If US Senator Josh Hawley is known for one thing, it's his fist raised in the air in solidarity with the mob of Christian Nationalists on January 6, 2021, just before they stormed the US Capitol building in an attempt to assassinate members of Congress and overthrow the federal government of the United States.
The Christian Nationalism of Josh Hawley wasn't confined to just that one moment, however. His extremist Christian Nationalist ideology isn't just a flash in the pan. It's a long term strategy in an effort to destroy American democracy.
Last week, Senator Hawley gave an alarming speech at the National Conservatism conference. You may have heard the sound bite from his speech in which he declared that America is nothing without the bible.
The speech was much more than just a sound bite, however. It was an incitement to violence.
In the speech, Josh Hawley told a story that sounded as if it was taken from a Sunday School curriculum.
As Hawley told it, the story was about brave Christians who defied the Christian-hating Roman Emperor Julian by gathering at the pagan Temple of Serapis (the Serapeum) to destroy a statue there.
The problem with the story is that it wasn't historically inaccurate.
A Christian mob did gather at the Temple of Serapis in Alexandria, Egypt, but they did so 27 years after the reign of Emperor Julian.
Julian was Emperor for only 2 years, and every emperor after him was Christian.
By the time the Temple of Serapis was destroyed in 390 CE, the Roman Empire had been persecuting non-Christians, and subsidizing the growth of Christianity, for many years.
So, that crowd of Christians who gathered in Alexandria to demolish the Temple of Serapis wasn't a courageous group of dissidents standing against the Roman Empire. They were acting with the support of the Roman Empire in its efforts to suppress all religious practices other than Christianity.
The destruction of the Temple of Serapis was supported by Emperor Theodosius, who followed up the initial violence by ordering the destruction of pagan religious objects and directing a Christian church to be built atop the ruins of the pagan temple.
This encouragement of the attack against the Temple of Serapis by the Roman emperor results in a wave of further violence by Christians against non-Christians in Roman Egypt and elsewhere across the empire.
Josh Hawley used his false history of the Christian attack against the Temple of Serapis as example of the kind of Christian Nationalist violence he'd like his followers to engage in.
Senator Hawley compared the "Woke Left" to the Roman Empire, and suggested that his followers will have to stand up and repeat the attack against non-Christians in order to restore the true path of Christianity in the United States.
This article is adapted from a podcast episode and a longer article exploring the actual history of the destruction of the Temple of Serapis at Stop Christian Nationalism.