Talking Politics

From Rhode Island native to warrior in the Christian nationalist movement

By Ian Donnis
Posted 3/12/24

STORY OF THE WEEK: How did Middletown native Michael Flynn go from being a high-level military official to someone seen as a martyr, warrior and evangelist within the Christian nationalist movement? …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Register to post events

If you'd like to post an event to our calendar, you can create a free account by clicking here.

Note that free accounts do not have access to our subscriber-only content.

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.

Talking Politics

From Rhode Island native to warrior in the Christian nationalist movement


STORY OF THE WEEK: How did Middletown native Michael Flynn go from being a high-level military official to someone seen as a martyr, warrior and evangelist within the Christian nationalist movement? It’s a long story, notes AP Providence reporter Michelle Smith, who was the correspondent for a 2022 PBS Frontline documentary outlining Flynn’s transformation. At any rate, Flynn remains an influential figure for some on the right. The Frontline documentary reports that out of 99 endorsements made by Flynn after Jan. 6, 80% have spread lies or sown doubt about the 2020 election. Yet polling shows that many people agree with Flynn’s description of America as a Christian nation, and he’s continuing efforts to influence politics down to the local level, Smith said during an interview this week.

Flynn rejects the label of being a Christian nationalist; he stormed off during an interview with Smith back in 2022. The notion of basing government on an interpretation of the Bible is at odds with the concept of separation of church and state pioneered by Roger Williams. That explains why some Christians, including John Kasich, the former GOP governor of Ohio, are citing concern “about how elected leaders and candidates are using religion as a political weapon.”

This remains an issue in the 2024 presidential race since, as Politico reports, allies of Donald Trump plan to infuse Christian nationalism in the White House if he wins in November. 

HOUSING CRUNCH: During a news conference at the Statehouse on Thursday, House Speaker Joe Shekarchi recounted that some people ask why he keeps unveiling more bills related to housing. “Well, my answer is, ‘Look around. Have we solved the problem?’ No, not even close,” Shekarchi said. A new 15-bill package in the House includes efforts to streamline municipal consideration, allow residential uses in commercial zones, and allow mobile homes to count as affordable housing, among other things. Rhode Island continues to lag the nation in per-capita housing starts — a situation that Shekarchi called unacceptable. While he declined to specify a target for raising the number of housing starts, the speaker said that an ongoing focus is the only way to make progress on a crisis that developed over decades.

HEALTHCARE: For a few years, Attorney General Peter Neronha was a lonely voice in calling for a bigger long-term focus on Rhode Island’s healthcare and hospital landscape. Last month, Gov. Dan McKee signed an executive order creating a State Healthcare System Planning Cabinet, led by Richard Charest, secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. Now comes the Rhode Island Senate with a 25-bill package meant to address issues involving the cost of healthcare and access to it. Senate Majority Leader Ryan Pearson (D-Cumberland) tempered expectations, saying in part, “The really important part here is that each of these individually may not move the needle by themselves. There is no silver bullet in this, but collectively what this package attempts to do is move the entire healthcare system forward in a positive direction.”

STATE OF THE NATION: Republicans have to feel hopeful about retaking the White House, given polling data, voters’ concerns about the age of President Biden (four years the senior of Donald Trump), and anxiety about the border. Democrats, though, say they are heartened by the feistiness demonstrated by Biden during his State of the Union address this week. “He made clear that he is energetically fighting for the middle class and putting a real check on corrupt corporate special interests and the fossil fuel industry, which ran the show during the previous administration,” U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse tweeted.

Via statement, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said in part, “His principled leadership and policies have made a positive difference and America is better off today than it was four years ago. Since taking office, President Biden has racked up impressive accomplishments that have had a positive impact on people’s lives: lowering prescription drug prices; investing in infrastructure; boosting the economy; and presiding over record job growth. He’s delivered historic investments to prevent pollution; combat climate change; and create new high-tech manufacturing jobs across the country.” 

STATE OF THE STATE: Amid the perennial debate about tax policy, the RI Current’s Nancy Lavin looks at what the Ocean State might learn from higher taxes on the rich in Massachusetts. Elsewhere, Alan Krinsky of the Economic Policy Institute contends that the business rankings that sometimes cause agita for state officials don’t much matter: “Business climate rankings are catchy, easy, and make for a quick story. Given all the ways the rankings fail to measure or even try to measure actual business performance, it is clear that their main use is as tools to advocate for lower taxes, especially for the wealthy, regardless of the actual business effects. Lowering taxes might improve the state’s rankings, but there is no evidence this will also improve the state’s economy or help most business owners.”

THE HOSPITAL LANDSCAPE: United Nurses and Allied Professionals, which represents close to 1,000 workers at Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence and Our Lady of Fatima Hospital in North Providence, announced this week its opposition to the proposed sale of parent CharterCARE Health Partners to the Centurion Foundation, an Atlanta-based nonprofit. “We took a good hard look at the application when it was made public, and it didn’t take long to find a business model that is simply not credible or viable,” UNAP General Counsel Chris Callaci said via statement. Centurion pushed back, with local spokesman Otis Brown asserting that the foundation’s proposed buy offers “the best path to economic and workforce stability for CharterCARE.” The task of vetting these competing arguments — and determining whether Centurion would be a better owner than California-based Prospect Medical Holdings — rests with the state Department of Public Health and Attorney General Peter Neronha. Public hearings are slated for March 19 and 26.

HEALTHCARE AND PRIVATE EQUITY: AG Neronha, a prominent critic of the situation involving Prospect Medical (a majority share of which was formerly owned by a private equity firm in LA), took part in a conversation this week with the commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission as part of a session on the impact of private equity in healthcare ... The FTC, Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services have launched a joint inquiry on the “impact of corporate greed in healthcare.” … Southcoast Health, the top hospital network in Fall River/New Bedford, has indicated that it wants to buy St. Anne’s Hospital from Steward Health Care, the private equity-backed group facing scrutiny from state officials in Massachusetts.

ACCESS TO SHELTER: The hotline unhoused people can call to access shelter and housing in Rhode Island received roughly 10,000 calls a month last summer. Just four operators answered the bulk of those calls, and the people calling sometimes waited on hold for nearly three hours. That’s according to a little-noticed report delivered to state agencies last fall, which my colleague Nina Sparling brought to light this week.

ON THE GO: Anthony Cherry is joining the RI Democratic Party as a consultant, while Emily Howe is leaving after serving as executive director for the past two years.

TAKES OF THE WEEK — various views from a mix of Rhode Islanders.

United Way of RI President/CEO CORTNEY NICOLATO: “This is the fourth straight year that Speaker Joe Shekarchi has put forth a package of bills focused on housing, underscoring his commitment to a problem that affects each and every Rhode Islander. And he, along with many other state leaders, deserve to be applauded for prioritizing what holds back our state most. Housing is not only paramount to the work we do at United Way, but also unquestionably vital to our ability to build (pun intended) a thriving economy.

“We appreciate the speaker’s attention to addressing the root causes of housing disparities and recognizing equitable housing policies are fundamental to creating inclusive communities. In particular, I commend his focus on refining existing structures and revitalizing neighborhoods as a driver to increasing housing availability while enabling municipalities to streamline processes that create affordable housing options. The totality of the speaker’s bills get at the core of what is long overdue and lay a foundation for the sustainable and equitable housing solutions our state so desperately needs. This is what progress looks like, and this package has our full support.”

State Rep. BRIAN C. NEWBERRY (R-North Smithfield): “The UK’s Daily Mail reported this week that the Biden administration has flown 320,000 illegal aliens into the country, to 43 separate airports over the past few years, and ‘paroled’ them with eligibility to remain for two years — and the CPB refuses to disclose the airports. This is mind boggling. What is going on in this country? Since Biden took over, literally millions of illegal aliens have just walked across our border and disappeared into the general population — all while the president and his flacks insist, ‘The border is secure.’ We have all seen the videos. How many of these ‘migrants’ are single men of military age from hostile powers like China? How many are trained in terrorism? Biden has effectively greenlighted a slow-moving invasion of our country and people yawn. It’s incredible. This must stop. What say you, Democrats? Do you approve of this? Why? When will you force Biden to act?”

PABLO RODRIGUEZ, physician, community activist and OG of Latino politics: “Envision a scenario where a kitchen fire erupts. In a panic, the wife dials 911, pleading for immediate assistance from the fire department. Upon their arrival, however, the husband insists they do nothing, expressing a desire to let the house burn for insurance money, disregarding the potential danger to the neighborhood. Subsequently, he publicly criticizes the firefighters for not saving his home. This behavior mirrors the current stance of the Republican Party on immigration. Despite vocal complaints on conservative media about the perceived threat of immigration, the GOP has rejected a bipartisan proposal designed to address border issues. This proposal, supported by the Border Patrol, local communities, and crafted by a notably conservative senator, included provisions for 1,500 security officers, 4,300 asylum officers, and 100 additional judges. It was dismissed by the party before the details were fully known, following a directive from Donald Trump that any boost to the current administration should be opposed.

“The suggested alternative, closing the border, would only exacerbate problems, leading immigrants to choose more perilous routes and jeopardizing nearly $34 billion in trade through Eagle Pass and El Paso, which constitute 36% of all trade with Mexico. This refusal to address the border situation after lamenting it represents a failure of responsibility and a cynical strategy that is transparent to those observing objectively. As President Biden remarked, it prompts the question: What exactly are they opposing?”

KICKER: If you told us in 2003, the Red Sox would win not one, but four World Series over the next 15 years, it would have been hard to believe. If you told us during that last run in 2018, that the wheels would keep falling off amid a seeming lack of interest from ownership, that, too, would have been hard to believe. But here we are.

Ian Donnis can be reached at

2024 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email