White Christian Nationalists

By Ed Buckner and Herb Silverman | 12 July 2023
Letters to a Free Country

(Credit: Tyler Merbler / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0)

White Christian Nationalists
by Herb Silverman

White Christian Nationalists frequently say “they” are coming after your children. But who are “they,” and how are they doing it?

“They” are often liberal teachers and media who supposedly are turning students away from Christianity and toward Marxism, or “they” are gays recruiting children to become gay or trans. “They” also favor illegal immigration, taking away your legal guns, and trying to convince pregnant women to obtain abortions. In addition, “they” are purportedly talking young people into voting for Democrats.

Obsessing over such issues suggests that these religious conservatives are unwilling to allow their own children to grow up and think for themselves. Imagined conspiracies about liberals trying to “indoctrinate” kids are usually based on liberals trying to educate kids and offering them support for who they are. Liberals are interested in engaging with students and teaching them critical thinking, not in trying to mold them into unthinking automatons.

White Christian Nationalists worry about liberal indoctrination because they, themselves, are guilty of religious indoctrination, often trying to recruit other people’s children and frightening their own children about the dangers of exploring thoughts outside of the ones approved by their inflexible ideologies. Some of these parents and family members refuse to acknowledge that their children are gay and claim that gender dysphoria is a liberal hoax.

White Christian Nationalists usually support creationism, and call evolution a myth. But evolutionary theory is not an ideology or a belief system: it’s part of science, where asking questions and accepting evidence are essential. Creationists are correct that science doesn’t have all the answers about the universe, but scientists continue to look for evidence to answer important questions. Creationism is not science, though creationists would like it to be taught in science classes. Creationism is faith-based, not science-based.

White Christian Nationalists are anything but “Christian” when it comes to support for social justice. They also appear unconcerned about child abuse within various churches.

White Christian Nationalists seem to worship Donald Trump, who many believe was sent by God to make America great again. They think America was great at a supposed time when White Christian privilege was considered the norm, and diversity was discouraged.

The religious right accuses those who disagree with them of being “woke,” without knowing how to define it. Here’s the dictionary definition: “Woke means being alert to systemic injustices and prejudices, especially those involving the treatment of ethnic, racial, or sexual minorities.” Woke people support social justice and oppose White Christian privilege and male privilege. In other words, people who reject discrimination are woke. I wish everyone were woke.

The religious right likes to relate wokeness to “critical race theory.” Our education system, despite allegations, does not teach critical race theory, which is sometimes considered in law school and graduate school. The theory argues that historical patterns of racism are ingrained in law and other modern institutions. It refers to racism as more than individual bigotry, calling it systemic in America.

White Christian Nationalists don’t like it when we teach real history. If some of our history is bad and ugly, all the more reason for everyone to be aware of it. The enslavement of Blacks, lynching, segregation, and Jim Crow laws are part of America’s history, and should not be ignored. There is much of our country’s history to be proud of, and we need to learn the good parts. But we also need to know the “not good” parts as well.

Some will say that these bad things might have happened in the past, but it does not translate to Blacks being “victimized” in the present. Unfortunately, such a legacy does carry into the present in many ways. Black people are more apt to be harassed and wrongly shot by police officers and by white citizens. Unofficial discrimination in job hiring and housing still exists. Many Blacks live in impoverished and dangerous neighborhoods, where children go to poor public schools that receive inadequate funding. Black male students in elementary school are disproportionately more likely than their White counterparts to wind up in prison than in college.

A White power structure could do things to change the education situation with targeted and adequate funding, but the powers that be are reluctant to do so. Currently, state legislatures throughout the country are trying to take public money out of public schools and give it to private, mostly religious, schools. Aside from the problem of government money promoting religious indoctrination, such funding will most likely benefit White middle and upper classes at the expense of poor people. We may not have slaves or lynching anymore, but we do treat African-Americans as second-class citizens in many ways, including undemocratic attempts to prevent Blacks from voting. There are certainly lots of exceptions, but it’s often difficult for Blacks to rise above the circumstances in which they were raised.

Having said the above, I must admit that I’m somewhat conflicted about the White Christian Nationalist movement. Of course, I’m strongly opposed to everything for which they stand. On the other hand, they form a small cult of Republicans that I think does a lot of harm to Christianity (which is fine with me). Most of them don’t pay public attention to the Bible or Christianity. They seem to be more a part of a tribe that identifies with a political group and a narrow culture. They alienate many reasonable Christians who feel embarrassed by the 30 percent of MAGA Trump enthusiasts who say they support both God and Donald Trump. The Republican Party is starting to sound more like a religion than a political party, while evangelical Christians are sounding more like a political party than a religion.

Most of our country disagrees with their calling the United States a Christian nation. The U.S. Constitution does not contain the words Christian, Jesus, or God. Our framers were careful and thoughtful writers. Had they wanted a Christian nation, it seems highly unlikely that they would have forgotten to include their Christian intentions in the supreme law of the land. In 1797 the Treaty of Tripoli was ratified unanimously by the United States Senate, and this trade treaty stated in part: “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” I wonder what part of “not” those White Christian Nationalists don’t understand.

The U.S. framers wisely established the first government in history to separate religion and government. They formed a secular nation whose authority rests with “We the People,” the first three words of the U.S. Constitution, and not with “Thou the Deity.” They created a constitution in which the government acknowledged no gods, the better to ensure freedom of conscience. We the people are free to worship one, many, or no gods. As Thomas Jefferson said: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

There are many reasons that people today have become less religious, but I think White Christian Nationalism is an important reason. Because of their stance on issues like abortion, birth control, misogyny, anti-Semitism, LGBTQ, immigration, gun control, book banning, school prayer, and climate change, White Christian Nationalists have alienated younger people and have lost their support. I don’t consider White Christian Nationalists partners in any sense, but it seems they are unintentionally helping to create more secularists.

So, once in a while, I’m tempted to say “Thank God” for White Christian Nationalists. With a smile, of course.

Christian Nationalism Appears Ascendant In GOP Politics

How a new Christian right is changing US politics – BBC News

The Dangerous New Movement In Right-Wing America | The Mehdi Hasan Show

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