Read this to Understand White Christian Nationalism's Role in the January 6th Insurrection
As Congressional hearings begin, read the most comprehensive report on the role of Christian Nationalism in the January 6th Insurrection
The times are urgent and the need for accurate information about race, religion, and pressing issues is critical. Your support helps me do this work and bring the information to you. Would you consider becoming a paid subscriber today?
The “Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol” will hold their first public hearing on June 9, 2022 at 8 pm ET.
The committee members will present brand new material, hear witness testimony, and update the public on their findings over the course of the past year.
It is rare to watch events unfold and know in real-time that they are of historic significance. This Congressional hearing about the attempted insurrection on January 6, 2021 represents one of those instances.
At this hearing and subsequent ones I hope the pernicious role of white Christian Nationalism in the attack on our democracy will feature prominently in the proceedings.
In anticipation of the January 6th committee hearings and for your edification as a concerned participant in our democracy, here is some essential information about white Christian Nationalism.
It’s All in the Report
“Christian Nationalism and the January 6, 2021 Insurrection” is the most comprehensive report to date about the intersection of this dangerous ideology and the events on that deadly day.
The report, which I was honored to join as a co-author, provides essential background and information to understand the role of religion and politics in right-wing crusades to overturn lawful elections.
The report is thorough and comprehensive, and it deserves a few readings. Below are some highlights to get you started.
A Host of Experts
Authors include: Anthea Butler, Samuel Perry, Andrew Whitehead, Amanda Tyler, Katherine Stewart, and Andrew Seidel. All of these are scholars and advocates who have developed an expertise in understanding, identifying, and countering white Christian Nationalism.
The report was jointly sponsored by the BJC and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. As you might expect, people who do not adhere to Christianity or any religion at all see white Christian Nationalism as a threat to their religious freedom.
What is Christian Nationalism?
A definition of Christian Nationalism (Amanda Tyler):
Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism relies on the mythological founding of the United States as a “Christian nation,” singled out for God’s providence in order to fulfill God’s purposes on earth. Christian nationalism demands a privileged place for Christianity in public life, buttressed by the active support of government at all levels.
Strong indicators of Christian Nationalism include: believing the founding documents of the United States are divinely inspired; believing that the federal government should declare the U.S. a “Christian nation” (Perry & Whitehead).
Race and Networks in White Christian Nationalism
Why should we call it WHITE Christian Nationalism? What role does race play in the ideology?
In her section, historian Anthea Butler shows how white Christian Nationalists envision white Protestants (especially men) as the quintessential and “true” Americans. Everyone else—Native Americans, Black people, Jewish people, Muslims, immigrants, and more—are all considered “other.”
Katherine Stewart untangles the labyrinthine networks of institutions and individuals that power Christian Nationalism. She writes:
The strength of the movement is in its dense organizational infrastructure: a closely interconnected network of right-wing policy groups, legal advocacy organizations, legislative initiatives, sophisticated data operations, networking groups, leadership training initiatives, and media and messaging platforms, all working together for common political aims. ~ Katherine Stewart
“Practice Runs” Leading up to January 6th
Critical to understanding white Christian Nationalism’s role on the events of January 6th is understanding that this was not an isolated event. Andrew Seidel enumerates some of the disturbing events leading up to the insurrection: The Million Maga March (11/14/20); the Jericho March “Let the Church ROAR” rally (12/12/20); Women for America First (12/12/20); the “Supreme Court Blessing” (1/5/21).
Seidel ends his section of the report with a stunning quote from a journalist who was at the January 6th Insurrection. He notes that amid the broad swath of demographics, geographies, and backgrounds represented, white Christian Nationalism bound them all together.
“The Christianity was one of the surprises to me in covering this stuff, and it has been hugely underestimated,” he said. “That Christian nationalism you talk about is the driving force and also the unifying force of these disparate players. It’s really Christianity that ties it all together.” ~ Luke Mogelson, The New Yorker
Curbing the Spread of White Christian Nationalism
When the COVID-19 pandemic began one of the urgent priorities of the scientific community was to trace the spread of the virus. They had to determine who, how, and where it was being transmitted in order to better defend against it.
In a similar manner, it is crucial to understand the carriers of anti-democratic sentiment in this country and how they replicate themselves.
An exploration of white Christian Nationalism reveals that conservative Christian communities have been critical vectors for the spread of this authoritarian, xenophobic, and violent ideology among an eager and politically active sector of the populace.
If we want to protect the peaceful transfer of power, expand democratic participation, and create an inclusive nation for all, then we must commit ourselves to counteracting the ongoing disaster that is white Christian Nationalism.
Did you learn something from this article? Subscribe and help support this work!
The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism by Katherine Stewart
Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States by Samuel Perry and Andrew Whitehead
White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America by Anthea Butler
The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American by Andrew Seidel
Christians Against Christian Nationalism (Resources for churches)