Christian Nationalism and the New Civil War

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What the insurrection of January 6th and the growing number of smaller yet still violent uprisings around America make clear, is that a new civil war is brewing, and that Christian nationalism is leading the charge. As Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry write in their book, Taking America Back for God, Christian nationalism includes, “assumptions of nativism, white supremacy, patriarchy and heteronormativity, along with divine sanction for authoritarian control and militarism. It is as ethnic as it is religious. Understood in this light, Christian nationalism contends that America has been and should always be distinctly “Christian” from top to bottom—in its self-identity, interpretations of its own history, sacred symbols, cherished values and public policies—and it aims to keep it this way.”

And according to Rachel Mikva, writing in the February 125th issue of The Week, “An estimated 20% of American adults, most of them white, believe the U.S. should be an expressly Christian country, with biblical teachings guiding every aspect of civic life.” That is, “Jews will not replace us,” and “Mexican rapists will not replace us,” and “Muslim terrorists will not replace us.”   

Christian nationalists feel more and more under attack, and in danger of losing their grand battle. This form of nationalism explains the lock-step way evangelical christian religious leaders and followers united around a very non-Christian-behaving Donald Trump. So long as he stood against the non-Christian aliens taking over America, and against abortion rights and other “godless programs” put forward by the “atheist left,” he could grab as many women’s crotches as he liked. Currently, a very significant number of evangelical Christians have actually interpreted the words from the Bible in Isaiah 45, to mean that Trump, the 45th president, is god’s chosen leader on earth.

As America becomes ever more populated by people of color, the racism, xenophobia and religious bigotry inherent in white Christian Nationalism has become more pronounced.

For its adherents, Christian nationalism promises great benefits. For example, it’s highly beneficial to believe that white men and women are the true reflection of god here on earth, and are therefore entitled to the white privilege they enjoy. And certainly very beneficial for its male followers to be in a dominant position over its female followers, and for its female followers to approve of that arrangement.     

And so, as America becomes ever more populated by people of color, be they born here or coming here from foreign lands, the racism, xenophobia and religious bigotry inherent in white Christian Nationalism has become more pronounced. And it attracts and provides a cover for violent groups like the Proud Boys, the Three- Percenters , the Oath Keepers, Jew-hating Neo-Nazis, and QAnon followers. Of course, its followers also include, if for somewhat different reasons, those who see the Democratic Party as seeking to impose socialism in America. And those who believe in the “deep state”, and that the mainstream media peddles mostly lies to the American people. You know, people like Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, much in the news these days. And that’s a hell of a lot of Americans. Add to them other voters just looking for a tax break, or less corporate regulation, or a tougher trade deal with China, and you’ve got 74 million votes for a grifter like Donald Trump.      

Yes, it’s clear how we got to this point in America; this point where some members of Congress are threatening other members of Congress; where people openly call for the assassination of elected officials; where the FBI and Department of Homeland Security warn us of much worse violence waiting for us down the road; where the U.S. Capitol must be surrounded by fences and barricades and military forces; and, where this new civil war now only simmering, may one day boil over into a much wider and evermore traditional civil war.

 What is not yet clear, or at least what has not yet been clearly thought out and explained, is how we put an end to this civil war; how we prevent it from boiling over much more so than it did on January 6th. Surely, the majority of us, those of us who don’t want to see America travel further and further down a road that ends in authoritarianism, must somehow find the answer, and find it before it is too late.

I truly believe that answer can be found. For starters, surely it requires admitting that both capitalist parties have failed tens of millions of our desperate, largely abandoned sisters and brothers. They make up the majority of those enthralled to Trump, and to QAnon, and to countless other internet purveyors of crazy and dangerous untruths. Certainly, the answer must include the passage of very progressive legislation; legislation designed to finally close the ever-growing gap between those that live comfortable lives and those so desperate that they blindly follow Trumpian lies, and seek out ever crazier and less safe ports in the storm of their lives.

Certainly, it requires Christian leaders of good well, more openly and forcefully, decrying Christian nationalism. Most critically, it will require the coming together, in action, of America’s sane and decent majority; the coming together of all those progressive political forces and tendencies that truly believe in an end to the social and economic inequality that prevails in America today. Only then will the tribalism that such inequality has produced begin to lessen, and finally end. Only if we can unite such forces, and bring about, at a minimum, a sufficient degree of Democratic Socialist governance in America, can we hope to stop the simmering pot of violent discord from boiling over into a new and fully realized civil war.

Can we do this? Can we overcome this crisis? There are some very high hurdles standing in our way. There are no guarantees. No magic bullets. And no time to lose. So today is the day we must start, anew, to build a bi-racial, bi-ethnic, and, non-tribal America; an America that is united in judging how well our nation is doing not by how well off the privileged few are doing, but by how well off the rest of our sisters and brothers are doing. A nation not satisfied until the economic and social injustices of the past and present are fully rectified.

Only then will we have won the long and difficult struggle that lies ahead. I invite us all to undertake this struggle in the full confidence that victory can and will be ours!

Jim Lafferty