The Myth that Powers White Christian Nationalism
Sociologists Philip Gorski and Samuel Perry break down the fictions that White Christian Nationalists tell themselves.
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I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it: White Christian Nationalism is the greatest threat to the witness of the church and to the future of democracy in the United States.
Some of the most violent attacks and most scandalous abuses have occurred under the banner of white Christian Nationalism.
Sociologists Philip Gorski and Samuel Perry who co-wrote the new book, The Flag and the Cross (I had the privilege of writing the foreword), break it all down in their latest opinion piece for the Washington Post.
White Christian nationalism can be messy to define, but it’s critical to recognize its three animating impulses: freedom, order and violence — the ideology’s holy trinity. The freedom belongs only to Americans these nationalists see as like them (White men). The order is to be imposed on all those they don’t (everyone else). And righteous violence is to be deployed as necessary to achieve this twisted vision.
From the Buffalo massacre, to the “great replacement” theory, to efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, all of these seemingly unrelated crises have connections to white Christian Nationalism.
What stands out in Gorski and Perry’s assessment is the brief description of the narrative that white Christian Nationalists believe.
America was founded as a Christian nation; the founders were traditional Christians; the founding documents are biblically based; God has therefore bestowed immense wealth and power on America and given it a mission to spread freedom and religion around the world; but that mission and those blessings are now threatened by the presence of non-Whites, non-Christians and non-native-born people on American soil.
Every group has narratives they use to define their origins and explain their identity. When those narratives rely more on fiction that fact and take on supernatural, even divine weight, they morph into myths.
The controlling myth of white Christian Nationalism says that God has specially elected the United States as a chosen nation and ideas of what constitutes a “true” American must be zealously, even violently, defended.
It leads to all sorts of efforts abuses such as racism, xenophobia, sexism, and the pursuit of power at all costs.
The authors of the article are quick to point out that white Christian Nationalism is not shorthand for “white evangelicals.” The two are not synonymous and many white evangelicals rightly recoil at white Christian Nationalist mythology.
We cannot, however, ignore the ways that this mythology spreads through Christian leaders, churches, and organizations.
White Christian Nationalism is not the only myth that perniciously affects society, but it is the one that consistently undermines the faith they claim to profess and that puts democracy in peril.
There are better narratives than the myth that white Christian Nationalists perpetuate. We should both know their story and tell a better one about truth, freedom, and flourishing.
Read the rest of the article HERE.
It's hard to say flatly "I see signs of White Christian Nationalism." It hides behind language and indirect statements. There is a lot of talk in my area about how "we need more police" and "we are being overwhelmed by crime" and "we must fund the police more and certainly not defund the police."
None of these three things are happening. I've tracked down the crime statistics for my immediate area and the region, and crime has been falling for 20 or more years. There are upticks now and again, and this year is an uptick -- but it is not extraordinary, and within the "wobble" of uncertainty where some crimes aren't recorded or are mislabeled or whatever. We have *not* defunded the police. An opening remained open and wasn't filled immediately, and that was used by the pro-police crowd here to argue that we were "short" an officer. But it was not the real story. There's been no reduction in the budget plan and leaving a position open & not paying a salary for a few months is not "defunding" the police.
And we certainly haven't seen "crime." What we do see is a rise in petty theft, and that is a concern. BUT that is being used to argue for a rise in "crime," and we don't need the police to manage this.
We already spent an enormous amount of our city and county budget on police forces. We do not need *more* police. But there is a movement in the media listened to by the pro-police allies who highlight every instance of a theft of shoes from the shoe store as "proof" we need more police (do we put police officers in every store?). And the police are frankly part of this movement as well, with their self-serving public service announcements and their PR about how they are "stopping crime."
From what I see, it is the fear of the outsider who is not like "us" -- the vagrants, the people from the Big City who come out here to our safe community, the many migrants who work for the high tech industries and who come out "here" to live in our small town in its beautiful valley. We had a ginormous community backlash when the local Muslims organized their own prayer room and sponsored an open house to explain who they were. The response from so many people was that "they" didn't belong "here."
Some, maybe a majority, of the expressed sentiment opposing outsiders comes from the conservative "Christians." But there are also quite a few people who are not identified with Christianity who are conservative and who are against the changing of the racial proportions that constitute the people of this town.
So is White Christian Nationalism rising here? Yes. Is it easily identifiable with the label? Not really. It's become what people are so much so that it's invisible to them.