The idea of linking the nation and the Bible is not new

"Christian nationalism": A colourful term in the US election campaign

Washington - In the US, the culture war between – sometimes extreme – different world views is part of the political debate. What is relatively new is that critics to the left of centre are now warning of "Christian nationalism".

Published  on 03.04.2024 at 00:01  – by Konrad Ege (epd)

In the US election year 2024, the debate about "Christian nationalism" has come to the fore. For many, this worldview smacks of white supremacism. Critics see it as a threat to democracy. They point to Donald Trump, who is regarded as the supreme nationalist. Christian nationalists are convinced that the USA was founded as a Christian nation and should be governed accordingly. Being a Christian and being an American belong together.

According to surveys, white evangelicals and Republicans are particularly attracted to this way of thinking. This form of Christian faith has very strict moral standards. They demand that those in power clearly reject abortion and LGBTQ rights and stand up for border security. The Bible is valued more highly than state order. Trump is posturing as the defender of Christianity, which is allegedly being persecuted by "radical leftists" and the "corrupt political class".

"Christian nationalism" is viewed very differently, even in Christian America. Some warn that its supporters want to impose theocratic rule. Others fear that the term is intended to defame conservative Christians by pigeonholing them as right-wing extremists. The latter criticism comes from Jerry Newcombe, Executive Director of the organisation "Providence Forum", which campaigns for the spread of "Judeo-Christian values".

Basic idea is "by no means radical"

Newcombe told the Evangelical Press Service (epd) that, historically speaking, the idea that the USA is based on the belief in a creator is "by no means radical". Left-wing activists had manipulated the term "Christian nationalism". The claim that conservative Christians want to enforce the biblical Ten Commandments by law is nonsensical. But many on the left doubt this assertion. They point to the abortion ban sought by Republicans.

Georgia McKee is responsible for the short video app TikTok and other social media at the organisation "Christians Against Christian Nationalism". Christian nationalism also harms the Christian message, McKee told epd. "Christian nationalism" has spread in many places and distorts what Jesus Christ teaches.

Bild: ©KNA

Always in focus: Donald Trump.

The label is of course only of limited use for categorisation, according to McKee. According to her, followers and sympathisers move across a broad spectrum. Some are driven by nostalgia for the supposedly good old days when white Protestants were in charge in the United States. Others took part in the uprising at the US Capitol in January 2021 against Joe Biden's election victory.

The documentary "God & Country" about Christian nationalism is currently showing in US cinemas. Its supporters are by no means a majority in the USA, said filmmaker Rob Reiner. They represent a"virulent minority" that has gained "extraordinary power". The editor-in-chief of the magazine "Christianity Today", Russell Moore, has his say in the film. According to him, Christian nationalism uses Christianity as a "means to an end", with the goal of "some form of authoritarianism".

Complex phenomenon

The definition of Christian nationalism and the role of Christian positions in US politics is complex. This was revealed in a survey presented by the Pew Research Center polling organisation in March of this year. In the survey, 72 per cent of Protestants and 86 per cent of white evangelicals said that the Bible should have an influence on legislation in the USA. 54 per cent of US respondents said they had not heard of "Christian nationalism", with agnostics and atheists most likely to know about it.

When discussing religion and politics, Donald Trump inevitably comes up. Judging by his speeches, the former US president is focusing on conservative Christian voters in his campaign for a new second term in office. In a much-noticed speech to conservative Christian media entrepreneurs in February, Trump said he wanted to put "faith and family" at the centre of the nation and set up a government agency to combat discrimination against Christians in a second term of office.

With regard to those imprisoned because of the attack on the Capitol, Trump said he would immediately review the charges against "political prisoners" of the "Biden regime". He is a "very proud Christian" and Christians need "the hand of our Lord" to win the election on 5 November.

by Konrad Ege (epd)