Title: #ChristianAltFacts in American Politics
André Gagné is an Associate Professor in the Department of Theological Studies at Concordia University. He is also a Digital Fellow of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) as well as a research associate with the Centre d'expertise de formation sur les intégrismes religieux et la radicalisation (CEFIR).
He works on the religious right, fundamentalism, radicalization, religious violence, and social identity. In his research, Dr. Gagné seeks to understand how sacred texts and traditions are used by extremist groups and individuals to justify acts of violence and / or cultivate violent ideologies.
Dr. Gagné also has a marked interest in studying the beliefs, practices and political inclinations of various Evangelical subcultures such as Baptists and Pentecostals, and more extreme movements such as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), the Christian Identity, and Christian Reconstruction.
Most political commentators argue that Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential election victory was largely due to the support of the American religious right. It is estimated that over 80% of white-male evangelicals voted for President Trump, and that people now close to the White House are self-identified evangelicals. As a result, we are seeing more and more current domestic policies favoring the religious right, and hard-fought progressive values such as abortion, same-sex marriage, gender equality, the teaching of evolution, the separation of church and state, as well as religious freedom are now under attack. But domestic policies are not the only bastions under siege. International relations, especially with countries in the Middle East, are now being shaped by the religious right’s apocalyptic worldview. An example of this is the recent move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, as a way to recognize the city as the capital of the modern state of Israel. Trump’s action is more than just a political decision but was intended to please his evangelical electoral base who believe that this city must play a leading role in the “last days”. As the religious right is reclaiming more and more space in the political sphere, it is important to recognize how they de-contextualize (or “cherry-picking”) and de-historicize biblical texts when they propagate a polarizing and modern-day apocalyptic vision of reality. It is only through critical analysis, such a careful historical and contextual reading of their primary sources, that one can learn to deconstruct what some in the Twittersphere understand as #ChristianAltFacts.