Jews debate Mastriano’s Christian nationalist beliefs
When Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano launched his primary campaign on Jan. 8, he donned a tallit and blew a shofar, despite not being Jewish.
The use of Jewish holy objects was not a one-time affair: The state senator attended the ‘Patriots Arise for God and Country’ rally in Gettysburg in May when nine event leaders sounded the shofar to start the event.
“We have the power of God with us,” Mastriano said at the rally, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. “We have Jesus Christ whom we serve here. He guides and directs our steps.
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In April, Mastriano appeared at a rally organized by far-right activists Alan and Francine Fosdick, who alleged that Jews orchestrated recent natural disasters, including wildfires, through the use of space lasers.
In many of his major campaign events, Mastriano, an army veteran, drew on his evangelical Christian beliefs, taking a conservative stance on issues such as access to abortion, gender-based marriage sex and transgender rights. He attended President Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 rally before the Capitol was stormed.
Although he rejected the label, Mastriano embodies the values of Christian nationalism, which, according to the Associated Press, is the idea that God destined America for greatness and will give the country a “divine blessing.” It is the conviction that Christian values must dictate the country’s policy.
After the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Mastriano dubbed a 2018 statement comparing gun control to Adolf Hitler’s 1930s laws confiscating guns from Jews. (Hitler also relaxed gun restrictions among non-Jewish German citizens.)
Combined with his far-right platform, Mastriano’s use of Jewish symbolism and condemnation of the division between church and state alarmed some Jewish Democrats in Pennsylvania. Is Christian nationalism anti-Semitic? What about the use of a shofar and a tallit in a political campaign by a gentile?
Mastriano did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
According to Andrew Goretsky, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League Philadelphia, Christian nationalists, though often not self-proclaimed, believe that American values are inseparable from Christian values.
Although right-wing Christianity has been used over the past 50 years – as part of Jerry Falwell’s political action group Moral Majority to fight liberal politics and socialism – Christian nationalism has gained ground over the past 50 years. of the last decade, positioning itself against the “forces of evil”. from the left.
“Christian nationalists affirm that America must remain a ‘Christian nation’ – not simply as an observation of American history but as a prescriptive program of what America must continue to be in the future,” said Goretsky.
He asserts, without specifically referring to Mastriano, that Christian nationalism would be anti-Semitic if it scorned Judaism or if it specifically asserted that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus, which Mastriano did not assert.
The use of Jewish objects by a non-Jew is not inherently anti-Semitic, Goretsky said, but the use of such objects by a politician in a political campaign could be offensive.
“ADL believes that using a tallit or shofar outside of the way they are meant to be used, or in a political context, belittles their meaning and offends many people who respect their sanctity,” said Goretsky.
Jill Zipin, president of Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania, was quick to condemn Mastriano’s use of the shofar and tallit during his campaign.
“It’s very problematic because the appropriation of Jewish symbols at campaign events, that’s how he used it, I believe, like the shofar the tallit, appropriates objects and symbols sacred Jews for political purposes,” she said.
Mastriano’s tenets of Christian nationalism were of even greater concern to Zipin, whom she viewed as anti-democracy, favoring one religious group over others.
“At the turn of the last century, Jews came to this country for economic freedom, for religious freedom and for political freedom,” Zipin said. “And Christian nationalism goes to both religious freedom and political freedom because it’s an anti-democratic ideology.”
But for Richard Tems, a resident of Doylestown and member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Christian nationalism is not anti-Semitic, because Christian and Jewish values are in harmony with each other.
“The roots of Christianity come from us,” Tems said. “So they (evangelical Christians) believe the Messiah has come, and we are still waiting.”
Tems thinks the Democrats have fabricated an adversarial relationship between Jews and Christians; for Tems, “Judeo-Christian values” are compatible with Judaism and Christianity.
Due to the close ties between the religions, Tems does not dispute Mastriano’s use of the shofar and tallit, as long as he does so with intent and respect.
“If that’s what he chooses to do, that’s great. Does he understand why? said Tims. “Does he have a clear understanding of the role … that Jews have in America? How fundamental are we to this nation, and how was this nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles? » PJC
Sasha Rogelberg writes for the Jewish Exponent, an affiliate publication where this first appeared.