Does Anti-White Christian Nationalism scapegoat Evangelical Christians?
I’ve never met a White Christian Nationalist. If you read this Patheos blog, you’ll know I’ve said this repeatedly for months, maybe even years. But, I’m assured that White Christian Nationalism (WCN) exists by all my anti-White Christian Nationalism friends. My friends want me to fear, detest, and mobilize against WCN. But, this is difficult. I don’t know a single WCN by name.
I can’t help wondering if WCN is like a legendary dragon, the almost sighted Big Foot, or the Lock Ness Monster. WCN might not exist. But I’m told we certainly should fear it and take protections against it.
The Threat of White Christian Nationalism at the American Academy of Religion
At the 2023 annual AAR/SBL meeting in San Atnonio I thought I might get some facts about this. The Public Understanding of Religion Committee and Religion and Politics Unit of the AAR offered a very inviting panel, “The Threat of White Christian Nationalism and its Intersections: A Roundtable on the Implications of the New PRRI/Brookings Study for American Democracy.” Because this panel would include Robert P. Jones’ summary of the PRRI/Brookings Study for American Democracy, I hoped that some facts might get presented. I found a nice seat in the second row.
I had earlier read the PRRI 2023 report on Christian Nationalism, which I recommend. In Robert Jones’ summary, he made it clear that this report did not test for racial supremecy. That’s why we find “Christian Nationalism” and not “White Christian Nationalism” in its title. Nor did PRRI test for ideologies. Rather, PRRI asked questions such as, “Should the U.S. government delcare America a Christian nation?” When these answers were tabulated they were categorized according to…
Adherents to Christian Nationalism
Sympathizers with Christian Nationalism
Rejecters of Christian Natioinalism
One item of data received emphasis in the AAR panel summary: 64% of white evangelical Protestants fit into either adherent or sypathetic cateories, whereas only 38% of Black Protestants fit into either adherent or sympathetic categories. That is, white evangelical Protestants outnumbered Black Protestants about two to one. Here’s the logic of the AAR panel: because the white evangelical Protestants are demographically white, it follows that they are ideologically white supremicists.
What?! This is a non-sequiter. Yet, this non-sequiter justifies the term, “White Christian Nationalism.”
Black Christian Nationalism vs White Christian Nationalism
It seems to me that the data does not support this conclusion. If 38% of Black Protestants sympathize if not affirm Christian nationalism, then it would be misleading on the basis of PRRI to claim that such a thing as White Christian Nationalism is the preferred term. This term was not tested for.
Yet the theme of the AAR panel was clear: it’s time to mobilize anti-White Christian Nationalism to save democracy!
Much of the rhetoric of the AAR panelists was given to warning the audience against WCN. One panelist attempted to define WCN as a genre with five species: (1) white supremecy doctrines; (2) secular organizations such as the Proud Boys; (3) Reformed Reconstuctionism; (4) Catholic Integralism; and (5) independent charismatics and pentecostals even though they are multi-racial. That is, anti-White Christian Nationalism opposes all these groups, including the racially mixed charismatics and pentecostals..
Frankly, this array of WCNers does not look to me like a political party or even a coherent ideology. Nor does it appear to me that PRRI data provide evidence to support the existence of a WCN movement. Writing in Public Square Magazine, C.D. Cunningham suspects “commentators seek to overstate the problem.”
Will evangelicals get scapegoated?
I’ve been sus during recent years that what’s behind anti-White Christian Nationalism is progressive dislike for evangelicals. The rhetoric of the AAR panel slipped frequently into a near interchangeability between terms such as ‘evangelicals’, ‘white supremecists’, ‘fascists’, and even “Anti-Christ’. The smoke and mirrors surrouding anti-White Christian Nationaliusm, I suspect, covers up an anti-evangelical bias.
Resentment and Compassion
In this Patheos post series, I’ve been trying to analyze the profound and widespread acrimony that characterizes the culture wars within the audience watching Donald Trump on the political stage. Anxiety is rife. The existential fear that our identity may get lost in changes we cannot control stimulates zeal for hate speech, scapegoating, and occasional violence.
I have argued that the malevolent genius of Donald Trump is that he knows intuitively how to fan a spark into a flame, how to turn cultural anxiety into a murderous army. One panelist, Obery Hendrickson, published an anti-evangelical book that mimics Trump’s rhetoric. The book’s title is Christians Against Christianity. Note its subtitle: How Right-Wing Evangelicals Are Destroying our Nation and Our Faith. Right-wing evangelicals, writes Hendrickson…
“…shamelessly spew a putrid stew of religious ignorance and political venom that is poisoning our society…”
It appears to me that Hendrickson and this AAR panel along with my progressive religious friends are trying to copy Trump. Progessive anxiety is giving rise to resentment. And resentment is giving rise to cursing evangelical Protestants as the scapegoat. Anti-White Christian Nationalism engages in cursing white evangelical Christians today. Might this lead to violence against evangelicals tomorrow?
My friends tell me to exit the Berkeley cave of progressive stalagtites and ride the Wyoming range or attend a Southern Baptist church in the Carolinas to see living examples of WCN. Perhaps I’ll do that. But until I personally meet someone other than a Fox News associate who actually espouses WCN ideology, I’ll surmise that anti-White Christian Nationalism is trying to slay a mythical dragon.
This post is PT 3214: Does Anti-White Christian Nationalism Scapegoat Evangelicals?
In previous posts, I’ve employed the term, White American Christian Nationalism (WACN). For additional discourse clarification and analysis, try some of these.
Resentment vs Compassion Part 7: Christian Nationalism’s Decline Narrative
Resentment vs Compassion Part 8: The Unhappy Consciousness Narrative
Resentment vs Compassion Part 9: To Slay the Christian Nationalist Dragon
Resentment vs Compassion Part 10: Don’t trust your pastor
Resentment vs Compassion Part 11: Christian Nationalism vs Anti-Christian Nationalism
For Patheos, Ted Peters posts articles and notices in the field of Public Theology. He is a Lutheran pastor and emeritus professor at the Graduate Theological Union. He co-edits the journal, Theology and Science, with Robert John Russell on behalf of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, in Berkeley, California, USA. His single volume systematic theology, God—The World’s Future, is now in the 3rd edition. He has also authored God as Trinity plus Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society as well as Sin Boldly: Justifying Faith for Fragile and Broken Souls. See his website: TedsTimelyTake.com.
His new 2023 book, The Voice of Public Theology, has just been published by ATF Press.