faith in Jesus Christ alone,” Miller forcefully replied “this is one of the most bigoted tweets I have ever seen. Delete it, Lizzie. Religious freedom in the United States applies to every religion. You have gone too far.”
This is one of the most bigoted tweets I have ever seen.
Delete it, Lizzie.
Religious freedom in the United States applies to every religion.
You have gone too far. https://t.co/QCx8oAT1Kr
— Max Miller (@MaxMillerOH) August 15, 2023
Critics rightfully point out the troubling free speech implications of a sitting Congressperson commanding a private citizen to delete a tweet. To others, Miller’s tweet is further proof of the lack of principles among GOP leadership, which is insufficiently committed to an authentic America First agenda.
But simmering beneath the uproar, and bursting at times into the open, is another charge. Miller is Jewish, and many seemed enraged, above all, that a Jew—even worse, a Republican Jew—would so brazenly challenge a core tenet of classical Christian faith that struck him as inherently oppressive. As the Christian nationalist movement builds unprecedented power in the U.S., their aggressive reaction to Miller’s cry of protest abruptly exposed the limits of their oft-professed love for Jews, at the hard edge of their dystopian vision.
‘Sit down and be quiet’—Christian MAGA bares its fangs
Facing widespread outcry from MAGA Twitter, Miller quickly apologized (though notably he hasn’t, as of publication, deleted the tweet). But it’s no surprise that he, like most Jews and other non-Christians, might bristle at an expression of what many consider Christian supremacy—the belief that only Christians are ‘saved,’ and all others are intrinsically condemned to eternal damnation.
A good portion of the oppression in European Christian civilization, from the Crusades to the Spanish Inquisition, and continuing into the present, has been animated, at least in part, by this belief. From forced assimilation, subjugation, and colonial conquest to genocidal destruction— countless generations of Jews, Indigenous people, enslaved Africans, and other Others throughout Europe and across the world have suffered.
The responses to Miller’s tweet from leading MAGA figures have been intense and overdetermined. “Sit down and be quiet,” Gavin Wax, Gen-Z leader of the hard-right New York Young Republicans Club, tweeted. “You have a problem with a Christian professing her Christian faith?”
Marbach, for her part, seemed to mark Miller’s Jewishness early on, responding to him by tweeting Romans 1:16, which promises salvation “to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” This call for Jews to convert to Christianity was then retweeted by Sean Davis, CEO & co-founder of leading conservative magazine The Federalist. (Marbach also retweeted Presbyterian pundit Matthew Pearson’s response to Miller “you do have hope and it is found in Jesus Christ, the messiah your kinsmen according to the flesh prophesied of many years ago.” Pearson describes himself as a “paleoconservative,” and his timeline is littered with alt-right references.)
Other calls for conversion, especially from the younger crowd, have been less ‘polite’. The hard-right, Gen-Z-led Washington D.C. Young Republicans tweeted a video showing a scene from the 2022 film Padre Pio in which an irate priest screams at a nonbeliever, “shut the fuck up! Say Christ is lord! Get out!” In their version Miller’s face is superimposed upon the nonbeliever.
— Washington, D.C. Young Republicans (@WashingtonDCYRs) August 16, 2023
David Carlson, Political Director of the Gen-Z MAGA advocacy group Bull Moose Project, also retweeted Pearson, who exclaims “we’re not tolerating this kind of rhetoric from you guys anymore. We are done.”
Lol. Your message was conveyed exactly how it was intended. You just realized you pissed off a major voting bloc that put you in office. We’re not tolerating this kind of rhetoric from you guys anymore. We are done. https://t.co/69ampUuuaC
— Matthew Pearson☩ (@_matthewpearson) August 16, 2023
Carlson, who unsurprisingly has his own White nationalist history, founded an organization called American Virtue, which has worked closely with members of the America First/groyper movement. (In July of 2021, invoking a central Nazi rallying cry, he claimed “our blood and soil is what produced America.”) Jesse Hughes, chairman of College Republicans of Liberty University, who also retweeted Pearson’s ‘you guys’ warning, responded to Miller with an impressively succinct expression of both the deicide accusation and the supersessionist argument, tweeting that “the Jewish people rejected God in flesh when they sent Him to Pilate to be hung on a cross. The Church is the true lineage of Israel.”
The Jewish people rejected God in flesh when they sent Him to Pilate to be hung on a cross
The Church is the true lineage of Israel, open to all who wish to be saved, for the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the… https://t.co/5hKFmuVXip
— Jesse Hughes 🇺🇸 (@jhughes1776) August 15, 2023
For decades, Christian Right leaders at least feigned fealty to religious pluralism, frequently disavowing a mission to convert Jews and walking back proclamations of universal damnation for non-Christians—when they received pushback. Now the message from Christian MAGA seems increasingly to be: ‘this is our faith, this is our nation, and you’re a subservient sinner who continues to reject God—get used to it.’ Many, including Marbach, put the word “conservative” in scare quotes when criticizing Miller—suggesting that belief in Christian supremacy is, or ought to be, a defining feature of the MAGA Right.
Other MAGA commentators shied away from chest-thumping Christian triumphalism, offering instead a seemingly benign, but no less barbed, message of conditional acceptance. Mike Cernovich, one-time alt-right ‘manosphere’ leader turned prominent MAGA pundit, harped on antisemitic polemics against Jewish ‘chosenness’ before tweeting an acceptance of Miller’s apology: “It happens, [right-wing Jewish filmmaker] Amanda Milius assured us you’re on the side of the good guys. <3.”
It happens, @AmandaMilius assured us you’re on the side of the good guys. ❤️
— Cernovich (@Cernovich) August 16, 2023
Cernovich’s Christian ‘love’ carries a dark undertone. Even though you’re not fully one of us, it implies, we’ll accept you into our coalition—but don’t step out of line again. In similar fashion Russ Vought, former member of Trump’s cabinet and leader of the MAGA think tank Center for Renewing America, tweeted: “I expect it from Bernie Sanders but a Republican Congressman from Ohio with thousands of Christian constituents…hard to believe.”
I expect it from Bernie Sanders but a Republican Congressman from Ohio with thousands of Christian constituents & the son in law of the candidate every one is telling me is the most conservative in the race? Hard to believe. https://t.co/y57L2bNgkH
— Russ Vought (@russvought) August 16, 2023
The comparison speaks volumes; Sanders represents, in the antisemitic view, the conventional trope of the radical atheist, coastal elitist Jew. ‘You’re not one of those,’ Vought insinuates, ‘are you?’
And then, of course, there’s the open, unmistakable antisemitism from White nationalists. An anonymous account named Aristophanes, who has published articles at prominent conservative publications The American Mind and The Federalist, snarled “no race holds as much venom, hatred, or cruelty [as Jews]…you can keep repeating history or you can change your ways and learn to live in harmony with others, up to you.”
Gab CEO Andrew Torba, close associate of Nick Fuentes’ America First/groyper movement and collaborator of failed Christian nationalist Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, sneered at Jews’ supposed “tribal loyalty” and “hatred of Christ,” urging followers in Miller’s district to write letters, call his office and amplify pressure. The “Overton window shift is palpable,” he tweeted, celebrating the wave of conservative outrage against Miller. Both posts have since been deleted.
Right-wing Jewish responses
Perhaps more disturbing than Miller’s groveling apology in the face of these attacks, have been the responses of right-wing Jews who’ve rushed out of the woodwork, desperate to defuse tensions. Amanda Milius concedes that Marbach’s proclamation is “not the friendliest of concepts” in the eyes of Jews, but calls for unity and an end to infighting, pleading “let’s just be on the side of believers. There’s enough actual enemies of the people of the book(s) than we need. We don’t need to go after each other.”
Benjamin Braddock, an editor at IM1776—a far-right cultural magazine sponsored by the leading MAGA think tank Claremont Institute—opines that “this is why antisemitism is on the rise,” explaining that the “obnoxious hysteria” on display by Jews like Miller is the cause. “If I weren’t a Jew,” he admits, “I would probably be an antisemite too.”
Yaakov Menken, leader of the Haredi far-right Coalition for Jewish Values, acknowledges that “we [Orthodox Jews] are obviously the last ones to whitewash a millennium of European Christian history with Jews.” But, Menken continues, Orthodox Jews like himself are “not bothered” by expressions of open Christian supremacy because “we are quite certain that G-d knows how to sort it all out in the World to Come.” Miller, however, who is not Orthodox, “lacks confidence in his own religion enough to brush off her proclamation of a different belief and move on.”
As long as Christians support far-right Israeli nationalism and allow American Jews to observe religious law, Menken concludes, “what, precisely, is the problem?” This elaborate rationalization overlooks the basic fact that Jews, and many others, have good reason to be troubled by expressions of the religious ideology directly responsible for the centuries of oppression inflicted by Christians.
There have long been Jews in the Christian nationalist camp. Intellectuals like Yoram Hazony (founder of National Conservatism), pundits like Ben Shapiro, and political candidates like Josh Mandel have all expressed support for the movement’s core principle that America is or should be a ‘Christian nation’.
But the Christian nationalist agenda is, and will remain disastrous for Jews. It threatens to roll back reproductive freedoms that are clearly supported by Jewish religious law (a point which Orthodox Jewish voices have affirmed). It threatens to deny adoption and other state-funded services to Jews, much as they’re increasingly denied to LGBTQ folks; and this denial for Jews, and other minorities, finds growing support among the MAGA base. In these and other ways, it threatens to turn Jews, and many others, into second-class citizens, denied full inclusion in ‘we, the people’.
Jews know in our kishkes, from thousands of years of oppression, that a society that enshrines militant Christian dominance won’t be safe for us, or other Others, for very long. Yet, Jewish Rightists make the dreadfully shortsighted calculation that their kind of Jew, at least, will remain protected. Wokeness and secularism, they reason, are the greater threat.
In the decades since the Holocaust, the Western world has adopted the self-congratulatory posture of a ‘Judeo-Christian’ civilization, with its Christian majority claiming to proudly promise Jews full acceptance and integration as equals in a religiously pluralistic society. But as the Christian nationalist movement grows and its foundational supremacism becomes more pronounced, the part before the dash in ‘Judeo-Christian’ is turning out to be, at best, contingent for them.