What is Christian nationalism? The alt-right inspired movement dominating US politics

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Mar 9, 2024 at 09:00 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

In 2021, it was estimated that out of the 332 million people in the US, approximately 63 per cent were Christian. Within that percentage are multiple different sects and denominations—all with their own community values and ideological politics. Christian nationalism is often deemed as one of the most radical expressions of Christianity—particularly in regard to how it relates to the American political landscape. But, what actually is Christian nationalism? And how did it become synonymous with one of the most powerful voting demographics in the US?

In this article, we’re going to dissect Christian nationalism both as a belief system and as a form of political rhetoric. Moreover, we’re going to get to the crux of why nationalism (despite having once been a force for positive and progressive change) has now become a force for fear.

What is nationalism?

Nationalism at its core involves the concept of identifying with one’s nation and supporting its interests. Cultural nationalism has been an incredibly positive motivator of change over the years, particularly in relation to the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

However, nationalism, particularly in recent years, has become radicalised in a number of ways. In both the UK and the US, there has been a dramatic increase in white nationalism—an ideology that seeks to maintain a white racial and national identity.

To many who weren’t perhaps familiar with it before, this form of radical nationalism gained major prominence during the 2021 Capitol Riots when conservative and far-right extremists breached the Capitol building, demanding Congress overturn what they believed to be a “stolen election.” Many of these individuals were spurred on by former President Donald Trump.

What is white nationalism?

This movement has in many ways shaped the politics of the alt-right sect, a predominantly online political group that uses internet forums and social media to perpetuate racial stereotypes. The alt-right taps into the unfounded narrative that white people are at risk of being discriminated against and or losing out to the new ‘woke’ generation. At its core, the movement’s followers are motivated by one thing: white socioeconomic status and power.

Prominent figures within the white nationalist movement include Tommy Robinson, Nicholas Fuentes, and, many would argue, Donald Trump.

While once considered a fringe ideology, white nationalism has now become a huge part of global politics. Moreover, with young nationalists utilising social media in order to recruit new members, the level of both outreach and radicalism is 

What is Christian nationalism?

According to Christianity Today, Christian nationalism can be defined by the belief that Christianity fundamentally defines America, and as such, the government should be actively taking steps to maintain this order. While differences do exist, Christian nationalism is heavily intertwined with white nationalism.

Indeed, Christian nationalists assert that America is and must remain a “Christian nation”—not just in its recognition of the US’ history, but as a strict and clear moral program for what America must continue to be in the future.

While there are constantly new surveys appearing that declare Christianity in crisis, insisting that the religion is declining at an alarming rate in the US, it’s evident that the faith is less so in decline and more in a transformation state. One of the biggest factors of Christian nationalism is how it’s being pushed forward for young Gen Zers, particularly men.

In Louis Theroux’s documentary series Forbidden America, one episode centres on this very force of nature: young white Christian men who are using religion as a way to incite hate and promote beliefs of homophobia, racism, and misogyny—all on a terrifying and inherently digital scale.

In the episode titled Extreme and Online, Theroux spends a lot of time with Fuentes—one of the most prominent leaders of both the white nationalist and Christian nationalist movements.

@svt

Den högerextrema politiska kommentatorn tycker att kvinnlig rösträtt ska förbjudas. #svtplay #louistheroux #louistherouxinterviews

♬ originalljud - SVT - SVT

Fuentes’ brand is centred around promoting white power and perpetuating longstanding racial and gender stereotypes. The 25-year-old has repeatedly been banned from social media platforms for hate speech and is disgustingly known for his particularly insidious brand of anti-semitism. Oh, and did I mention he also doesn’t believe that women should have the right to vote?

Again, while you might like to think that these figures stand alone and are limited in their influence, in reality, they hold immense power and what was once simply an online presence has swiftly turned into a real-life danger.

What is the difference between Christian nationalism and Christian politics?

While numerous politicians in the US incorporate Christian values into their politics, Christian nationalism sets itself apart by asserting that the only way to achieve their goals is by force, as opposed to means of Democracy.

Christian nationalism is extreme in that it demands to be top of the order. In fact, a number of Christian politicians have made clear that they do not align with Christian nationalism. Recently, staunch LGBTQIA+ ally and Democrat, Texas state representative James Talarico spoke out against the homophobic, sexist and racist laws which have recently been passed in the state.

In a video posted to his personal TikTok account, Talarico stated: “Three years ago, Christian nationalists stormed the US capitol, killing police officers while carrying crosses and signs reading ‘Jesus saves’. Two years ago, Christian nationalists on the US supreme court overturned Roe v Wade allowing states like ours to outlaw abortion even in cases of rape and incest. And, as we speak, Christian nationalist billionaires are attempting to dismantle education public education in the state of Texas and therefore dismantle democracy. Let me be very clear, there is nothing Christian about Christian nationalists.”

@jamestalarico

“There is nothing Christian about Christian Nationalism.”

♬ original sound - James Talarico

Christian nationalism shows no sign of slowing down or losing its momentum. In fact, what we’re seeing is an escalation of extremism, violence, and radicalisation. Moreover, with followers calling for individuals such as Fuentes to run for office, it’s evident that its place within US politics is firmly cemented.

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