Christian nationalism is a term that has gained increasing attention in recent years, and it refers to the fusion of "Christian" religious beliefs and a nationalist ideology. As we observed Memorial Day and watch as the Fourth of July is upon us, it is crucial to address this issue that has far-reaching and highly dangerous implications for our society, democracy, and religious freedoms.
In this blog, we will dive into the concept of Christian nationalism and the problems it presents. Moreover, we will explore its effects on individuals and communities and discuss ways to combat its influence.
Understanding: What Is Christian Nationalism?
What is Christian nationalism? The term, Christian nationalism, is a political ideology that combines Christianity with the identity and culture of a nation. This ideology often intertwines religious beliefs with political right-wing values, blending religious and national identities.
This belief system wants to uplift the far-right political party as a moral majority that leads the country under the guise of "Christian faith" and with the desire for a more authoritarian leadership. Christian nationalism demands Christianity take root in national politics, serving as a foundation for American nationalists who desire a "Christian nation" that operates for their own interests and not for the interests of American people who disagree with Christian nationalist ideals.
Non-Christian individuals who reside in America have expressed the desire for a strict separation between Christian beliefs and federal government when it comes to politics in the United States.
Research on Christian Nationalism & Christian Nationalist Views
As observed in a survey conducted by PRRI/Brookings, there are significant differences between the people who do believe in the ideology Christian nationalism proposes (Christian nationalists) and those who do not (non-Christians & non-Christian nationalists). These differences range anywhere from religious identity, religious practices, partisanship, gender, age, education, as well as trust in media and television sources.
Christian nationalism has a complex history rooted in intertwining religious identity and nationalism, asserting that the United States should be a Christian nation founded on Christian principles.
Over time, it has gained momentum. In American history, it has found fertile ground for its growth, deriving from influential political movements to grassroots organizations. Among these are white supremacists and white Christian nationalism adherents.
White Christian nationalism adherents claim love of God, Jesus Christ and Christian power, and are determined that America is a "Christian nation."
This determination serves as a political movement denouncing religious pluralism -- a state of society where members of diverse religious groups maintain and develop their traditional culture or special interest within the space of a common civilization.
For further information, follow the link to watch an informative video on Christian nationalism during the holidays, in light of the Fourth of July's rapid approach.
Examples of the Term Christian Nationalism
Examples of Christian nationalism in the U.S. range from political rhetoric invoking "Christian values" to co-opting religious symbols for nationalistic purposes. It often promotes a specific interpretation of Christianity that aligns with their political agenda that is rapidly growing in popularity within the United States.
This can be seen in the white supremacy groups that align with the "one God, one religion" and "white evangelicals" who believe the founding fathers intended for Christianity to govern the nation.
The actions of former President Donald Trump and the shockwave effect on the American nation that he left behind is another example. Christian nationalism adherents have spouted devoutness for former President Trump, and a vast majority of Trump supporters exclaim the "positive influence" that he had on American life in the country.
Claiming to love Christ and God while also demanding that the political spectrum follow Christian nationalism and "Christian values" is not what religious liberty stands for -- freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.
In a survey conducted by Pew Research (2022), various individuals in the United States were asked if they believed the founders of the country had "intended" for the nation to be specifically "Christian," whether or not the country is currently a Christian nation, and if it should become a Christian nation.
As shown in the survey, a majority of adults (60%) state that those who founded the United States had originally intended for the country to be a Christian nation and that it should be one.
The PRRI/Brookings survey further displays perspectives that are held by Americans about Christian nationalism deviating amongst different age groups, with support for Christian nationalism increasing with age. Americans who are of the ages 50 and older are more in favor of supporting Christian nationalism, whereas those who are around the ages 18-49 are in opposition of Christian nationalism.
The Difference Between Christian Nationalism & Christian Faith
It is crucial to note that Christian nationalism differs from Christianity itself, as it distorts the core principles of the faith and God. While Christianity is a diverse and inclusive faith with a rich history of love, compassion, and respect for others, Christian nationalism and its adherents disregard these principles.
More often, Christian nationalists are embracing more exclusionary ideologies and justifying discrimination to preserve a specific and outdated national identity amongst Christian nationalist adherents, more commonly seen with white Christian nationalists.
Christian nationalism adherents, under a disguise of loving Jesus Christ, God, their country, and "Christian beliefs," utilize their political movement and political power to only benefit themselves while harming those (non-Christians or other individuals of different faiths) who do not share Christian nationalist beliefs.
The Problem with Christian Nationalism
Christian nationalism poses several problems that demand our attention.
Firstly, it perpetuates racism and prejudice within society -- by asserting a specific religious and cultural identity as superior, it creates an "us versus them" mentality.
This further marginalizes and mistreats individuals from different religious or cultural backgrounds and those whose identities do not fall in line with Christian nationalism and promotes division, inequality, and inequity.
Upholding Christianity, or a Christian nationalist version of Christianity in America, as the "superior" religion is incredibly dangerous, as has been observed previously in world history.
Secondly, Christian nationalism has a significant impact on democracy and religious freedom. When religious beliefs are intertwined with political power, it can lead to the privileging of certain religious groups over others.
This undermines the principles of equality, equity, and freedom of religion fundamental to a healthy democratic society. American Christian nationalism also risks eroding the separation of church and state, a cornerstone of modern democracies.
Furthermore, Christian nationalism tends to shift the focus of religious communities away from spirituality and toward political agendas. Instead of fostering compassion, empathy, and social justice, the emphasis often lies on advancing specific policy goals that are harmful to marginalized communities. This distorted focus not only hampers the spiritual growth of individuals, but in turn also diminishes the positive impact religious communities can have on society.
Christian Nationalism & Dangerous Ideology Consequences
Christian nationalism in the United States is a dangerous ideology that is directly harmful to those who do not believe in what it promotes. The PRRI/Brookings survey dove into the support of political violence by those who believe in Christian nationalism, describing the 16% of Americans who took part in the survey who did support resorting to violence to "save the United States," whereas 81% of survey participants disagreed with this statement. The use of violence will lead to future repercussions, widening the divide between individuals who are involved.
The repercussions of mixing politics and religion can be far-reaching. It can lead to the loss of credibility for religious institutions and alienate those who do not share the same political views. This blending also hinders constructive dialogue and cooperation between religious and non-religious groups, preventing the development of shared values and common goals.
The Effects of Christian Nationalism
Christian nationalism's impact in America extends beyond politics and society, it goes even further and affects individuals personally. The Christian nationalist ideology has negative mental health effects, especially for those who do not conform to its narrow definitions of identity and belief. The pressure to conform and the fear of being ostracized leading to stress, anxiety, and depression.
Moreover, it can strain relationships between family members, friends, and communities, as differing political beliefs become intertwined with religious convictions. Differences in political ideology can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and sometimes alienation.
For those who are Christian nationalists and do believe in what Christian nationalism promotes, isolation appears to be a commonality; more so in the sense that they are unwilling to or are increasingly less likely to engage in interactions with individuals who hold different beliefs.
Finally, Christian nationalism can cause spiritual disorientation as individuals struggle to navigate their faith journey in an atmosphere dominated by political agendas and a political process that is intense.
Christian nationalism adherents appear to tend to blur the lines between their faith and political identity -- when religious identity becomes inseparable from national identity, individuals may find it difficult to reconcile their faith with their values and beliefs.
This internal conflict can result in a crisis of faith, leaving individuals feeling lost and disconnected from their spiritual roots. If an individual's religious identity has been something that they have held for a significant period of time, it can be difficult for the individual to have something challenge their faith or identity. It is then difficult to navigate a crisis of faith with the confusing aspects of understanding faith, values, and identity as separate.
Combating Christian Nationalism
Addressing the problem of Christian nationalism in America requires a multifaceted approach -- education and awareness play a vital role in challenging its influence.
We can empower others to question and challenge exclusionary ideologies by fostering understanding and critical thinking.
Promoting dialogue and open discussions can increase the possibility of breaking down barriers and building bridges between religious and cultural communities.
Furthermore, promoting empathy and understanding is essential. We can cultivate empathy and compassion by engaging in meaningful conversations and actively seeking to understand the experiences and perspectives of others.
Building relationships and partnerships across religious and cultural boundaries can also help create a more inclusive and harmonious society. In building these relationships, there is more room to learn and grow, allowing for these deeper connections to be formed.
Separating Christian Nationalism & Government Power
Separating religion from politics is another crucial step to take. While faith can inform one's values and guide personal decisions, it should not be used as a tool for political manipulation.
Respecting the separation of church and state ensures that democracy thrives and that all individuals, regardless of their beliefs, are respected and can enjoy religious freedom and equal and equitable treatment under the law.
The primary targets of Christian nationalism have had and are actively seeing legislation passed to limit their freedoms and are directly harmful to their daily lives.
Religious Communities' Role for Religious Liberty
Religious communities can play a vital role in advocating for social justice and equality and equity without compromising their spiritual values.
It is important to acknowledge that not everyone holds the same religious beliefs or values - this is okay! Diversity is a large part of American culture, American history, democracy, and an overarching American identity.
Christian nationalism perpetuates the idea that a uniform Christian religion is the "ideal" set forth by predecessors in government and is "crucial" in American culture, which is simply not the case.
Difference in religious beliefs and practices creates space for various individuals to learn about something they never knew before and creates a vibrant conversation amongst those who hold differing religious beliefs.
Taking a Stand Against Christian Nationalism for a More Inclusive Future
The problem with Christian nationalism (specifically white Christian nationalism and white Christian nationalism adherents) lies in the ability to perpetuate division, discrimination, and political polarization. Its effects extend beyond society, impacting individuals' mental health, relationships, and their spiritual well-being.
To combat this ideology, we must educate ourselves and others, build bridges of understanding, and separate religion from politics. By taking a stand against Christian nationalism, we can promote a more inclusive and compassionate society where diversity and religious freedom are cherished.
This is, at face value, an overall optimistic view of how to tackle Christian nationalist beliefs and ideologies. It is not a guarantee for how to definitively extinguish the Christian nationalists' desire for a completely Christian nation in the United States.
Therapeutic Assistance & Safe Talk Therapy
If you or someone you know is struggling with religious trauma or spiritual crises - whether due to Christian nationalism or other experiences - know that help is available.
Seek support from therapists, counselors, or support groups specializing in religious trauma to help navigate these challenges and find healing and resilience.
Don't hesitate to reach out -- at Safe Talk Therapy, I am more than happy to offer my support! Together, we can work toward a more tolerant and inclusive future by taking steps to build a society that respects individual beliefs.