Why Christian Nationalist Discourse "Works" -- And for Whom

It is one of the great satisfactions of the career that I've chosen that I get to work with and mentor bright young scholars and see them develop their ideas and find their own voices.  It's particularly satisfying to then have a chance to work with them on research that matters.

Just last week, Jack Delehanty, Evan Stewart and I had a paper accepted for publication in Social Forces that highlights research we've conducted here at the University of Minnesota as part of the American Mosaic Project. Jack is the lead author.

In this paper, we tackle two questions at the heart of the larger AMP project, which focuses on how Americans think about and experience diversity, particularly religious and racial diversity, and with what social consequences.  First, we examine the question of which Americans favor and support Christian nationalist ideas -- both in terms of symbolic expressions of religion in public life, and in terms of institutional practices that favor Christian nationalist principles.  Second, we examine which Americans feel included when they hear Christian nationalist claims in the public arena, and which Americans feel excluded.

We often conflate Christian nationalism with White evangelicalism.  And this is not inaccurate; White evangelical leaders have historically upheld and promoted Christian nationalist views.  But research on the effects of White evangelicalism on our public life can't just focus on the evangelicals themselves, we argue. It must expand to focus on the question of which other Americans find Christian nationalist discourse compelling and resonant, and in what ways.

You can find a link to a .pdf version of the article here. The main takeaways:  It is not just White evangelicals who are sympathetic to Christian nationalist claims in the public arena -- Christians, in general, including those we might think of as moderate or even liberal, are sympathetic to symbolic expressions of Christian nationalism in American public life, and some of them support institutional practices that favor Christian nationalist positions.  Who is left out?  The non-religious and religious minorities, who do not support Christian nationalism or view it as legitimate in the public arena. 

This suggests that those who are hopeful that White evangelical Christian culture -- symbols, discourses -- can form a basis for a kind of inclusive civil religion are going to be disappointed.  Instead, Christian nationalism is divisive, in a landscape in which partisan alignment is already solidifying along both racial and religious lines.