Christian nationalism through story of an Idaho town

Christian Nationalist flag

A flag that’s been adopted by Christian nationalists hangs out a window of a business run by a member of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. The church’s leader says he wants to turn Moscow into a Christian town and he’s influential in Christian nationalism, which aims to turn America into a theocracy. Christian nationalism and the fight over Moscow are the subject of the newest season of the podcast Extremely American. (Courtesy of Heath Druzin)by Heath Druzin, Idaho Capital Sun
July 5, 2024

In Moscow, Idaho, there is a pitched battle for the soul of the community – and it’s all wrapped up in a battle for the souls of the community. It pits residents who like the quiet college town’s all-are-welcome vibe – with its visible pride flags and Black Lives Matters signs – with a church that abhors those things.

A fundamentalist congregation called Christ Church wants to make Moscow an explicitly Christian city, governed by Biblical principles. To accomplish this, they and their allies are buying up big swaths of real estate and opening businesses to increase their footprint and economic might.

One downtown business owner echoed the concerns of a lot of folks we spoke to: “It feels like an invasion. It feels like they are trying to take over the town.”

This story, in and of itself, intrigued me. A local culture clash in our country’s broader culture war. A fight both sides see as between good and evil. But it’s a story that goes well beyond this community of 26,000 people amid the rolling wheat fields of the Palouse.

As Christ Church Pastor Doug Wilson puts it: “All of Christ, for all of life; so depending on the context, uh, some might add for all of Moscow or for all of the world.”

Sure, Doug Wilson wants Moscow to be Christian, but he has designs on all of America and beyond.

He’s a leading figure in a movement called Christian nationalism. Adherents want to turn America into a theocracy, a government run according to their interpretation of Biblical law. And Wilson has quietly built up a kind of Christian industrial complex to help make it happen.

For the past year, I’ve been talking to Wilson and his allies as well as leading Christian nationalists across the country, the activists fighting back and survivors sounding the alarm about a dark underbelly of abuse in the movement.

It’s all in Season 2 of my podcast series Extremely American, from Boise State Public Radio and the NPR Network. In this season, Extremely American: Onward Christian Soldiers, reporter James Dawson and I take an inside look at a movement that wants to end American democracy as we know it.

Why should you care about Christian nationalism?

Are you Mormon, Jewish, atheist, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim? In the proposed America Christian nationalists laid out for me, anyone who doesn’t share their strict Protestant worldview would lose rights, including the right to run for political office.

Here’s what leading Christian nationalist media personality and Doug Wilson ally Gabe Rench, told me:

“I think that the Christian faith is the ideal moral doctrine and principles for a thriving society. And the farther you get away from that, the more in chaos we descend,” he said. “And so the only way to maintain that or one of the ways to maintain that is you have to have people who are running for office who believe that or you’re going to get back into that chaotic decline.”

Are you a woman? Do you like having the right to vote? Nearly every Christian nationalist I spoke to wants to disenfranchise nearly all women.

If you’re in the LGBTQ+ community, you’d have to go underground or risk prosecution for having a same-sex relationship.

And if you think Christian nationalism is a fringe movement, it’s been rapidly becoming more and more mainstream.

This ideology has more and more friends in high places. Here’s what current Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Mike Johnson said on CNBC last November:

“The separation of church and state is a is a misnomer,” he  said. “People misunderstand it. Of course, it comes from a phrase that was in a letter that Jefferson wrote. It’s not in the Constitution.”

Increasingly, elected officials are touting Christian nationalist talking points and plenty more are conspicuously declining to push back.

Former Trump administration officials have a blueprint called Project 2025, which includes installing tenets of Christian nationalism into federal government if Donald Trump retakes the White House.

Underneath it all, activists say there’s a deep current of misogyny that’s fostering abuse and cover-ups.

One thing I figured out in reporting this podcast season: If you want to understand what Christian nationalists have in mind for this country and their strategy, just ask. So I did and man, did they answer, in stark, unflinching detail. They’re proud of what they’re trying to do, and they think they’re literally on a mission from God.

They’re also gaining momentum.

Idaho Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Christina Lords for questions: Follow Idaho Capital Sun on Facebook and X.

3 thoughts on “Christian nationalism through story of an Idaho town

  1. You really don’t care about how out of touch you are with the community or what kind of vile filth you wish to infect them with, do you?

    1. To the first question, John, no I don’t. I care about being right. To the second, vile filth is dependent on point of view, don’t you think?

  2. Where can I join the Christian nationalists? It sounds like a hoot……….

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