by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy, Arizona Mirror
June 5, 2023
A West Valley Republican state senator proudly displays a flag tied to Christian nationalism and other extremist movements on her desk on the floor of the Arizona Senate, though she says she has embraced the symbol for its historical meaning and doesn’t care that “fringe groups” have adopted it.
The white flag with a pine tree on it and the phrase “An Appeal to Heaven” was originally used by George Washington and the Continental Army. It was later adopted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as its naval and maritime flag from 1776 until 1971, when it was replaced by a similar flag that did not include the phrase “An Appeal to Heaven.”
In recent years, the flag has been adopted by evangelical Christians and Christian nationalists, who see the flag as a rallying call. Christian nationalists believe that the United States is Christian nation that should base its laws and practices around the teachings of Christianity. For followers of the movement, the flag symbolizes what they view as America’s Christian roots.
The flag has also been embraced by far-right extremist organizations like the Proud Boys and some neo-Nazi groups.
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Arizona Sen. Janae Shamp, R-Surprise, rejected the notion that her use of the flag indicates anything beyond her commitment to fighting to protect “our liberty and freedoms” from “the too many wanna be kings who inhabit elected office and (government) bureaucracies.”
“Something that has had a particular meaning for 250 years retains its original meaning, no matter which fringe group might seek to co-opt it,” Shamp said in an emailed response to questions about the flag. “I hope and pray that my fight enjoys a similarly favorable outcome as (George) Washington’s original struggle, and that I will succeed in restoring at least some small measure of liberty before I’m done.
“That’s why I fly the flag. I don’t know who else uses it or for what.”
Shamp did not respond to questions about whether she embraced the beliefs of Christian nationalism, and said she doesn’t know anything about Christian dominionism, a closely related belief system. She called the Arizona Mirror’s line of inquiry “lazy” and “an attempted hit.”
“I work everyday with people of all faiths and even some who hold no particular faith or even no faith at all. That’s how America works,” she wrote. “So anybody stupid enough to try to put me into some sort of discriminatory box deserves the public ridicule they’ll get for trying to convince people of something so obviously wrong.”
To investigative journalist, author and researcher David Neiwert, who has written extensively about the far-right and conspiracy theorists, the lines between many different groups have begun to blur as a “universe” of far-right groups from QAnon, militias, white supremacists and others have gained political influence, particularly among conservatives.
Most of them, however, share a few things in common, he said, including beliefs in “right-wing authoritarianism” and the alleged supremacy of Christianity.
And after looking at the various people and things Shamp has supported over the years, including various extremist and Christian nationalist figures and causes, Neiwart said it’s clear to him that Shamp ascribes to those beliefs.
“She is definitely a Christian nationalist, she is definitely QAnon, and a fully enraptured Trumpite,” Neiwert said.
Christian nationalism and Christian dominionism
While a surge in Christian nationalism in recent years has garnered media attention — due in part to high-profile conservatives like U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has explicitly declared herself a Christian nationalist, and the backing of influential leaders like white nationalist Nick Fuentes — Christian dominionism has similarly been on the rise, though with much less fanfare.
While Christian nationalism centers on the idea that God intended America to be a Christian nation — one without religious pluralism — and that Christians should control all levels of government and society, Christian dominionism holds that Christians should take total control over most aspects of society.
One of the more popular Dominionist beliefs is in the so-called “Seven Mountain Mandate,” which draws from the biblical book of Revelations and requires Christians to invade the “seven spheres” of society: family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business, and government. In doing so, American life can be reshaped to hew to conservative Christian values.
The idea has been embraced and promoted by people like Turning Point USA leader Charlie Kirk and Paula White, the televangelist who served as a “spiritual advisor” to Donald Trump while he was president.
According to Neiwert, the key difference between Christian dominionism and nationalism is that dominionists want everyone under Christian rule, while nationalists think everyone should convert to Christianity.
“Christian nationalists take it a step further than Christian Dominionists,” Neiwert said, adding that a dominionist wouldn’t care if a Muslim was present, “they just want them under the thumb of Christian leaders.”
One of the biggest promoters of Christian nationalism and dominionism has been disgraced Ret. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, who has claimed that he is waging “spiritual warfare” and building an “army of God.” Flynn is also known to associate with other known Dominionist groups.
Shamp is a fervent supporter of Flynn’s, and has posted praise of Flynn often on social media. The recent COVID-19 special committee she co-chaired was sponsored in part by an organization that Flynn co-founded.
“I get goosebumps every time General Flynn talks about our great Nation!” Shamp said in a December 2021 post accompanied by a video of Flynn.
At a Trump rally in Florence in January 2022, Shamp told Business Insider that the “No. 1 person standing up for ‘we, the people’ is probably Gen. Michael Flynn.”
She explained that Flynn was helping fight for the “grassroots, for citizens to get involved, for us to take our country back” from the “political elite.” Flynn later endorsed Shamp in her bid for the Arizona Senate.
Shamp, a conservative from Surprise, has also been found to have shared a number of QAnon posts on her Facebook, including some linked to Neo-Nazis and antisemites.
The flag and extremism
The flag, which Shamp displays on her desk and in her Twitter banner image, has also been connected to extremist groups and violent events. During the violent events of Jan. 6, the flag was seen being carried by a number of individuals.
It has also been adopted by groups that support the likes of Fuentes, who during protests over mask mandates and COVID vaccines, flew the flag, as well as at their annual gatherings, according to Neiwert.
That is what in part makes it hard to know who exactly was flying the flag at the riots on Jan. 6, far-right extremists or Christian nationalist types, Neiwert said, but that doesn’t change one underlying thing.
“I would say Christian nationalism as a phenomenon is one of the real undergirding movements involved in the insurrection,” Neiwert said, adding that the militias and other groups such as the OathKeepers all had underlying Christian nationalist roots or beliefs. “All these Christian patriots that formed these militias are Christian nationalists as well.”
Shamp’s flag is not the first time the flag has appeared in the Arizona Senate, either.
Last year, the Secular Coalition of Arizona pointed out that a small version of the flag was being displayed on the security desk in the Arizona Senate; it was later removed. A spokeswoman for the Arizona Senate Republican caucus did not respond to multiple requests for comment about what policies, if any, the Senate has regarding the display of flags.
A larger version of the flag was displayed in the second-floor lobby of the Arizona House of Representatives last year, as well. Again, after the Secular Coalition of Arizona inquired about the flag, it was quietly removed. The flag had previously been displayed in the chamber in 2017.
The Secular Coalition of Arizona sees the flag as a violation of the constitutional doctrine requiring a separation of church and state.
For Neiwert, the appearance of the “An Appeal to Heaven” flag in Arizona, and statehouses across the country, is troubling.
“It is a pretty clear sign that this stuff has been mainstreamed and that is not a good thing,” he said. “I don’t think Americans typically awake to an existential threat until it creates a disaster of monumental proportions.”
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