Why America’s Christian nationalists now defend the torture of Jews – Haaretz

Posted By on October 9, 2021

"The Inquisition has been caricatured," Daily Wire host Matt Walsh insisted in a recent segment on his show, unearthed by Media Matters journalist Jason Campbell. "I mean, it was far more defensible than modern-day cancel culture is, especially the cancel campaigns waged by trans activists."

The attack on trans people here is standard for the rabid right-wing media. The apologetics for the Inquisition is a little more unexpected.

But hatred of trans people is in fact perfectly of a piece with a defense of torturing Jews. Walsh is a white Christian nationalist, and white Christian nationalists see patriarchal gender roles and Christianity as perfectly synchronized. For Walshs movement, Jewish people and trans people are both deviant, and both must be disciplined, with fire if necessary.

Contrary to Walsh, the Inquisitions reputation for injustice and cruelty was well-earned.

In its pursuit of heretics, the Church is believed to have murdered some 32,000 people in horrific ways; inquisitors burned people alive, tortured countless more: by waterboarding them, stretching them on the rack, flaying skin and crushing limbs. The Church targeted Jews and Muslims, who had done nothing wrong, hunting and persecuting them from Spain to Mexico, Portugal to Peru.

And despite the talk about pursuing the purity of faith, many of those accused and maimed were the subjects of false accusations, as "good" Christians accused other good Christians of heretical thoughts in order to settle scores, steal property, or just for sport.

Walsh claims that trans people force people out of jobs or shame them into submission. He suggests that this distinguishes trans rights proponents from the Church, which he said, just harmed peoples bodies, not their reputations.

This is silly on its face; murder is not some minor misdemeanor compared to shaming and anyway, of course the Church used shame, people lost their livelihoods and their reputations.

But the truth is that trans people rarely have power to enforce social censure, even on people who blatantly violate their human rights by hounding them out of jobs or denying them access to health care. Its not cis people, but trans people who are routinely discriminated against which is why trans people have higher rates of unemployment, lower incomes, and higher rates of poverty than the cis people Walsh insists they are oppressing.

Walsh doesnt care that the Inquisition murdered people and trans people dont. Instead, for him the Inquisition is less dangerous than trans activists because, "In this Inquisition of today, the inquisitors are not trying to coerce a belief in or submission to any sort of eternal, celestial God. Rather they themselves are the gods. At least thats what they believe, and they want us to believe."

"Trans activists" by which Walsh means any trans people asking to be treated as human are godless heathens who undermine the True Faith, while also setting themselves up as gods to be worshipped.

He refers to trans rights struggles as a "modern form of forced conversion," because he believes that it violates Christian tenets for trans people to exist, or to ask for acceptance. Walsh first whitewashes the Inquisition, and then declares that trans people are heretics. The implication is clear enough. Walsh would like to treat trans people the way that Jews and Muslims were treated during the Inquisition.

There is plenty of evidence that homophobia is a core tenet of American right-wing Christianity. Polls show that white American Christians are the U.S. group who are the least accepting of LGBT people. White evangelicals made up Trumps core support as he pushed extreme homophobic and transphobic policies like banning trans people from the military and barricading legislation that would prevent discrimination against LGBT people.

Just as white Christian nationalists often treat queer people as religious apostates, so they tend to treat Jewish people as sexual apostates. Sexual incapacity or sexual deviance is a big part of what Christian nationalists or fascists are hinting at when they refer to Jews as "decadent."

The notorious Nazi propaganda film 'The Eternal Jew' claimed that Jewish people controlled 98 percent of prostitution worldwide. Along the same lines, Georgia Republican representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has accused Jewish billionaire George Soros and the Rothschild family of being core players in the antisemiticQAnonconspiracy theory that claims that Democratic leaders run a vast ring of child sexual abusers.

Soros has also been accused of being the hidden hand behind the LGBT rights movement as if LGBT people themselves arent capable of demanding equality unless some shadowy Jewish manipulator masterminds their actions.

Walsh himself doesnt mention Jewish people or Muslim people directly in the clip. They are erased from the history of the Inquisition, because talking about them directly would require actually engaging with Christianitys history of intolerance and violence.

Walsh is determined to portray Christians as the victims of a heretical intolerant trans cabal. Thinking about how Christians have treated Jewish people in the past would raise uncomfortable questions about who wants to convert who, and by which methods.

Walsh really should have just avoided talking about the Inquisition altogether. But the temptations of projection were apparently too much for him. Once he has decided to compare trans people to the Inquisition, hes got to deal with the real Inquisition and to reveal that he finds its not-so-gentle mercies somewhat appealing.

The Inquisition, at least, was a crusade for the eternal glory of God. The Inquisition, at least, only harmed bodies, not souls. You might even say it harmed bodies to save souls. Thats virtuous, right?

At the end of the clip, Walsh refers to the effort to secure trans rights as "repulsive." Its a telling word, which frames morality in terms of visceral, instinctive disgust. White Christian nationalists imagine a unitary, pure America, which kneels before a solitary God.

Those outside the charmed circle of the righteous are a chaotic mishmash of indistinguishable error; wrong bodies, wrong desires, and wrong beliefs. Jewish people or trans people or any number of others; you can shuffle one out for the other, and it doesnt matter.

Only the righteous are truly individuals worthy of empathy. Their integrity, their freedom, and indeed their violence, must be defended. For everyone else, the Inquisition will sort them out.

Noah Berlatsky is a freelance writer. He lives in Chicago. Twitter:@nberlat


Why America's Christian nationalists now defend the torture of Jews - Haaretz

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