Christian Nationalism

Sociologists: Christian Nationalism is “Proto-fascist” Ideology, Regardless of Adherent’s Piety

on June 25, 2020

Why do many conservative Christians support President Donald Trump, advocate for xenophobic policies, dismiss ethnic and racial injustice, and oppose women’s equality? Sociologists Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry ask these loaded questions in an attempt to understand today’s political climate. Using the findings in their book, Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States, the two researchers answer these questions at a virtual event hosted by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs on June 18, 2020.

Whitehead and Perry claim that the driving factor for what many on the left deem as racist, sexist, and fascist has little to do with personal religiosity and more to do with the “proto-fascist” ideology of Christian nationalism.

The sociologists defined Christian nationalism as a cultural framework that integrates Christianity and American civic life, often “dog-whistling” to generally white and culturally Christian individuals who presume it is all about “people like them.” Throughout their exploration of Christian nationalism, they do not address the possibility that a Christian could have a special love for his country, alongside an understanding that God uses nation-states for His own purpose, without “laying the groundwork of fascism.”

Whitehead and Perry summarize their research-based book down into two ideas: first, Christian nationalism is a powerful navigator of politics, past and present. Second, Christian nationalism is not a reducible category. There is something else going on that broad, sweeping terms like “white supremacy” and “conservative Christians” often miss. That something, according to the authors, is Christian nationalism.

Whitehead and Perry identified the nature of Christian nationalism by conducting a survey on thousands of respondents. In this survey, participants were asked to rate their levels of agreement for six Christian nationalistic statements, such as “The Federal Government should declare the United States a Christian Nation” and “The United States has a special part in God’s plan.” The sociologists clumped similar survey results and created four categories: rejectors, resisters, accommodators, and ambassadors.

Rejectors believe that the United States does not have any kind of special relationship with Christianity, nor should it. Rejectors make up about 1/5 of the American population, and the researchers suspect this number has grown since their 2017 results.

Resistors occupy the second category. These are people who likely believe that the separation of church and state is a good idea and disagree with the ideals of Christian nationalism, though not as dogmatically as rejectors do. These respondents constitute about 1/4 of Americans.

Accommodators make up the third and largest group. About 1/3 of all Americans “accommodate” and generally feel friendly towards Christian nationalism. While they would not strongly approve of the United States declaring itself a Christian nation and the like, they are generally religious.

The ambassadors are in the last group and want the full manifestation of Christian nationalism. They make up about 1/5 of Americans and are a shrinking minority, although the authors forecast that they will have a constant political presence in the future. In fact, the smaller the ambassador’s number, the more fervent their nationalism as “they are more likely to perceive themselves as persecuted.”

The important finding within these four groups is the fact that their individual piety had little bearing on the policies they supported, whereas their levels of nationalism had strong predictive power. “Where one falls on the Christian nationalism spectrum,” Andrew Whitehead notes, “can predict one’s views on same sex marriage, gun regulation, and immigration policy, etc.” Christian nationalism, the authors argue, is therefore not the same as religiosity.

But the sociologists report that their findings show a deeper difference: Christian nationalism is a “proto-fascist” ideology. The first indicator of this trend, the researchers claim, is illustrated in the fact that white Christian nationalists tend to bank hard right on most every policy issue, whereas African Americans who adhere to the same levels of Christian nationalism tend to be much more moderate. Non-white Christian nationalists are “more likely to envision the ideals of what America could be.” They are less interested in making Christianity the main religion in the public sphere, even though they align with many white Christian nationalists on matters such as family and gender.

White Christian nationalists, on the other hand, tend to want an ethnoreligious homogeneity. The authors argue from their findings that white Christian nationalists would say that “America is God’s melting pot, meaning that everybody should be like them.” Whereas non-white Christian nationalists would say “America is God’s mosaic,” understanding pluralism and democracy as desirable systems.

“When you look at the kind of values and the logic that white Christian nationalists use to think through political decisions,” Perry argues, “it suggests that they are more interested in cultural and political power and influence.”

Ultimately, this leads the sociologists to suppose that serious Christian nationalism, no matter how religious its ambassadors, lays the groundwork for fascism. If difference is detrimental to their power, then pluralism and democracy are often in direct contradiction to Christian nationalism. “Society better fall in their line,” Whitehead concludes, “or get out of the way.”

The entirety of the interview can be viewed on the Berkley Center YouTube channel below:

  1. Comment by Douglas E Ehrhardt on June 26, 2020 at 3:32 am

    With Marxists in the streets destroying everything in their way ,this?

  2. Comment by David on June 26, 2020 at 6:52 am

    Art. 11 “As the Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [“Moslems”]…” adopted unanimously without debate by the US Senate 7 June 1797.

    “For there are many doctrines of faith and sects in Pennsylvania which cannot all be enumerated, because many a one will not confess to what faith he belongs. Besides, there are many hundreds of adult persons who have not been and do not even wish to be baptized. There are many who think nothing of the sacraments and the Holy Bible, nor even of God and his word. Many do not even believe that there is a true God and devil, a heaven and a hell, salvation and damnation, a resurrection of the dead, a judgment and an eternal life; they believe that all one can see is natural. For in Pennsylvania every one may not only believe what he will, but he may even say it freely and openly.

    Consequently, when young persons, not yet grounded in religion, come to serve for many years with such free-thinkers and infidels, and are not sent to any church or school by such people, especially when they live far from any school or church. Thus it happens that such innocent souls come to no true divine recognition, and grow up like heathens and Indians. …

    Coming to speak of Pennsylvania again, that colony possesses great liberties above all other English colonies, inasmuch as all religious sects are tolerated there. We find there Lutherans, Reformed, Catholics, Quakers, Mennonists or Anabaptists, Herrnhuters or Moravian Brethren, Pietists, Seventh Day Baptists, Dunkers, Presbyterians, Newborn, Freemasons, Separatists, Freethinkers, Jews, Mohammedans, Pagans, Negroes and Indians. The Evangelicals and Reformed, however, are in the majority. But there are many hundred unbaptized souls.”—Gottlieb Mittelberger, Journey to Pennsylvania (1750).

    So much for the notion that the US was founded as a Christian nation.

  3. Comment by Rebecca on June 27, 2020 at 8:40 am

    In 1776 there were 2500 Jews, 1.9% of the population was Catholic, and 98% of the colonists were Protestant, in a general population of 4 million. Although I’ve seen your quote above before, there were no mosques or any sign of Muslims in the country. And, one quote taken out of context, doesn’t mean much of anything. How did a totally Christian population come up with a non-Christian nation? They didn’t.

  4. Comment by Douglas E Ehrhardt on June 27, 2020 at 2:56 pm

    Was that quote from the treaty of Tripoli? Which was used to convince the Muslim pirates to sign it.Used out of context I believe.I don’t think that the US was a Christian nation ever.It was definitely a country with Christian a culture.Growing up in the fifties I can remember Biblical studies in public school. America will never be perfect but I believe David has a plan for that.Leftistism destroys everything.

  5. Comment by Rebecca on June 27, 2020 at 4:19 pm

    So, you do think that a nation 99.9 % Christian did not want a Christian nation. Why would that be?

  6. Comment by David on June 27, 2020 at 4:31 pm

    “The law of love, peace and liberty in the states extending to Jews, Turks and Egyptians, as they are considered sonnes of Adam, which is the glory of the outward state of Holland, soe love, peace and liberty, extending to all in Christ Jesus, condemns hatred, war and bondage…
    Therefore if any of these said persons come in love unto us, we cannot in conscience lay violent hands upon them, but give them free egresse and regresse unto our Town, and houses, as God shall persuade our consciences, for we are bounde by the law of God and man to doe good unto all men and evil to noe man. And this is according to the patent and charter of our Towne, given unto us in the name of the States General, which we are not willing to infringe, and violate, but shall houlde to our patent and shall remaine, your humble subjects, the inhabitants of Vlishing [Flushing, NY].” 27 Dec. 1657

  7. Comment by Rebecca on June 27, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    The laws of the US were based on the laws of England at that time. Blackstone’s Commentaries sum up the laws. Outside of having an established church, mostly all the laws in the US were the same as in Blackstone’s book. Big punishments for working on Sunday, big punishments for adultery in all its forms, witchcraft a felony, to name a few public wrongs. And, the individual was responsible for getting his things back if stolen, but no vigilantism. The book can be read for free on the net. The Founders were very familiar with it and many more documents. You would find the Northwest Ordinance 1787 Article 3 on religion to be very interesting. It also can be read on the net for free.

  8. Comment by Eriberto Soto on June 27, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Touché!! I agree and I am an evangelucal Christian. Please read Greg Boyd’s, The Myth of a Christian nation.

  9. Comment by Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary (ret. UM clergy) on June 26, 2020 at 8:01 am

    One small sample of their sociological dribble: “Christian nationalism is a powerful navigator of politics, past and present. Second, Christian nationalism is not a reducible category.”

    Spare me. Please.

  10. Comment by Palamas on June 26, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    Two more academics who insist on using terms they don’t understand (“fascist,” to be specific). That brings my count up to 43,829, give or take a few thousand.

  11. Comment by David Gingrich on June 27, 2020 at 7:59 am

    Sounds like two haters looking for reasons to justify their hate.

  12. Comment by Eriberto Soto on June 27, 2020 at 10:49 am

    My comment above is in agreement with David who shows that the UDA is not a Christian nation. Though I believe it has had Christian influences throughout history.

  13. Comment by Rick Plasterer on June 27, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    If fascism isn’t just a term of abuse, it reasonably means the philosophy of the Italian government under Benito Mussolini. It says that there is no higher authority than the state, and the individual has no rights against the state. Fascism’s philosopher was Giovanni Gentile:

    Christians must believe that God is a higher authority than the state. That is what the current battle over religious freedom is about. So the traditional Christians these researchers examined cannot possibly be fascists.


  14. Comment by Rebecca on June 27, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    Exactly right. There was an international battle over religion around the time of the American Revolution between George Washington and Thomas Paine. Paine wanted America to go full atheist like the French, and Washington would have none of it. Edmund Burke wrote on the subject and sided with Washington.

  15. Comment by Dan W on June 27, 2020 at 4:21 pm

    A quote from the Mayflower Compact, 1620

    “Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith, and the honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another; covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic;”

    November 2020 is the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the pilgrims on the Mayflower, and the signing of the Mayflower Compact!

  16. Comment by Dan W on June 27, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    “in the presence of God, and one another; covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic”

    We need more of this in 2020 – jmho

  17. Comment by Rebecca on June 27, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    The first public schools in the world were started in America and taught Christianity. Noah Webster the “Father of American Education,” was a devout Christian and a Revolutionary War soldier. Webster wrote on his beliefs regarding school and other topics. The New England Primer, written in colonial days, can be read online. The McGuffey’s Readers were very popular, for a hundred years or so, and had Bible quotes and moral stories. They became less religious after the first McGuffey died and his “liberal” son took over. The story on that can be found on the net. And, of course, Harvard and the rest of the Ivy League schools were started as Christian schools. My, have things changed, and not for the better.

  18. Comment by Timothy on June 29, 2020 at 12:34 am

    Judging from the daily bombardment of sick news, pop culture and bizarre cultural grooming of our children in public education, it’s safe to bet we’re very, very far from a Christian nationalist nation. These men, if they really cared, should be more worried about the opposite side of the spectrum.

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