Christian nationalists believe that Christians have been, and continue to be, under attack in the U.S. They believe it’s past time to restore the nation to its so-called Christian roots. Christian nationalists had a major presence at the January 6 attack on the Capital; have soaked up and spread anti-vaccine conspiracy theories; have been consistently pro-Trump and anti-Biden; and have established a powerful infrastructure, made up of an assortment of media platforms, creating, among other entities, a parallel Christian nationalist digital world.
Sociologists Andrew Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry describe Christian nationalism as “a cultural framework that blurs distinctions between Christian identity and American identity, viewing the two as closely related and seeking to enhance and preserve their union.”
As Religion News Service’s Bob Smietana recently noted, “’Christian nationalist’ once summoned images of fiery extremists — stark racists concerned with keeping immigrants out of the United States or politicians who argued that the Ten Commandments ought to coexist in law with the Constitution. Then came Jan. 6, and suddenly the term became a culture-war acid test: One member of Congress began selling ‘Proud Christian Nationalist’ T-shirts, while First Baptist Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress said if opposing abortion, transgender rights and illegal immigration made him a Christian nationalist, ‘count me in.’”
In his piece headlined “Who are the Christian nationalists? A taxonomy for the post-Jan. 6 world: A guide to emerging Christian nationalist voices,” (https://religionnews.com/2023/01/06/a-christian-nationalist-taxonomy/) Smietana describes “six loose networks of faith leaders and followers who fit some part of [Whitehead and Perry’s] definition”:
“[L]argely unorganized faithful Americans are in many cases your friends, family and neighbors who hold dear a vision of the country rooted in nostalgia for a past that is more aspirational than historical.” An October Pew Research survey (https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2022/10/27/45-of-americans-say-u-s-should-be-a-christian-nation/) found that forty-five percent of Americans believe the U.S. should be a “Christian nation,” although “researchers say respondents differed greatly when it came to outlining what a Christian nation should look like, suggesting a wide spectrum of beliefs” RNS’s Jack Jenkins reported.
Religious right’s old guard
These are the organizations and leaders that have been pushing a right-wing Christian agenda for more than fifty years. These descendants of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, include Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council, Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Texas faux historian and activist David Barton.
Smietana points out that “Mostly concerned with pushing anti-abortion and ‘family values’ legislation, they advocate for a Christian influence in our existing politics. While their heyday came under the Reagan administration, they can claim a new generation in such politicians as Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano and Colorado’s U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert.”
This is, to borrow from Maurice Sendak, is “Where The Wild Things Are.” The disgraced Gen. Michael Flynn, Tennessee pastor Greg Locke, and an assortment of Stop the Steal and anti-vaccine activists have been touring the country, drawing large crowds, for their “Reawaken America Tour.” “Among their supporters,” Smietana writes, “are devotees of QAnon, who often claim the world is run by a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophile Democrats.”
The extremely online
Where those booted off many social media platforms (although Elon Musk appears to be restoring them to Twitter) have established a popular digital presence. “Known to spout antisemitic and white supremacist rhetoric, these internet-based nationalists also include such figures as Andrew Torba, head of alternative social media website Gab who was briefly connected to Mastriano’s gubernatorial campaign. Torba recently published a book approving of Christian nationalism,” Smietana notes.
These are people that backed Trump and will likely get behind him again if it looks like his campaign gains momentum. Here is where you’ll find an assortment of mega church pastors, prayer warriors, spiritual warfare promoters, and some members of the New Apostolic Reformation, “a network of preachers who believe that church leaders have been given spiritual authority over Christian nations and seek to develop ties with leaders abroad.”
Patriots and theocrats
Before the ongoing sedition trial of five Proud Boys, the group – not particularly known for prayer – issued a call to supporters:“I am calling for prayer and fasting for these brothers during their 6 week estimated trial,” the Proud Boys channel posted to its 20,000 Telegram subscribers. “…If you have never fasted before, it is an act of denying your flesh, it will draw you closer spiritually to God as you send your petitions up to Him.”Smietana reported “that some members of the Patriot Front who were arrested in June for allegedly planning to riot at a Coeur d’Alene Pride event have shown connections to pastor and former Washington state lawmaker Matt Shea, a right-wing firebrand who has touted a document titled ‘Biblical Basis for War.’”
While Smietana’s categorization is useful, it is clear that there is significant crossover between the categories. One thing is certain: They all are united by a Christian nationalism whose advocates believe, according to Paul D. Miller’s excellent Christianity Today piece titled “What Is Christian Nationalism” (https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/february-web-only/what-is-christian-nationalism.html) that, “the American nation is defined by Christianity, and that the government should take active steps to keep it that way.” On January 6, we saw those “active steps” manifested.