Drag Queen Conservatism is the Real Threat to Religious Freedom

COMMENTARY Conservatism

Drag Queen Conservatism is the Real Threat to Religious Freedom

Oct 5, 2022 6 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Delano Squires

Research Fellow, Richard and Helen DeVos Center

Delano is a research fellow in Heritage’s Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family.
A drag queen poses during the 2022 New York City Pride march on June 26, 2022 in New York City. Astrida Valigorsky / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

David French has claimed “National Conservatism Is a Direct Threat to Religious Freedom.”

French fails to grasp that we already live in a political culture in which government power is used to ... enforce “religious viewpoint supremacy.”

The alternative is not theocracy or one established church, as so many critics charge. It’s rather a call to recover the robustly religious public square.

You would think that the most controversial claim made at the recent National Conservatism Conference—that the re-Christianization of American culture is the greatest hope for preserving the republic for future generations—would have been made by a Christian. 

It wasn’t. It came from Yoram Hazony, chairman of the Edmund Burke Foundation, who argued that, despite being an Orthodox Jew, he believes Christianity to be the only force strong enough to defeat leftist authoritarianism in America. Later in the conference, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, reminded attendees that there is no such thing as a neutral secular state. American political life, he argued, will wither and die if it is severed from our Creator. 

The robust promotion of God in the public square was well-received at the conference. It provided a stark contrast to an administration that insists men can become pregnant, abortion on-demand is “reproductive justice,” and mutilating the genitals of teenagers is “gender-affirming care.” National conservatives prefer a government guided by the scriptures to one devoted to the spirit of Moloch and gender-bending experiments of John Money. 

Not every so-called conservative shares this perspective.

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David French has claimed “National Conservatism Is a Direct Threat to Religious Freedom.” He sees a “quest for power” as the besetting sin of NatCons:

This quest for power is evident in the desire, for example, to overturn decades of First Amendment precedent to stop drag queens from using public facilities for public events, to prohibit particular racial viewpoints even in private corporate diversity training programs, and in the goal to force private social media companies to host expression they find abhorrent. 

French characterizes the use of state power to protect children from sexual perversion or to shield workers from mandatory “white fragility” training as an assault on liberty. But would he publicly criticize black politicians who sought to block schools from teaching “scientific racism”? Would he defend “Blackface Story Hour” as a “blessing of liberty”?

French is an evangelical Christian. And yet he places churches that host drag shows on the same moral footing as those that do not. He writes: 

But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that the “moral vision” of the [National Conservatism Statement of Principles] signatories broadly reflects the diversity of Christian belief and practice in the United States. After all, there are churches that host drag queen events, as well as churches that condemn drag queens.

Here French seems to have a much larger problem than figuring out the appropriate role for religion in the public square. He first needs a working definition for the word “Christian” and a standard by which to judge those who claim to be one. 

This kind of drag queen conservatism has failed to protect religious liberty or promote a healthy, thriving society. Any political philosophy so slavishly devoted to the concept of expressive individualism that it defends the right of teachers to use their classrooms to indulge their kinks is both morally bankrupt and culturally corrosive. 

All governments should do at least three things: protect rights by respecting the limits of the state’s sphere of sovereignty, preserve resources by stewarding the public fisc, and promote righteousness by rewarding good and punishing evil. Someone will inevitably set the standard for determining right and wrong. Moral neutrality is not an option.

French fails to grasp that we already live in a political culture in which government power is used to destroy opposing views and enforce “religious viewpoint supremacy.” The United States already has a state religion. Some call it wokeness, while others describe it as leftism. Whatever the name, the most influential denomination in the theocratic junta is the LGBTQIA+ political lobby. 

Our governing institutions, media companies, schools, corporations, and religious institutions have all been queered. Pride flags fly on federal and state buildings, mainline Protestant churches, businesses, and in classrooms across the country. Disney and Nickelodeon promote radical gender ideology to small children in cartoons and movies. Courts remove children from parents who don’t accept their new “gender identity.” Schools help “transition” students behind the backs of their parents. Every June, corporations pay indulgences with rainbow-colored logos and merchandise. 

This is the religious supremacy that exists in America today. Like many faiths, apostasy is vigorously policed. Public school teachers say “gay” to children in classrooms. But public health administrators are terrified to speak honestly to gay men about monkeypox for fear of perpetuating negative stereotypes. 

Christians and anyone else with traditional views on sex who want to remain in good standing—and employed—must bend the knee to the gender ideologues who have catechized the culture. Even “conservative” evangelicals have proven susceptible. The former president of the Southern Baptist Convention advised Christians to practice “pronoun hospitality” with people who reject God’s design for their body. 

David French seems not to grasp the threat that radical gender politics already poses to all Americans, not just Christians. No one will be kicked off social media for denying the lordship of Christ. But they will for denying that Caitlyn Jenner is a lady. 

Drag queen conservatives and their hyper-libertarian co-belligerents fail to understand that, in a fallen world, liberty detached from transcendent morality quickly devolves into spiritual bondage. Societies have governments. But they also have public cultures that establish norms and elites in politics, media, academia, and business who enforce them. David French uses his platforms to criticize white evangelical conservatives.

Christian national conservatives aren’t calling for theocracy. But they do want to saturate the public square with the wisdom of Proverbs. Like Dutch Prime Minister and theologian Abraham Kuyper, they believe, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” 

Such a bold declaration would cause many American Christians to recoil. But they don’t realize that the state already practices its own brand of Kuyperianism. The prevalence of drag queens in public schools is one obvious way the left uses the state to exercise authority over American families. The conservatives who abet this perversion also contribute to the consignment of Christianity to the private realm. One effect of that is the surrender of the public realm to gender ideology. 

Again, the alternative is not theocracy or one established church, as so many critics charge. It’s rather a call to recover the robustly religious public square that persisted in the U.S. until a few decades ago. Yes, it would prohibit adults from sexualizing kids. At the same time, though, a Christianized American culture would likely mean making sexual preferences and activity a private matter again. 

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The battle for the public square is largely about controlling language and capturing institutions. Ideologues on the left understand this, which is why they fight so hard to control the range of beliefs and behaviors that are relegated to the private sphere. For decades, religious Americans lived "out, loud, and proud" while gays and lesbians felt pressure to keep their sexual preferences private.

Times have changed. Now Christians who adhere to biblical sexual ethics feel intense public pressure to keep their beliefs private. The LGBT community, conversely, is affirmed and supported by every institution in the country, from the federal government to professional sports leagues.

Drag queen conservatives have a choice to make. The past 20 years have proven that our cultural norms will always be shaped by someone’s worldview and values. We will either have a society that believes adults sexualizing children in libraries, schools, and public venues is a protected form of speech or one that condemns such behavior with the righteous indignation it deserves.

There is no middle ground if we hope to prevent civilizational collapse. The closet isn’t big enough for both groups. 

This piece originally appeared in The American Conservative