White Christian Nationalism is Out in the Open NowRoundup
tags: far right, racism, White Nationalism, Christian Nationalism
Annika Brockschmidt (@ardenthistorian) is the author of Amerikas Gotteskrieger: Wie die Religiöse Rechte die Demokratie gefährdet (America’s Holy Warriors: How the Religious Right Endangers Democracy). Thomas Lecaque (@tlecaque) is an associate professor of history at Grand View University.
There was a time, not very long ago, when far-right figures wanted to avoid being called “Christian nationalists”—denying or deflecting or pleading ignorance. Even now, some reject the label. “Reporters frequently ask me,” Robert Jeffress, the megachurch pastor, said last month, “‘Are you a Christian nationalist?’ . . . And I respond emphatically, ‘No, not in any way.’” In May, Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee in the race for Pennsylvania governor, wrote a reporter, “Is this a term you fabricated? What does it mean and where have I indicated that I am a Christian Nationalist?” Franklin Graham told the same reporter that “Christian nationalism doesn’t exist.”
Despite the protestations, the term Christian nationalism is well suited for much of the far right. Think of (defeated) Georgia gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor’s slogan “Jesus, Guns, Babies.” Or the extensive Christian symbolism in the crowd that attacked the Capitol on January 6th. Or the Republicans, such as Rep. Lauren Boebert and Doug Mastriano, who have pointedly said they believe in collapsing the separation of church and state.
We may be entering a new phase, however—one in which at least some people are claiming, proudly, to be Christian nationalists, and writing apologetics explicitly in defense of the label and its attendant ideology. Witness Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who openly proclaims herself a Christian nationalist on Twitter and in interviews and on t-shirts. Or the Federalist, which on August 11 published an article entitled “Christian Nationalism Is Biblical And America-First, But It’s Not White.” The author, Carina Benton, is a regular contributor to the Trump-loving right-wing outlet and not someone with apparent expertise in theology or political philosophy—but the article is a useful indicator of how the debate is shifting, and because similar arguments have popped up elsewhere, it is worth at least a quick dissection.
Benton asserts that the criticism of Christian nationalism relies on “straw man arguments that misrepresent both Christianity and nationalism, and phony attempts to depict the movement as white,” before going on to prove Godwin’s Law halfway through.
Perhaps the two most pernicious paragraphs in Benton’s article deal with the idea of what a Christian nation is. First, she says that the United States chose God, chose Christianity, within a very specific doctrinal image:
The United States isn’t special because it’s a nation chosen by God; it’s special because it’s a nation that chose God. The implications are entirely biblical. Holy Scripture invites individuals from every race, tribe, nation, and language to freely enter into a personal relationship with the Savior, to live by His commandments, and worship Him as King.