Christian Nationalist School Board Crusade Stalemates, But Battles Loom in 2023

Bryan James Henry
9 min readNov 12, 2022

The electoral offensive launched by political and religious extremists against Texas school boards had mixed results on November 8, 2022. While defenders of non-partisan school boards held the line in places like Tomball ISD and Round Rock ISD, where incumbents, often conservatives themselves, defeated far-right extremist challengers, places like Conroe ISD fell to those pushing a Christian Nationalist agenda in opposition to diversity, tolerance, and freedom of thought.

Nationally, Republicans are asking themselves whether Trumpism and hyper-MAGA candidates are the best path forward, but at the local level in Cy-Fair ISD the extremists have leaned further into a divisive Christian Nationalist identity and strategy. First, three extremist candidates now on the Cy-Fair ISD board of trustees embraced explicitly Christian Nationalist rhetoric in their campaign literature in the 2021 election. Then, in May 2022 a school board trustee’s spouse confused the community by creating a “conservative Christian” group using the existing name, Cy-Fair Civic Alliance, of a non-partisan group promoting diversity and inclusion. Now, that same trustee’s spouse has launched a group called Conservative CFISD and their website is a doozy.

Featured prominently on the website and their social media accounts is a Biblical passage from the Book of Matthew. It reads: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). I should note that in blogs and social media posts I have been accused of being both a “pastor” and an “atheist.” I am neither. Not that it’s anyone’s business, but I wasn’t raised in the church. I was baptized at First Baptist College Station as a student at Texas A&M, attended Strawbridge United Methodist Church for five years, then briefly attended First Congregational Church of Houston. In truth, even while attending church I was always more of an agnostic or what some conservatives deride as “spiritual but not religious.” And, even though I considered myself spiritual, I often had trouble, as did Thomas Jefferson and many of America’s Founders, believing in the divinity of Christ. Yet, I admire the church’s social work, recognize the historical importance of Christian ethics, and appreciate the radical nature of the Gospel of Jesus.

In short, I am the skeptical, but polite liberal that most conservatives want purged from their congregations lest I talk too much to other people and “infect” them with doubt, nuance, relativity, and all sorts of “bad” things. You can imagine how conservatives must have felt about me being their teenager’s history and government teacher! While I am not a pastor, I do preach the gospel of the Enlightenment, humanism, critical thinking, human rights, and empathy (all of which can be reconciled with religion). Anyway, since we’re talking about faith, Christian Nationalism, and seemingly violent Biblical passages, I figure I’ll try my hand at some Biblical exegesis. What is up with Conservative CFISD’s use of Matthew 18:6? At first glance, this seemed a curious passage for a website focused on public education, but I assume it is meant to imply that “corrupt progressive educators aiming to turn children away from Christ should be drowned”?

I’m not an authority on the Bible, but that’s how I initially interpreted the use of the passage by Conservative CFISD in this context. The “little ones” that Christ speaks of could obviously be literal children, or alternatively adults who have the faith of children. The passage used by Conservative CFISD is from the King James Bible, but the word “offend” is translated to mean “cause to stumble” in other editions. In other words, “whoever causes those who believe in Jesus to stumble, it is better that they were drowned.” Possible meanings of “offend” or “stumble” include mislead, mistreat, or manipulate. So, again, those who manipulate and lead astray the followers of Jesus, it is better that they were drowned.” As I interpret the passage’s use, Conservative CFISD believes that educators who manipulate children or lead them away from Christ ought to be drowned. Seems sort of violent, right?

I decided that I had reached my hermeneutical limit and consulted the ever-scholarly Google. What does a quick Google search give me? Some interesting clarifications. One site points out that drowning is, in fact, not spoken of here as a punishment after wrongdoing has been done. Rather, Christ is saying, it would be better to have been drowned before misleading or manipulating a child. The implication, now, seems clear enough. Leading children astray or abusing a leadership position to manipulate the followers of Jesus, will be judged most harshly in the afterlife. In other words, it would be better to die in the sea before you commit a sin that leaves you condemned to hell for eternity. Harsh stuff, but we are talking about the manipulation of children and abuse of power over others. It’s as if Christ is saying that one of the worst offenses imaginable is when one preys on the innocence and exploits the trust of others. I wonder what Jesus would think of Donald Trump’s manipulation of his followers. The constant lies about stolen elections, the fear mongering about refugees and immigrants, and deliberate exploitation of people’s faith to win votes. I wonder what Jesus would think of the pastors who tell their congregations that Christians are essentially obligated to vote Republican.

Matthew 18:6 isn’t the first Biblical passage with violent implications that extremists in Cy-Fair ISD have embraced. During the 2021 election, residents received campaign literature endorsing Natalie Blasingame, Scott Henry, and Lucas Scanlon that encouraged people to sign the “Christian Patriot Pledge” inspired by Proverbs 28:1, which says, “The righteous are as bold as a lion.” The pledge then calls on Christian Patriots to “rise up to boldly oppose and defeat the domestic enemy forces of evil, the atheistic pro-Communist Democrats…these domestic enemies are traitors to God and country.” The website then quotes Psalm 94, which has language about God destroying the evildoers, and Psalm 108, which says God will “tread down our adversaries.” Martial rhetoric. Violence against enemies. Righteous, holy warfare. Is this the worldview of Conservative CFISD? Do they believe they are at war with teachers, the school district, and community? Is it their goal to conquer the district for Christ? Are these the type of people, candidates, and school board trustees we want leading a multicultural, religiously diverse public school system? Honestly, they seem a little too extreme to be running a private Christian school, let alone the third-largest school district in Texas, a state that educates 1 out of every 10 children in the United States.

What will Conservative CFISD hope to accomplish if they elect more school board trustees or implement their agenda in Cy-Fair ISD? Their website may give some clues, and it is alarming as hell. First, they state that “parents, not the school district, not the state, are the final authority in their child’s education.” Okay, that’s great. Home school your kid! What is this statement supposed to mean, exactly? Does Conservative CFISD understand that Texas has a State Board of Education and Texas Education Agency that sets laws and policies that school districts must follow? Furthermore, if parents are the final authority, which parents? Just the conservative Christian parents? Conservative CFISD seems to believe that because they are taxpayers they can dictate what and how public schools teach, but would they tell police officers how to do their jobs? School administrators and teachers are professionals, and they should be respected and allowed to do their jobs. Parents already have plenty of discretion over their child’s learning and can opt-out of many activities or topics.

Conservative CFISD states that, “pornographic, sexually explicit books have no place in our school libraries. Occult books promoting Satanic rituals have no place in our school libraries.” Porn shouldn’t be in the school library, really? No shit! I have never met someone who thinks porn should be in the school library. There currently is no porn in the school library. The residents complaining about porn at school board meetings typically object to fictional depictions of sexual intimacy between two guys. In other words, for them, anything LGBTQ+ is pornographic or sinister. As for the occult books and Satanic rituals…I mean, what is there to say? Is this a reboot of the conservative opposition to Harry Potter? What books are they referring to? Is there a book with a ritual that will make them go away?

Lastly, Conservative CFISD states that they believe in the Ten Commandments, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the national motto. Good for them? Are they suggesting that students in Cy-Fair ISD learn the Ten Commandments? When I taught AP World History in Humble ISD, students would learn about the beliefs and tenets of all major faith traditions, so I assume they already do. I also recall some Christian parents complaining that their children were learning about Islam at all. The Pledge of Allegiance is optional. The national motto is Cold War rhetoric. What is their actual vision for Cy-Fair ISD? Their website reads like a Christian Nationalist catechism. Are their members going to recite these statements at their meetings? Or is their goal for Cy-Fair ISD students to recite them at their desks?

The purpose of the public school system is to educate all students, regardless of their race, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or mental and physical abilities to reach their full potential within our diverse, pluralistic society. The crusade by political and religious extremists to take control of school boards and impose a Christian Nationalist agenda is un-American and un-democratic. The public school system belongs to the public, which includes everyone, not just conservative Christians. I still don’t understand why some conservative Christians behave as if their voices are the only ones that matter. On Election Day, many conservative Christians found common cause with moderates and liberals to support non-partisan school board candidates who care more about kids than agendas. This is the path forward.

Public schools belong to everyone, which is why communities must unite across partisan lines to support non-partisan school board candidates who will defend public schools from the Christian Nationalist crusaders who claim that teachers are “groomers” who teach children to hate America. Some of the individuals spewing these lies believe what they’re saying, but plenty of them know it is just a tactic to undermine faith in the public school system. Why do they want to do that? To increase support for vouchers and privatization plans that will enable those who dislike the public schools to get tax dollars diverted to private Christian schools of their choice. The result, ultimately, is the defunding of the public school system. In this way, the Christian Nationalist crusade to “save” public schools may end up destroying them, but for some that is the intention. What these extremists fail to appreciate as they discredit public education is the danger of discrediting the Gospel of Jesus in the process. For many Americans, if Christianity is synonymous with these political and religious extremists, then they may no longer be interested. It is crucial for Christians to prevent extremists from tarnishing the Gospel in the eyes of the public and Christians Against Christian Nationalism are doing just that.

Good people doing good work is what has always moved America forward, preserved progress, and conserved timeless values. That is the work that the non-partisan Cy-Fair Civic Alliance intends to do. We will work to unite families across Cy-Fair ISD, regardless of their political views or religious beliefs, to support non-partisan school board candidates seeking to represent not just a single political party or faith tradition, but the rich diversity of our entire community. After the New Year, we will begin doing this good work under a new name, and together with other groups like Cy-Fair Strong Schools, we will turn the page on this reactionary crusade against American values and all that makes the American republic exceptional. The Gospel of Jesus has had the most significant impact on American life when we have asked ourselves these questions from the Sermon on the Mount: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?” Cy-Fair ISD, and America, are at their best when we seek to love and greet those who are different from us. Our diversity is our strength, and it will overcome any obstacle or threat.