Capitol Attack Pushed Christian Nationalism to Center of Shifting Far-Right MovementHistorians in the News
tags: far right, religion, evangelicalism, Theocracy, Capitol Riots, Christian Nationalism, January 6
When supporters of President Donald Trump rallied near the White House on Jan. 6 of last year, a boisterous pocket of young men waving “America First” flags broke into a chant: “Christ is King!” It was one of the first indications that Christian nationalism would be a theme of the Capitol attack later that day, where insurrectionists prayed and waved banners that read “Proud American Christian.”
It also announced the presence of followers of Nick Fuentes, a 23-year-old white nationalist and former YouTube personality who was subpoenaed this month by the U.S. House of Representatives committee investigating the Capitol attack. (Though a person holding a flag reading “America First” — Fuentes’s personal brand — was among the first to barrel into the Senate chamber during the insurrection, there is no evidence Fuentes entered the Capitol himself.)
“Christ is King” is not controversial in itself: The phrase is rooted in Christian scripture and tradition. But Fuentes’s supporters have given it a different connotation. They have chanted it at anti-vaccine protests and the antiabortion March for Life, some of them holding crucifixes aloft. It was heard in March, at an America First conference, where Fuentes delivered a speech saying America will cease to be America “if it loses its White demographic core and if it loses its faith in Jesus Christ.” Fuentes also declared the country “a Christian nation.”
Christian nationalism has a deep history in America’s racist right-wing, said Kelly J. Baker, author of “Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930.” Fuentes’s rhetoric “could have come word-for-word from a Klan speech in 1922,” she said. “The Klan’s goal here was patriotism and nationalism, but it was combined with their focus on White Christianity.”
Intermingling patriotism and piety has become common even among groups better known for nationalist violence than adherence to a particular faith. The Proud Boys, a far-right organization with a history of violence whose members trampled and burned Black Lives Matter banners at Washington churches a year ago, were spotted praying together the morning of the insurrection.
Alex Bradley Newhouse, deputy director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said three Christian nationalist movements have grown or enhanced their visibility since 2019: “Deseret nationalists,” a primarily Mormon group based in Utah; the inherently racist “Christian Identity” movement; and “dominionists,” a term used to describe Christians with theocratic political goals that now overlaps heavily with Christian nationalism.