Extremist Christian groups are coming out of the woodwork.
By Alex Henderson / 07.19.2018
President Donald Trump—despite his alleged sexual activity with porn star Stormy Daniels, two divorces, lack of Biblical knowledge and a reputation for having a very foul mouth at times—has, ironically, become an icon of the Christian Right in the United States. His predecessor at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Barack Obama, actually has a long history of going to church and clearly possesses a greater knowledge of the Bible. Regardless, the Christian Right considers Obama an enemy and Trump a staunch ally—and with Trump in office, extremist groups are coming out of the woodwork more and more.
Here are some of the craziest far-right sects, organizations or Christian fundamentalist movements that are feeling empowered in the Trump era.
1. POTUS Shield
Led by television evangelist Frank Amedia, POTUS Shield is a new organization of far-right Christian fundamentalists that describes itself as “warriors, worshippers and watchmen”—and the one they are watching out for, through prayer, is Trump (POTUS stands for “President of the United States). Amedia insists that before Trump’s inauguration, God paid him a visit in the middle of the night and asked him to help form a protective shield of prayeraround Trump—who the group believes was sent by God to promote a Christian fundamentalist takeover of government. Others active in POTUS Shield include Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council, and Lou Engle (known for his large anti-abortion, anti-gay and pro-Republican prayer rallies).
2. People of Praise
After Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court, one of the people on Trump’s “short list” of possible nominees for a replacement was Amy Coney Barrett—a 46-year-old federal appellate judge who, the New York Times reported in 2017, was involved in a group called People of Praise (Brett Kavanaugh, not Barrett, eventually received Trump’s nomination). And given People of Praise’s beliefs, Barrett shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the High Court.
People of Praise is a predominantly Catholic group, although it has some non-Catholic members and incorporates Pentecostal practices (speaking in tongues, for example). Considered a cult within mainstream Catholicism, People of Praise require members to swear an oath of loyalty to the group and teach that while women can have some leadership positions, they must ultimately submit to male authority. In the past, People of Praise used the terms “handmaid” and “handmaiden” to describe women—which is downright chilling if one is familiar with Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” or the 1990 film and 2017/2018 television that were based on the book.
The Christian Right’s hatred of reproductive freedom goes way beyond its opposition to abortion; some fundamentalists are equally opposed to all forms of contraception. And this anti-contraception ideology is exemplified by the looney Quiverfull movement. Quiverfull is a not a sect or denomination per se, but a movement within fundamentalist Protestant Christianity—and those who embrace it could be anything from Pentecostal to Calvinist. Quiverfull ideology asserts that it is a sin for Christian couples to do anything that might prevent a pregnancy; therefore, birth control pills and IUDs for women or condoms and vasectomies for men are considered tools of the Devil. And according to Quiverfull, Christian wives must have as many babies as possible while remaining totally submissive to their husbands. Other Quiverfull rules: wives cannot have their own bank accounts or e-mail addresses without their husbands’ permission, and they must always be sexually available to their husbands whether they’re in the mood for sex or not.
4. Project Blitz
Project Blitz is not a Christian fundamentalist church or sect, but rather, a coalition of Christian fundamentalist activists with a political agenda: to make sure that state legislatures are flooded with as many theocratic bills as possible. Working with Republicans who are sympathetic to their dominionist views—anti gay, anti-abortion, anti-contraception—Project Blitz believes that it is important for bills to be introduced regardless of how far they get. The more bills that are introduced, Project Blitz believes, the more likely they are to achieve some home runs eventually.
In Texas, David Barton has been very active in both Republican politics and far-right fundamentalist Christianity. In addition to being a former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party and serving as director of Keep the Promise PAC—a political action committee that supported Sen. Ted Cruz’ presidential campaign in 2016—Barton founded WallBuilders, which has taught through books and videos that the separation of church and state is not constitutional and that the government should be run according to strict Biblical law. And Barton has been active in the Providence Foundation, another group with dominionist views.