Christian Nationalism is fundamentally anti-democratic. That message came through loud and clear during Americans United’s Summit for Religious Freedom (SRF) last weekend.
Bradley Onishi, a professor of philosophy at the University of San Francisco, host of the “Straight White Jesus” podcast and author of the recent book Preparing for War: The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism, said Christian Nationalists have embraced “an authoritarian turn in American politics,” and noted that some of them admire dictators such as Vladimir Putin.
“So, democracy is … kind of annoying,” he said. “And you know what’s helpful? Authoritarianism. Because authoritarianism allows you to act without hearing the voices of others. … Authoritarianism is convenient for the Christian Nationalists because it is the only way they can get what they want.”
No Voting For You
Katherine Stewart, a journalist and author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, pointed out that leaders of the anti-abortion movement have endorsed voter suppression, with some going so far as to suggest that women should be denied the right to vote.
Christian Nationalists, Stewart said, seek to advance their agenda “by anti-democratic means” and enshrine “a permanent minority rule by reactionary extremists.”
This trend has accelerated in recent years. Christian Nationalist organizations backed President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. When Trump and his allies failed to reverse the results in court and a mob attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, they made excuses for the violence and tried to shift the blame to groups that had nothing to do with it. They then endorsed voter suppression bills in several states.
Voter suppression – and its cousin, gerrymandering – on the surface don’t appear to be church-state issues. But they’re tools Christian Nationalists use to achieve power and subvert democracy, so they must be on our radar screen. If there’s one thing we know about these groups, it’s this: If they can’t win fairly, they’ll cheat.
During SRF, Americans United and its cosponsor, the Proteus Fund, brought together activists from different camps – the reproductive rights community, LGBTQ rights activists, public education proponents, people fighting for racial justice, progressive religious leaders, secular activists, youth leaders, etc. – who were united in a belief that church-state separation is the connecting thread for so many of our rights. Activists working to ensure that our elections are fair and that everyone can participate deserve a seat at the table as well.
AU’s “One Nation, All Beliefs” campaign promotes the need for a national recommitment to the separation of church and state because so many of our fundamental rights and the issues that we care deeply about depend upon this foundational American principle. Join us by pledging to keep church and state separate.