The religious-right organization Christians Engaged will be holding a conference in Texas in November, at which various right-wing activists, as well as state and federal legislators, will be speaking, including Republican Rep. Michael Cloud. In anticipation of the upcoming event, Christians Engaged founder Bunni Pounds used her podcast today to play the remarks that Cloud delivered at the organization’s 2022 conference.
Predictably, Cloud’s remarks were steeped in Christian nationalist mythology, beginning with his misrepresentation of remarks contained in a letter that John Adams sent to Thomas Jefferson in 1815.
“Let me read part of that letter to you,” Cloud began. “[John Adams said], ‘The question before the human race is this, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it. In other words, whether authority is originally in the people, or whether it has descended through time through a succession of rulers.’ And then they kind of came to this conclusion, he says, ‘Or has it been brought down from Heaven by the Holy Ghost?'”
“These are the people who wrote the documents,” Cloud declared. “[And critics are] trying to tell us there’s no Christian influence in America.”
Not only did Cloud ignore the context of Adams’ letter, but he fundamentally misrepresented and misquoted what Adams wrote.
Adams was responding to an earlier letter from Jefferson in which Jefferson discussed the Napoleonic Wars that had roiled Europe for years and Napoleon’s short-lived return to power. Adams replied by insisting that political power belongs to the people and mocked the idea that it can be bestowed upon rulers (like Napoleon or European monarchs) by “Popes and Bishops or via “fictitious Miracles.”
The question before the human race is, Whether the God of nature Shall govern the World by his own laws, or Whether Priests and Kings shall rule it by fictitious Miracles? Or, in other Words, whether Authority is originally in the People? or whether it has descended for 1800 years in a succession of Popes and Bishops, or brought down from Heaven by the holy Ghost in the form of a Dove, in a Phyal of holy Oil?
Adams did not declare, as Cloud suggested, that political power “has been brought down from Heaven by the Holy Ghost”; Adams was, in fact, mocking that very notion.
Furthermore, Cloud’s claim is a straw man; historians and others who dispute the dishonest Christian nationalism promoted by people like Cloud do not claim that there was no Christian influence during the colonial era, rather they note that the authors of the U.S. Constitution had every opportunity to create a Christian government if they wanted to, but instead chose to prohibit the establishment of an official religion and ban religious tests for public office.
Cloud continued, “We as the church of God have got to stand up and understand that we have the authority. We should look to Christ. What did he say? For all of human history, we’re waiting, like, ‘What does God really care about?’ And the thing that Christ talked about over and over, [like] in the Sermon on the Mount, he said, ‘The Kingdom, the Kingdom, the Kingdom, the Kingdom, the Kingdom.’”
“Christ came to establish a kingdom on Earth that would operate under different principles than all the kingdoms of the Earth would operate, and he asked us to be a part of it,” Cloud said. “He asked us to be ambassadors of that kingdom, to help establish it here on Earth. So everybody say, ‘I’m in the government.’ You’re in the government!”
“You know, people say, ‘Well, the Bible is not a political book, and we shouldn’t be involved,’ and I’m just like, ‘Have you ever read it?'” Cloud asserted. “It’s like every single chapter is like dripping in it!”
We need your help. Every day, Right Wing Watch exposes extremism to help the public, activists, and journalists understand the strategies and tactics of anti-democratic forces—and respond to an increasingly aggressive and authoritarian far-right movement. The threat is growing, but our resources are not. Any size contribution—or a small monthly donation—will help us continue our work and become more effective at disrupting the ideologies, people, and organizations that threaten our freedom and democracy. Please make an investment in Right Wing Watch’s defense of the values we share.