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Are Christian Nationalists Real “Christians”?

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A common ploy used by Evangelical gatekeepers — also known as keepers of the Book of Life wherein God writes the names of True Christians® — is to say that certain groups of believers are false Christians or cultural Christians. This subterfuge is used to cull from the Christian herd anyone who doesn’t meet certain theological, political, or social standards. Thus, people who deconvert from Evangelical Christianity are labeled as false or cultural Christians; people who never truly understood the gospel and core teachings of the Bible. Of course, study after study suggests otherwise; that atheists are better versed in the teachings of the Bible than many Christians — especially those of us who were Evangelicals before deconverting.

Presently, Christian Nationalism is in the news, and predictably, Evangelical gatekeepers say that Christian Nationalists are not real Christians. However, a recent article on Baptist News Global about the results of a Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) study on the matter suggests otherwise:

  • 30% of Americans are Christian Nationalism adherents (10%) or sympathizers (20%)
  • 55% of Republicans are Christian Nationalism adherents (21%) or sympathizers (34%), compared to 16% of Democrats
  • Highest states with Christian Nationalist populations: North Dakota (50%), Mississippi (50%), Alabama (47%), Louisiana (46%), West Virginia (47%), Tennessee (45%), Wyoming (45%), Nebraska (45%) Arkansas (44%), South Carolina (42%)
  • Lowest states with Christian Nationalist populations: Oregon (17%), Massachusetts (18%) Maryland (19%), New York (19%), Washington (20%), New Jersey (20%), Nevada (20%), California (22%), Connecticut (23%), Virginia (23%)
  • 66% of White Evangelicals are Christian Nationalism adherents (30%) or sympathizers (36%)
  • Most supporters of Christian Nationalism read the Bible weekly (55%) and attend church weekly (52%)

Robert P. Jones, the president and founder of PRRI, had this to say about this study:

Why should we be worried about this?

There is of course the obvious: The idea of America as a promised land for European Christians — a powerful idea that predates the founding of the country — is fundamentally anti-democratic because it establishes a de facto ethno-religious state. Beyond that, it raises the stakes of political contests exponentially, transposing political opponents into existential enemies.

Politics is no longer understood to be disagreements between fellow citizens of good will but apocalyptic battles over good and evil, fought by agents of God against agents of Satan. Political opponents should not just be defeated in fair electoral contests but should be jailed, exiled, attacked or even killed.

Indeed, this erosion of democratic and civic norms is just what we find in this survey. Christian nationalists are more likely than other Americans to think about politics in apocalyptic terms and are about twice as likely as other Americans to believe political violence may be justified. Nearly four in 10 Christian nationalism Adherents (38%) and one-third of Sympathizers (33%) agree that “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence to save the country,” compared with only 17% of Skeptics and 7% of Rejecters.

In my recent book, The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future, I made the case that Christian nationalism is best understood as a term describing the new incarnation of an old claim: that America is a God-ordained promised land for European Christians, where they alone occupy the highest positions of power and where laws are judged to be valid based on their particular interpretation of the Bible.

We’ve never fully resolved the contradictions between the regressive fantasy of America as a white Christian nation and the aspirational vision of America as a pluralistic democracy.

This survey illustrates how strongly white Christian nationalism is driving support for Donald Trump and the MAGA movement and how thoroughly it has established itself as an ideological keystone in today’s Republican Party. Until we fully vanquish this dangerous, authoritarian political theology, it will continue to undermine the potential for a truly democratic American future.

No matter how much Evangelical gatekeepers protest and suggest otherwise, most Christian Nationalists are Bible-reading, church-attending Christians; these crazy uncles are every bit as Christian as the gatekeepers (who often have their own Christian Nationalism tendencies, but just hide it better).

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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    That data seems to confirm my conviction that any form of religious nationalism is fundamentally incompatible with freedom and pluralistic democracy. I notice that in their words, evangelicals heavily favor freedom and democracy but in their deeds, not so much. I’d like to see them surveyed about whether they “believe” in freedom and democracy. It should be revealing.

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    Christian Nationalists are Christians. There are thousands of flavors if Christians, so to claim any aren’t “true Christians” is silly – based on what? That you don’t like them? That’s not valid criteria.

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      @ObstacleChick Yes, I was thinking that as well. Many of them aren’t particularly Jesus-like, they are more Redstate cultural. Of course if we go by behavior or attitudes there wouldn’t be any Christians, except maybe the alleged first one… and even then there are contradictions.

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    I get so tired of critics of MAGA republicans referring to them as “so called Christians” implying that if you act like an asshole you aren’t a Christian. What nonsense. Some of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met were Christians and I don’t doubt their Christianity for a minute. In fact I think that accepting Christian doctrine at face value puts you most of the way towards being a total asshole

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