Christian nationalism is a term that has been utilized broadly, especially since January 6th, 2021. How do you define Christian nationalism? And how do you know if someone is Christian nationalist?
Lucky for all of us, there are experts out there doing the analysis and creating the path for the rest of us to follow. I’m not one of those experts, but I do what I can to share what I’ve found from two of the best: Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry. They’ve written a book called Taking America Back For God and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Please, go buy it.
Defining Christian nationalism
First, a definition of Christian nationalism from their book:
- Christian nationalism (CN) is a cultural framework — a collection of myths, traditions, symbols, narratives, and value systems — that idealizes and advocates a fusion of Christianity with American civic life
- Christianity here is NOT a general, meta-category including all expressions of orthodox Christian theology
- The “Christianity” of CN represents something more than religion
- It includes assumptions of nativism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and heteronormativity, along with divine sanction for authoritarian control and militarism.
- It is as ethnic and political as religious
- CN contends that America has been and should be distinctively “Christian” from top to bottom — in its self-identity, interpretations of its own history, symbols, values, and public policies — and aims to keep it that way.
Whitehead and Perry’s research has led them to establishing a Christian nationalism scale, built around 6 questions from the Baylor Religion Study. Let’s find out where you land and what it means.
Answer the following 6 questions with:
- Strongly Disagree
- Strongly Agree
- The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation
- The federal government should advocate Christian values
- The federal government should enforce strict separation of church and state
- The federal government should allow the display of religious symbols in public spaces
- The success of the United States is part of God’s plan
- The federal government should allow prayer in public schools
Now that you answered the 6 questions above, here is how you score each question. For questions 1, 2, 4, 5, 6: 0 — Strongly Disagree, 1 — Disagree, 2 — Unsure, 3 — Agree, 4 — Strongly Agree
Question 3 (the Separation of Church and State one) is reverse scored, so it is: 4 — Strongly Disagree 3 — Disagree 2 — Unsure 1 — Agree 0 — Strongly Agree
Add up your scores above and see where you landed on the scale: 0–5 Rejecter 6–11 Resister 12–17 Accomodator 18–24 Ambassador
What follows are my summations from some of the data Whitehead and Perry lay out in their book. Again, please go buy Taking America Back For God and read it. There is way more detail than I’m going to drop in this post.
Rejecters (a zero to 5 score)
21.5% of the US population and believe there should be no connection between Christianity and politics, that the wall of seperation between church and state is high and impenetrable, or at least is should be.
Resisters (6 to 11 score)
26.6% of the US population and may disagree prayer should be instituted in public schools and believe government should not officially declare the US a Christian nation, but may be undecided on display of religious symbols.
They lean toward rejecting CN.
Accomodators (12 to 17 score)
32.1% of the US population and are somewhat undecided toward CN, but lean toward accepting it. Generally comfortable with the idea of America’s Christian foundations and amenable to the idea of a society where Christianity is conspicuous, but don’t fully favor Christianity alone in the public sphere.
Ambassadors (18 to 24 score)
19.8% of the US population and are wholly supportive of Christian nationalism. The 19.8% is across the country on the whole. Where you live, the percentage could be much much higher (looking at myself on that one).
Christian nationalist beliefs
Where you landed on the 6 simple questions, where your overall score put you, it is the primary predictor on a whole host of other issues. What I find truly interesting is there is no single demographic profile for a Christian nationalist Ambassador. You find them across a whole host of religious affiliations (granted at different levels), by region of the country, and by education levels. So you can’t just say “all of this group are Christian nationalists”. But…
…there are common Christian nationalist (CN) ambassador beliefs. Once someone has answered the 6 questions and landed in the Ambassador space, they very likely ALSO believe:
- The Founders were establishing a Christian nation and merely refrained from choosing a specific denomination
- The Founders assumption was that Americans would be “Christian”
- Our prosperity as a nation is tied to our heritage of obedience to God’s commandments
- The US has a special relationship with God, thus the federal government should formally declare the US a Christian nation and advocate for Christian values
- Most of the laws in the US, federal and state are founded on Christian principles
- We should return to formal prayers in public schools and the display of religious symbols in public spaces
- First Amendment is intended solely to keep the state out of the church’s business, not to keep religion from influencing politics
Christian Nationalism In Action
Those core beliefs translate into some very direct correlations to other issues, with Christian nationalist Ambassador being the strongest predictor that Americans:
- Voted for Donald Trump
- Oppose scientists and science education in public schools in favor of creationism
- Hold prejudiced views against racial minorities and show favor toward white racists
- Hold traditional gender attitudes that see women in the home and men leading at work and in politics
- Hold views supporting capital punishment and the police “cracking down” on troublemakers, justifying police violence against African Americans
- Hold anti-immigration views, expressing strong suspicion toward Hispanic immigrants and Muslims
- Hold views in opposition to same-sex marriage or civil unions and transgender rights
- Have a “victim mentality” characteristic of fascist regimes
The “predictors” above this are pulled from this article: “Christian Nationalism Talks Religion, But Walks Fascism” by Perry and Whitehead.
Those aren’t the only things being a Christian nationalist Ambassador predicts. We are in a pandemic. Want to understand people’s behavior? Know where they fall on the CN scale.
Christian nationalism is one of the strongest predictors that Americans:
- are more susceptible to conspiracy theories
- are skeptical towards the trustworthiness of doctors
- believe our country relies too much on science over religion
- are less likely to support federal intervention to solve collective action problems
- will prioritize individual liberty or the economy rather than protecting the vulnerable
- would be less likely to take precautionary steps to protect others from infection
- have anti-vaccine attitudes
- will question the efficacy and safety of COVID vaccines, believe doctors and drug companies are dishonest about vaccine risks, and it should be up to the individual to choose whether to vaccinate or not
The predictors above are pulled from this study, “How Culture Wars Delay Herd Immunity” by Whitehead and Perry.
We see it playing out every day in our communities, on social media, and on the news. When you hear it, know it is Christian nationalism.
We can run ourselves ragged fighting issue after issue that pops up all over our collective lawn. Until we realize every one of these weeds showing up are connected, we won’t stop them. The root below all of these issues is Christian nationalism.