Moderate Christian nationalists shouldn’t be smeared. But neither should extremism be defended.
In the opening pages of his newly published polemic against Christian nationalism, American Idolatry, Christian sociologist Andrew Whitehead describes his unsettling discovery, as a young man, of tension between his identities as a Christian and an American. In his childhood church, the “American flag and the Christian flag at the front of the sanctuary symbolized the close connection between the two,” he writes. “To be one was to be the other,” and finding space between them was “disorienting” and “uncomfortable.”
As Whitehead’s faith matured, he left behind the unconscious Christian nationalism of his youth. But in that same span, a large swath of the American Right—some evangelicals and other professing Christians included—have taken it up, in many cases explicitly adopting the label.
When I began researching my own book on the subject, the term wasn’t in wide use, but it went mainstream in 2021 following the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, where symbols of Christianity mixed freely with political violence. Since then, Christian nationalism has been widely advocated in works such as Stephen Wolfe’s The Case for Christian Nationalism and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Ga.) reportedly forthcoming book by the same name. Critique of the belief has accumulated, too, in books like Whitehead’s and mine.
But a troubling third branch of the conversation has also sprouted: anti-anti-Christian nationalism. It’s a branch that should be cut off.
Following the pattern of anti-anti-Trumpism, anti-anti-Christian nationalism is not in favor of its object—or, at least, not openly so. But Christian nationalists …