by Tiffany Hunsinger
Tiffany Hunsinger is pursuing a Ph.D. in Theology at the University of Dayton. She became a full member of the Catholic Church while an undergraduate student at Purdue University and shortly afterward realized the Church needed fewer conservative and rigid ministers, and more ministers working for an inclusive and loving community. She has worked in campus ministry and youth ministry since. Tiffany combines her passion for Catholicism and politics in her theological work. She finds particularly troubling the evangelical Christian nationalism creeping into Catholic circles.
This past Thursday afternoon, I had the “pleasure” of attending Josh Mandel’s Faith and Freedom Tour with Michael Flynn at Victory Christian Church in Kettering, Ohio. With statements like “Pro-God, Pro-Gun, Pro-Trump,” and being a practicing Catholic, I assumed Mandel and I would align on rhetoric at least 33% of the time.
I walked into the church and pivoted to the smell of Bill’s donuts (a local delicacy) and good old church coffee. The crowd talked and anticipated Mandel’s sermon with something like the customary Sunday morning cheer. The group knew him as one of their own; as Mandel stated, they comprised his “home team.”
The Faith Coalition of Ohio, an endorser of Mandel, has led the charge in convincing churches across the state to support Mandel. At the meeting, they boasted that just over 100 pastors had signed on, with more coming in by the day. As the leader of the Faith Coalition stated at the rally, if you are not voting with Mandel, it is because you lack conviction.
The rally began with Dayton Right to Life’s extended reassurance of Mandel’s pro-baby ethics, as we waited thirty minutes for Mandel to appear. When Mandel finally appeared, the crowd erupted in applause, happy to see the Christian savior of Ohio. Mandel repeatedly evoked “Judeo-Christian” values in his promises. He lamented the loss of God within our country and discussed the things happening in the schools that betray the nation’s constitutional values. He cited Critical Race Theory, and talked about his friend’s daughter, “a girl in bows,” put into affinity groups based on race (the girl, being white, belonged to the “bystanders and oppressors” group). He described gender and sexuality discussion in the schools as evidence of their corruption. Of course, we cannot trust the media to cover these things, for, according to Mandel, media will censor the truth, especially media members from the coasts and not from the heartland of America. So we must find “the truth” on our own, and if we have not discovered “the truth,” it is our own fault.
In all of his rhetoric, in all of his efforts to elicit the Christian vote, though, Mandel never once mentioned his own Judaism. I am embarrassed to admit that I did not even know this Ted Cruz-backed candidate’s Jewishness until after the rally, contrary to Flynn, who referenced Catholicism throughout his speech. No one would have doubted that Mandel is a sincere Christian, particularly as he parades through evangelical churches throughout the state. Perhaps his constant reference to his time as a Marine, and thus his scars, make up for any religious insincerity. He gave the nod to Ohio’s new open carry laws as a victory for this Christian church.
Then there is Michael Flynn, the Catholic nationalist people’s general, whom Mandel strategically used as his “Pro-Trump” portion of his campaign. While President Trump did not endorse Mandel, opting for his rival J.D Vance instead, Flynn gave his backing to Mandel. When someone asked why Trump backed Vance despite his anti-Trump remarks in the past, the answer involved the divine mystery of the former President: No one knows what is going on in his head. At the end of the day, the candidate with the “Pro-Trump” campaign did not receive President Trump’s backing and had to rely on Michael Flynn instead. Regardless, Mandel promised the crowd to dismantle the January 6th insurrection on the capital commission and instead create a November 3rd commission to take back Trump’s rightful victory.
As stated in the rally’s opening prayer, let us hope God destroys the modern-day Pharaohs.
For more, here is Brian Kaylor’s wonderful Word and Way article – which includes photos taken by Tiffany Hunsinger – on the Mandel/Flynn rally at Victory Christian Church.