Rob Reiner's 'God and Country' is a schizophrenic, partisan broadside against conservative Christians (review)

Film suggests “Christian nationalists” thirst for political violence

God and Country,” the new documentary produced by archliberal Rob Reiner that hit theaters last week, is a partisan broadside that deceptively conflates so-called Christian nationalism with positions held by a large swath of conservative Christians.

The premise of the film is schizophrenic, demonizing Christians with inflammatory insinuations that invoke the Third Reich, while at the same time mocking them for having a persecution complex because they fear growing cultural hostility.

Of the 18 expert talking heads recruited to opine on “the implications of Christian nationalism and how it distorts not only the constitutional republic, but Christianity itself”, no one is particularly sympathetic to the movement, which is broadly defined in the film as “essentially the idea that America was founded as a so-called Christian nation, and that our law should be based on the Bible.”

By putting together disparate, out-of-context climes that bring together obvious charlatans and screaming fringe preachers with the likes of John MacArthur and Billy Graham, the filmmakers reveal either their profound ignorance or their cynical desire to assign the pejorative Christian nationalist label as widespread. as possible

Rob Boston, senior advisor at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, at one point lists political positions common among conservative Christians to describe his idea of ​​the Christian nationalism that supposedly poses such a danger to the republic.

“Christian nationalists don't like feminism, they want to redo it,” he says. “They're appalled at the idea of ​​LGBTQ rights; they want to redo those. They don't like legal abortion, they want to end that in all 50 states. They don't like the idea that we have a secular public school system.”

Also embedded in the Christian nationalist movement are those who oppose Critical Race theory and pornographic books in schools, as well as those evangelicals who seek political change by mobilizing the electorate to vote for candidates who reflect their worldview. Entities like The Heritage Foundation, Turning Point USA or Hillsdale College that financially contribute to such an effort are slandered as “Christian nationalist organizations.”

The film suggests that adhering to conservative Christian views is bad enough, but any attempt at securing political representation to realize them is supposedly dangerous and even idolatrous, demonstrating what Russell Moore describes as “the valorization of power itself.”

Former President Donald Trump, then, is the main villain of the documentary, which supposedly played on the racism and power-craving that boils in the Christian nationalist heart. His appearance prompts ominous music and tired accusations that Christians who support him have “abandoned their core principles.”

Although figures such as David French and Skye Jethani speak dismissively in the film about the concern many Christians feel about what they perceive as a rising tide of antipathy, “God and Country” will do little to assuage such fears with its searing accusations.

Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Ph.D., professor of history and gender studies at Calvin University, wrings her hands over the “more muscular Jesus” and “warrior Christ” that she claims has emerged among evangelicals in recent years, placing the basis for Christian nationalists to believe political violence is acceptable.

Moore similarly warns of “people who will translate spiritual warfare categories into literal political violence,” and former pro-life activist Rob Schenck laments the priests he knows who arm themselves during services.

After implying that Christian nationalists thirst for bloodshed, the film draws a throughline from Trump to Charlottesville to January 6, an event laid at the feet of Christian nationalism and presented as the most disastrous of its efforts. The reversal of Roe v. Wade apparently comes as a close second.

The film goes on to dial the rhetoric up to a fever pitch by considering how Christians in Germany allowed Adolf Hitler to assume power, insidiously implying that a parallel scenario is playing out among Christians who support the former president.

“This threat from what I no longer even pretend is evangelicalism — this white religious nationalism — may present one of the greatest dangers ever to our democratic experiment,” Schenck says. “It's an ugly exercise to try to imagine what America might do as a fascist state.”

“Christian nationalism uses Christianity as a means to an end,” says Moore. “That end is some form of authoritarianism.”

As the film ends, voices use religious language to admonish the audience about what it means to be a true Christian in the political sphere, making it clear that they are not free from the evangelical impulse that they dislike.

“The greatest sin, if you will, of Christian nationalism is that it views pluralism as a weakness, and not what it is: the foundation of what it means to be an American,” says Reza Aslan, who once demonstrated his own radical devotion . to multiculturalism by eating cooked human brain with a fringe Hindu sect on CNN.

“Everywhere you look, when the church was at its best, it was protecting people regardless of their race, their faith and their sexuality,” minister and progressive social activist William Barber II says amid images of a pride parade in the closing scene.

The clear takeaway is that for many on the left, Christian nationalism is simply any form of Christianity that seeks political representation without first bowing the knee to their progressive orthodoxy.

Many factions are vying for their place in the rough and tumble of the public square, but conservative Christians seem to be the only ones expected to give up the fight, even by those within their own ranks.


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