Until last month, Thomas Achord’s friends in the increasingly assertive world of right-wing Christian nationalism saw him as an upstanding member of their movement.
The headmaster of a Baton Rouge school that teaches “classical Christian education,” Achord hosted a podcast with the author of a new book advocating for Christian nationalism. In the insular online community where Christian nationalists debate how to live out their values in a secular world—perhaps by abandoning society altogether or by rallying around an American Caesar who will impose their values by force—Achord was seen as a rising star.
Then someone found his secret Twitter account.
Achord lived a clandestine second life on Twitter, under the vaguely ancient-sounding name “Tulius Aadland.” There, he called a Black member of Congress a “negress” and Black teenagers “chimps.” Achord opined about his desires for a “race realist white nationalism.” He complained that the middle school-aged stars of a Netflix movie simply weren’t hot enough for him. He expounded on his ideas about “Jewish satanism” and argued Jewish people were tricking the United States into “Jew wars.”
Achord’s two worlds collided shortly before Thanksgiving, when Twitter users connected his public profile with the Tulius account. Confronted with evidence that he ran the account, including a picture taken inside his school, Achord was quickly fired.
Achord initially denied the account belonged to him. Three days later, he tried a novel defense, admitting that he did run the account but that, stricken by a sort of Twitter-only amnesia, he had no memory of writing it.
Achord insisted there were contradictions between himself and the “Tulius” person that he couldn’t reconcile. For example, while he wrote on the Tulius account that he would never go to a Mexican restaurant, his Mexican mother had made him food as a child.
Achord’s secret Twitter account has occasioned much agonizing in the world of Christian nationalism, as his ideological compatriots publicly struggle to understand how one of their own could harbor such racist views. One called him a “stowaway” within Christian nationalism, smuggling racism into their beliefs.
But to Christian nationalism’s critics, the idea that the movement contains white supremacist ideas is no surprise. Even before America’s founding, Christian nationalism was used to justify taking Native American land and enslaving people, according to Philip Gorski, a Yale sociology and religious studies professor.
“It’s always been there,” Gorski said of the racism within Christian nationalism. “It just sunk out of view for some people.”
Achord couldn’t be reached for comment. Sequitur didn’t respond to a request for comment.
What’s come to be called “the Achord affair” among right-wing intellectuals comes as Christian nationalists—who believe that America is a divinely favored nature nation that should be governed according to conservative Christian principles—are increasingly open about their goals in American politics.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), a prominent member of the Republican House caucus, has described herself as a Christian nationalist and sells a T-shirt that declares its wearer to be a “Proud Christian Nationalist.” At a Trump rally in November, the former president nodded in approval as a pastor defended the idea of Christian nationalism and declared that “this nation belongs to God.”
Achord aligned himself with Christian nationalism, hosting a podcast with Stephen Wolfe, the author of a book released last month called The Case for Christian Nationalism. Wolfe and other Achord allies have claimed that the controversy over his Twitter account is just a way for their critics to strike at Christian nationalism.
But even Wolfe admitted that Achord’s tweets were “offensive” after Achord finally conceded on Nov. 28 that he did write them. On his pseudonymous account, Achord described Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) as a “negress” and called a Black man “animalistic.”
“White boys simp,” Achord wrote in a 2020 tweet. “Black boys chimp.”
In his tweets, Achord also talked more specifically about his desire to use “classical Christian education”—the Christian movement that his school, Sequitur Classical Academy, follows—to train white nationalists. In a 2020 series of tweets, Achord complained that Christian education wasn’t doing enough to support white nationalism, writing that he wanted to provide “resources for white-advocates to take back the West for white peoples.”
Achord’s connection to the Twitter account became clear in late November, when Christian writer Alastair Roberts noted similarities between Achord’s public writings and the Tulius account. Most notably, Achord wrote a tweet under the Tulius handle in 2020 with a picture of a room reserved for a grief support group. Achord mocked the group, calling the idea of men sharing their grief “weakness” and “garbage”—but Roberts noticed that a placard with the room number carried Sequitur’s logo.
Achord also attacked women in his Tulius tweets, writing that he would only defend any woman, including his wife, out of an idea that she’s his “possession,” rather than out of any respect for her.
Achord also made bizarre remarks about Cuties, the 2020 Netflix movie that provoked backlash over claims that the movie sexualized its 11-year-old actress.
For Achord, though, Cuties’s problem was somewhat different: the middle-school-aged girls in the film just weren’t attractive enough for him. In a tweet, he complained that the girls were not “comely.”
“I hate to point this out but the ‘Cuties’ are ugly,” he tweeted under the Tulius alias. “This isn’t a sexual comment. They’re just not comely children. They have horse faces and donkey teeth.”
Achord initially claimed he didn’t run the racist account, insisting it must be run by an impersonator posing as him to sabotage his career. Faced with more evidence from Roberts, though, he eventually admitted he was behind it—but claimed he had forgotten he ever ran it in the first place.
“After more thorough research with the help of trusted friends and advisors and a great deal of counsel and soul-searching, I have come to conclude that the Tulius Aadland twitter account is indeed an old alias account of mine,” Achord wrote in a Medium post.
Ultra-conservative Christian writer Rod Dreher, whose children attended Sequitur and whose wife taught there until Achord’s account was discovered, blasted Achord’s racism in a blog post.
“You were an online racist, anti-Semite, woman-hating creep who admitted on that account to wanting to use Classical Christian Education as a Trojan horse for white nationalism—and did this while you were the headmaster of a school that trusted you!” Dreher wrote.
Part of the surprise at the blow-up over Achord’s racist views is that it didn’t come sooner. In a book he published under his own name, Achord advocated for racist ideas about racial separation. In his profile on the book-rating website Goodreads, Achord’s reading list was filled with white supremacist authors like David Duke and Adolf Hitler, as well as Holocaust denier David Irving.
For Gorski, the Yale religious studies professor and co-author of a book on white Christian nationalism called The Flag and the Cross, the Achord controversy is another example of Christian nationalists being in “denial” about the racists within their movement.
“People are sort of surprised when the clerical collar comes off and it turns out there are ‘SS’ insignias underneath, but they shouldn’t be,” Gorski said.
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