Christian Nationalism Gerry O’Shea
During the summer, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia proudly highlighted her identification as a Christian nationalist. In typically exuberant language she declared: “I am being attacked by the godless left because I said I was a proud Christian nationalist. These evil people are even calling me a Nazi because I proudly love my country and my God.”
Fellow congresswomen Lauren Boebert and Mary Miller are on board with their colleague’s views in this area. Many other leaders from the political Right also align with these opinions including Governor Ron DeSantis who propounds the esoteric theory that “the nation’s founders did not desire a strict separation of church and state.” The Governor likes to quote from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, “Put on the full armor of God, so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” – except he alters “the devil’s” to the “left’s.”
The outcome of the inevitable clash for the Republican presidential nomination between Trump and DeSantis may well be determined by which one is deemed the stronger leader for the Christian crusade to re-make the country along the alt-right’s version of American Christianity.
Trump acolytes Michael Flynn and Roger Stone tied their “Reawaken America” tour message to the need for a new stress on their version of Christianity. And Republican gubernatorial nominee in Pennsylvania, the irrepressible Doug Mastriano, unashamedly fuses Trump’s stolen election lie with Christian nationalism.
This ideology propounds the belief that God’s providence was involved in the break with English rule in the 1775 Revolution and that the divine finger pointed clearly to approval for a Christian country. For them, the separation of church and state, a founding constitutional principle, doesn’t mean what it says or perhaps it should be reinterpreted to accommodate a focus on biblical beliefs. They see proponents of a secular country as the ones responsible for all the ills of modernity, certainly deserving Greene’s “godless” appellation.
Conspiracies are found in every nook and cranny of this theocratic ideology. The QAnon movement, which enjoys the support of millions, claims that a deep state cabal of satanic pedophiles is running a secret sex trafficking ring throughout Joe Biden’s government with the goal of keeping Donald Trump out of power. It is surely worrying that such odious rhetoric is deemed credible by so many.
A study conducted in May of 2022 shows that the strongest support for Christian nationalism comes from Republicans who identify as Evangelical or born-again Christians. 78% of this demographic favor formally declaring the United States a Christian nation while just 48% of the wider Republican movement opt for this outcome.
Nationalism starts with a belief that humanity is divisible into mutually distinct cultural groups with shared traits like language, religion and ethnicity. From there, nationalists believe that these groups should each have its own government which should promote and protect a nation’s cultural identity and, overall, help to provide meaning and purpose for the citizens.
Adding the descriptor Christian to the identification is meant to provide a biblical benediction for the nationalist title. Asserting that the American nation is inextricably linked to Christianity implies that the government should take active steps to maintain the country as a Christian entity.
In 1852, nearly a decade before the Civil War, Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave, was asked to address some citizens of his hometown, Rochester, N.Y., about the ethical dimensions of slavery and what it says about the American body politic. In a famous speech that still resonates with modern audiences he spoke about the lack of moral standards evident in the political culture around him. “The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie.” Can the nation that huddled with the ungodliness of slavery for a hundred years really hold a light for Christian nationalism?
Christian Theology 101 clearly teaches that all people are equal, irrespective of race, color or country of origin. God’s people are counted based on their humanity, the sole criterion for inclusion. In other words, the Christian God is an internationalist and ascribing preferences to her based on where one is born or one’s skin color is to miss completely the point of Christ’s teaching.
Since the Allied victory in the Second World War the nationalist map of Europe has gradually settled, especially with the growth of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Ironically, in the last half century the leadership of this massive political transformation has primarily come from Berlin.
The Brexit debate in Great Britain revolved around nationalist issues. It was driven by English conservatives refusing to accept that they only have the second most powerful economy in Europe, following the country they defeated in two world wars not that long ago.
From Vladimir Putin’s perspective, he launched the war in Ukraine to assert that the people who live there are all Russians, based on his clear but fallacious understanding of history. In a 5000-word treatise titled, “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” he insisted that the inhabitants of both countries are descendants of the Rus, an ancient people who settled the area between the Black and the Baltic Seas. In Putin’s twisted mind, they are bound together by a common territory and language and, importantly, by the Orthodox Christian faith.
In this amazing version of history, which guides and justifies the bombardment of Kyiv, Ukraine has never been and is not entitled to become a sovereign state. The reality on the ground there clearly reveals that the Ukrainians – to put it mildly – are driven by a fierce love of their homeland and heritage. The prevailing message asserted every day by the Ukrainian soldiers is that they are not Russians and are willing to die to prove it.
Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orban in Hungary and Donald Trump are considered global leaders of Christian nationalism and Putin thrives in playing that role. He has increased the power of the Russian Orthodox Church, and he has a cozy relationship with the Patriarchs in Moscow who laud him for his “noble efforts” to bring Ukraine into the Russian fold.
Thomas Jefferson wisely spoke in 1804 of a wall of separation between church and state. There should be no room in America for preferential treatment for any religion. Muslims, Hindus and Jews should feel just as much at home as the great variety of Christian sects do.
Gerry OShea blogs at wemustbetalking.com