Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives: Pamela Cooper-White

Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives: Pamela Cooper-White April 6, 2024

Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives

Pamela Cooper-White and Discourse Clarification

Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives

My friends and colleagues among the Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives are enjoying the kurfuffle over many things I did not say and some things I did say. For a year or so now I have been trying to get an accurate handle on the phenomenon of American Christian Nationalism (ACN), a phenomenon which includes Christians Against Christian Nationalism (CACN). At an underlying level, I find that this controversy stirs up divisive resentment and expells compassion so that compassion ceases to play a role in our political and religious discourse.

What I along with my progressive friends feel is a thundering anxiety, a heavy fear that once reliable institutions established to foster justice are under threat of dissolution by the Republican Party and its callous if not tyrannous leadership. This anxiety elicits a feeling of powerlessness. This forboding fear is chaotic. We fight the chaos and powerlessness by cultivating resentment. Resentment then provides an oblique way to once again feel powerful. At the threshold of resentment — ressentiment within French great replacement theory — is actually a form of self-rightousness. When we feel we are right, we feel we are powerful. To exercise our righteousness, we scapegoat those we believe to be in the wrong. Within the swirl of social media invectives, I think I discern that progressive Christians are scapegoating evangelicals, and justifying this scapegoating with righteous indignation aimed at ACNers. In tendering this hypothesis I seem to have stirred up a hornets nest.

Some of the stings from the hornets are that I am in fact an advocate of ACN or that because I live in the liberal Berkeley bubble that I do not know what my colleagues in the trenches have learned first hand. This provides evidence that the stingers simply have not read any let alone all of my analytical posts on Russian Christian Nationalism, American Christian Nationalism, Great Replacement Theory, and such. I’ll list some of these posts on Resentment vs. Compassion below, for those interested.

Thanks to My Critics among Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives

I have received numerous recommendations to read about ACN. Thank you.

Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives?

Among the articles recommended to me is this one, “Christian Nationalism is Single Biggest Threat to America’s Religious Freedom.” This article features the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Freedom. Amanda Tyler interviewed here is a leader of the evangelical opposition to ACN. Let me recommend in return a collection of essential pieces produced by Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives that represent the CACN position well, “Christian Nationalism.” Nevertheless, I note that I received no recommendation to read a primary source produced by a card carryhing Christian nationalist. Rather, every reading recommendation is a polemical description of ACN produced by Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives.

Among the books recommended to me is Pamela Cooper-White’s The Psychology of Christian Nationalism. This is a fine book, to be sure. Even so, I would suggest we read carefully to observe one sub rosa theme. On the one hand, American Christain Nationalism is defined by an ideology that proposes we legally define Amercia as a Christian nation. On the other hand, the reader gets stirred up with fear that this obtains for virtually all evangelicals in the country. Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives, angry at the nut cases who would delcare the US to be a Christian country, displace their anger at ACN onto evangelicals. Our sense of powerlessness gets difused into resentment against millions of evangelical Christians who have nothing to do with ACN, or may even vitriolically denounce ACN.

Pamela Cooper-White

Let’s take a brief look at the book by Pamela Cooper-White. She accepts as her working definiton of Christian Nationalism the one posed by Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry.

“Simply put, Christian nationalism is a cultural framework—a collection of myths, traditions, symbols, narratives and value systems—that idealizes and advocates a fusion of Christianity with American civic life”(Cooper-White, Pamela. The Psychology of Christian Nationalism: Why People Are Drawn In and How to Talk Across the Divide (p. 13). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition).

To buy click here.

This is probably a satisfactory defintion, in my judgment. But note what happens. Cooper-White acknowledges that, for Whitehead and Perry, “evangelicalism” and “white conservative Protestantism” are not synonymous with Christian nationalism(p.15). Whew!

Yet, watch what happens next in the Cooper-White book. With this definition, Cooper-White tells us that of those who approve of ACN beliefs “(88%) are white evangelical Protestants” (p.14), Suddenly, we’re talking about 20% of the nation as adherents to ACN. How did that happen?

Does Pamela Cooper-White speak to my concern about the ladder from anxiety to fear to resentment and to scapegoating? Yes she does. Megalomaniac Donald Trump, says Cooper-White,  “tapped into a deep and broad reservoir that has been accumulating for decades, a large pool of Christians who feel they are being persecuted and are called by God to rise up and defend themselves against their enemies” (p.3). I think Cooper-White is correct in this observation. This is where the feeling of powerlessness rises up into resentment and becomes a social force. Further, I believe this is should be the target of our discourse clarification. As a target it would aim at the widespread existential Angst felt by both conservative and liberal Americans and then sift out the specific movement we dub American Christian Nationalism.

This sifting out does not take place in this book, at least to my reading. So, ACN is by no means merely a fringe movement, says Cooper-White. The majority of American Christians are supporters of the January 6, 2021 insurrection attempt.

“Lest we conclude this is a fringe movement involving only a small percentage of American Christians, statistics show that nearly two-thirds of mainline Protestants—members of the supposedly liberal Christian denominations—and two-thirds of all Christians taken together agree with many of the sentiments, if not the actions, of the thousands who marched on the Capitol on January 6″(p.3). Elsewhere, “fully two-thirds of all Christian groups taken together agree with Christian nationalist ideas” (p.15).

Now, I’m really worried. ACNers are everywhere! So, why have I still not met one single adherent to ACN beliefs let alone a person who supports the January 6 insurrection?

Another of the sleights of hand we see in treatments of ACN by Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives is to insert the word, “white,” so suddenly ACNers become racists. Here is the way Cooper-White does it. “The very term Christian nationalism really means white nationalism and stands opposed to virtually everything Jesus taught, as embodied in the gospel vision of justice and compassion”(p.4). Well, certainly we progressives want to stand with Jesus against the hordes of ACNers, don’t we!

But, is this an accurate claim? How could it be accurate when more than a third of African American evangelicals sympathize with the the views Cooper-White describes as ACN views? I addressed this puzzle in one of my posts, Does Anti-White Christian Nationalism Scapegoat Evangelicals? I find it hard to believe that 38% of black evangelicals are white racists. Cooper-White dismisses this piece of data on the grounds that African American Christians are too small in number to change the definition of White Christian Nationalism. “The Black Church accounts for only a little over 10% of all Christian nationalist supporters(p.22). Somehow I find the logic here difficult to grasp. I wonder if this counts as an Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressive slight of hand that makes it difficult to distinguish an actual American Christian Nationalist from a garden variety evangelical who, like a progressive, is affected by a pervasive existential anxiety.

Now, Dr. Cooper-White does know where the source of anxiety, fear, resentment, and the motive for mob action lies. It lies with the lies of Donald Trump.

“As Trump’s untruths have become more and more fantastic, they have moved from the plausible to the bizarre, but as his followers have become increasingly desensitized, he continues to be believed by millions in his base”(p.94).

So, why I ask, does she stir up resentment among progressives against evangelicals rather than go stright to the source of our national problem? If I were a tyrant in the making, I’d love to see various branches of Christianity fighting among themselves rather than taking action against me.

Talking Across the Divide

Pamela Cooper-White. Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives

I want to thank Dr. Cooper-White for opening the door to talking across the divide by asking this question:

“How can I talk across the rift that has happened in my family, my church, my community because we have come to believe diametrically opposing ideas about faith, health, the economy, climate change, and politics?”(p.103)

This is important in my situation, where I have Republican friends and even Trumpers in my family (who are by no means Christian Nationalists) with whom political conversation is most unnerving. The divide is real. And it is hurtful. So, psychotherapist Cooper-White’s advice here is welcome.

She recommends (1) buidling and maintaining relationship; (1a) finding common ground; (1b) expressing kindness; (2) realizing the old family dynamics will be stirred up  by new conflicts; (3) breathing and counting to 10 before reacting; (4) noticing your own feelings; (5) listening with intention; (6) avoiding assumptions; (7) making I statements which are tentative; (8) avoiding argument or debate; (9) preventing politcal sparring from becoming the center of a relationship; (10) admitting your own failings. Now, that is an edifying set of recommendations!

What do American Christian Nationalists Say About Themselves?

Most of what the world knows about ACN is what Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives say about them. It is difficult to find an ACN catechism or manifesto or party platform. To make matters more difficult, American Christian nationalism is not a doctrine propounded by any Christian church, denomination, or school of theology. When Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives leave us with the vague impression that evangelical Christianity and ACN are the same thing, then our resentment turns in the direction of scapegoating members of our Christian family.

To get genuine ACN, you might try a video recommended to me by a GTU colleague, Valerie Miles-Tribble, “The Right’s Fight to Make America a Christian Nation” [CBS Reports / CBSNews Originals, March 4, 2021]. What we hear in the interviews of ACNers by CBS gives voice to anxiety and a deep need to regain solid ground by traditional Christians who feel they’re being blown away by secularism and pluralism.

One website — a political website that sends willies up and down my spine — is Turning Point USA. Here ACNers speak for themselves.

American Christian Nationalism?

Let me attempt somewhat unsystematically to collect the doctrinal beliefs that genuine ACNers own as their own.

America was founded on a covenant with God and that defines this country

God has blessed America more than any other country in the history of the world

Americans need to return to this original commitment

Americans should embrace nationalism, not globalism

Americans should deny public services to LGBTQ+ couples in adoption

“One nation under God” should be recited in public schools

America is not a hopelessly racist nation; rather, the constitution guarantees racial equality

True America begins in 1620 with the arrival of European Pilgrims, not in 1619 with the arrival of African slaves

Public schools should suppress “woke indoctrination” in Advanced Placement courses

Young people should not go to college, because the universities teach Critical Race Theory and other liberal doctrines

Young people should fight to overturn the older generation and return our country to its original Christian covenant

Warrior soldiers are our heroes

Civil disobedience if not civil war may be required for revolution

And, of course, vote for Republicans in the 2024 election

Ted’s Timely Take in Four Observations

In a previous post I offered four observations regarding ACN beliefs. First, the voice we hear here expresses ressintement. Elsewhere, I tracked anxiety-prompted ressintement in France and America due to rapid and uncontrolled changes in culture which seem to threaten traditional values. Second, Republican Party strategists have perceived the potential energy in this ressentiment and are unleashing it to propell policies and candidates they favor. Third, if Karl Marx were alive to witness this, he would say that the Christian religion has become an opiate the Republican Party administers to manipulate a segment of the population for the party’s design. The point I wish to add for Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives is that this same manipulation of anxiety applies to us. This partially explains the misguided progressive attempt to scapegoat evangelicals.

One more quote from Pamela Cooper-White’s informative yet angry book. “All of this works psychologically to provide spiritual thrills that, with enough repetition, create a vibrant sense of community, a feeling of belonging to something special that transcends everyday life”(p.47). This aptly describes my community of Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives who are ready to take mob action against the evangelicals in the neighborhood.


For the sake of clarity in light of misquotes regarding my own position, let me reiterate briefly. American Christian Nationalism exists. But it is difficult to hear what ACNers say about themselves because almost all the literature is published by Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives. What characterizes the position of Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives is a sleight of hand, wherein the barrage of invective apparently aimed at ACN actually targets evangelical Christianity. It is the prejudice against evangelical Christianity that energizes the near mob frenzie of progressive Christians. Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives look to me very like American Christian Nationalists, only we’re firing our weapons in the opposite direction.

PT 3221 Anti-Christian Nationalist Progressives

Now for that reading list in case this is a subject you would like to look at in detail.


Resentment vs Compassion. Part 1: From Resentment to Ressentiment

Resentment vs Compassion Part 2: From Ressentiment to Reparations

Resentment vs Compassion Part 3: Russian Christian Nationalism

Resentment vs Compassion Part 4: American Christian Nationalism

Resentment vs Compassion. Part 5:” Ressentiment in the White ‘n’ Woke Unhappy Consciousness

Resentment vs Compassion. Part 6: Ressentiment with Copmpassion

Resentment vs Compassion Part 7: Christian Natiionalism’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

Resentment vs Compassion Part 12:. A More Compassionate America? Trump Tyranny.

Resentment vs Compassion Part 13: Christian Nationalism versus the Vermin Curse

PT 3214 Does Anti-White Christian Nationalism Scapegoat Evangelicals?

PT 3215 Evangelicals Against Christian Nationalism

PT 3216. Power vs Goodness in 2024

PT 3219 Who is Afraid of Christian Nationalism?

PT 3230 Measuring Christian Nationalism, Part 0

PT 3231 Measuring Christian Nationalism, Part 1: Christian Nation?

PT 3232 Measuring Christian Nationalism, Part 2: Christian Values?

PT 3233 Measuring Christian Nationalism, Parts 3,4: Church-State Separation?

PT 3235 Measuring Christian Nationalism, Parts 5,6: God’s Plan?

PT 3237 Gender and Race in Christian Nationalism, Parts 7,8: Gender & Race?

PT 3238 Roger Olson on Christian Nationalism

Ted Peters

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: Look for the new 2023 book, The Voice of Public Theology, published by ATF Press.






About Ted Peters
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: Look for the new 2023 book, The Voice of Public Theology, published by ATF Press. You can read more about the author here.

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