I want to offer a worthy New Year’s goal for all of us who hate what is going on in the country because Donald Trump is President, especially those of us who are sickened by the support of so many evangelical Christians for him.

First, though, I need to provide the context for that goal as a way of explaining why there is an urgency to our embracing it.

In Evangelicalism and the Decline of American Politics, my focus was on the influence partisan evangelicals have on Republican politicians that has led them to abandon the tradition of compromise even Barry Goldwater said was critical to making government work.

What I didn’t anticipate in the book was the appointment of William Barr as Attorney General, something that has turned out to exacerbate the threat this marriage between evangelicals and Republican politics truly poses to our democracy.

In a provocative article published in the NY Times this past Sunday (December 29) entitled, “Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell,” Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson argue that the real goal of this evangelical/Republican union is to establish a dominant Christian nationalism that necessarily runs roughshod over the Constitution.

They carefully examined Barr’s recent speech at Notre Dame Law School in which he blamed “secularists” for “moral chaos” and “immense suffering, wreckage and misery.”

They sight several current cases Barr’s Justice Department is arguing on behalf of Christian individuals, groups, and businesses for their right to witness to their religious beliefs in schools and the marketplace, including the freedom to discriminate against people whose “life style” they believe is ungodly.

These cases reflect what they say is Barr’s radical view of “religious freedom” that fits perfectly into a Christian nationalist view of the Constitution.

They describe that view this way: “When religious nationalists invoke ‘religious freedom,’ it is typically code for religious privilege. The freedom they have in mind is the freedom of people of certain conservative and authoritarian varieties of religion to discriminate against those of whom they disapprove or over whom they wish to exert power.”

Barr has been unapologetic in making his views public. In his Notre Dame speech (and others the authors examined) he stated that religion (by which he means “Christianity”) must play a decisive role in American society lest the whole thing unravel, something he believes is already happening because of the growth of “secularism.”

But it is the conclusion Stewart and Frederickson reach that is most disturbing:

“…America’s conservative movement, having morphed into a religious nationalist movement, is on a collision course with the American constitutional system. Though conservatives have long claimed to be the true champions of the Constitution — remember all that chatter during previous Republican administrations about “originalism” and “judicial restraint” — the movement that now controls the Republican Party is committed to a suite of ideas that are fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution and the Republic that the founders created under its auspices.”

In short, evangelical Christianity has not only led to the decline of American politics as I have argued. It is determined to corrupt our current system of government by electing Republicans who support allowing Christians the freedom to ignore the Constitution and the line between church/state relations whenever it chooses to do so.

Those of us who know more than Barr does about Christianity and its history find this as dangerous as it is frustrating.

The truth about Christianity he fails to confront is that it has been the bane of freedom and justice as often as it has supported them.

It was after all a Christian minister named William Simpson who led the re-emergence of the Ku Klux Klan at Stone Mountain, Georgia in 1917, and that thousands of Christians joined the KKK in the mid-20th century because of their belief in white supremacy.

It was the kind of Christian nationalism Barr is promoting that led so many Christians to blindly and uncritically support presidents leading the nation into disastrous wars such as Viet Nam. Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Barr’s extremism extends to his belief that the founders didn’t mean what they said about the separation of church and state. What is more, he insists that the preponderance of court rulings that have said they did are wrong and he is right.

The truth Barr and everyone who thinks the way he does won’t tell you is that the entire history of Christianity is anything but virtuous or even admirable for the obvious reason that Christians have never been able to live up to the teachings of Jesus we claim to believe in.

If I had the chance I would tell William Barr that if he knew as much about Christianity as he thinks he does he would understand that Christian nationalism contradicts everything Jesus taught and lived.

I would like to tell him that with friends like him Christianity doesn’t need any enemies

But the big question is, how does Donald Trump fit into the Christian nationalist movement, and the answer Stewart and Frederickson give is unsettling, to say the least.

Bill Barr is the real leader of this movement and Donald Trump is its pawn. Evangelicals are engaged in abject hypocrisy not to support Trump as much as to use him to further their agenda, an agenda he could care less about it, but advances in every way he can in order to keep evangelical support.

The real “hero” for evangelical nationalists, then, is not Donald Trump as most of us might think. It is William Barr. Trump plays his part, but Barr is the mover and shaker behind the scenes.

How Barr has been conducting himself as Attorney General is not something even those who know him expected, but that doesn’t matter now, What does is the threat he represents to our country every bit as much as Trump does.

But there is some consolation in this otherwise very bad situation. Trump and Barr are a “two for the price of one” deal. Because we have Trump, we have Bill Barr.

That means getting rid of Trump also gets rid of Barr, and therein lies the all-important goal each of us must embrace for 2020. At this point, I cannot think of anything more urgent than making that happen as we enter the New Year.