Eric Adams, the Democratic mayor of New York who often sounds like a Republican, has often referred to his relationship with God, especially when he’s in trouble. A recent example is a conversation he had with Radio Vision Cristiania last week, when he said, “I am mayor because God gave me the authority to be mayor, and he placed in the hearts of the voters to give me that authority.” Also last week, newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., proclaimed, “I believe that scripture, the Bible, is very clear: that God is the one who raises up those in authority.”
“I am mayor because God gave me the authority to be mayor, and he placed in the hearts of the voters to give me that authority.”
New York mayor eric adams
What’s going on here? God talk by these politicians and others like them is a way to characterize their authority as “God given” to appeal to religious voters. It’s hubris for them to believe that God has chosen them above everybody else, even other Christians.
Their belief that God has chosen them to lead dovetails with the idea that America is a Christian nation and that the only way to keep it that way is to have politicians who not only invoke God but also do God’s will for the nation. It also neatly fits into Christian nationalism, the idea that America is a Christian nation and that its leaders should be Christian, too. It’s not just Christian nationalism, however, that these politicians embrace. They also embrace dominionism, the belief that God intended Christians to lead. This belief is prevalent among many conservative Christians and politicians in America.
When politicians like Adams, who was raised in the Church of God in Christ, and Johnson, who’s Southern Baptist, speak about God raising them up in authority, this is the belief that they are espousing. Somehow, it never translates to their opponents in office, however! Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in 2016 was based on this belief, and more recently, in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, Doug Mastriano ran as God’s chosen candidate. On election night, his voters learned otherwise.
This isn’t an aberration. Consider the number of Republicans who believe God appointed Donald Trump president. Even Trump, who rarely passes up an opportunity to speak highly of himself, hedged his bets on that one. He said that he “hoped” it was true that God appointed him. In the 2020 election cycle, half of white American Evangelicals believed that Trump had been chosen by God. Which is why it has been hard for the “stop the steal” fever to break. If God chose Trump, then why isn’t he president?
Couple dominionism with the rise in Christian nationalism and you have a dangerous combination of religious belief with nationalism that politicians will certainly exploit in the 2024 election cycle. Expect to hear a lot of God talk from politicians, because God doesn’t talk to the press, and he is unavailable for comment.
In states like Mississippi, these ideas of Christian nationalism and dominionism are fueling school board takeovers, more restrictive laws about women’s reproductive rights and the campaign for parental rights.
Dominionism compels religious leaders such as Sean Feucht to proclaim that Christians should be the only ones writing the laws: “You want the kingdom [of God] to be the government? YES. You want God to take over the government? YES! WE want God to be in control of everything!”
These kinds of statements are why abortion was always the No. 1 target for conservative Christian lawmakers and politicians. For them, God’s laws applied to all women’s bodies, whether they are Christian or not. The Dobbs decision came together with the help of Christian nationalists in Mississippi and the Alliance for Defending Freedom, a Christian legal organization with ties to Christian dominionists. The new House speaker previously worked as a senior spokesperson and attorney for ADF.
When the Supreme Court rescinded Roe v. Wade, it was not only a victory for pro-lifers but more generally a win for those who believe the laws should fit their particular Christian beliefs.
Despite their claims otherwise, candidates and leaders who say they’ve been chosen by God aren’t being humble. They are signaling to people who embrace dominionist and Christian nationalist beliefs that they’re the ones who’ll bring God’s kingdom in. They’re the ones who’ll put God, and not the will of the people, first.
I believe that scripture, the Bible, is very clear: that God is the one who raises up those in authority.
House speaker mike johnson, R-La.
That’s why Johnson’s being the speaker of the House and second in line of succession to the presidency should cause everyone to take a step back. His embrace of Christian nationalism, his election denial and his leading role in the anti-abortion movement in Louisiana make him the most conservative House speaker in recent memory. And he wouldn’t believe God made him speaker if he didn’t believe God intended him to continue the work he’s been doing.
Eric Adams, on the other hand, is using his “anointing” by God to protect himself from the consistent criticisms of his mayorship.
When you hear candidates say they have been chosen by God, beware. That hubris is hiding an authoritarian political worldview based on their limited view of God instead of the belief that the U.S. Constitution, or other guiding documents, should be their guide.