Today is the anniversary of the insurrection at the Capitol. Thousands of people marched there last January 6th to protest, as is their right. The Capitol Police had granted permits. Many of them also fought with police, broke into the building, defaced it, looked for and threatened members of Congress, and forced the delay of the Constitutional transfer of power from one presidency to the next. We saw the crystallization of a growing threat to democracy that day, the rise of white Christian nationalism.
The attack on the Capitol demonstrated this threat for the whole world to see. The crosses, the flags, the signs, the prayers outside the building and on the Senate floor were all the result of growing influence of this pernicious ideology. The testimony of numerous people arrested that day confirms that white Christian nationalism motivated many of the rioters. According to Samuel Perry, co-author of Taking America Back for God, “The Capitol insurrection was as Christian nationalist as it gets.”
White Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting America’s secular constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism demands that Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It is the antithesis of the secular and pluralistic government envisioned by the Founding Fathers and embodied in the First Amendment.
As an ideology, white Christian nationalism is a permission structure that allowed the January 6th rioters to attack police and disrupt the electoral process because they believed they had the divine right and the duty to do so. That makes it dangerous. We cannot attribute January 6 to Christian nationalists alone. Lies about the outcome of the election certainly played a role, as did other factors. But we cannot overlook the involvement of white Christian nationalists and the way the rhetoric of Christian nationalism has spread to influence millions of people. Framing elections in apocalyptic terms has become much more common. People hear it, too many believe it, and some act on it. The storming of the Capitol shows how serious a threat we face. (For further reading on religion's role in the attack check out "Uncivil Religion" a Collaborative Digital Project Between the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama and the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History)
For an entire year, the Secular Coalition for America has put a spotlight on Christian nationalism's harmful effects and how keeping religion and government separate defends our constitution and our democracy. We have sent a letter to the Select Congressional Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. We expressed our concerns about white Christian nationalism and asked the Committee to hold a hearing to thoroughly investigate the extent and the impact of white Christian nationalism on those who stormed the Capitol on January 6 and on the accompanying election interference. We also asked that the Committee’s final report fully account for white Christian nationalism’s role in the events that day and the days leading up to it.
White Christian nationalism is a clear threat to democracy in America and must be recognized as such. The Select Committee has a vital role in shining a light on this threat. Please join us in asking them to do so.
The Secular Coalition for America works everyday to defend the separation of religion and government in an effort to prevent our secular institutions and public officials from enabling such violent actions like January and anti-democratic ideologies like Christian nationalism. Your support in this work is vital. Please click here if you would like to help us fight Christian nationalism in 2022.
Director of Policy and Government Affairs
Secular Coalition for America