February 22, 2024

Last December, the Iowa state capitol featured a variety of seasonal dioramas, including a six-foot-tall robed figure of the pagan god Baphomet. Originally sponsored by the local Satanic Temple and placed discreetly in the basement, the statue faced backlash and was eventually destroyed by a military veteran. The state’s Republican leaders, including Governor Kim Reynolds, downplayed the controversy, but found themselves at odds with the faction in their party linked to the Trump movement, which Dunwell described as having a Christian nationalist vein. Despite the wave of conservative power in Iowa in 2022, the Baphomet incident exposed deep divisions within the party, with many Republicans still strongly aligned with Donald Trump. Specifically, the rejection of Trump by some evangelical leaders and support for other candidates like Ron DeSantis had little influence on Trump’s significant lead in the polls. The situation highlighted tensions within the evangelical community, with some calling for a more aggressive, Taliban-like approach to enforcing the laws of God, while others expressed discomfort with the increasingly political nature of their faith.