You might think that a politician caught on tape overtly blurring the lines between church and state — not in a "I'm a religious person and I bring those values to work with me" sort of way, but more like "if the government doesn't reflect my specific theology, then it is EVIL" — would step back from the limelight and let things cool off a bit before shoving themselves back into the public eye. That would, under most circumstances, for most people, be the prudent thing to do. But then again, North Carolina Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn isn't most people.
Just days after he was filmed insisting that he doesn't have "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," Cawthorn has taken the audio from his recent speech at the North Carolina Faith & Freedom Coalition's "Salt & Light Conference" and turned it into a hokey, melodramatic campaign ad, complete with generically "rousing" music and random shots of the Washington Monument, the Capitol Building, and a big ol' cross.
Not only does the nearly two-minute spot repeat Cawthorn's ahistorical, biblically illiterate insistence that the Hebrew Bible's characters of David, Daniel, and Esther were somehow standing up for "Christian principles" (they very much weren't), but it also places his evangelical apocalyptic call to arms at the very center of Cawthorn's political identity.
"It is time for the American Christian church to come out of the shadows," Cawthorn exclaims at one point. "No longer will we allow our culture to be determined by people who hate the things we believe in."
"If we lose this country today," he continues elsewhere in the ad, "if we bend the knee to the Democrats today, our country will be lost forever and our children will never know what freedom is." Not exactly subtle stuff, particularly when Cawthorn ends the spot by demanding people "stand up and fight for our country" — just before a quote from the biblical book of Chronicles, in which God promises to "forgive [...] sin," splashes across the screen.
This is a fairly unambiguous call to arms from someone who has already helped encourage one insurrection. Only in this ad, Cawthorn goes even further by explicitly invoking evangelical theology (and inappropriately using quotes from the Hebrew Bible to do so) to justify his theocratic vision. From this point on, any specific issue Cawthorn tries to run on — whether vaccine mandates, or Second Amendment rights, or reprodutive health care — are simply offshoots of the agenda he makes clear in this ad, one in which the government of the United States should be overtaken and run by Christian theocrats.
I'd like to think there was a time when this sort of unambiguous bigotry would have been a career-ender in American politics, but perhaps that was never the case. Regardless, as Cawthorn has made clear here, calls for a Christian hegemony above all else are now just another campaign promise — one, I'm scared to say, on which surely plenty of people are hoping he'll deliver.