White Christian Nationalism and Its Impact on U.S. Government
White Christian nationalism is an ideology tied to the racist and extremist belief that America should be an exclusively white Christian nation. This worldview has become increasingly visible and influential in recent years as its rhetoric has been embraced by prominent figures on the far-right. This concerning trend threatens foundational democratic principles of equality, religious freedom and pluralism. This article explores the background, beliefs and troubling political impacts of the ascent of White Christian Nationalism and our government.
Defining White Christian Nationalism
White Christian nationalism combines two key elements – the belief that America is fundamentally a white nation and should prioritize white racial identity, and the belief that America is fundamentally a Christian nation and should enshrine Christian values and identity.
Adherents glorify a revisionist history that portrays America as founded solely for white Christians and see this identity as under threat. There is a sense of aggrievement that others through immigration, secularism and progressive reforms are erasing white Christian dominance.
White Christian nationalists support authoritarian policies to preserve white Christian demographic dominance and cultural supremacy. This includes curtailing immigration, opposing minority rights, limiting religious pluralism and using Christianity as an official basis for law. They see minority gains and demographic change as an existential crisis requiring their control of political power against the tide of diversity.
The Roots of White Christian Nationalism
White Christian Nationalism and our government has roots dating back to the foundation of America, as issues of race, religion, and politics have been intertwined throughout the country’s history. The ideology draws justification from America’s legacy as a predominantly white Christian settler colonial society.
Slavery and later segregation relied heavily on upholding white Christian identity. The Native American genocide and anti-immigration efforts were also tied to maintaining America as an exclusively white Christian nation.
In the 20th century, white Christian nationalist rhetoric was deployed in opposition to civil rights, feminism, LGBTQ equality and other progressive reforms expanding rights and inclusion. It surged in recent decades partly as a backlash by some white Christians to growing racial diversity and rapid cultural change expanding rights for women and minority groups.
White Christian Nationalism’s Growing Visibility in Politics
Though once publicly taboo, white Christian nationalist rhetoric has become more brazen and visible in right-wing politics in recent years. Racist and nativist themes are openly invoked by some candidates and media figures.
High profile members of Congress such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and U.S. Senate candidates like Blake Masters in Arizona have openly used white nationalist slogans calling for an “America First” white identity politics.
The Capitol riot placed a public spotlight on white Christian nationalist groups who played a prominent role. Their presence highlighted how such extremist ideology had gained disturbing acceptance in mainstream conservative spaces. Polls show tens of millions of Americans now sympathize with key tenets of White Christian Nationalism.
The Threat Posed by White Christian Nationalism
The growing embrace of White Christian Nationalism by major right-wing politicians and media figures poses grave threats to American democracy in multiple ways.
Firstly, its principles fundamentally contradict constitutional ideals of equality, religious freedom and pluralism. Its vision is antithetical to an ethnically and religiously diverse democratic society based on equal rights.
Secondly, its authoritarian nature leads adherents to embrace anti-democratic means to achieve their ends. The Capitol riot exemplified how violence and lawlessness are justified as necessary to uphold a mythologized white Christian American identity.
Finally, its intolerance and conspiratorial mindset undermine the possibility of democratic compromise and civic peace. Its worldview frames diversity itself as an assault on the nation. This fuels an unending sense of grievance and victimization.
White Christian nationalism has always lingered as an ideological undercurrent throughout American history tied to efforts to maintain white Christian demographic dominance and privilege. However, its disturbing resurgence and mainstreaming in contemporary right-wing politics presents unique threats at a time of fraught cultural and demographic change.
The embrace of exclusionary nationalist rhetoric by major party leaders and right-wing media figures empowers and emboldens extremist groups. It also corrodes democratic norms and discourse by making the language of authoritarianism, paranoia and intolerance part of everyday politics. Reversing this dangerous trend is crucial to realizing America’s highest civic ideals of pluralism and equal rights for all citizens regardless of race or faith.