After Trump, Christian nationalist ideas are going mainstream – despite a history of violence

In the run-up to the U.S. midterm elections, some politicians continue to ride the wave of what’s known as “Christian nationalism” in ways that are increasingly vocal and direct.

GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right Donald Trump loyalist from Georgia, told an interviewer on July 23, 2022, that the Republican Party “need[s] to be the party of nationalism. And I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists.”

Similarly, Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Colorado, recently said, “The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church.” Boebert called the separation of church and state “junk.”

Many Christian nationalists repeat conservative activist David Barton’s argument that the Founding Fathers did not intend to keep religion out of government.

As a scholar of racism and communication who has written about white nationalism during the Trump presidency, I find the amplification of Christian nationalism unsurprising. Christian nationalism is prevalent among Trump supporters, as religion scholars Andrew Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry argue in their book “Taking Back America for God.”

Perry and Whitehead describe the Christian nationalist movement as being “as ethnic and political as it is religious,” noting that it relies on the assumption of white supremacy. Christian nationalism combines belief in a particular form of Christianity with nativist and populist political platforms. American Christian nationalism is a worldview based on the belief that America is superior to other countries, and that that superiority is divinely established. In this mindset, only Christians are true Americans.

Parts of the movement fit into a broader right-wing extremist history of violence, which has been on the rise over the past few decades and was particularly on display during the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021.

The vast majority of Christian nationalists never engage in violence. Nonetheless, Christian nationalist thinking suggests that unless Christians control the state, the state will suppress Christianity.

From siege to militia buildup

Violence perpetrated by Christian nationalists has manifested in two primary ways in recent decades. The first is through their involvement in militia groups; the second is seen in attacks on abortion providers.

The catalyst for the growth of militia activity among contemporary Christian nationalists stems from two events: the 1992 Ruby Ridge standoff and the 1993 siege at Waco.

At Ruby Ridge, former Army Green Beret Randy Weaver engaged federal law enforcement in an 11-day standoff at his rural Idaho cabin over charges relating to the sale of sawed-off shotguns to an ATF informant investigating Aryan Nation white supremacist militia meetings.

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