Attacks on communities of color and religious minorities have made clear the persistence of white supremacy. From grocery store shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and El Paso, Texas, to multiple synagogue and mosque attacks, it is made clear that far too many across the country believe that America is, indeed, a white Christian nation; moreover, that violence is undeniably necessary for ensuring it remains that way.
The shooters expressed a wholehearted belief in the “great replacement” theory, which holds that Democrats and Jews are scheming to replace “real” (white) Americans with Black and brown immigrants. Although not all Christian nationalists hold this view, nor do all those who hold this view identify with Christian nationalism themselves, it is evident that both mimic a similar system of beliefs.
Recent years have reminded us of the pervasiveness of white nationalism like never before. Growing up in an incredibly contentious time in American politics, many people my age first began articulating some sense of political literacy during this time of peril. For many, the 2016 presidential election was the first time we couldn’t help but listen. It was the first time we had seen such blatantly racist and bigoted platforms be given national recognition and admiration.
Yet, Donald Trump was hardly the first politician to embolden White nationalist views, nor will he be the last. But he had a significant role in establishing the system of minority rule we see today. Of the six justices that voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, five were nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote — Samuel A. Alito and John G. Roberts by President George W. Bush, and Amy Coney Barrett, Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Neil M. Gorsuch by Trump.
The growing power of Christian nationalists was highlighted recently in a disturbing New York Times article, As Andrew L. Seidel, AU’s vice president of strategic communications put it, “We are seeing them emboldened.”
To Christian nationalists, this isn’t just a political battle of ideologies, but a spiritual fight – with the nation’s salvation at stake. To them, America was founded as a Christian nation. Thus, God had bestowed the American people with the resources and power necessary to spread these Christian values (which, it should be clear, reflect an extreme fundamentalist interpretation of that faith that is rejected by millions of other Christians) no matter the consequence. To them. the end justifies the means.
White Christian nationalists believe their cause is an uphill battle. It’s not.
Throughout history, how many people have been belittled, attacked and killed in challenging the country’s inherently flawed institutions? How much of this country’s history has been defined by discrimination, violence and genocide at the hands of people who believe America is a white man’s country? History has shown that they have real power, no matter how much they deny it.
The true uphill battles have been those movements that challenged the discriminatory standards and policies that have cemented themselves into the American culture and its institutions. One such fight is for the separation of church and state.
To strive for religious freedom is to recognize how we can better the American experiment. It means promising greater freedom, fulfillment and protection to the people it has historically been denied.
Photo: Members of the far-right group Patriot Front march in Washington, D.C., December 2021. Getty Images.