Here Are The Strategies That Actually Work Against Christofascism, From a Former Believer

feature image via shutterstock

Since the early 2000s my generation of evangelical homeschool students has been working to get Tea Party candidates elected. They were successful in 2006 and 2010, thanks to the grassroots efforts and groundwork our parents and grandparents started laying in the ’70s; they infiltrated politics and shifted every Overton window as far right as they could.

Now, the Christofascist millennials and GenX-ers are voting and running for office, the Tea Party has taken over, and the Christofascist agenda is rapidly advancing. With the injunction against trans and reproductive healthcare in the ACA, the attempted gutting of the ethics committee and the ban on Muslims, this is only the beginning and it’s only going to get worse.

In the time it’s taken me to write, much of this has already happened or is on the verge of happening. Over New Year’s, I watched my healthcare and access to abortion be stripped while vacationing out of the country. There is hope, however. We can use everything they taught us against them, but first we need to understand some things:

The Christofascist agenda calls for legalizing discrimination under the guise of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The first amendment will not be extended to the marginalized or people of faiths that are not Christianity. They’ll come for the queers, people of color and anyone with a uterus who values autonomy — they already have. Finally, they’ll go after anyone who isn’t a straight white evangelical conservative man or his supportive wife.

Tim Echols said this in his 2007 keynote speech at Teenpact National Convention:

“I wish I could but I cannot tell you more details about the lifestyle and the people involved with it. Just cannot. The Bible tells us not even to talk about certain kinds of evil, let alone plan and joke about it. So I can’t talk about it, all I can say, men in this room, is God made you a man. He only made two kinds, male and female. He made you men. And you simply need to focus on developing your godly masculinity, your godly manhood.”

In this sentiment, he was specifically talking about queer and trans students he encountered at Teenpact and in rumors from other leaders. He later went on to say that there would be zero tolerance for any expression of queerness because it was too evil to even talk about.

When I say we can’t have discussions with people who believe these things, I say it for a reason. It is impossible to have a discussion when one of the parties participating refuses to see you as human and deserving of respect. This is one mild instance of things that I was told and that the leaders of many Christofascist organizations believe and spread.

One commenter on my first post demonstrated this perfectly by writing “You can’t even face your own self, you try to call yourself an “it” or something foolish , you’re still the same you no matter how hard you try to run from your conscience and even more so, from God … you have assimilated to the thoughts and actions of those you encircle yourself with so that you don’t have to hear or think about how wrong you are …” (emphasis mine)

source: AS comment email

Dehumanization is a tactic well practiced in these communities, and it makes it impossible to have a dialogue. You can’t converse fairly with someone who thinks you should be dead, tortured, or aren’t human. Some Christians believe that it’s a symbol of God’s love and mercy to strike unrepentant sinners dead. It was argued, by my parents, that in the story where God sent a bear to maul children, it was out of love so they wouldn’t finish growing up to sin more. Parents in this subculture have been known to tell their children (myself included) that they wouldn’t hesitate to kill them, like Abraham was about to kill Isaac, if they believed God told them to. They are more than willing to sacrifice their children on the altar — literally and figuratively; this can look like disownment, emotional, verbal, spiritual and physical abuse, or actual murder.

These are the types of mentalities that we’re dealing with and should keep in mind as we try to curb their political momentum. I understand the hesitancy when I say civil debates are a waste of time, which is why I want to reiterate that it is impossible to argue with people who don’t believe your life has value or is inherently wrong. It’s not because I harbor ill will, but rather their refusal to accept the existence of anyone different than them as valid.

You won’t convince these Christians by addressing their beliefs head on; they’ve been trained for that. If your heart is in reaching out, reach out to the children trapped here. The parents are likely too far gone to reach unless they come to an awakening of their own accord. I talked about this in my FAQ: it really doesn’t take logic or arguments, it takes kindness and sowing the seeds of doubt. We were taught to fear everyone who was different from us because they would try to sway us away from God. In this context, when you are met with kindness, that inspires doubt in what you were taught; and that doubt can eventually grow into something that looks like an escape. If you want to defeat Christofascism, your time is best spent being involved in your community and extending kindness when you see these families. A queer person merely existing in public and going about their day says more than any argument could.

In the future, I will talk about organizations like Teenpact, ATI, Alert, Vision Forum, and ParentalRights.org in greater detail, outlining what they believe and decrypting the loaded language that they use, so when you see words like “godly/sinful lifestyle” and “Godly masculinity” you’ll know exactly what they mean and how terrifying it is when people like the above commenter dish out abuse and say, “I wouldn’t do this if I/God didn’t love you.”

What worked for conservative evangelicals was infiltrating politics not debating liberals; we need to do grassroots organizing at every level, from city and state government to federal.

We need to start with protecting ourselves in our cities and states. We absolutely cannot sit by and wallow in sadness if we want to turn this around. This is not the time for inaction because of an insurmountable problem. I’m here to tell you this is an uphill battle but it can be won.

Fighting the Christofascist uprising on our doorstep will take getting out of our complacency and belief that people can’t possibly be as bad as they seem. It involves looking reality in the face and confronting it instead of hiding. It involves being each other’s allies.

We specifically need to advocate for health, housing, transit, education, anti-discrimination and accessibility. Our cities, states and country should be safe places for everyone, so we need to look out for and protect our marginalized communities. We all have some (even if it’s just a little) privilege somewhere, we need to use whatever we have to help each other and not throw anyone under the bus.

How to Fight Back

Think about where you will be the most effective and able to accomplish the most good using the privilege that you have and use that as a starting point.

In a way, activists can function like characters in a role playing game. Everyone has different abilities and roles and each of these are crucial when you’re in a dungeon during the Boss fight. We need an army of healers, tanks, and damage dealers. It’s important not to look down on friends who are activist-ing in a different way than we are; every role is vital. We may fill any combination of these roles over time or even simultaneously (I’m usually a healer/damage mix but lately I’ve been tanking). Switching back and forth for mental and physical health reasons (or just because you want to) is a valid way to fight back.

These are inconclusive lists; do whatever works for you!

By Kieryn Darkwater

Healer: The Moral Support
* Remind people to eat, sleep, shower, step away, and take care of themselves
* Make mini survival kits for protests and rallies — include water, snacks, sign making supplies, tear gas treatment and masks
* Remind people that they’re seen and doing good work when they are sad
* Stockpile a ton of fluffy animal gifs and disperse them liberally

Tank: The Barrier, Bait and Decoy
* Use your body or other resources as a shield and become the target for aggression, deflecting it away from others at a protest or online
* Jump in to protect and fight for others when they ask for help
* Use your privilege to elevate other’s voices by sharing whatever platform you have
* Call out fascism when you see it, loudly

Damage: Disrupt From Within
* Use the methods of those in power against them and organize, shift the Overton window of your local political machine by proposing radical change
* Rise & help others rise to power by running for office, or campaigning and centering other’s voices
* Form coalitions in your community
* Use your privilege to elevate others and bring change by sharing whatever platform you have to raise awareness and garner support
* Combat systemic racism and abuse as you encounter it by changing the language or rules to foster diversity instead of segregation (ex: fix zoning so the effects of redlining are diminished, or making sure there’s inclusive language and intent in your organization’s documents)
* Engage with your local political scene and move progress forward as much as you can

Once you’ve found your role(s), go to local political party meetings, city council meetings and town halls. Get to know your elected representatives and volunteer with organizations in your community. If there’s a need in your community that no one is meeting and you have an idea on how to solve it, organize.

* Advocate for a region-wide healthcare service that includes trans health, mental health, reproductive care and abortion access by writing, calling, or meeting with your elected officials
* Find your local YIMBY (yes in my backyard) cell, or start one and tell your city council to build more housing
* Support investments in public transit and infrastructure
* Volunteer with schools, get involved in your school board, advocate for more educational and community resources for students, make your schools a safe place for queer, trans, disabled and marginalized students
* Get involved in community initiatives to help house or provide resources for your homeless neighbors
* Urge your city and transit planners to include accessible infrastructure and make your own spaces accessible
* Run for office or volunteer on a campaign for someone committed to caring for the marginalized communities in your city
* Write to your state and local representatives when these issues are brought up. You can get alerts about what’s going on in your state by using OpenStates from the Sunlight Foundation
* Work to create a culture where bigotry isn’t tolerated, support anti-discrimination policies and be the change you wish to see in your life

If you’re burning out, low on energy or otherwise just don’t have the spoons but want to do something that’s really effective and better matched to your energy levels, here are a couple ideas:

* Write your elected officials
* If you can make phone calls, 5calls.org is a great tool
* Be moral support: comfort people who are hurting by reaching out and offering hugs or pictures of floofs
* Organize/participate in a book club and read about racism, queerphobia, activism, and the looming dystopian future
* If you learn something cool, share it with other people
* Make disruptive art that celebrates the incredibly rich diversity of humanity and share it widely

Art and self-care are important forms of resistance. These give us the strength and will to carry on. Remember you are allowed to take breaks; in fact, it is vital to do so. This is an ongoing struggle — it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The Christofascists want nothing more than to exhaust us into oblivion before they bring out the really bad shit. We have to be aware of our health and abilities, mental and physical. Self-care is a legitimate act of resistance, it’s important to remember we deserve good things, happiness and rest.

Finally, if you have the ability to give, find groups to support who are doing good work and set up a monthly donation if you can.

The ones I’m affiliated with are East Bay Forward and the Coalition for Responsible Home Education.

Some other great places to donate to are: Planned Parenthood, The ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, The Sunlight Foundation, The EFF, The Transgender Law Center, Lambda Legal, and United We Dream. Your community probably has other organizations doing great work in your town that you could find by googling, checking the library or asking for a list at city hall.

If you want to win over Christofascists, you don’t address them head on; you live your life and show them with actions that they’re wrong and the world isn’t as black and white as they want it to be. Existing really is resistance here. If you want to curb their assault on human rights, get involved in politics and block their momentum. For now, everything still comes down to votes, we all still have the power to change our government’s direction.

Everyone is intimidated at first, because politics is daunting and we’re all worried about making mistakes and unsure of where to start. My advice is just jump in, find what you care about and make your part of the world better. We can only make change if we are actively involved in doing so.

No one is going to write that letter, go to that march or make that sign for you; more importantly: no one can stop you.


Are you following us on Facebook?

Profile gravatar of Kieryn Darkwater

Kieryn Darkwater is a blue haired fairy boi you can find making art and being an activist. They spend their time advocating for housing with East Bay Forward and protecting homeschool students as the Tech Director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. When they’re not writing, organizing, or otherwise doing activisms, you can find them drawing comics, talking about what HRT is like, learning any new art skill, or playing video games.

Kieryn has written 4 articles for us.

34 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this.

    I was raised in this same Christofascism and while I’m safe and out and healthy, I am so leery of where to start in fighting the damage being done in its name.

    Could you in the future maybe talk about the nature of divisive/militant language and the way it’s often used on both sides? Because it raises red flags in my brain when people with whom I actually agree use much of the same us v. them language that leads to further mistrust and misunderstanding.

    • yeah I have this same apprehension (I say, realizing full well that I also do this. It’s a hard thing to unlearn). The balance of explaining “These people advocate for bad things that will hurt people like us” without also othering them into non-human entities while providing understandable shorthand is very delicate.

      This is a *really* good point though and I’ll try to include it in other pieces. <3

  2. It’s possible that I have now spent considerably more time thinking about what sorts of political activities might constitute Damage over Time spells than I would have believed yesterday. (Warlock problems?)

    Thanks. I think.

    (I think it’s coalition building, personally… set it up and it keeps ticking.)

  3. My problem with these people are the fact they are anti-other Christian(i.e. Catholic), and the fact they are against they support repealing ACA, but then do silly shit like pay for insurance. As a real Christian(Catholic aligned), and hardcore queer woman, I can’t support them one bit, because seeing a doctor, taking meds, even Tylenol, goes against the will of our creator. Taking man made medicine is a sin of bigger kind than wearing clothing of different fabrics or divorce. A few of them live in my small town so what my wife and I like to do is if we see them at store with medicine in their cart, I or my wife like to calm call them drug addicted fake Christians. It really boils them up.

    One of them was waiting outside the store to harass me and my wife. Thankfully they thought we were related(we had the same plaid shirt on and our hairs were styled the same), but kept telling me how wrong I was. My wife told them, but you are going against the will of our Savior taking man made chemicals and drugs, and in doing so you are a drug dependent person who needs to repent for your sins, and the sins of your family. Christ would be real sad to see you in such shape. Needless to say I think my wife broke the person, cause they went quiet and then sad on the floor like I their world was turned. Needless to say that turned my wife on, and we got home put on a sexy Gospel cd on and had great we just won sex! Yeah. Fuck those Chritsofascist drug addicts!

  4. The breakdowns of healer, tank, and damage were great, and helped me clarify my role a bit. Thanks for that!

    I’ve been dealing with some elements of christofascism in my household, and it’s been terrifying, (and relatively new). You’re right about not being to reason people out if it… I feel like I’m constantly fighting, and getting nowhere.

    I’m glad I’m going to camp this year because I need it now more than ever.

  5. It’s so validating to see your posts, Kieryn 🙂 While I grew up in a less overtly extreme version of Christofascism I feel your every word in my bones. Particularly, when you talked about parents telling their kids they wouldn’t hesitate to kill them if commanded to like Abraham – I remembered, all the sudden, being told that multiple times in church. Whole Sunday School lessons devoted to explaining why it was a good thing that our parents had enough faith to be willing to kill us if they were told to.
    How. Fucked. Up. Is. That.
    I spent decades trying to reason with my bio family about their beliefs/my humanity and have only just fully accepted that it’s a losing battle. It’s not even a battle. It’s like running head first into a castle wall 10 miles high and 10 miles deep.
    When I’ve told people that I experienced spiritual abuse I usually got skeptical looks and rolled eyes. The kind of emotional abuse that commenter tried to heap on you — it takes it’s toll when its every day.
    All this to say thank you for speaking up and I look forward to reading more from you!!

  6. I just came across your articles. So happy to see Autostraddle publishing them. I, too, was raised fundamentalist in the middle of the country. Sadly, after 18+ years, a happy marriage, and two beautiful children, most of my family still hasn’t “come around” to the gay thing. My non-fundamentalist friends are shocked by this, but I am not at all. They are still holding out hope, a hope that’s now reserved for the new generation (my own kids). And, yes, they adore Mike Pence. It is a minefield indeed. Sending you lots of love and support. And especially, I love THIS: “If your heart is in reaching out, reach out to the children trapped here. The parents are likely too far gone to reach unless they come to an awakening of their own accord. I talked about this in my FAQ: it really doesn’t take logic or arguments, it takes kindness and sowing the seeds of doubt.”

  7. Having grown up in the same Christofascist environment, I can not stress enough how effective the ‘showing kindness to sew the seeds of doubt’ method is. When my mother first married my step father in 2010, he was one of the most aggressive homophobes I had ever met in my life. A month ago, he called me to catch up and wound up apologizing profusely to me, completely in tears, about how he had hated and abused the LGBTQ community for so long and how wrong he had been. He told me that seeing my boyfriend, a Latinx trans man, and myself, a pansexual genderqueer woman, living our lives happily, healthily, and like any other normal people completely changed his understanding of queer folk. He thanked me for my patience, my willingness to talk calmly about queer concepts in words he could process and understand, and for never turning down an opportunity to educate with kindness.

    Of course, I know this will not work with everybody. My step father is the result of over seventy years of toxic homophobia, toxic masculinity, and Christofascism — but he changed. It can be done. We can make these positive changes if we all do it together.

  8. “We need to start with protecting ourselves in our cities and states. We absolutely cannot sit by and wallow in sadness if we want to turn this around. This is not the time for inaction because of an insurmountable problem.”

    Thank you so much for stating this clearly. I’m not in the US but we are seeing a similar increase of fascists in the governments and on the streets. We have been organizing activism since 1.5 years now.
    So far many people either are still blocking out the reality or they feel overwhelmed instead of waking up and thinking about actual strategies. Hopefully, from articles like yours, they snap out of it soon.
    I liked Michael Moore’s suggestion to form small units of 5-15 people with friends or co-workers who take care of each other in real life. I believe that we can’t do this only online, we have to connect with the people who are actually present.

  9. Love this: “when you are met with kindness, that inspires doubt in what you were taught; and that doubt can eventually grow into something that looks like an escape. If you want to defeat Christofascism, your time is best spent being involved in your community and extending kindness when you see these families. A queer person merely existing in public and going about their day says more than any argument could.” I’ve been trying to tell some lib friends of mine how useless arguing is…advocating is great, online debates with strangers, not so much.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.