It Is Time for a Reckoning to Address and Eradicate Christian Nationalism

Over several months, I have written postings for TIE that aim to serve as a red thread of connection regarding what I consider to be threats to American democracy. The list of these full-frontal assaults is voluminous:

In each posting, I have traditionally concluded with a solutions-centered urging to higher education colleagues to assist with informing and educating our communities (on and off campus) about these critical topics. I have veered away from directly villainizing any politician or political party. I believe many hands are tilling the toxic soil upon which many Americans sit, and continuously challenging ascendant DEIA principles.

However, after much self-examination, I decided that this week’s post must be different.

With each passing day, I see more direct connections between the persistence of Trumpism as grounded in Christian nationalism (an ideology that views the US as a decidedly Christian nation) and white supremacy (paywalled) in the US. This evil trifecta plays out as anti-democratic attacks and illogical positioning in various parts of the country on a host of topics. Regrettably, it is a historical pattern that the US keeps repeating.

Yet, this time is much different. We have a single symbolic figure in former President Donald Trump projecting himself and false statements in the highly connected information age. We have seen the direct trouncing of constitutional rights and civil liberties, the spreading of disinformation like QAnon conspiracy theories, and, sadly, the engineering of hysteria over simple mask mandates amid a deadly pandemic that has killed more than 700,000 Americans.  

The manifestation of Trumpism-cum-Christian nationalism gets more disturbing each day. The moderate expression suggests that God anoints former President Trump to do the Lord’s will. The most extreme expressions are cult-like worship of former President Trump, accompanied by chilling imagery of him as a prophet and counterculture demigod.

I know some of you well enough to know that you must think this is a deranged fringe group that is small in numbers, and that ignoring them is the best solution. Eventually, the fringe will go away and things will become “normal” again.

I beg to differ.

TIE readers must accept that what is happening in the US is a well-orchestrated attempted power grab with layers of supporters who enable this sinister behavior. America’s corporate media engines provide very little assistance in making the Christian nationalism-Trumpism connection, opting instead to promote the antisocial statements of rival pundits for ratings.

Several scholars in religion, racial studies, and sociology (paywalled) have published good yet under-publicized research on the negative impact of Christian nationalism and Trumpism over the past five years. One stellar example is Dr. Anthea Butler (@AntheaButler), whose recent book White Evangelical Racism (2021), published by UNC Press, pointedly argues for the need for a reckoning right now to eradicate Christian-cloaked patriarchy, nationhood, and racism.

I am with her.

Taking action now will help steer the US away from a constitutional crisis.

Weariness from the times cannot be our excuse not to lean in and engage in this hard work. If we claim tiredness now, we will be deeply exhausted when the US plunges into a rule-by-decree autocracy.

We cannot sit idly by and watch the US implode without calling this ugliness out by its hateful name. Higher education colleagues must do more than engage in fruitless Twitter “beefs.”

If resources allow, convene symposiums and speaker talks that invite all communities to dialogue and strategize on actionable next steps to protect this nation’s democracy.

We in higher education are the leaders the world is seeking now to ensure that the US lives up to its democratic promise. We have the capacity at this difficult moment in time to change the current course of history.

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Header image is a detail of This is Harlem by Jacob Lawrence. Courtesy of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. © 2021 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. For more information, click here.