During her appearance at the right-wing CPAC conference yesterday, conspiracy theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was asked about the phrase “Christian nationalist.” She insisted, falsely, that “most Americans” were Christian nationalists like her.
First, let’s step back. She was specifically being asked about a meme claiming her defense of Christian nationalism was identical to what Hitler said in 1928: “We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity. Our movement is Christian.” Hitler really did say that. But Greene never said those exact words despite what the meme claimed.
What has she said about Christian nationalism?
We need to be the party of nationalism. And I’m a Christian and I say it proudly: We should be Christian nationalists…
I also call myself a Christian nationalist. And that’s not a bad word. That’s actually a good thing, right?
In short, the meme is wrong, but Greene has embraced Christian nationalism. And at CPAC yesterday, she doubled down on the idea.
Not surprisingly, she’s wrong on two counts in that single sentence: She has plenty to be ashamed of and “most Americans” are not Christian nationalists. The Pew Research Center says about 63% of Americans identify as Christians (and that number keeps going down every year). But are they all “Christian nationalists” in any sense of the term?
Not even close. If we define Christian nationalism as the idea that America was founded on conservative Christian principles and the government should actively work to keep it that way, we’re talking about a very small subset of Christians as a whole.
Pew found that the kind of Christians who are “staunchly conservative” on all issues as well as “deeply loyal to Donald Trump” represent about 10% of the public. They’re 23% of Republicans… so not a majority within the GOP, either.
Even if we expanded the definition to include slightly less conservative Christians, we wouldn’t even come close to a majority of Americans.
Greene, as usual, is lying.
Honestly, if she’s championing Christian nationalism, that may be the best argument against Christian nationalism. No one should want to live in a country where someone like her represents the height of patriotism.
Her statements came a day after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who already expressed opposition to people of mixed race, claimed “a Christian politician cannot be racist.” Like Greene, Orbán believes identifying as a Christian absolves politicians from accountability for the harm they cause.
There’s been a shift in recent years in which conservatives, who used to take offense at the phrase, now proudly proclaim themselves to be Christian nationalists. The message is loud and clear for those of us who aren’t Christian—as well as progressive Christians who aren’t included under that label. We’re not welcome. We’re not True Patriots. We’re not the people who ought to be making laws for the rest of the country. It’s the sort of stuff that would get non-stop coverage in right-wing propaganda outlets if a Muslim or non-theistic politician ever said about themselves.
As it stands, though, the kind of people using the term as a badge of honor are precisely the kinds of people you shouldn’t want to associate with. It’s a blend of autocrats, conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, bigots, and science-deniers.
Unless other Christians are willing to take back the label, those are the people who will come to represent the religion to large swaths of the American public. Pastors should really ask themselves: Who should come to mind when people think about Christianity? Because right now, it sure as hell isn’t Jesus. He left the building a long time ago. The loudest voices under the Christian nationalist umbrella are also the least humane, least empathetic, least thoughtful people in the country… many of whom have outsized power.
That’s the problem here. We’re not talking about fringe figures who have a small group of followers. We’re talking about national leaders in elected office who, if they had their way, would destroy democracy and replace it with a form of theocracy that only pays lip service to the idea of religious freedom. People of all faiths and no faith should be united in opposition to Christian nationalism.
And yet white evangelicals and conservative Catholics will not distance themselves from people like Greene or Orbán. They overwhelmingly support them. It’s unfair, then, to pretend Christian nationalists are hijacking the faith. They represent a larger segment of a shrinking population.
Christian nationalists are basically white evangelicals at this point. There’s very little difference about their goals and methods. The rhetoric may be different, but the substance is all rot.