With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

The Threat of Christian Nationalism

As many of you have seen, we’re trying a unique experiment here on Substack. I’m co-hosting—along with Jemar Tisby and Robert P. Jones—a four-part virtual roundtable discussion on the threat white Christian nationalism poses to our democracy and our churches. If you missed the first two posts, be sure to check them out below.

1.      Last Thursday, Robby kicked us off at with part 1. Read it here.

2.      On Sunday, Jemar posted his reply as part 2. Read it here.

3.      My post today is part three.

4.      Robby will wrap us up with a final post this weekend at White Too Long by Robert P. Jones.

Below I’m including reflections I gave as part of a panel at the Brookings Institution (both text and video), which was focused on the recent PRRI/Brookings Christian Nationalism Survey.

As a historian, the first thing I want to point out with respect to the PRRI/Brookings survey and to the broader conversation around Christian nationalism taking place in recent months is that Christian nationalism is not new.

“Christian nationalism” is a term that describes a set of commitments stretching not just decades, but centuries even—essentially, it entails the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation, that laws should be based on Christian values, and that true Americans are Christian Americans.

Exactly what shape these commitments have taken, however, has changed over time. From seventeenth-century Puritans to early-twentieth-century liberal Protestants to Black civil rights activists, what it means for America to be a Christian nation has taken dramatically different forms. Since the 1970s, the dominant expression of Christian nationalism is that of the Christian Right, and this is the form of Christian nationalism reflected in the new PRRI/Brookings survey.

If Christian nationalism isn’t new, what is new is that the term itself has recently moved from largely academic spaces into the broader public discourse. Only recently, too, have American Christians begun to self-identify as Christian nationalists—not only prominent figures like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Gab founder and CEO Andrew Torba, but also certain conservative evangelical pastors and leaders. We can see this trend reflected in the survey data: 54% of Christian nationalist adherents have a favorable view of the term. Not only do a growing number of Christians now self-identify as Christian nationalists, but I have also seen a shift towards a more combative insistence on the part of some proponents that in fact all Christians ought to be Christian nationalists—even that to be a Christian is to be a Christian nationalist.

Read entire article at Substack