White Christian Nationalists Want More Than Just Political PowerRoundup
tags: Christianity, religious right, evangelicals, Christian Nationalism
“Leave all snacks on the bus!” our guide shouted over the intercom as we readied ourselves to go through security at the U.S. Capitol a few years ago.
“What about my gun?” a man in the back called out, prompting laughter from us all.
That he had brought his gun wasn’t surprising. I was with a busload of white conservative Christians who had come to D.C. from all over the country to learn a Christian nationalist interpretation of the history of the United States. They loved the Second Amendment almost as much as the First. The man reluctantly disarmed and disembarked with the rest of us, and we began the trek up Capitol Hill. What followed was a series of indignities that made most of the group long for the pre-9/11 days when visitors could simply walk into the Capitol and wander the halls of power at will. This was, after all, their house.
From 2014 to 2015, I spent two years observing and participating in Christian heritage tours in Washington, D.C. I had grown up in a white evangelical family, and even though I was no longer evangelical myself, I remained fascinated by conservative Christian politics. White Christian nationalism—a movement that believes the United States was founded as a Christian nation and should be ruled by conservative Christian values—was on the rise. For scholars, Christian heritage tours provide a rare window into the formation of certain kinds of nationalist ideas, including Washington, D.C.’s peculiar place in that ideology.
Some commentators have called last week’s insurrection at the Capitol a “desecration” of a national sacred space, if not of democracy itself. But to white Christian nationalists, this claim fundamentally misunderstands what is sacred. To members of this group—now a cornerstone of President Donald Trump’s political coalition—the Capitol has already been desecrated by lawmakers who fail to enact God’s will for the nation. The building may be full of relics from America’s Christian past, but real Christians and their God have long since been exiled.
When Trump’s insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, they were living the dream of countless frustrated white evangelical Christians on those tours. For a brief moment, they bypassed everything designed to keep them out, and claimed the Capitol for their own. They ran wild through the halls, toppling furniture and smashing windows. They sat in prohibited seats and snapped selfies of their rebellion. They lived out a fantasy of taking back the country, or at least its Capitol, for God.
At the siege, the presence of white conservative Christians was unmistakable. The Proud Boys stopped to pray to Jesus on their march toward the Capitol, and the crowd held signs proclaiming jesus saves and god’s word calls them out. One flag read jesus is my savior. trump is my president. In the Capitol, an insurgent stopped to pray outside a room where Senator Mitch McConnell’s staffers hid behind barricaded doors. She asked God for “the evil of Congress to be brought to an end.”
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