For the last three weeks, I’ve been talking about the troubling nature of Christian Nationalism, which is rising in popularity on the right. I demonstrated that it is not historically accurate and runs counter to what this country WAS founded on. If you missed that, you can catch up online at SpartaLive.com or at tnwordsmith.blogspot.com. Now I am going to add some more context.
First, though, let me speak briefly as a Christian. It has always been my understanding, from the New Testament and the words of Jesus, that a Christian’s primary citizenship is in God’s Kingdom and that all Christians around the world - whatever country they live in - are brothers and sisters. Christianity transcends national borders and governments. God does not have a “chosen country,” and there is no scriptural reason to believe that He would love the United States more than, say, Australia. Or Nigeria. Or any other country. Hence my argument that Christian Nationalism is not Christian. But it is nationalistic.
This is from the Wikipedia definition of nationalism:
“Nationalism is an idea and movement that holds that the nation should be congruent with the state… It further aims to build and maintain a single national identity, based on shared social characteristics of culture, ethnicity, geographic location, language, politics (or the government), religion, traditions and belief in a shared singular history, and to promote national unity or solidarity. Nationalism, therefore, seeks to preserve and foster a nation’s traditional culture.”
Fascism is nationalism taken to the extreme. This is from the Wikipedia definition of fascism (emphases mine):
“A RADICAL AUTHORITARIAN NATIONALIST political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in NATIONAL IDENTITY by suprapersonal connections of ANCESTRY, CULTURE, AND BLOOD. To achieve this, fascists purge forces, ideas, people, and systems deemed to be the cause of decadence and degeneration. Fascists believe that a nation requires strong leadership, singular collective identity, and the will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong.”
Finally, here are several identifying marks of fascism, as I have taught them for 15 years when discussing WWII in class - and, let me point out, these are standard markers historians use to define the concept:
The nation must have one culture, with no “outside” or “inferior” cultures allowed.
The same is true with religion. Remember that WWII German military belt buckles said “Gott mit us”… “God is with us.”
Anyone who does not conform to the main culture must be excluded or weeded out.
The leader must be a strong, aggressive individual who will take the nation back to its earlier days of glory.
Dissent of any form is not tolerated.
The leader is supported by extremely violent followers.
Read over all that and think about Proud Boys and others chanting things like “Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and Soil” (a Nazi slogan). Think about the criminals on January 6th who waved, not only American flags but crosses as they sought to besmirch and destroy our Capitol and to attack and try to kill police and members of Congress. Think of the love some of these folks have for Trump and Putin - and certainly because of any Christian qualities either of those men have ever displayed. None of that is Christian, and none of it is patriotic.
And none of it is in line with the principle this country was founded on, respect for the natural and civil rights of all people equally, regardless of origin or religion. I know we have often done a poor job of following those principles, but we have to keep them in our sight as goals to work toward.
But to support Christian Nationalism, and Trumpism (the two seem to go hand-in-hand), is to embrace authoritarianism and fascism and reject democracy, freedom, and justice.
--Troy D. Smith, a White County native, is a novelist and a history professor at Tennessee Tech. His words do not necessarily represent TTU.
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