Nate Schatzline is a newly elected State Representative from the northern, recently rural part of Fort Worth. His campaign website proudly notes that he is a Christian first, and then a Republican. According to the website, he graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, then went on to graduate with a Master’s Degree in Political Science at (Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s) Liberty University.
Since acquiring those impressive credentials, Nate has split his time between Republican campaign politics and Christian ministry, with the line between them ever harder to define. Mercy Culture Church, where he is a member and associate pastor, was recently named in a Texas Tribune/Pro Publica investigation of churches apparently violating IRS regulations by explicitly endorsing political candidates – including Schatzline in his state rep race.
Like anyone whose lodestars are Christian charity and democractic tolerance, he’s filed a bill that would redefine restaurants, bars, nightclubs and “other commercial enterprises” that host drag shows as “sexually oriented businesses.” He’s also filed a bill to prohibit gender-affirming care by designating it as child abuse.
Now, a lot of first-term legislators file bills of a controversial nature. For some, it’s a bid to become part of the conversation on important matters of state public policy, like education, transportation or public safety. For others, it’s a good way to stand out from the other freshmen and begin to create a “brand” for themselves on hot-button red-meat issues. It is also increasingly the case that legislators skip the hard and often boring work of actually making public policy in pursuit of building a brand as a rebel, a troublemaker, or just plain crazy. Ted Cruz and Marjorie Taylor Greene are examples at the federal level, but there are also examples in the Texas Legislature.
Schatzline’s bills clearly stem from his deep Christian convictions and his abhorrence of the sexualization of children in whatever forms it takes. That’s why hilarity ensued when, shortly after filing his anti-drag bill, Schatzline was revealed to have starred in a TikTok video in which he played a female character called “The Virgin” who is chased by another character, “The Englishman,“ played by a woman disguised as a man, complete with fake mustache.
I am not a film critic, so I will not try to explore why the casting director felt the need to dress up a dude as a girl and a girl as a dude. Nor will I delve into the horrible soundtrack with its repetitive “sexy lady” lyrics. Les Miserables it’s not.
Like most Tik Toks, it probably should be allowed to fade away, never to be seen again. But that will not be its fate. Busted, Schatzline tweeted a flamboyantly energetic response in which he accused the “left-wing media” of “twist[ing] stories into something that they’re not.” He has called the little movie, done while he was in high school, a “joke.”
Moreoever, in an exclusive statement to Life Its Ownself, Schatzline went further in defending himself against charges of hypocrisy:
“Demoncrats and the Liberal Left-Wing Media have accused me of hypocrisy because of a silly stunt I did years ago. This is completely untrue. Liberals, listen up as I try to explain slowly for you:
“When I made that video with my friends, I played a female character called “The Virgin” as a joke. It was a performative stunt and a meta-commentary on toxic masculinity among my friends and in our culture.
“When I filed this bill to condemn a behavior I’d done with enthusiasm in the past, I did it as a performative stunt and a meta-commentary on toxic masculinity among my friends and in our culture.
“So, you see, I’ve been consistent all along.”
Schatzline’s bill has been referred to the House State Affairs Committee, another one of approximately 100 anti-LGBTQ bills tracked by Equality Texas. His bill is likely to disappear into the legislative maw, never to be see again, because that is what happens to most proposals offered by freshmen. One can only hope that committee chair Todd Hunter or Speaker Dade Phelan also realize the public relations disaster for the House if the bill gets a hearing, much less begins to move.
A final thought: I began writing about Scahatzline’s predicament as a lark, yet another example of the hypocrisy of many on the Christian nationalist right. But I was sobered up by the fact that he seems to actually believe this stuff – that is, that a drag show in a Metroplex bookstore is a threat to Christians everywhere, or that gender-affirming care for a tormented, even suicidal teen is really child abuse. Nate Schatzline believes these things not because he is an incipient authoritarian but because he is a Christian, and a warped and cruel one at that. The authoritarianism will come later, when he gives up on democracy as a way to referee disagreements over such matters.
To help cool my overheated blood, I re-read a marvelous essay by David French, a founder of The Dispatch and a contributor to The Atlantic and, now, The New York Times. David and I have wide disagreements about both religion and politics, but this excerpt expresses my approach to the compatibility between Christianity, properly understood, and liberal democracy better than I could:
I’m both a traditionally orthodox Christian and a strong believer in classical liberalism, pluralism, and legal equality. I’m a believer in those political values because I’m a traditionally orthodox Christian….
I do not want to commandeer the government to “reward friends and punish enemies,” and I do want to protect the fundamental freedoms of even the most strident of my political opponents. This is not because they’ll like me if I do, but because it is just and right to defend the rights of others that I would like to exercise myself.
I encourage you to give David a read from time to time.
On a personal note, I am back out in my beloved Trans-Pecos region of West Texas, hopefully to remain for a while. I hope to include glimpses of life in the region in my future scribblings.
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Creepiness is right. And the right just gets creepier and creepier.
Great stuff, Deece. I had not even heard of this latest right wing schmoe. I suppose self-loathing is the only explanation for why these people come after other dealing with issues of sexuality and orientation.