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Opinion | White Christian Nationalism Threatens U.S. Democracy

Credit: iStock

by Steve Corbin, Michigan Advance

You may be among the 35% of Americans who have never heard the term “white Christian nationalism.” But of those citizens who are knowledgeable of the concept, it carries a decidedly negative view. The belief is becoming more and more important to understand as cultural diversity, racism, immigration issues, political divisiveness and political candidate pandering is before us.

What is white Christian nationalism? Generally – according to the Southern Poverty Law Center – it “refers to a political ideology and identity that fuses white supremacy, Christianity and American nationalism, and whose proponents claim that the United States is a `Christian Nation.’”

Research conducted by the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute  with the nonpartisan Brookings Institution as well as a poll sponsored by Southern Poverty Law Center/Tulchin have the same conclusion: The white Christian nationalism movement is a growing threat to America’s democracy.

The far-right antigovernment and religious rights movement of the 1990s is getting stronger and stronger and will play a major role in the 2024 local, county, state and federal elections.

During the Nov. 21-Dec. 14, 2022 time period, 6,212 Americans were asked by PRRI/BI for their reply to these five statements: 1) the U.S. government should declare America a Christian nation, 2) U.S. laws should be based on Christian values, 3) if the U.S. moves away from our Christian foundations, we will not have a country anymore, 4) being Christian is an important part of being truly American and 5) God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society.

Answers across all five questions were found to be highly correlated (Cronbach’s alpha of 0.92) with a margin of error of +/- 1.6% at the 95% level of confidence.  This is a take-it-to-the-bank research endeavor.

Fifty-four percent of the GOP faithful are adherents of Christian nationalism vs. 23% of independents and 15% of Democrats.

The PRRI/BI research notes five core attitudes are often associated with Christian nationalist beliefs: anti-Black, anti-Semitic (Jewish), anti-Muslim, anti-immigration and patriarchal adherence of traditional gender roles (for example, the husband is head of the household).”

Furthermore, research revealed “Christian nationalism beliefs are strongly correlated with support for QAnon, an extremist movement of the political right,” whose tenets include:

“The government, media and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation

There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders

Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center offers a summary of the movement that should be a wake-up call to Americans: “White Christian nationalism is a key ideology that inspired the failed Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection and fueled multiple failed political campaigns in 2022 . . . however, white Christian nationalism remains a persistent and growing threat to U.S. democracy.”

Any person with a modicum of intelligence knows European colonists immigrated to America to escape religious persecution, expand their economic opportunities and live in a country where there was separation of church and state. Followers of the white Christian nationalism movement want to contradict the principles and norms of democracy and make America an authoritarian country.

Adherents of white Christian nationalism are the drivers of antidemocratic conspiracy theories and election denialism and possibly book banning, LGBTQIA denigration, “sanitized” black history curriculum, anti-female reproductive rights, gerrymandering and attacking diversity, equity and inclusion.

Currently, there are 14 Republicans and three Democrats wanting to win the Nov. 5, 2024, presidential election. Hundreds of candidates will be seeking local, county, state and federal offices of power. Citizens must be vigilant.

This column first appeared in the Advance‘s sister outlet, the Daily Montanan.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.