At a certain point you have to wonder if North Carolina Republican congressman and committed seditionist Madison Cawthorn knows he's completely full of shit, or if he's bought into his own MAGA-fied sense of both personal (and, evidently, racial) superiority so absolutely that any membrane between self-aware grifting and an ego-driven willingness to believe his own hype has been completely obliterated.
Put another way: Is Cawthorn pretending to be stupid, and hoping that no one notices or cares, or is he actually stupid and ... hoping that no one notices or cares?
I have my suspicions it's the latter — particularly after Cawthorn's recent speech at North Carolina Faith & Freedom Coalition's "Salt & Light Conference," where he framed his congressional service as a literal war between the forces of good and evil. As he put it:
I don't feel an overwhelming sense of darkness as if the devil has complete dominion of that area because I feel a spiritual battle going on on Capitol Hill.
Of course, the intersection of politics and apocalyptic evangelical theology is hardly a new phenomenon. What's interesting about Cawthorn's particular theological invocation is how staggeringly wrong he is — specifically, the part of his speech when he justified the overt blending of church and state by telling listeners to "look back into the Old Testament. Look at David, look at Daniel, look at Esther. Look at all these people who influenced the governments of their day to uphold Christian principles."
As Right Wing Watch, which first reported on Cawthorn's participation in the conference earlier this week, correctly notes, the invocation of expressly Jewish figures as upholding "Christian principles" is an, uh, interesting choice. But the congressman's analogy falls apart even further when you, y'know, do what he asked and actually read the biblical books of Samuel, Daniel, and Esther. And as a person who actually paid money to a major university to receive a degree in religious studies, I am unfortunately well-equipped to do this.
We can concede Cawthorn's initial point that the stories do, indeed, involve the intersection of theology and politics. But otherwise, I'm not convinced Cawthorn could name a Christian principle actually on display there: King David was violent adulterer whose reign was defined by the murder of his romantic rival and a brief stint as the head of a straight-up protection racket. The Book of Esther (Do you think Cawthorn knows it's the only book in the Hebrew bible that doesn't actually mention God?) is less "political intrigue" than it is a gleeful celebration of rampant sex and horrifying mass murder. The Book of Daniel is a hodgepodge of divine punishment and apocalyptic imagery. To the extent that any of the examples offered by Cawthorn are endorsements of mixing God and governance, they do so with maximum bloodshed and anguish.
Of course, perhaps that's what Cawthorn is really going for here: conditioning his followers to accept a measure of political violence in the name of divine righteousness. That would certainly be in keeping with everything he's done over the past year or so. But, knowing what we know about Cawthorn, and his ... shall we say ... tenuous relationship with historical accuracy, I think it's just as likely to assume he simply has no idea what he's talking about.