Letter – Alarmed by Dillender
Published 6:39 pm Thursday, July 6, 2023
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
When I saw that Mike Dillender won the Republican Primary in the 84th House of Delegates District, I was alarmed. Dillender serves on the StoneBridge School Board of Directors and is committed to a specific value system, the most disturbing aspects of which are hidden behind SBS’ parent organization, the Foundation for American Christian Education, or FACE.
SBS serves prekindergarten-12th grade students through FACE’s educational philosophy, The Principle Approach, which is based on the idea that America is inherently and historically Christian. Its curriculum is a self-proclaimed direct response to the American government, which is “purposefully building an amoral, anti-Christian society” to “undermine families, waste the potential of our children, destroy our unborn, eradicate character and productivity and scorn God.” Dillender approaches American public schools as if they are “snaring” children in order to take down American culture.
FACE Executive Vice President Carey Woodruff asks its supporters, “Do we really have a good offensive game to reclaim America? I see FACE…like an army that resists the progress of the enemy actively by encountering and defeating.” SBS is dangerous not necessarily because it teaches the Bible but because it exists as FACE’s tool to “raise an army” of children to restore “American Christian heritage.”
The idea that the nation should be explicitly, religiously Christian, with American laws enacted based on a literal interpretation of the Bible, is Christian nationalism. In this ideology, those following other belief systems are seen as the enemy — many of whom are not white, all of whom are promised religious freedom and equal rights.
Over recent decades, a body of research surrounding the book “Divided by Faith” by Christian Smith and Michael Emerson has found that white Americans have internalized Christian nationalism as an idealized past, using coded language like “our” nation and “heritage,” and referring to white, native-born Christians as selfless heroes. Perceived threats include illegal immigrants, Islamic terrorism, the removal of God from the public sphere and “unpatriotic” Americans who believe America is systemically racist. This is the foundation of white supremacy and white Christian nationalism in American civic life. FACE and SBS are nearly textbook examples of the discoveries from these studies.
It is imperative that voters know Mike Dillender’s distasteful beliefs in order to make an informed decision, and to understand the underpinnings of the social conservatism touted by some Republican candidates.