Note: After Kevin DeYoung included deeply disconnected comments about the state of society in our moment in his review of Stephen Wolfe’s The Case for Christian Nationalism we reached out to Jon Harris of the Conversations That Matter Podcast, who had been researching the Tulius Aadland account at the center of the Roberts/Achord controversy, for any insights that might be gleaned from the account. Below is his response. You can also find his video on the same topic following the post.
It is no secret the secular media’s strategy against so-called “Christian Nationalism” is to conjure up images of Nuremburg marches in the minds of otherwise susceptible American Christians. Some on the Left regularly refer to it as “White Christian Nationalism” to reinforce this point. In fact, it seems that elites of almost every political stripe on the Right and Left are convinced that something nefarious lurks in the fine print waiting for the right moment to invade the Rheinland and institute concentration camps for religious heretics.
Most rank-in-file conservatives are used to this treatment of course. Being called “Nazi” for holding any belief to the right of Bernie Sanders is standard fare in today’s political discourse. The Left has heavily beaten the warning drums since Donald Trump’s first presidential campaign when White Nationalists like Richard Spencer initially found inspiration for their own agenda. Because Republican voters fail to see the threat so often described materialize it is easy to disregard the warnings as another exercise in “crying wolf.” Most of the time it most surely is. However, this does not mean that Far Right beliefs are not gaining steam as elites rush to institutionalize Far-Left sentiments. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, so the proverb says.
Not long after the second World War Richard Weaver described European Fascism as “the rebellion of youth, the repudiation of bourgeois complacency, the attempt to renew the sense of ‘holiness and heroism.'” Though it was fueled by “resentment’ and “invert[ed] the Christian ethic” it was nonetheless the chosen “vulgar” substitute to replace a cheap civilization bereft of transcendence. In other words, there were certain conditions present that left the human spirit unfulfilled, a spirit once burning with the fires of the older religiousness. If we are to accept Weaver’s premise, it is no accident that Fascism arose when and where it did. The same can be said for any reactionary movement.
I would like to suggest, despite the media’s overblown and hypocritical witch hunt for Nazis sitting in a pew near you, they are not picking up on nothing. It may be a something of their own creation, but it is not a nothing. What today’s elites incorrectly diagnose is really a dissatisfaction with the status quo, especially for young men on the Right. Disaffected members of neo-conservatism, libertarianism, and other acceptable forms of anti-Leftism know their world is ending and their leaders either fail to care or fail to offer realistic solutions. They lived through MeToo struggle sessions, BLM riots, Covid hysteria, Transgender normalization, and an election crisis in only a few short years. They watched as straight white Christian males became the most hated demographic in the Republic many of their forefather’s founded. They saw their leaders in almost every institution destroy whatever trust they had left. These are not small developments.
Betrayal naturally leads to revenge which is what we are witnessing now in political discourse. A clean-cut candidate holding a baby is no longer in vogue for young men on either the Right or Left. What matters more is punishing the other side. For young men on the Right, it is also defending a way of life under massive assault. The stakes could not be higher. As a result, people on the Right are shopping for alternatives to the conventional options offered them by managerial elites. National socialism is one option. So is Christian Nationalism. Some are rediscovering paleo-conservatism. Though these political frameworks differ, at the end of the day the goal for many young men is victory, not ideological purism.
Unfortunately, institutional Christianity has largely disregarded these concerns and supported a corrupt status quo. One does not need to search long to find examples of Christian leaders bowing to the gods of the age. “The Bible whispers about sexual sin,” “Black Lives Matter is a Gospel issue,” “Our denomination has an abuse crisis,” “Love your neighbor, get vaccinated,” are all common refrains in influential churches and ministries. Kevin Deyoung recently wrote that he was “troubled” merely by the observation that “the straight white male. . . is the chief out-group of New America.” When leaders suppress forbidden truths crucial for survival people start looking for new leadership, even in unlikely places.
Recently, some more conventional evangelical voices who strongly oppose Christian Nationalism surfaced old tweets from a pseudonymous account named Tulius Aadland in order to discredit Stephen Wolfe, the author of the most popular book favoring Christian Nationalism. They alleged that Tulius was actually Stephen’s podcast cohost Thomas Achord and pointed to racially insensitive tweets potentially supporting segregation and white nationalism. Thomas denied the charges and a battle over conflicting evidence ensued until Thomas issued a retraction and took responsibility for the account in question seeking repentance under the guidance of his church. Many noted the desperate lengths evangelical opponents of Christian Nationalism were willing to go to in order to discredit the movement. They disregarded admonitions in places like Leviticus 19, 1 Corinthians 6, and Galatians 6 to protect other’s reputations, handle such disputes within the context of the church, and most importantly aim to gently restore another Christian instead of publicly shaming them. The end result was that Thomas, the father of four with one on the way lost his job Thanksgiving eve. Christian Nationalism was also somewhat discredited but so were institutional Christian leaders who once again played the part of regime evangelicals enforcing the merciless standards of the world while turning blind eyes to obvious unbiblical behavior. One leader cohosted a podcast of his own with a self-described gay Christian. Another agreed to divorce his wife and regularly posted sexually leud tweets.
Though some were not, others were surprised that someone who allegedly once held such racially insensitive views made it as close as they did to Stephen Wolfe. I myself still find this development a very hard pill to swallow. I hosted Thomas on my podcast three times and talked directly about government imposed racial segregation arguing against it because it contradicted the concept of natural relationships. Thomas nodded in agreement. Stephen himself could not square Tuilus Aadland with the Thomas Achord he knew other than to postulate that his friend went through a very dark time in 2020 and early 2021. However, if Tulius Aadland is Thomas Achord there may be a paradigm that makes some sense of it. To understand this paradigm though requires ignoring all the wrong lessons being taken from the situation currently.
The problem is not that Christian Nationalism is actually White Nationalism. No one in the movement would need to hide their allegedly white nationalist views if that were the case. The problem is also not that pseudonyms are wrong. During times of political danger, they can actually become important. Many of the Founders themselves used pseudonyms to distribute important information while minimizing risk to their families. Neither is the problem that one must never alliance themselves with someone who holds wrong or unpopular views to accomplish other political objectives. David partnered with the Northern Philistines to defeat the Arameans, Jesus found common cause with the Pharisees against the Sadducees, interestingly, Ukraine is partnering with actual Nazis in order to fight Russia. The gatekeepers do not seem to find fault in these and other similar scenarios that do not involve spiritual partnership. No, these are not the takeaways. Though there may be other lessons, the major one is actually quite simple: Tulius bears the responsibility for his tweets, but it is obvious that institutional Christianity has failed young men by abandoning their interests. In order to demonstrate this, let me introduce you to Tulius Aadland.
Tulius Aadland held a normal job. He got up at 5, got to work around 7, had a break at 11, got off work at 3, and had dinner at 7. He sometimes got up in the middle of the night briefly and logged into Twitter on his iPad. Most of Tulius’s views fit with mainstream conservative thought. He was not against multiethnic churches but did not want pastors using wokeness to pander. He wanted black students to prosper but under a charter school system. He followed fairly mainstream conservative accounts. Some of his top support went to posts from people like James Lindsay, Matt Walsh, Rod Dreher, Candice Owens, and Thomas Sowell defending white people and Christians. Tulius supported mainstream critiques he heard of things like critical race theory and the response to Covid19.
But there were two major things that contributed to him increasingly separating himself from mainstream conservatives. First, he felt leaders of the church and state were not acknowledging legitimate concerns. Second, he developed a resentful, absolute, and simplistic way of navigating the world he found himself in. In 2020, Tulius thought Trump should criticize White Supremacy, but wanted him to emphasize that white people deserved respect. Trump failed. When Ted Cruz went after white Antifa members for violent acts during the BLM riots in June of 2020 Tulius wanted to know why he “denounce[d] white people but [did not] speak out on black violence?” Cruz failed. When JD Greear, who at that time was president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told followers they needed to condemn white supremacy whenever asked to do so Tulius interpreted his words as empty and controlled. Greear failed. Tulius noticed that evangelical leaders in general could easily condemn Q-anon but not the “elitist desire to molest children that QAnon had revealed.” Christian leaders failed. In short, Tulius lamented “elite politicians” who “condemn their constituencies” and “Big Eva leaders” who “mock and deride . . . their own working class brothers and sisters in Christ.” He was “tired of being race-shamed and woke-guilted” by evangelical leaders who failed to protect “traditional biblical morals.”
The belief that “we are up against something more powerful than just about anything in world history” while our leaders are unwilling to acknowledge basic truths while maintaining support for regime-approved views likely drove Tulius into his own contemplations and opened him up to unapproved views advocated by other pseudonymous accounts. Tulius’s account attracted other followers new to Twitter, using pseudonyms, and sharing similar sentiments. For example, one follower who joined Twitter in 2021 laments being “a White man with no future in the West.” Tulius yearned for leaders who acted strong. Perhaps he and other marginalized little guys possessed the strength necessary to defeat the enemy. He became more isolated projecting a view of himself that did not need compromised companies and institutions. Men were powerful, white people themselves could “grow strong and courageous” and take back the West, men could be “virtuous, strong . . . excellen[t] [and brave]” with the right woman by their side. The enemies of civilization were actually weak and defeatable. Interestingly, Jesus, without whom any righteous plan can succeed, was not part of this equation.
Tulius vacillated between moments of inspiration and very dark or depressing feelings. He wrote about a “normie white” who “became [a] redpilled nazi with [a] gun threatening violence” when pushed to edge. He tauntingly said, “This is a parable of America. Keep pushing us, black peoples.” The day after July 4, 2020 he expressed his intention to not “wave the flag anymore” because “it mean[t] nothing.” He talked about being willing himself to die and contemplated whether it was male instinct to “go out slaughtering men and laying women.”
In a telling tweet, he writes about being “red-pilled” by different events in his life. One of them involves him being “jumped” by a “gang of [black people] . . . for absolutely no reason.” Another was living in “the Trump era.” Tulius is responsible for what his own evil heart produced and since Thomas Achord took responsibility for the account, I have no option but to accept those were his sentiments in dark moments though I cannot square them with the man I thought I knew. He is not a victim. Now he must walk the difficult path of not only being mercilessly cancelled in a society that treats bigotry with more disdain than pedophilia, but of being responsible for the sinful statements used to accomplish this purpose. Thomas humbled himself, submitted to his local church, and there is no reason to doubt a full restoration to spiritual health is possible whether his critics are satisfied or not. But a lingering question must still be answered: What attracted him to Christian Nationalist circles?
From the beginning, the goal was to tie him to the larger movement. This is something evangelical leaders would do well to consider. They have before them a movement they cannot seem to control or vanquish. Mark Hall, whom I do have respect for as a historian, recently predicted that Wolfe’s book “will appeal to only a handful of idiosyncratic, patriarchal Calvinists who reject the American founding.” Perhaps in Hall’s generation this is true, but from my observations the people reading it tend to be young disaffected Christian males who trust Jordan Peterson over Tim Keller. They are ripe for unconventional approaches. Perhaps Wolfe’s critics, some of whom used to employ his work on their own more conventional platforms can explain why they were associated with someone they now want to defeat. From the perspective of the Left these disagreements seem small. If everyone is a “deplorable” there are only varying shades. What exactly separates National Socialism, Christian Nationalism, and other political forms opposed to the Left? There are definitely many differences, some of which I intend to parse in a soon-to-be-released article on how Christian Nationalism denies the “proposition nation” concept fundamental to ideologies on both the Right and Left. However, to answer the original question does not require an exercise in political theory.
Incredible events over the past few years changed the political landscape in ways we have yet to realize. Consider the position of a white Christian male beaten down at every turn and told he is the problem with the world. His leaders will not even acknowledge the situation he finds himself in. To do so is political heresy. Some supposedly on the Christian right, even defend things like allowing Drag Queen Story Hour as one of the “blessings of liberty.” Meanwhile, a diverse host of new unconventional leaders decide to acknowledge reality. They propose solutions to relieve this pressure. Some, to be sure, want something similar to Germany in 1933 though this is a small minority. Most young men simply want to make it stop and they are attentive to anyone who cares about forming a plan to do so.
The longer the woke movement is allowed ascendency the more personal stories of unrecognized victimization will take place. While evangelical leaders deceive God’s people “by saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace,” young men are flocking to answers that require some degree of battle. I have long maintained that this demographic is an unexplored mission field for the church. I have also long maintained that white nationalism is theoretical and not a realistic or Christian answer. Richard Weaver was right about old-style fascism. It made promises it could not deliver, exploited mankind’s need for religion, and replaced loving one’s own with hating outsiders. A way to ensure the success of this kind of ideology is to do what evangelical leaders are doing now. Simply continue to ignore the problems, bend to state pressure, and support the status quo. In so doing, young men will think themselves cut off from defending themselves and their families through conventional means. Though I do not consider myself a Christian Nationalist, to Stephen Wolfe’s credit, he is providing an actual option that seeks to be loving and Christian. It is no surprise that people considering alternatives would show up in his circles. It is no surprise that people like that will likely start showing up in mine. Almost every movement attracts a certain degree of revolutionary types, and the modern Left is by nature revolutionary.
What attracts someone like Tulius Aadland to Christian Nationalist circles? The same thing that attracts wounded people to hospitals. They may want second opinions from other doctors at times, some of them quacks, but they know they are not going to find what they are looking for at a grocery store or bank. They need someone who can help. Currently, elite evangelicals only seem capable of shaming young men and destroying the ones who harbor or struggle with unacceptable thoughts. There is a better way though. A few years ago, I had the privilege of leading a friend to the Lord who came out of neo-Nazi ideology. My church treated him like a human. We loved him. We disagreed, but we did not destroy. And yes, we acknowledged the problems he faced the same way we would acknowledge the problems any person from any background might have. Here is a video from my podcast in which I interview him on his conversion.
Scripture says: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.”
It also says: “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
Christian elites need pull the right lessons from these and other similar situations. Kicking someone who is down even more is not the answer. Neither is doxxing, spreading unconfirmed claims, and publicly shaming fellow believers before giving them opportunity to repent. In fact, it is a sure way to destroy credibility while other more capable leaders arise. Stephen Wolfe may be one of those leaders right now, but he will not be the last so long as conventional leaders turn a deaf ear to the acceptable sins around them.