One of the defining aspects of the Trump era is how it allowed far-right arguments to creep into the mainstream, especially with the migration of white nationalist and Christian ideologies – once relegated to the furthest margins. from conservatism – towards the center of the Republican Party. Party.
Monday night it happened again: Former Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, now co-host of Fox News show ‘Outnumbered’, called for fighting the forces of ‘darkness’ (which weren’t clearly demarcated) by “filling the world” with “Christian babies” during an interview with actor and conservative Christian activist Kirk Cameron.
Throughout her public career, McEnany — who is described by those who know her as smart and relentlessly ambitious — has made her faith an important aspect of her public persona. Raised as a Southern Baptist, she often recounts how, on the day of her first White House press conference, she calmed her nerves with prayer, allowing her to step onto the podium with “that utter serenity that has only been returned possible only through Christ”. .”
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His predecessor in the Trump White House, Sarah Huckabee Sanders (who is the daughter of former McEnany boss Mike Huckabee, for whom she worked as a Fox News production assistant), advised him to “read a call from Jesus before every press briefing”. Sanders gave McEnany a book of his own prepress devotions as inspiration, and McEnany carried on the tradition, leading a group prayer with his staff before each press briefing that followed. She wore a cross in all of her public appearances, led a weekly Bible study for the Trump campaign, and in 2021 published her third book, “For Such a Time as This: My Faith Journey Through the White House and Beyond,” proclaiming that Jesus had put her in the briefing room.
All of this rhetoric may seem normal for a Republican agent on the move, but in McEnany’s case, it also seems sincere. While attending a Catholic school for girls as a teenager, McEnany wrote an overtly evangelical poem about Jesus: “I call out his name, for he is king.” In one of the post-college columns she wrote on Glenn Beck’s website, The Blaze, she argued that atheism was the main driver of the carnage of World War II. (Historians would find this premise debatable, even bizarre.)
In 2018, McEnany dedicated her second book, “The New American Revolution: The Making of a Populist Movement,” in part to Rachel Scott, a victim of the 1999 Columbine shootings who has become a martyr figure for many evangelicals. for bearing witness to her. belief in God just before being murdered. At the time of McEnany’s promotion to chief Trump administration spokesman, writer and religious historian Peter Manseau, who taught him at Georgetown University, noted that McEnany’s new role represented the upliftment of a “uniquely American current of faith formed by religious ideas. persecution” at the highest levels of American political influence.
In his Monday chat with Cameron on his Trinity Broadcasting Network talk show “Takeaways,” another such uplift occurred. Amid a discussion of his career and his faith, McEnany said Christians should “be bold. You know, the [antidote] to darkness is light. And the [antidote] to a truly dark future fills the world with many Christian babies who could bring that light to the world.”
Less than a decade ago, this type of exhortation was mostly heard only in minority religious communities like the Quiverfull movement, a fundamentalist Christian subculture that urges believers to avoid all forms of contraception and to have as much of children God chooses to give them, both as a way to manifest their pro-life beliefs and to reclaim the culture of the left.
This movement was guided by the biblical verse Psalm 127: “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in his youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of it. enemies in the door.” And Quiverfull’s supporters routinely used military rhetoric to describe their vocation: Raising a large family was their “war,” their “battle station,” and as political an act as soliciting conservative candidates; children were understood as “our ammunition in the spiritual realm…handcrafted by the warrior himself…to achieve the goal of annihilating the enemy”.
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A prominent lawyer, Nancy Campbell, editor of the fundamentalist women’s magazine Above Rubies, wrote in her 2003 book “Be Fruitful and Multiply”, that “a perverted world is the very reason to have children. We train them to be ‘light’ and ‘salt’ in this dark world. We train and sharpen them to be ‘arrows’ for the army of God.” Campbell continued, “What were they trained? For war! We cannot live with our heads in the sand. We are at war. Our children must be trained in combat. They must be trained to stand up and fight the enemy of their souls. They must be trained to be warriors for God.
In another founding text of the movement, the 1989 book, “A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ,” authors Rick and Jan Hess offered conservative Christian readers a tantalizing vision of what they could achieve by with large families.
“When at the height of the Reagan Revolution, the conservative faction in Washington was imposed [sic] with squads of new conservative members of Congress, lawmakers have often found themselves handcuffed by the lack of like-minded staff,” they wrote. “There simply weren’t enough trained conservatives to serve in Washington in the lower and middle capacities. But if enough Christian families started having six or more children each, they reasoned, there could be hundreds of millions of Christian right-wing activists engaged in a few decades, winning landslide victories in national politics and government, sinful liberal towns and corporations that offend Christian sensibilities.
Doug Phillips, founder of the defunct home-schooling publishing house Vision Forum (which closed after Phillips was accused of coercing his children’s nanny into having sex), wrote in the same spirit: “If the Christian Church had not listened to the humanism lies of the enemy and limited their families, the army of God would be more powerful in this hour. The enemy camp would tremble. Instead, they laugh.
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While the number of people fully engaged in the Quiverfull lifestyle has never approached anything resembling mainstream status – in my 2009 book on community I estimated the number at a few tens of thousands. – the movement nonetheless represented a sort of purist avant-garde that inspired wider sectors. from the church. While the faithful of Quiverfull have proudly reclaimed the term “patriarchy” to describe their family model, a looser version of this argument has been made by far more influential entities like the Interfaith Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which urged evangelical churches to adopt conservative doctrines. on the “complementary” roles of men and women, or the Southern Baptist Convention, which has 16 million members, which echoed his reasoning in a 1998 statement – endorsed by Mike Huckabee – calling on wives to graciously submit to their husbands.
Quiverfull-style ideology has also found more mainstream expression through the related advocacy of Christian right-wing pro-natalist movements. From the late 1990s through the 2010s, the ideas of Quiverfull-lite became a cornerstone of the “pro-family” movement embraced by networks like the World Congress of Families, an international right-wing coalition with many political connections that proposed to transcend interfaith differences with a common cultural warfare agenda. Much of this agenda was encapsulated in the group’s pro-natalist treatise, “The Natural Family: A Manifesto,” which called for policies that would encourage women to become “wives, homemakers, and mothers” who were “open to a quiver full of children” and which redefines women’s rights as those “which recognize the unique gifts of women in pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding”.
In service of this vision, in the late 2000s the World Congress of Families aggressively promoted the “demographic winter” narrative: the claim that feminism and liberal sexual mores had led to a crisis of Western depopulation, particularly in Europe, which would destabilize society. Beneath the narrative’s stated concern about how “birth shortage” would cause the “continent to age” – with too few young people to support an aging population – was the clear racial subtext that the demographic vacuum that would result in Europe being filled with Muslims. immigrants too difficult and too numerous to assimilate. European countries that wished to avoid the total transformation that would result, according to the WCF, should find ways not only to encourage more children, but to urge citizens to restore traditional gender roles and family structures that make possible large families.
Or as Quiverfull frontman Nancy Campbell once told me, “You see what happens when the Christian church refuses to have children. This” – she meant the Muslims – “begins to fill the earth, instead of what we are supposed to fill the earth with: a divine seed.
Today, the WCF movement and its associates are best known for their reliance on Russian religious, political, and business networks to fuel their movement. Their initial demographic winter narrative has been largely superseded by the far more overt claims of the far-right “great replacement” theory, which has turned the racial subtext of the Christian right pronatalist movement into a bold statement. that Western nations are the target of a concerted conspiracy to replace white populations with immigrants from the Global South.
In this context, it is almost impossible to hear Kayleigh McEnany’s call for more “Christian babies” separate from this mission and this message. And it’s just as hard to imagine that she didn’t want it that way.
Read more from Kathryn Joyce on religion and the far right: