State senator Doug Mastriano, the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s gubernatorial candidate, checks all the Christian nationalist boxes: He’s a retired Army strategist and intelligence officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan; he is an outspoken supporter of former president Donald Trump and the Big Lie about the 2020 presidential election; and as a Christian nationalist, a full-throated advocate of spiritual warfare. He attended the January 6thStop the Steal rally and was seen on the grounds of the Capital. If elected, Mastriano intends to transform Pennsylvania into a mini-Trump fiefdom, with Christian nationalist principles at its core.
Frederick Clarkson, the veteran investigative reporter and right-wing watchdog, has written the most comprehensive piece about Doug Mastriano and he makes connections that most in the media have not made.
According to Clarkson, “religious metaphors … derived from contemporary understandings of the Old Testament by new elements within Christianity. … has been central” to Mastriano’s campaign. “He suggested,” writes Clarkson in Salon (https://www.salon.com/2022/07/04/hes-on-a-mission-from-god-pennsylvania-candidate-doug-mastrianos-with-the-world/) to an interviewer that today's Christians should emulate the warriors of Old Testament Israel.”
While he has denied being a Christian nationalist, Mastriano shows up for all sorts of Christian nationalist events and rallies. Clarkson reported that among other events, Mastriano spoke “at the Jericho March in December 2020 that unsuccessfully called for the Electoral College to switch its votes to Donald Trump.”
Clarkson who has been writing about the Religious Right since its inception in the late 1970s, is the author of the invaluable Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy(Common Courage Press,1997). In the first chapter, titled “Eternal Hostility: The Born Again Struggle,” Clarkson was prescient in writing: “The agenda of the Christian Right is more astounding and dangerous to democracy than most of us are prepared to believe. The scale of change in American politics is more serious than has been generally reported. Political violence is growing. Armed paramilitary groups are forming.”
In his Salon story headlined “He's on a mission from God: Pennsylvania GOP candidate Doug Mastriano's war with the world,” Clarkson introduces readers to movements unfamiliar to most Americans. Welcome to the world of the New Apostolic Reformation, the Shofar Army, the Oklahoma-based Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network, and the Texas-headquartered Reformation Prayer Network, and such events as The Jericho March, as well as conferences like Patriots Arise.
According to Clarkson “Mastriano's core support is a fusion of QAnon, the far-right Patriot movement and the revivalist New Apostolic Reformation — which views him as a military and political leader in advancing the biblically prophesied end times. We see this in his role in the Jericho March during the run-up to Jan. 6, and more recently when he joined members of the ‘Shofar Army'’ in a ceremony of ‘spiritual warfare’ on the Gettysburg battlefield, and as the headliner at a conference, Patriots Arise.”
The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is not new. As Clarkson reports, NAR is “a dynamic theological and organizational revamping of much of pentecostal and charismatic Christianity. For decades, NAR has led the abandonment of traditional mainline Protestant and evangelical denominations in favor of prayer networks.”
The key to understanding the NAR is that they promote taking control of what they call the “Seven Mountains” “of society in order to achieve Christian dominion . … religion, family, government, business, education, arts & entertainment and media.”
In an interview last year with the New Yorker’s Eliza Griswold, Mastriano denied he was a Christian nationalist. "Is this a term you fabricated?" he asked. "What does it mean and where have I indicated that I am a Christian Nationalist?"
Clarkson describes two videos of Mastriano in league with the spiritual warfarers:
In the videos, Mastriano performs a ritual act of spiritual warfare — blowing shofars with the Shofar Army and Prophet Bill Yount of Blowing the Shofar Ministries. But as later became clear, they understood the warfare as physical, not just spiritual.
…. In one video, the leader, Earl Hixon, prays, ‘Thank you, Father. We tread upon the enemy.’ Pointing to Mastriano, he continues, ‘Father God, I am looking to our new general here, that you have appointed, this Joshua. In Jesus' name!’ Mastriano raises his outstretched arm in apparent acknowledgment.
…. In the second video, Hixon follows the Army's shofar blasts by declaring he wants to "mark this day in the history of eternity." He then leads the Army in shouts of the imprecation, "Arise, oh God, and let your enemies be scattered!"
Clarkson notes that “The Shofar Army and NAR leaders envision themselves as waging ‘spiritual warfare’ against a host of enemies, whom they understand to be possessed or controlled by demons. So when they repeatedly ask God to smite his enemies in this way,” as André Gagné, [professor of theological studies at Concordia University in Montreal, and author of a study of Trump's evangelical followers told Salon, “some people may feel compelled to act out the metaphors in more literal fashion. (It's probably fair to wonder whether that informed what happened on Jan. 6.)”
Most importantly, as Clarkson points out, these movements, events, conferences, rallies and election campaigns are all aimed at one thing: Bringing together “the factions of the religious and political right that is reshaping American conservative politics and public life, from the MAGA movement to Jan. 6 to the Mastriano campaign.”
Mastriano’s extreme right-wing and Christian nationalist views and affiliations have fractured the Pennsylvania Republican Party. According to USA Today, nine Pennsylvania Republican current and former elected officials and a retired State Supreme Court judge have publically endorsed Josh Shapiro, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2022/07/06/mastriano-shapiro-gop-leaders-pa-governors-race/7820029001/).However the latest polls (June 15th) show the two candidates to be in a virtual dead heat. Whether Mastriano is ultimately too far to the right is the test for November.