The Iowa caucuses held earlier this week revealed as much about media sentiment as insight to the future of the GOP nomination, as favored voices in left-leaning media pulled back the curtain on the extent of their hostility toward conservative Christians.
According to data reported by The Washington Post, significant gains among Evangelical Christians were a key factor in former President Donald J. Trump’s sweeping Iowa caucus victory, with Trump’s share in the most predominantly Evangelical counties growing by upwards of 35 points.
On the heels of Trump’s Iowa caucus win, mainstream media pundits immediately faced the camera to heap contempt on Evangelicals. In a prejudiced and hyperbolic tirade aimed at demonizing the beliefs and motives of Christian voters, MSNBC television host Joy Reid proffered the following:
All the things that we think about, about electability, about what are people gaming out, but none of that matters when you believe that God has given you this country, that it is yours, and that everyone who is not a White, conservative Christian is a fraudulent American, is a less real American.
Reid continued, “I think what we have to actually confront—and this is what the Democrats are going to face – is this is now what White evangelicalism is. It is Christian nationalism.”
Though Reid’s comments may seem frivolous and extreme, she isn’t alone. A Fox News roundup reported a slew of negative media characterizations of Christians in response to the Iowa caucuses: that Evangelicals are racist, anti-democracy, idol-worshipping, authoritarian, inauthentic, vengeful, violent, fascist, and jihadist, among other things.
This assessment of conservative, religious voters as a threat has been treated as credible not only in the media, but in investigative agencies. This week, the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government revealed that federal agencies have been targeting the financial transactions of Republican voters for scrutiny by federal investigators.
The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) monitors financial transactions to identify instances of money laundering for domestic and international terrorism. According to the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, this office sent materials to financial institutions recommending the use of generic terms like “MAGA” or “Trump” to identify suspicious private transactions. FinCEN also recommended monitoring private transactions for “extremism” indicators such as “the purchase of books (including religious texts) and subscriptions to other media containing extremist views.”
“In other words,” wrote committee and select subcommittee chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio.) to Noah Bishoff, former Director of the Office of Stakeholder Integration and Engagement in the Strategic Operations Division of FinCEN, “FinCEN urged large financial institutions to comb through the private transactions of their customers for suspicious charges on the basis of protected political and religious expression.”
In a separate letter to FBI director Christopher Wray dated Jan. 17, Jordan noted that the committee and select subcommittee had also obtained documents “indicating that FBI personnel in the Office of Private Sector prepared an official report that broadly characterized certain political beliefs as indicative of domestic violent extremism.” The FBI then distributed that report to financial institutions.
These revelations only confirm what Christian communicators already know about the weaponization of government. When hateful caricatures of Christians are treated as acceptable on-air political analysis, it is not surprising to learn that bias against the religious and conservative viewpoint is also baked into the operating procedures of national security and investigative agencies. A contentious election season simply stands to highlight the dynamics already at play.