NPR Interviewees: ‘Anti-Democratic’ Christian Nationalists ‘Dominate’ Republican Party

Giovanni Del Piero on July 12, 2022

In an attempt to define “what is a Christian Nationalist?” National Public Radio’s Celeste Headlee interviewed a July 11 panel featuring Jemar Tisby of the Center for Antiracist Research, Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism and Andrew Whitehead, author of Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States about Christian Nationalism and its implications for church and state in American life.

Christian Nationalist ideology is a “cultural framework” that combines a particular strain of Christianity with American civic culture, Whitehead explained. Among the elements that constitute the main platform points of Christian Nationalism are “moral traditionalism”, which Whitehead describes as “sustaining social hierarchies” related to gender and sexuality. He also claims that it advocates for “authoritarian social control” and believes that governments may need to rely on violence to maintain order. 

Stewart described that Christian Nationalism not only has a coherent ideology, but also an organized structural system. She claims this belief system “has completely dominated the Republican Party” and that its leaders have “stacked” the Supreme Court. She also adds that these power grabs help it to not just influence, but even “manipulate” the American public to vote in its favor.

Christian Nationalism, even if there are minor differences between its adherents, is still “anti democratic at all levels” according to Stewart, and a danger to equality, pluralism and religious freedom in America.

Asked what Christian Nationalists mean when they use the phrase “religious liberty”, Whitehead claims a key part of the Christian Nationalist movement has been its “redefinition” of religious liberty.:

“It (religious liberty) no longer refers to this right of any citizen to practice or not practice religion without governmental interference, rather, it’s a redefinition of religious liberty as the right to bring privately held religious beliefs into the public square,” Whitehead asserted.

On the history of Christian Nationalism in America, Whitehead claims it has been with the country since the first Europeans arrived in the New World, and that it influenced how they treated other groups such as the Native Americans. He further notes that race is significantly tied to the religious element and that it essentially makes it a “white Christian Nationalism”.

The interviewer at one point asked how the movement changed with the presidency of Donald Trump. Tisby argued that Christian Nationalists discovered an “authoritarian leader” who was viewed as a defender of their sentiments. A core mindset of Christian Nationalism, Tisby named, is the feeling of being attacked and that the faith is “under siege” in the words of Trump.

Stewart argued that January 6 rioters believed God chose Trump, claiming that his supporters believe they are engaged in an “apocalyptic struggle” between good and evil to “save America from pluralistic democracy”. Networks of Christian Nationalists, she charged, were mobilized to “spread election lies” and frequently “concern-trolled about Constitutional irregularities”. Tisby tied this in further with Christian Nationalism’s supposed links to white supremacy. He traces the development of this relationship to the most popular brand of the Klu Klux Klan in the 20th century that had prominent religious overtones, and that the symbols and messages used by the Klan are similar to how Christian Nationalists today look at nation, faith and race.

According to the interviewees, many Americans sympathize towards Christian Nationalist ideas. Whitehead thinks that the majority of white American Christians support Christian Nationalism in some forms. Some, he claims, are “ambassadors”, who hold strongly to the ideals of the movement, and many more are “accommodators” who adhere to some tenets of Christian Nationalism. A minority that he numbers at 25 percent are what he calls “resistors” or Christians who oppose Christian Nationalism.

Tisby claimed that more attention is being paid to Christian Nationalism in Christian communities. He also encourages people to broaden their perspective of what they see Christianity is and what it can accomplish in politics, such as observing how Black churches engaged politically to expand the vote or push for racial reforms. Still, Stewart believes the future is uncertain, as he stated the movement controls the Republican Party and is “directing its hate towards those who are different” and that it is “propagandizing” information for its members.

Stewart added that those opposed to Christian Nationalism can do more than vote. She argued that the political Right fosters an enthusiastic voter base, and that opponents of Christian Nationalists need to do the same by investing in “features of democratic culture” and using long term strategies the political Right has employed.

  1. Comment by David S. on July 12, 2022 at 5:39 pm

    And yet, when Mr. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign, or others stand in front of a church and push a leftist agenda, they are not engaging in form of Christian Nationalism. I see how it works. Only when its people who are conservative, but not those on the left. Right.

  2. Comment by Loren J Golden on July 12, 2022 at 8:11 pm

    “‘(Religious liberty) no longer refers to this right of any citizen to practice or not practice religion without governmental interference, rather, it’s a redefinition of religious liberty as the right to bring privately held religious beliefs into the public square,’ Whitehead asserted.”
    Religious liberty, once it has been stripped of the right to bring “privately held religious beliefs into the public square,” is thus used as an instrument of oppression, effectively restricting religious belief and practice to the confines of the institutional churches.
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
    The “free exercise” of religion does not mean only that one is free to worship as one’s conscience requires.  My participation in the communal life of the United States is as a Christian.  My conscience is bound to the Word of God, and I would not have it separated therefrom for the world.  When I interact with others, it is as Christ commands me.  When I cast my vote in the voting booth, it is as my Scripture-informed conscience dictates.  I do not use my religious freedom to coerce others to adopt Biblical beliefs and practices—such would be a serious violation of the Second Great Commandment.  But neither should I expect others’ religious beliefs—or, more to the point, secular philosophies (especially regarding human sexuality)—to be forced on me, to coerce me to obey their dictates and commandments, especially to the extent that they contradict the Word of God.
    Does this mean that I support “white Christian Nationalism”?  Absolutely not!  But I am convinced that that nation prospers, where the Moral Law of God is honored, and His precepts are enshrined in law; and that nation founders, where the counsel of God is disregarded and held in low esteem.
    “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” (Rom. 13.1-3)  And again, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.  Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.  Honor everyone.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the emperor.” (I Pet. 2.13-17)  But where the law of the governing authorities contradicts the commandment of God, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5.29)

  3. Comment by David on July 12, 2022 at 8:25 pm

    The New York Times had a rather similar article on July 8th. Seeing it requires a subscription, but here is one paragraph that summarizes it.

    “Many dismiss the historic American principle of the separation of church and state. They say they do not advocate a theocracy, but argue for a foundational role for their faith in government. Their rise coincides with significant backing among like-minded grass-roots supporters, especially as some voters and politicians blend their Christian faith with election fraud conspiracy theories, QAnon ideology, gun rights and lingering anger over Covid-related restrictions.”

  4. Comment by Jeff on July 12, 2022 at 11:50 pm

    I am not ashamed that I identify as a Christian Nationalist — PROPERLY DEFINED.

    Yes, some on the Left (and hey, some here at IRD cough cough Mark Tooley cough cough) use “Christian Nationalist” as an epithet. So what. I’ve been called worse. “Methodist” used to be an epithet. Actually, “Christian” has been, and increasingly is again, hurled as an epithet! Do you gladly claim the Truth behind that epithet as your chosen identity? Or not? (ref Mt. 10:33)

    As to David’s NYT article’s laundry list of C-N attributes:
    * 2020 election fraud is a FACT, not a conspiracy.
    * QAnon is a crock of crap — a false flag op that too many have naively bought into
    * Gun rights (like freedom of speech and freedom of religion) are guaranteed by our Nation’s Constitution. D’oh! There I go again with that “Nation-alist” talk!
    * The globalist, politicized, scientistic (NOT scientific) COVID “response” raped this Nation — particularly its young people, who were never in any real danger from the Kung Flu. This Nation will pay a severe price for this horrific child abuse down the road. D’oh! There I go again with the “Nation” stuff! Sorry.

    So, yeah, I’m a Christian Nationalist. I worship CHRIST Jesus, I am grateful that I am a citizen of the Nation of America (and I embrace the RESPONSIBILITY that that citizenship entails), and I utterly refuse to bow to the new heresy of Humanist Globalism, which is just another of the many false religion masks that satan wears and the culture worships.

  5. Comment by Dr. Terry Polen on July 13, 2022 at 11:47 am

    This is why there is a prohibition to protect people from a state sponsered religion. The “ separation of church and state” is from a letter from Jefferson, not the founding documents.
    Yet I am forced by my tax dollars to support the “secular religion” that is NPR.

    Let the market work. Stop funding NPR.

  6. Comment by Theodore Miner on July 13, 2022 at 2:00 pm

    I am happy to wear the moniker of being a Christian Nationalist. As a nationalist, I prioritize the need of our fellow citizens over those of other countries. As a Christian, I embrace the Kuyperian understanding that Christ in Lord over all areas of life. This includes not only the church but schools, business and even government. Our governmental foundations should in accord with God’s law. So while the article uses the term Christian Nationalist as a pejorative, it is instead a God-honoring description of the faithful.

  7. Comment by Katherine on July 13, 2022 at 7:56 pm

    I find the continued claim that conservative Christians support “white supremacy” is bizarre. I should check with our multiple black parishioners to see what they think.

  8. Comment by Rick Plasterer on July 14, 2022 at 3:28 pm

    Religious liberty hasn’t been understood to be the right of conscience objection? Mark David Hall of George Fox University argues otherwise, as I reported several years ago:

    There have been more than 2,000 conscience objections recognized in law. Granted, it may have been thought necessary to spell many of these out for clarity, but James Madison, the author of the First Amendment, was clear that a person’s allegiance to God is superior to allegiance to the state. The very nature of religion is that it concerns ultimate things, and must thus decide how we act. We don’t have to salute the flag, if we think it sinful, we shouldn’t have to work on Saturday if we think it sinful (as the Supreme Court once recognized in its now overturned, and hopefully to be re-instated Sherbert decision), and there must be general conscience objection to homosexuality, the sinfulness of which which is strongly asserted in the Bible and by other religions. Opposition to that particular conscience objection is all, I daresay, that the frenzy over “Christian nationalism” is about.


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