Christian nationalism is used to overthrow democracy: Chronicle


AAt the Turning Point USA summit in Florida on June 23, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said, “I am a Christian, and I say this proudly, we should be Christian nationalists. Whether she’s repeating QAnon conspiracies or spreading misinformation about COVID-19, Greene has made a name for herself defying factual journalism and conventional norms to play with the MAGA base. But when it comes to her embrace of Christian nationalism, she is just repeating the narrative of the religious right for decades. Since the late 1970s, a right-wing movement responding to the civil rights and women’s rights movements has used the language of “biblical values” to recruit believers. As a white Christian who grew up in the rural south, I know Rep. Greene preaches to a crowd that has been prepared to respond with a hearty “Amen.” The prevalence of Christian nationalism as an ideology makes it the greatest threat to democracy in America today.

Growing up in the Southern Baptist Church, I learned this story well: America was special because it was founded as a Christian nation. Our enemies were liberals who disrespected “traditional biblical values” and threatened the moral order by embracing feminism. By demonizing liberals and fearing that their policy decisions will lead us to cultural collapse, the religious right has convinced many in my community that the GOP is the party of God. As a youngster, I got involved in Republican politics and called Senator Strom Thurmond because I embraced that narrative.

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But Christian nationalism wasn’t the only story my people taught me. I also memorized the words of Jesus in Sunday school and knew the Bible’s concern for the poor, immigrants, sick, and oppressed. Biblical prophets clearly articulated the dangers of religious nationalism and decried political leaders who devoured their people while religious leaders whitewashed their wrongdoings. In the late 90s I had a crisis of faith where I realized I had to choose between the teachings of Jesus and the lies that Christian nationalism had told me. I did what my Sunday School teachers taught me to do: I chose Jesus.

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But it took me a while to find the community of followers of Jesus who rejected Christian nationalism. Turns out that was by design. In his book Phantom network, Anne Nelson recounted how Paul Weyrich, one of the founders of the religious right in the 1970s, also helped establish the Council for National Policy, a roundtable of Republican Party leaders, religious right leaders , the NRA, churches, nonprofits, and family foundations. CNP worked with independent media companies and talk radio to coordinate what Nelson calls the “wallpaper effect” in which the Christian nationalist narrative was repeated and reinforced. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in promoting this narrative in communities like the one where I grew up. For its own political purposes, this network has conspired to hijack the faith of my people.

Read more: The Dismantling of the White Christian Worldview

Forty years later, when people outside this cultural world ask how their fellow Americans can vote for Donald Trump or repeat blatant lies about a global pandemic or the 2020 election, it is clear to me how much the web of nationalism Christian has been extended. Representative Greene is taking no chances when she declares herself a Christian nationalist. She plays with the base that has produced more Republican voters for Donald Trump than ever voted for any Republican candidate in US history.

Although I know firsthand the power of Christian nationalism, I also know that it is a minority movement with a diminishing base. Politicians like Greene are forced to shout the quiet part out loud because a growing majority of Americans are realizing the downsides of the religious right. The so-called ‘pro-life’ movement has played on imaginary concern for the unborn child to hold judges who lied in their confirmation hearings accountable, has overturned deer c. Wade, and stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to save lives by mitigating the climate crisis. The same politicians who claim to care about life from the moment of conception refused to extend a child tax credit, and nearly 4 million American children have fallen into poverty after its expiration. Most Americans reject theocracy by judicial decree, with 6 out of 10 oppose the Dobbs decision. Additionally, a recent PRRI survey revealed that most religious americans also oppose this coronation of the religious right. The only outliers are the religious communities most directly targeted by efforts to promote Christian nationalism: white evangelical Protestants and Latter-day Saints.

The reactionary forces that targeted my religious community 40 years ago would never have invested the time and resources they devoted to hijacking Christianity if they had not understood its power. Our faith tells us who we are and gives us the courage to sacrifice ourselves and endure incredible suffering for what we believe is right. Christian nationalism has built a base that is ready and willing to overthrow the will of the American people. But Christians who join with Americans of other faiths and no faith have the opportunity to practice their faith in a way that upholds democracy and promotes the common good. If we don’t, it is clear that people like Representative Greene, who claim to speak for all Christians, will impose their will on all Americans.

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