Christian Nationalism and Donald Trump

Sociologists Andrew L. Whitehead, Joseph O. Baker and Samuel L. Perry have a new study that looks at the reasons why the Christian right continues to support Donald Trump despite him being a sexual predator and serial adulterer, things they have always railed against. The answer: Christian nationalism.

Why are white Christians sticking so closely to President Trump, despite these claims of sexual indiscretions? And why are religious individuals and groups that previously decried sexual impropriety among political leaders suddenly willing to give Trump a “mulligan” on his infidelity?

Our new study points to a different answer than others have offered. Voters’ religious tenets aren’t what is behind Trump support; rather, it’s Christian nationalism — their view of the United States as a fundamentally Christian nation.

What they did was ask people six questions that indicated their belief in Christian nationalism, then controlled for other factors and found that “Americans who agreed with the various measures of Christian nationalism were much more likely to vote for Trump, even after controlling for other influences, such as political ideology, political party and other cultural factors proposed as possible explanations.”

Let me propose a closely related explanation: Christian nationalism really has very little to do with Christianity. The Christian right uses Christianity as a cudgel to beat down members of other tribes. Their acceptance of Christianity is much more powerful as a tribal marker than as an actual set of beliefs. That becomes obvious when you see how quickly they jettison those beliefs to support someone like Trump, and how they ignore the clear commands in the Bible to feed the poor and treat immigrants like our own family. There is no coherent ideology here; it’s tribalism all the way down.

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