In this episode of New Lines’ Wider Angle podcast, Riada Asimovic Akyol speaks with Andrew Whitehead, one of the foremost scholars of Christian nationalism in the United States. They discuss the perceptions of Christianity’s relationship to American identity and civic life as well as the findings of Whitehead’s research about “Christian nationalists” among different ideological adherents and traditions.
Whitehead is the lead author, with Samuel Perry, of the award-winning book “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States.” His next book, “American Idolatry: How Christian Nationalism Betrays the Gospel and Threatens the Church,” is due out in 2023.
According to the findings of one recent national survey on the subject, about 25% of American adults, which would represent more than 50 million people, responded that the label “Christian nationalist” described them either “very well” (11%) or somewhat well (14%).
In this conversation, Whitehead explains some of the theological and ideological beliefs that Christian nationalism includes and elaborates on how Americans feel about the idea that the United States is a Christian nation or that it should be a Christian nation. He also sheds light on an important distinction between influential “postmillennial” and “premillennial” advocates of Christian nationalism. At the same time, Whitehead clarifies why it is important to distinguish Christian nationalism from religious commitment and that Christian nationalism does not necessarily mean talking about “evangelicalism” or “white conservative Protestantism.” Still, about 58% of white evangelicals who participated in the research responded that “Christian nationalist” described them somewhat or very well, while that number was 20% among white liberal Protestants or white Catholics.
Whitehead asserts that “Christian nationalists” in the U.S. fear that their particular moral values are threatened and that they might lose current privileges, so they fight for keeping or gaining power in the public sphere. In many ways, Whitehead argues that Christian nationalists resemble those who embrace similar blendings of religion and nationalist ideology from different religious traditions, especially when compared with people from the same religious tradition with opposite beliefs.
Listen to the conversation to hear more about the powerful myths, symbols and narratives that Christian nationalists use to advocate a special kind of Christianity and its place in America’s civic life. Whitehead powerfully illuminates the wider angle about this ideology and why strong support for it is “a threat to a pluralistic democratic society.”
It’s available wherever you get your podcasts, and you can watch the conversation on New Lines magazine’s YouTube channel here.
“Wider Angle” is produced and hosted by Riada Asimovic Akyol.