GOP legislators have recently touted Christian nationalist ideals, even accepting this description.
Christian nationalism asserts an intrinsic connection between being an American and being a Christian.
Critics say the political ideology is incompatible with both Christian and American values.
Christian nationalism is hundreds of years old, but the concept has recently gained attention as Republican legislators openly embrace some aspects of the ideology and call for Christianity to play a larger role in American life and institutions.
Rep. Lauren Bobert of Colorado said in June that she was “tired of this separation of church and state junk” and that “the church should lead government.” Former President Donald Trump appeared to confuse being American with Christianity in July, saying that “Americans kneel before God, and God alone.” As well as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green has repeatedly called herself a Christian nationalist, saying that the Republican Party should be the party of Christian nationalism.
Greene and other proponents of Christian nationalism have suggested that those who sound the alarm about this concept are simply part of the “godless left” who hate both the US and God. But some Republicans and Christians have also condemned the concept, with critics saying it goes against both American and Christian values.
So what is Christian nationalism?
“The Merging of Christianity with American Civil Life”
Christian nationalism has been defined in many ways, but can generally be boiled down to the belief that Christianity and the US are inextricably linked, and therefore religion should have a privileged position in American society.
Sociologists Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry provide a detailed description in their 2020 book America’s Return to God: Christian Nationalism in the United States.
“Put simply, Christian nationalism is a cultural structure—a collection of myths, traditions, symbols, narratives, and value systems—that idealizes and advocates the fusion of Christianity with American civic life,” they write.
Americans who support such ideas may not self-identify as Christian nationalists, so Whitehead and Perry used a set of survey questions to determine where a person ranks on a scale of Christian nationalism.
The questions were part of Baylor University’s periodic National Surveys of American Religious Beliefs. The questions used to develop the scale asked Americans to rate how much they agree with the following statements, from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”:
The federal government must declare the United States a Christian nation.
The federal government must protect Christian values.
The federal government must enforce a strict separation of church and state.
The federal government should allow the display of religious symbols in public places.
The success of the United States is part of God’s plan.
The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.
Positions on the scale varied widely, suggesting that not all Americans could be classified as supportive of Christian nationalism or not. Instead, the authors say, people may accept some aspects but not others.
Americans of various demographics fell into either group, but those who most supported Christian nationalism most likely belonged to a particular group: white, conservative evangelical Christians.
Who are Christian nationalists?
The authors found that about 52% of Americans can be classified as either “ambassadors” or “champions” of Christian nationalism, while the rest can be considered “resisting” or “rejecting”.
Accommodators, defined as less determined but inclined to embrace Christian nationalism, made up the largest group at about 32%. Ambassadors, or those who fully embraced Christian nationalism, made up one-fifth of Americans.
According to the authors, the ambassadors believe that the US has a special relationship with God and that the government should declare the country a Christian nation, uphold Christian values, and return prayer to public schools.
More than half identified as evangelical Protestants. They were also the oldest of the four groups, were predominantly white, and mostly lived in small towns, many of which were located in the South and Midwest. Two-thirds considered themselves politically conservative and more than half identified as Republicans, although one in five were Democrats.
Those who scored high on the Christian nationalism scale were more likely to hold racially intolerant views and support racist or xenophobic policies. They were also more likely to view military service as important to being a “good person”. Christian nationalists may believe in religious freedom, but also that Christianity should be preferred over other religions in American society.
While Christian nationalism is gaining support in the Republican Party, the authors say faith in the ideology has been on the decline over the past three decades, especially as more and more Americans identify as non-religious.
Christianity, Trump and the rebellion
The attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 was a significant reason for the recent discussions about Christian nationalism.
Many Trump supporters broke into a building with Christian symbols to disrupt the 2020 election certification they believe was stolen from the former president.
A report released in February by a group of religious leaders, historians and religious scholars, including Whitehead and Perry, details the extent to which Christian nationalism influenced and manifested itself during the uprising.
Flags with slogans like “Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president” and “Make America Godly Again” were a common sight in the crowd. The photographs showed phrases such as “In God We Trust” and “God Bless the USA” written on a wooden gallows from which a noose hung.
In one image, a man with a Trump 2020 flag on his shoulders knelt in front of a large cross to pray.
The authors of the report, a joint project of the United Baptist Committee for Religious Freedom, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and Christians Against Christian Nationalism, allege that Christian nationalism played a role in “maintaining, justifying and amplifying” the attack on the US Capitol. .
The authors also looked specifically at the role of white Christian nationalism, highlighting the intersection of Christian nationalist ideals and racism.
Christians against Christian nationalism
Scholars and advocates are quick to point out that Christian nationalism is not the same as Christianity, and that criticism of ideology is not synonymous with criticism of religion.
“I think what we were most worried about was how Christian nationalism was getting more and more violent,” Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Freedom, told Insider, referring to the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the mosque shooting in New York. York in 2019. Zealand. In both cases, the suspects adhered to Christian nationalist ideas.
Tyler is also the lead organizer of the Christians Against Christian Nationalism Campaign, a campaign and coalition launched in 2019 that denounces Christian nationalism in a statement of principles that has since been signed by more than 27,000 Christians.
Tyler said that Christian nationalism is a corruption of Christianity in that it “leads people into the idolatry of the country instead of worshiping God.” According to her, this ideology also violates the fundamental Christian belief to love your neighbor as yourself, because it offers “second-class status for our neighbors who are not Christians.”
She said it was especially important for Christians to speak out against Christian nationalism to show that this ideology is also seen as dangerous by believers.
“Many of our signatories believe that countering Christian nationalism is essential not only to our democracy, but to the preservation of our faith.”
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