When members of Wilson’s church ran for local office, Rehberg said, the priest then leading Moscow’s St. Mark’s Episcopal Church alerted her followers on Facebook (although, Rehberg said, she stopped short of telling people whom to vote for). “We need to be publicly saying, ‘Pay attention, folks,’” Rehberg said.
In Coeur d’Alene, Republican Mayor Jim Hammond has tried to muster his own response to Christian nationalists and their allies. He has met with Rehberg after being impressed by her activism, and last spring he attempted to assemble local pastors, hoping they would urge their congregations “to turn away from this incivility.”
The effort failed, Hammond said, in part because he discovered some faith leaders were the ones spreading forms of Christian nationalism in the first place.
“That was an extremely naive solution to the problem,” he said, adding that, as a Catholic, he was particularly unnerved by forms of anti-Catholicism espoused by some religious voices. “There are churches out there that are, in my view, part of the problem.”
Hammond is worried Christian nationalism could imperil both his party and the community he serves: Being associated with extremism in a resort town, he said, “will really hurt your economy.” Other mayors and county officials in the region have reached out to brainstorm ways to counter it, but a solution remains elusive.
“They’re just as concerned and frustrated,” he said.
All of those fighting the Christian nationalist surge are hoping to tip the scales by appealing to both liberals as well as conservatives unsettled by the state Republican Party’s rightward shift. But even as demographic data indicates a massive influx of people moving into Idaho, many of whom appear to lean conservative, Abbott said she personally knows people who have left because of violent threats or because of policies they view as anti-LGBTQ.
“It is a very conservative population moving in, and a very frightened population moving out,” she said.
But the activists hold out hope that the imbalance will eventually unite North Idaho and the surrounding region against the Christian nationalists.
“As the extremists get louder,” Rehberg said, “my hope, my prayer, is that the rest of us will become more concerned, start to speak up, start to educate ourselves, push back and say, ‘This is not who we are.’”
This article originally appeared here.