What does Christian nationalism have to do with January 6?


The Republican Party should unabashedly embrace a platform of Christian nationalism, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said last week in an interview with a conservative website. “We must be the party of nationalism and I am a Christian, and I say this proudly, we should be Christian nationalists”, she says.

Some observers think the GOP has already adopted that identity. Their evidence? The January 6 riot that tried to overturn the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. “Men and women waving flags that read ‘A Call to Heaven’ or ‘Proud Christian American’ passed Capitol Police as officers attempted to arrest those entering the Capitol building,” Jack Jenkins writes for Religion News Service. The insurgents burst into the Senate Chamber and “bowed their heads like a” self-proclaimed shaman; associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory movement thanked Jesus for “allowing them” to get rid of communists, globalists and traitors in our government. .'”

What is Christian nationalism and what does it mean for our politics? Here’s everything you need to know:

Is “Christian nationalism” the same as being a patriotic Christian?

No. Christian nationalism tends to erase the distinction between “Christian” and “nationalist” – and also the separation between church and state. Adherents believe “that the United States was founded as a Christian nation; the Founding Fathers were all Orthodox and Evangelical Christians; and God chose the United States for a special role in history,” writes John Blake for CNN. Their beliefs are based on a misreading of history: some of the Founders were Christians, others were not. “They were a collection of atheists, Unitarians, deists, liberal Protestants and other denominations.”

Christian nationalism takes this bad history and mixes it “with almost ‘apocalyptic’ views on future threats to this Christian heritage”, write a trio of scholars for the journal Political behavior. These alleged threats come from “rapid demographic, legal and political changes” – the rise of LGBTQ rights and Black Lives Matter – and the movement tends to explain these changes using conspiracy theories like QAnon, the theory that the America is struggling with children – assaulting the elites. There’s also a racial component: Scholars often use the term “white Christian nationalism” to describe a movement as an “expression of Christianity that is shaped by conservative and white nativist conceptions of what it means to be an American,” said sociologist Samuel L. Perry said in an April interview with Religion disconnected. A survey in 2021 found that support for the racist “great replacement theory” is strongly correlated with Christian nationalist views.

What is perhaps most disturbing is that Political behavior scholars’ research indicates that “Christian nationalism in the United States is associated with increased support for political violence.” Which brings us to the next question.

What does Christian nationalism have to do with January 6?

A lot. “Crosses were everywhere that day in DC, on flags and poles, on signs and clothing, around necks and erected above the crowd,” attorney Andrew L. Seidel wrote in a statement. special report for the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty and Freedom From Religious Foundation. Bible verses also dotted the crowd, as a number of rioters stopped to pray during the attack. One of the invaders registered on a social media feed explaining the reasons for his participation: “We are a pious country, and we are founded on pious principles. And if we don’t have our country, nothing else matters.

Researchers are still trying to figure out what to do with it. “Many Christians at the Capitol on January 6 were part of a more conventional and affiliated faith, including pastors, Catholic priests and bus-busting religious groups,” The Washington Post Michelle Boorstein wrote. But the attack came at a time when the number of self-identifying Christians has declined sharply in America, and even people who identify as Christians tend to be less tied to specific denominations and their long traditions. Instead, Boorstein wrote, “institutional religion is falling apart” with more emphasis on individual beliefs and less on “theological credentials and oversight.” This led to a strange dynamic around Jan. 6: “Americans who hold Christian nationalist beliefs and don’t go to church are more likely to have voted and support Trump.”

What is the magnitude of the movement? How powerful?

It depends on how you measure. A 2021 survey by the Pew Research Center identified 77% of Republican respondents as “integrationists of church and state” who hold a variety of views “consistent” with Christian nationalism. It may be a bit exaggerated. A 2017 survey found that one in five Americans share this view. The scholars at Political behavior found that “support for the Capitol attacks is a minority position among all slices of the American religious landscape”. But they also noted that 17.7% “of white weekly followers fall into the top common quartile of justification for violence, Christian nationalist beliefs, perceived victimhood, white identity and support for QAnon.” This percentage – although relatively small – “would represent millions of individuals”.

The movement seems to be taking more and more space in Republican politics. Representatives Greene and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) are two of the most famous faces of Christian nationalism, but other politicians are on the way: Doug Mastriano – a former army officer who chartered buses to transport the protesters in Washington DC on January 1. 6, and who has declared the separation of church and state a “myth” — is the GOP nominee for governor of Pennsylvania and is now in a close race with his Democratic opponent.

A measure of the movement’s power, however, may lie in the willingness of Christian nationalists to identify specifically as Christian nationalists. “As of a few months ago, many American Christians who would objectively qualify as Christian nationalists by sociological measures, rejected the term,” writes Kristine Du Mez of Calvin University on her blog Substack. Now it seems “more Christians are openly embracing and defending Christian nationalism.” Marjorie Taylor Greene may have grabbed the headlines by openly embracing the term, but she may not be that unusual.

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