Why aren’t we talking about the theology that drives white Christian nationalism?

This article originally appeared at Baptist News Global on February 21, 2023.

Poll after poll and webinar after webinar lays out the data on white Christian nationalism. The facts of this threat to both democracy and faith are well-documented.

What’s missing from nearly every public discussion is the toxic theology that fuels white Christian nationalism. Behind the history, the sociology, the political realities, there is a theological problem.

Most of the experts speaking against white Christian nationalism today come from backgrounds other than theology. What they have to say is true and helpful, but it does not get to the root of the problem.

Rick Pidcock

This was illustrated in a recent webinar to release new polling data from Public Religion Research Institute about how white Christian nationalism is threatening American democracy. PRRI has been a leading source of research on this topic.

The Feb. 8 webinar was hosted by the Brookings Institution and featured a panel moderated by E.J. Dionne and comprised of the scholars Jemar Tisby, Peter Wehner, Kristin Du Mez and Robert P. Jones.

None of these experts are theologians by primary identity, and all come out of the evangelical tradition. That raised the concern of another prominent voice who was watching and tweeting throughout the webinar: Diana Butler Bass. She is an author and a historian of public theology.

“I’m in near despair that the critical narratives of white Xian nationalism (which is primarily a problem of white evangelicalism) are largely being controlled by writers & scholars who are themselves still evangelicals,” she tweeted.

“White evangelicals are mostly controlling the critique of the problem that their own theology has largely created.”

“No Jews on this panel talking about white Christian nationalism? No liberal Protestants w/o the conservative theological presuppositions of evangelicalism? Someone who is actually NOT religious? These alternative narratives have intellectual tools to speak to analysis of WCN. I realize that part of the problem is that Anthea Butler (who is a Catholic) isn’t there today. But honestly, white evangelicals are mostly controlling the critique of the problem that their own theology has largely created. … And so many of these ‘analyses’ wind up sounding like evangelism to the ‘right’ form of Christianity or apologetics.”

Diana Butler Bass

To be clear, Bass is not antagonistic toward PRRI or any of the panelists. She previously served on the board of PRRI. Instead, she said, her concern goes much deeper to include “the media’s overall engagement w/religion & politics, especially on this subject.”

Writing for Religion Dispatches the day after the webinar, scholar Chrissy Stroop agreed with Bass: “American evangelicals are socialized via homeschooling, Christian schools, churches and the subculture in general to apply the Bible and Christian teachings to every aspect of their lives. That includes attempting to implement a theocratic policy agenda, so that our nation might be ‘blessed’ for its ‘obedience to God’s authority. It’s been frustrating watching pundits actively struggle not to understand this over the last few years.”

Pure Christianity is this

The panel discussion began with Tisby, a historian, defining Christian nationalism as an “ethnocultural ideology that uses Christian symbolism to create a permission structure for the acquisition of political power and social control.”

Continue reading at Baptist News Global.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *