This isn't the first time I've written about the problem of Christian Nationalism in this country, and it probably won't be the last.
If you're the type of political nerd that's following the televised fall of democracy in real time like I am, then you're aware of the incident that is widely called "January 6th," a moniker that fails to capture the magnitude and importance of the violent attempt to overthrow the U.S. government by right-wing insurrectionists. We should really call it what it was, but I guess "Jan. 6" is easier to type.
The House Jan. 6 Committee held its final hearing on Monday, December 19, 2022, almost a full two years after we all watched it all play out on live television. I mean, the evidence is all there—if you're like me, you find yourself wondering how this is dragging on so long. But then I remember that, oh yeah, a small but incredibly powerful and influential group of people would like us all to very much believe that it was No Big Deal. Such folks would also have us believe that the Christian Nationalism that undergirds and drives the Republican party and that helped facilitate the events of January 6 is simply a harmless matter of personal faith. As columnist Sarah Posner writes on MSNBC:
Newly revealed texts between [Rep. Rick (R-Ga.)] Allen and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows…dramatically show how deeply Christian nationalist ideology runs through the Republican Party, and how it continues to underlie Republicans' ongoing denial that Jan. 6 was a violent attempt to overthrow the government.
The article is a fascinating look at how Christian Nationalism—under the glossy veneer of "Christianity"—has taken over the Republican party, allowing otherwise ideologically disparate groups to unite under a banner of shared religious fervor that incites violence against groups that it considers spiritually, culturally, or socially inferior, all in the name of "fighting God's war." I'll keep screaming into the void about how dangerous this is until I'm blue in the face. Posner continues:
Even after Jan. 6, Allen continued to insist that Trump and his supporters should not give up because God was on their side. On Jan. 8, Allen sent Meadows a message lamenting that Trump's attempted power grab had failed. "Our Nation is at war, it is a Spiritual War at the highest level," Allen wrote. "This is not a war that can be fought conventionally, this is God's battle and He has used President Trump in a powerful way to expose the deceit, lies and hypocrisy of the enemy."
Allen was invoking a core element of Christian right ideology: that patriotic Christians are engaged in a "spiritual" battle with evil forces, which include the Democratic Party, the left more broadly, or any other political adversary they say undermine America as a "Christian nation." They claim Trump was anointed by God to save the Christian nation from attacks by its enemies.
These folks seem to have forgotten that they are elected officials that are in charge of making laws for all of us. And they keep getting elected—literal Christian Nationalist insurrectionists were just re-elected to the Halls of Congress in the 2022 midterms.
So how did we get here? If you want a primer on the rise of Christian Nationalism, check out this brilliant book by Kristin Du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. It's a detailed account of the past 75 years of American history. It chronicles how the Christian Right has been playing the long game in their efforts to overtake the United States government. It also traces how American Christians came to embrace rugged masculinity and how they infused that construction of "what it means to be a man" into their faith to create a particular version of militant Christianity. Published in 2020, this book takes you on a wild ride that feels destined to end in a violent insurrection on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Somehow Du Mez seems to have basically predicted January 6, 2021, even though she wrote the book before the insurrection happened. Perhaps DuMez and others like her are modern-day Cassandras?