The dangerous rise of Christian nationalism

Simon Wong, Opinion Editor

On Nov. 19, 1620, a group of voyagers looked over the edge of their ship, which had taken the last 65 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean from England, and finally spotted something: land. This land was America, and these voyagers were the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims were primarily Puritans, and over the next several decades, they expanded and spread out over much of what is now New England. The Puritans left England to escape the religious persecution they were facing there, but once established in the New England colonies, they basically turned around and did the same thing to all new arrivals to the area. The Puritans had strict ideas about what you had to do and what you couldn’t do, and they imposed these beliefs on everyone around them. And this centuries-old version of America bears an eerie resemblance to the America we live in today.

In their sarcastically titled book on Christian nationalism,Taking America Back for God,” sociology professors Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry define this phenomenon as “A cultural framework that blurs distinctions between Christian identity and American identity, viewing the two as closely related and seeking to enhance and preserve their union.” In a nutshell, Christian nationalism is the belief that the US is and has always been a Christian country, and anyone who is not Christian isn’t as important and does not belong here. This belief stems from the fact that America was founded by Christians, but the main reason it continues today is because of the nation’s Christian majority, which gives Christian nationalists a perceived platform of supremacy and greater importance.

As of 2020, 64% of the US population is Christian, while the next largest religion is Judaism, with just 2% of people reported as practitioners. 26% of the population does not practice a religion. While it isn’t incorrect to say that Christians make up the majority of the US population, a small group of these Christians take it a step further with the belief that the United States is their country and theirs alone. While this may not seem like something that would be starkly divided along political party lines, in the last couple of years, the most extreme seeds of hatred and division have been mostly sewn and cultivated by members of the Republican Party.

There are several specific Republican politicians that may come to mind when you think of the phrase Christian nationalism, but perhaps the most infamous instance of Christian nationalism in recent years was the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol building. While it might not be obvious from every picture from the event, the rioters were almost all Christian nationalists in addition to being supporters of former president Donald Trump. In what is unfortunately not the worst irony of that day, Christian symbols like crosses and signs with the words “Jesus is King” on them were proudly waved adjacent to Confederate flags and even Nazi swastikas. One extremist group known as the Proud Boys were hailed as “God’s warriors.” Many supporters believed the man they were there that day to defend, Trump, was blessed by God and would save them from the persecution they believed was inflicted on them. Any astute observer would surely realize that this rhetoric and anger was not the speech of a true Christian.

Many times over the course of the Bible, it says to treat others how you would like to be treated, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus himself says this many times. Is the hatred of non-Christian religions loving those around you? No, It isn’t. It never has been and it never will be. Because hate is the polar opposite of love. So no one can say they are truly Christian unless they accept these other religions and recognize their validity. And if you aren’t Christian, you can still see that this is not the way America should be, dominated by a handful of religious extremists, because America’s history proves that it wasn’t designed to be like this. The United States is called a nation of immigrants for good reason-we are a mosaic of human beings, each one looking different and having different beliefs, but when we are all put together into one country, we make a beautiful work of art.