Serving the High Plains

Christian nationalism trouble for Democracy

Historically viewed as a fringe belief system, Christian nationalism has become a considerable force in American politics, particularly as it relates to the current Republican Party.

A new survey from Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution revealed more than 50% of Republicans believe the country should aspire to become a devoutly Christian nation by ascribing to the fundamentals of Christian nationalism, or, at a minimum, identifying with such beliefs.

Christian nationalism is the assumption the United States is a Christian nation, and that the nation’s laws should be deeply rooted in Christian values. Such a mindset has long been prevalent in white evangelical spheres, but has rapidly gained considerable traction within the mainstream Republican party.

Committed Christian nationalists represent only 10% of the population, according to a 2023 PRRI/Brookings Christian Nationalism Survey. Despite such a distinct minority, Christian nationalists have been successful in garnering additional influence by aggressively integrating themselves into a more sizable Christian electorate and declaring themselves as ordinary men and women.

Not surprisingly, support for Christian nationalism is heavily correlated to political ideology. Americans who reside in culturally conservative red states are much more likely to espouse Christian nationalist beliefs or be more inclined to harbor Christian nationalistic sympathies. More than half of Republicans also hold Christian nationalist beliefs, compared with a quarter of independents and just 16% of Democrats.

In 2022, a collection of right-wing writers and leaders published a document titled “Conservatism: A Statement of Principles.” The section on God and public religion stated, “Where a Christian majority exists, public life should be rooted in Christianity and its moral vision, which should be honored by the state and other institutions both public and private.”

That is an alarming and troubling statement, implying non-Christians should have second-class status in our country. That Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and others should be deprived of equality under the law. Such rhetoric is the antithesis of freedom to worship enshrined in the Constitution.

Christian nationalism is not an ideology where an individual’s belief system defines their political values. Human beings can certainly hold divergent opinions as they relate to immigration, reproductive rights, or any other political issue. Like everyone else, Christians routinely spar among one another on such issues. Debate and a diversity of viewpoints are often beneficial to both the debaters as well as the larger society.

What distinguishes Christian nationalism is not religious participation in politics but the myopic perception that Christian primacy and theology must be deeply saturated in virtually every aspect of our society. It is tied to a visceral sense that the well-being and survival of the church is closely tied to the outcome of any given political race. Christian nationalism’s supporters have little, if any, compunction about attempting to impose their personal value system upon others. Such beliefs often manifest themselves through linear ideology, a specific identity, and unbridled passion.

If Christian nationalism were successful in becoming the norm, it would abolish our current Constitution and further fragment our democracy.

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
 
Rendered 04/13/2024 12:25