No, really, that was the goal of late November’s Congressional-Clergy Townhall.
The event was organized by Wallbuilders, led by pseudo-historian David Barton, and the Jefferson Gathering, a weekly Wednesday night non-denominational contemporary worship service held especially for members of Congress. Wallbuilders promotes a vision of “America’s forgotten history and heroes with an emphasis on our moral, religious, and constitutional heritage” through a daily radio show, books and lectures about US history, and tours of the US capitol that insert a triumphalist Christian narrative into US history. The name, which predates Donald Trump’s vision of a wall on the U.S.’s southern border, refers to return of the Jews, who had been dispersed through captivity, to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the city. The allusion from the Old Testament book of Nehemiah suggests that today’s conservative Christians must “rebuild the walls” of the nation to insure God’s continued blessing on the United States.
In the video above, David Barton explains the role of the Black Robe Regiment–pastors who pledge to “fearlessly proclaim God’s perspective on all issues, whether spiritual or temporal, and extend the knowledge and application of His principles from my pulpit,” for “the struggle is for the heart and soul of America.”
As I’ve written before, contemporary conservative Christian voices have been able to insert Trump into this particular story very effectively–so much so that in their radio broadcast about the Congressional-Clergy Townhall, pastors David Kistler and Dale Walker, who participated in the event, call Trump “a respite” from our national declension. That’s right: Donald Trump is a going to bring the White House closer to God. (Of course, for many of these folks, Barack Obama isn’t just a secret Muslim–he’s actually the anti-Christ.)
Participants included Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Chuck Grassley, and others. It included messianic End Times rabbi Jonathan Cahn, who consistently preaches that our collective tolerance of gay people and acceptance of same-sex marriage will result in God’s disavowal of the United States and our eventual destruction, a message he preached at both this recent event and an April meeting of Congress’s conservative Christian, also sponsored by the Jefferson Gathering.
Want to understand this better? I strongly suggest “The Founding Fathers in Modern America” by Kate Carté Engel in Faith in the New Millennium: The Future of Politics and Religion, edited by Matthew Avery Sutton and Darren Dochuk (Oxford 2015); Mark A. Chancey‘s “Bible Bills, Bible Curricula, and Controversies of Biblical Proportions: Legislative Efforts to Promote Bible Courses,” which appeared in Religion & Education 34 (2007): 28-47; and Tahlia Fischer’s fantastic dissertation “(Re)membering a Christian Nation: Christian Nationalism, Biblical Literalism, and the Politics of Public Memory.” And be sure to read Oxford University Press’s Handbook of the Bible in America, edited by Paul Gutjahr, which comes out next year–at least the chapter on the Bible in the Religious Right.