Just like the PCR test in its take-home version, readers of these books can also take their own Christian nationalist temperature. (Forgive the use of the first-person singular, but I know no other way to report on my own responses.) Bottom line: I tested positive, though at the low end of the Accommodators (which runs between 12 and 17 on the 0–24 spectrum). For instance, I strongly oppose the federal government issuing a declaration that the United States is a Christian nation (0 points). But for the government to advocate Christian values, like banning murder, lying, and stealing, I am unsure about the way to do this (2 points). On the strict enforcement of separating of church and state, I tend to disagree (1 point); the word “strict” is the hang-up, because zeal in doing so can wind up with French-style laïcité, which has never been the American version of relating church and state. On government’s allowing for religious symbols in public spaces (agree 3 points) and prayer in public schools (agree 3 points), I put a lot of weight on “allow.” The verb suggests that government is not going impose such religious expressions but will stand back and let other institutions decide (like local governments or neighborhood associations—even teachers unions). As for the idea that the United States’ success is part of God’s plan (agree 3 points)—how could anyone who believes in a sovereign God not believe some divine purpose is responsible for America’s place in the world? At the same time, “success” is imprecise, since it could indicate approval of America’s emergence as a superpower or it could mean approving of religion’s remarkable prevalence in American society.
All of which is to say that, as with many pollster questions, these phrases are either misleading or imprecise in ways that hardly invite firm conclusions about a response’s meaning. That said, my total points (12) make me a Christian nationalist, a classification that would surprise many who have criticized me in the past for divorcing faith from politics and arguing that the church should mind its own business. (For more on that, see my A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State.) If a conservative Presbyterian who has long argued that the church should stay out of politics tests positive for Christian nationalism, someone could wonder if sociologists need an equivalent to what epidemiologists have in asymptomatic carriers of COVID. Can a class of Christian nationalists exist who have no strong symptoms of this political virus? If so, do they need to be in political isolation?
…The change in tone between the two books, from never-Trumpish to apocalyptic alarm, is striking but likely indicates more about the authors’ own fears than it reflects the actual state of affairs in contemporary America. This essay is not—underscore not—part of a sanguine assessment of contemporary America. Wealth gaps, unimpressive political leadership, incoherent foreign policy, and heightened partisanship that inspired both months of urban riots and January 6—these are just a few reasons for worrying about the United States. At the same time, if authors describe America in ways that lead them to comparisons with Hitler’s Germany and Putin’s Russia, and then describe the dire situation as merely “chaotic and poor,” readers may reach the end of The Flag and the Cross relieved, which is the opposite of the book’s intent. Read More»
D. G. Hart | “The Existential Threat of Anti-Christian Nationalism” | January 9, 2023
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