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Most Republicans want the government to declare America a "Christian Nation"
A new survey sheds light on a frightening phenomenon
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A survey recently released by PRRI/Brookings finds that roughly 27% of Americans support the idea of the United States officially becoming a “Christian Nation.” It gets even more frightening among Republicans, with 54% of the GOP fantasizing about that Christian declaration.
They all disagree, however, on what that means in practice.
The phrase “Christian nation” is not meant to be aspirational. As sociologists Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry described in their book Taking America Back for God (affiliate link), Christian nationalism basically represents a fusion of conservative Christianity with civic life. It’s not quite a theocracy, but if conservative Christians had their way, it’d be a distinction without a difference.
The phrase suggests we were founded as a (conservative) Christian country—even though we were not—and that we should be guided by (conservative) Christian principles. It’s not about Jesus. It’s about pushing right-wing beliefs on everybody in the country with regards to LGBTQ rights, gender roles, abortion access, who “counts” as an American, and control of public institutions like schools and government.
Christian nationalists have become far more prominent in recent years, especially since the January 6, 2021 insurrection attempt to the point where some of its biggest proponents use the phrase as a badge of honor. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has even said, “I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly: We should be Christian nationalists.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has urged Republicans to wear the “full armor of God” during campaigns.
With that backdrop, PRRI/Brookings asked respondents where they stood on various statements, including“The U.S. government should declare America a Christian nation.” (The term wasn’t defined.)
The one bright spot was that 50% of respondents completely rejected the idea with another 20% mostly disagreeing.
The Christian Nationalists are in a minority. That minority, however, is very loud. And it’s especially loud among conservative religious groups. 64% of white evangelicals explicitly support or sympathize with Christian Nationalism.
The numbers become even more stark when you draw partisan lines.
54% of Republicans are fine with Christian Nationalism, as are about 79% of people who trust right-wing propaganda networks other than FOX.
(Incidentally, when the Pew Research Center ran a similar survey last October, they found that 45% of Americans wanted to live in a “Christian Nation.” It was a much higher percentage than we’re seeing in the more recent PRRI/Brookings survey, though the methodology was a bit different and the questions weren’t identical. Pew also found that 67% of Republicans believed America should be a Christian nation, compared to the 54% we see in the PRRI/Brookings survey.)
PRRI/Brookings also found that Christian Nationalist views correlated with other beliefs as well: “Anti-Black racism, anti-immigrant views, antisemitic views, anti-Muslim views, and patriarchal understandings of traditional gender roles.”
If you’re looking for ignorance, bigotry, and patriarchy, the people who support Christian Nationalism have the market cornered.
It also won’t surprise you that the majority of people (58%) who buy into the QAnon conspiracy theory support Christian Nationalism, too.
The reason all of this matters is that some of the most vocal proponents of Christian Nationalism are Republican politicians who have the power to write laws promoting their particular religious beliefs—with very little fear that the right flank of the Supreme Court will rein them in.
Their allies are also more likely to resort to violence to achieve their goals.
According to the survey, adherents of Christian nationalism say they will go to great lengths to impose their vision of the country. [Robert P.] Jones with PRRI said they found adherents are far more likely to agree with the statement: "true patriots might have to resort to violence to save our country."
"Now is that everyone? No. It's not everyone," Jones said. "But it's a sizeable minority that is not only willing to declare themselves opposed to pluralism and democracy — but are also willing to say, 'I am willing to fight and either kill or harm my fellow Americans to keep it that way.'"
Christian Nationalists believe people of all religious views should be permitted to live within the borders, but only their views should count. Those who disagree are automatically deemed unpatriotic. And that sets the stage for the wingnuts to say violence is necessary to protect their way of life, which is synonymous with their vision for the country.
The worst elements of our country are glomming onto each other in a way that makes it virtually impossible to disagree with them and still be considered a True American™.
If there’s any silver lining to these results, it’s that 37% of Americans have no clue what “Christian Nationalism” is. They may like the idea of living in a nation guided by (their interpretation of) Christian principles, but many of them aren’t familiar with the more pointed phrase. And of the remaining people—the ones who have heard the phrase—most oppose it. 44% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Christian Nationalism, compared to the 20% who support it.
That means there’s a tremendous opportunity to educate people on what Christian Nationalism is, why it’s bad for the country, and what all of us stand to lose if its supporters acquire even more power than they already have.
(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier)