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Should Latter-day Saints be Concerned about "Christian Nationalism?"


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I've been reading a bit about "Christian Nationalism."  As with so many things these days, it's sort of challenging to find a clinical, objective assessment of the concept.  For example, Dictionary.com defines nationalism as 

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  1. spirit or aspirations common to the whole of a nation.
  2. devotion and loyalty to one's own country; patriotism.
  3. excessive patriotism; chauvinism.
  4. the desire for national advancement or political independence.
  5. the policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one's own nation viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations.
  6. an idiom or trait peculiar to a nation.

That seems pretty reasonable.  But then Dictionary.com also has an article comparing "nationalism" with "patriotism" (notably, which was published on April 17, 2020, in the run-up to the presidential election between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden).  This article focuses on connotations (patriotism = good, nationalism = bad) :

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You’ve probably heard of public servants carrying out great acts of patriotism. You’ve probably also heard of concerns of a rising wave of nationalism around the world. Yes, both words involve some form of pride in one’s country, but there is an incredibly important distinction to be made between the two.

Historically, both patriotism and nationalism were used roughly in the same way. But they significantly diverged along the way, and one has a much more positive connotation than the other. Do you know which is which?

What is patriotism?

The word patriotism is a noun that means “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.”

The term often brings to mind people directly involved with the defense of a nation, namely military service members as well as state and local government representatives. For example: The soldiers showed exemplary patriotism defending their country from attack.

Patriotism, however, can take many other forms outside serving in the military and public office. Diplomats, teachers, first responders, and so many more all exemplify patriotism in the many forms of good they do in service of their communities.

There are millions of government employees, as well as millions who volunteer their time in the interest of their country. Individual acts of pride, such as displaying an American flag at one’s home, are also examples of patriotism.

The word patriotism is first recorded in the early 1700s. Interestingly, by the 1770s, the word patriot could refer to “a member of a resistance movement, a freedom fighter,” specifically those who fought against the British in the war for independence—associations that persist today.

Patriotism is based on patriot, which is recorded in the 1500s. This word ultimately derives from Greek patriṓtēs, “fellow-countryman or lineage member.” The root of this word, in turn, means “fatherland.” Paternal, patriarchy, and even English’s own father are related.

What is nationalism?

In most contexts today, nationalism is “the policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one’s own nation viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations.” In short, nationalism is a kind of excessive, aggressive patriotism.

Modern nationalism is rooted, in part, in French and American revolutions that fought for the sovereignty of their people over monarchies. This historic nationalism is generally viewed favorably, a cornerstone of Western liberalism and democracy.

However, fascist regimes have merged the fervor of nationalism with the notions of superiority, especially when it comes to ethnicity and religion. In such contexts,  “patriots” can become those who happened to agree with you or look like you, and “traitors” those who do not.

This form of nationalism is what happens when patriotism gets out of hand and morphs into something more exclusionary, isolationist, and … well, chauvinist. For example, The lecturer’s speech on immigration and foreign policy quickly devolved into nationalism, blaming undocumented migrants for the climbing unemployment rate, making much of the audience feel uneasy.

Such nationalism can result in jingoism, which is a form of extreme nationalism promoting vigilant preparedness for war and an aggressive foreign policy. It can also result in isolationism, or “the policy or doctrine of isolating one’s country from the affairs of other nations by declining to enter into alliances, foreign economic commitments, international agreement.”

Recorded in the early 1800s, nationalism, as you probably guessed, is based on nation, ultimately from a Latin word meaning “birth, tribe.”

How to use patriotism vs. nationalism

When using these words, it’s important to keep context, and connotation, in mind:

Patriotism generally has a positive connotation. It’s used for various positive sentiments, attitudes, and actions involving loving one’s country and serving the great good of all its people.

Nationalism generally has a negative connotation. It’s used for political ideologies and movements that a more extreme and exclusionary love of one’s country—at the expense of foreigners, immigrants, and even people in a country who aren’t believed to belong in some way, often racial and religious grounds.

See also Wikipedia's entry on nationalism:

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Nationalism is an idea and movement that holds that the nation should be congruent with the state. As a movement, nationalism tends to promote the interests of a particular nation (as in a group of people), especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining the nation's sovereignty (self-governance) over its homeland to create a nation state. Nationalism holds that each nation should govern itself, free from outside interference (self-determination), that a nation is a natural and ideal basis for a polity[4] and that the nation is the only rightful source of political power. It further aims to build and maintain a single national identity, based on shared social characteristics of culture, ethnicity, geographic location, language, politics (or the government), religion, traditions and belief in a shared singular history, and to promote national unity or solidarity.[3] Nationalism, therefore, seeks to preserve and foster a nation's traditional culture.[8] There are various definitions of a "nation", which leads to different types of nationalism. The two main divergent forms are ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism.
...
The moral value of nationalism, the relationship between nationalism and 
patriotism, and the compatibility of nationalism and cosmopolitanism are all subjects of philosophical debate. Nationalism can be combined with diverse political goals and ideologies such as conservatism (national conservatism and right-wing populism) or socialism (left-wing nationalism). In practice, nationalism is seen as positive or negative, depending on its ideology and outcomes. Nationalism has been a feature of movements for freedom and justice, has been associated with cultural revivals, and encourages pride in national achievements. It has also been used to legitimize racial, ethnic, and religious divisions, suppress or attack minorities, and undermine human rights and democratic traditions. Radical nationalism combined with racial hatred was a key factor in the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany.

One of the links above, about "different types of nationalism," merits some attention:

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Among scholars of nationalism, a number of types of nationalism have been presented. Nationalism may manifest itself as part of official state ideology or as a popular non-state movement and may be expressed along civic, ethnic, cultural, language, religious or ideological lines. These self-definitions of the nation are used to classify types of nationalism. However, such categories are not mutually exclusive and many nationalist movements combine some or all of these elements to varying degrees. Nationalist movements can also be classified by other criteria, such as scale and location.

Some political theorists make the case that any distinction between forms of nationalism is false. In all forms of nationalism, the populations believe that they share some kind of common culture. A main reason why such typology can be considered false is that it attempts to bend the fairly simple concept of nationalism to explain its many manifestations or interpretations. Arguably, all types of nationalism merely refer to different ways academics throughout the years have tried to define nationalism. This school of thought accepts that nationalism is simply the desire of a nation to self-determine.

Ethnic nationalism
1.1 Expansionist nationalism
1.2 Romantic nationalism
Cultural nationalism
2.1 Language nationalism
2.2 Religious nationalism
2.3 Post-colonial nationalism
Civic nationalism
3.1 Liberal nationalism
Ideological nationalism
4.1 Revolutionary nationalism
4.2 National conservatism
4.3 Liberation nationalism
4.4 Left-wing nationalism

So "Christian Nationalism" would, arguably, be a manifestation of "Religious nationalism":  

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Christian nationalism

 

Main article: Christian nationalism

Christian nationalists focus more on internal politics, such as passing laws that reflect their view of Christianity. In the United States, Christian nationalism tends to be conservative. In countries with a state Church, Christian nationalists, in seeking to preserve the status of a Christian state, uphold an antidisestablishmentarian position. They actively promote religious (Christian) discourses in various fields of social life, from politics and history, to culture and science; with respect to legislation for example, Christian nationalists advocate Sunday blue laws. Distinctive radicalized forms of religious nationalism or clerical nationalism (clero-nationalism or clerico-nationalism) were emerging on the far-right of the political spectrum in various European countries specially during the interwar period in the first half of 20th century.

  • In the Middle Ages, efforts were made to establish a Pan-Christian state by uniting the countries within Christendom. Christian nationalism played a role in this era in which Christians felt the impulse to recover lands in which Christianity flourished. After the rise of Islam, certain parts of North Africa, East Asia, Southern Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East lost Christian control.
  • In Poland, nationalism was always characterized by loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church. Groups like the National Revival of Poland use slogans like Wielka Polska Katolicka (Great Catholic Poland) and protest vigorously against legalization of gay marriage and abortion. Conservative religious groups connected with Radio Maryja are often accused of harboring nationalist and antisemitic attitudes.
  • Religious nationalism characterized by communal adherence to Eastern Orthodoxy and national Orthodox Churches is found in many states of Eastern Europe and in the Russian Federation.

As Latter-day Saints, we may want to look at "religious nationalism" in Russia and how the Church and its members have been treated there (not good).

The Wikipedia entry on "Christian Nationalism" in the U.S. is also worth a look:

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The Christian Liberty Party is a political party that sees the United States as a Christian country.[16]

Christian nationalists believe that the US is meant to be a Christian nation and want to "take back" the US for God. Experts say that Christian-associated support for right-wing politicians and social policies, such as legislation related to immigration, gun control and poverty is best understood as Christian nationalism, rather than as evangelicalism per se. Some studies of white evangelicals show that, among people who self-identify as evangelical Christians, the more they attend church, the more they pray, and the more they read the Bible, the less support they have for nationalist (though not socially conservative) policies. Non-nationalistic evangelicals agree ideologically with Christian nationalists in areas such as patriarchal policies, gender roles, and sexuality.

Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry summarize Christian nationalism with the following statements:

  1. The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation.
  2. The federal government should advocate Christian values.
  3. The federal government should not enforce the strict separation of church and state.
  4. The federal government should allow religious symbols in public spaces.
  5. The success of the United States is part of God's plan.
  6. The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.

Notably, however, Whitehead and Perry, authors of Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States, based the above list on survey/polling results (they framed the above six statements as questions and asked respondents their level of agreement/disagreement), note that "just over seven percent of the population strongly disagrees with every question," while "{o}nly one percent of Americans strongly agree  with all the statements."  Put another way, they state that "most Americans fall somewhere in the middle of the distribution" because "{w}hile a significant number place themselves at the upper and lower ends of the distribution, a majority are neither strongly opposed to nor strongly supportive of Christian nationalism," and that "Americans are not unevenly clumped at either end of the the scale, {and} their support for Christian nationalism is widely distributed along the scale." 

The authors propose that the "distribution" spectrum can be categorized using "rougth guidelines" of 1) "Rejecters" (of Christian nationalism) to 2) "Resisters" to 3) "Accommodators" to 4) "Ambassadors," as follows:

Christian-Nationalism.jpg

The authors further state that "while 50 to 60 percent of Americans may agree or strongly agree with one of the six questions, fewer will answer consistently across all six," such that Americans have "diverse responses to Christian nationalism and the consequences of that ideology for public opinion and political behavior."

Christian nationalism seems far from monolithic, or cohesive, or coherently defined.  Only one percent of Americans "strongly agree" with it, as compared with seven percent who "strongly disagree" with it.

Also, the six statements used by Whitehead and Perry do not seem to have a racial component, and yet racism is a central criticism against Christian Nationalism.

Anyway, in the spirit of Krister Stendahl first Rule of Religious Understanding ("When you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies"), I figured Christianity Today would be a good place to start (written by Paul D. Miller, a professor of the practice of international affairs at Georgetown University and a research fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) :

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What Is Christian Nationalism?
An explainer on how the belief differs from other forms of nationalism, patriotism, and Christianity.
PAUL D. MILLER | FEBRUARY 3, 2021

...

What is patriotism, and is it good?

Patriotism is the love of country. It is different from nationalism, which is an argument about how to define our country. Christians should recognize that patriotism is good because all of God’s creation is good and patriotism helps us appreciate our particular place in it. Our affection and loyalty to a specific part of God’s creation helps us do the good work of cultivating and improving the part we happen to live in. As Christians, we can and should love the United States—which also means working to improve our country by holding it up for critique and working for justice when it errs.

What is nationalism?

There are many definitions of nationalism and an active debate about how best to define it. I reviewed the standard academic literature on nationalism and found several recurring themes. Most scholars agree that nationalism starts with the belief that humanity is divisible into mutually distinct, internally coherent cultural groups defined by shared traits like language, religion, ethnicity, or culture. From there, scholars say, nationalists believe that these groups should each have their own governments; that governments should promote and protect a nation’s cultural identity; and that sovereign national groups provide meaning and purpose for human beings.

What is Christian nationalism?

Christian nationalism is the belief that the American nation is defined by Christianity, and that the government should take active steps to keep it that way. Popularly, Christian nationalists assert that America is and must remain a “Christian nation”—not merely as an observation about American history, but as a prescriptive program for what America must continue to be in the future. Scholars like Samuel Huntington have made a similar argument: that America is defined by its “Anglo-Protestant” past and that we will lose our identity and our freedom if we do not preserve our cultural inheritance.

Christian nationalists do not reject the First Amendment and do not advocate for theocracy, but they do believe that Christianity should enjoy a privileged position in the public square. The term “Christian nationalism,” is relatively new, and its advocates generally do not use it of themselves, but it accurately describes American nationalists who believe American identity is inextricable from Christianity.

What is the problem with nationalism?

Humanity is not easily divisible into mutually distinct cultural units. Cultures overlap and their borders are fuzzy. Since cultural units are fuzzy, they make a poor fit as the foundation for political order. Cultural identities are fluid and hard to draw boundaries around, but political boundaries are hard and semipermanent. Attempting to found political legitimacy on cultural likeness means political order will constantly be in danger of being felt as illegitimate by some group or other. Cultural pluralism is essentially inevitable in every nation.

Is that really a problem, or just an abstract worry?

It is a serious problem. When nationalists go about constructing their nation, they have to define who is, and who is not, part of the nation. But there are always dissidents and minorities who do not or cannot conform to the nationalists’ preferred cultural template. In the absence of moral authority, nationalists can only establish themselves by force. Scholars are almost unanimous that nationalist governments tend to become authoritarian and oppressive in practice. For example, in past generations, to the extent that the United States had a quasi-established official religion of Protestantism, it did not respect true religious freedom. Worse, the United States and many individual states used Christianity as a prop to support slavery and segregation.

That last bit drew my attention as a Latter-day Saint: "When nationalists go about constructing their nation, they have to define who is, and who is not, part of the nation."

More:

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What do Christian nationalists want that is different from normal Christian engagement in politics?

Christian nationalists want to define America as a Christian nation and they want the government to promote a specific cultural template as the official culture of the country. Some have advocated for an amendment to the Constitution to recognize America’s Christian heritage, others to reinstitute prayer in public schools. Some work to enshrine a Christian nationalist interpretation of American history in school curricula, including that America has a special relationship with God or has been “chosen” by him to carry out a special mission on earth. Others advocate for immigration restrictions specifically to prevent a change to American religious and ethnic demographics or a change to American culture. Some want to empower the government to take stronger action to circumscribe immoral behavior.

Some—again, like the scholar Samuel Huntington—have argued that the United States government must defend and enshrine its predominant “Anglo-Protestant” culture to ensure the survival of American democracy. And sometimes Christian nationalism is most evident not in its political agenda, but in the sort of attitude with which it is held: an unstated presumption that Christians are entitled to primacy of place in the public square because they are heirs of the true or essential heritage of American culture, that Christians have a presumptive right to define the meaning of the American experiment because they see themselves as America’s architects, first citizens, and guardians.

"Christian nationalists want to define America as a Christian nation."

Why?  Why would defining America "as a Christian nation" be superior to the America being a religiously pluralistic, secular-but-still-zealously-protective-of-religious-liberty country?

"{T}hey want the government to promote a specific cultural template as the official culture of the country."

Again, why?  Can't we inculcate our preferred values on Sundays and at home?  Why have the government do it?  

And note the emphasis on schools.  Boy, it sure would be nice if schools got back to the basics.  I don't like the over-the-top indoctrination in schools of LGBT stuff, but I also don't like the idea of teachers and civil servants specifically advocating a particular set of religious sentiments on the taxpayer's dime.  

"Some ... have argued that the United States government must defend and enshrine its predominant 'Anglo-Protestant' culture."

Not really liking this.  Governments do a poor job when they expressly elevate one religion or religioius group over others.  

Also, the Church started with growth in mostly-Protestant America and Northern Europe.  In my lifetime, however, these sources have withered, replaced with growth of the Church happening amongst mostly-Hispanics (North and South America), the Phillipines, Polynesia, and Africa.  Most of these folks are neither "Anglo" nor "Protestant."  The Latter-day Saints are, in ever increasing measures, intertwined in terms of racial/ethnic categories, which should put us at odds with an ideology pushing a particular racial/ethnic "culture."  As Latter-day Saints I think we should be building our own culture, rather than pushing for the government to "enshrine" one.  And since we will, in the end, not quite fit in as "Protestants," we probably ought not support enshrining that either.

Back to the Christianity Today article:

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How is this dangerous for America?

Christian nationalism tends to treat other Americans as second-class citizens. If it were fully implemented, it would not respect the full religious liberty of all Americans. Empowering the state through “morals legislation” to regulate conduct always carries the risk of overreaching, setting a bad precedent, and creating governing powers that could be used later be used against Christians. Additionally, Christian nationalism is an ideology held overwhelmingly by white Americans, and it thus tends to exacerbate racial and ethnic cleavages. In recent years, the movement has grown increasingly characterized by fear and by a belief that Christians are victims of persecution. Some are beginning to argue that American Christians need to prepare to fight, physically, to preserve America’s identity, an argument that played into the January 6 riot.

The concern here about "exacerbat{ing} racial and ethnic cleavages" is, I think, a fair point.  But I'm not sure it is a basis for characterizing Christian Nationalism as inherently racist.

The above concern about a burgeoning willingness to resort to violence to pursue political objectives.

The article concludes well:

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Can Christians be politically engaged without being Christian nationalists?

Yes. American Christians in the past were exemplary in helping establish the American experiment, and many American Christians worked to end slavery and segregation and other evils. They did so because they believed Christianity required them to work for justice. But they worked to advance Christian principles, not Christian power or Christian culture, which is the key distinction between normal Christian political engagement and Christian nationalism. Normal Christian political engagement is humble, loving, and sacrificial; it rejects the idea that Christians are entitled to primacy of place in the public square or that Christians have a presumptive right to continue their historical predominance in American culture. Today, Christians should seek to love their neighbors by pursuing justice in the public square, including by working against abortion, promoting religious liberty, fostering racial justice, protecting the rule of law, and honoring constitutional processes. That agenda is different from promoting Christian culture, Western heritage, or Anglo-Protestant values.

Very good stuff.

Another pretty good resource: Christian Nationalism Explained: An Interview with Rutgers Professor Joseph Williams

Here is a July 2022 article by Sam Brunson at By Common Consent: Christian Nationalis{m} Is Incompatible with Mormonism

Some excerpts: 

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Yesterday, this piece on Christian nationalism ended up in my Twitter feed. In it, Amanda Tyler, the Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty explains why it is absolutely critical for Christians to step up and expressly denounce Christian nationalism.
...

So as a believer, let me join with Tyler in saying, Christian nationalism (of any form) has no place in my religion.

Now, as an abstract matter, Mormonism risks devolving into Christian nationalism. We preach a divinely-inspired Constitution. Church leaders simultaneously governed Nauvoo and Deseret. Joseph Smith put together the Council of 50, a “theodemocratic” shadow government, ready to step in when the elected government collapsed.

But look a little closer at all of these and you can see church leaders expressly rejecting the idea of privileging Mormonism (or Christianity more broadly) and, in fact, expressly adopting a division between civil and religious authority and governance.
...
{Joseph} Smith was explicit about the inclusiveness of his vision of government. He explained that:

The Saints can testify whether I am willing to lay down my life for my brethren. If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a Mormon, I am bold to declare before heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter day Saints would trample upon the rights of the other denomination <Roman Catholics> or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. It is a love of liberty which inspires my Soul, civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race, love of liberty was diffused into my Soul by my grandfathers, while they dandled me on their knees; and shall I want friends? No.

And this inclusiveness was not just rhetorical. Nauvoo enacted an ordinance guaranteeing religious liberty in the city:

Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Nauvoo, That the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Latter-Day-Saints, Quakers, Episcopalieans Universalits Unitarians, Mahommedans, and all other religious sects and denominations whatever, shall have free toleration and equal Privilieges in this city,

Honestly, the ordinance goes a little far imho: it criminalizes “ridiculing abusing, or otherwise depreciating another in consequence of his religion or of disturbing, or interrupting any religious meeting,” and offenders faced a $500 fine, six months of imprisonment, or both.

But the ordinance expressly rejects any claim to Christian nationalism: it not only implicitly, but explicitly includes non-Christians in its list of denominations that enjoy equal rights in the city.
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(FWIW, I suspect that many Christian nationalists would reject Mormons’ claims to be Christian. Which, whatever. The BJC is rejecting their claims to represent Christianity and the United States. Even if that movement doesn’t recognize my claims to Christianity, I want it to be clear to other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other Mormon movements that the idea is equally incompatible with our history. And that’s leaving aside the racist components of the movement, which have been explicitly and aggressively condemned by church leaders.)

Solid points, all.

This article posits that Latter-day Saints, when plotted on the above Whitehead/Perry spectrum, "are comparable to evangelicals nationally":

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In late October 2020, at the height of the presidential election, Y2 Analytics conducted surveys in Utah and Arizona that included questions to measure Christian Nationalism, including it for the first time among significant samples of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Both surveys are among likely 2020 voters and contained identical questions about presidential vote choice and Christian Nationalism sentiment. Latter-day Saint likely voters subscribe to Christian Nationalism sentiments at high rates in both Utah and Arizona. In fact, as a whole they are comparable to evangelicals nationally (using data from the 2017 Baylor Religion Survey).

image.png

When the questions are grouped into the Christian Nationalism scale, a plurality of Latter-day Saint voters in Utah (40%) and Arizona (43%) score in the highest tier of Christian Nationalism, called “Ambassadors.” Another 36% in Utah and 31% in Arizona are “Accommodators,” or those who subscribe to many Christian Nationalist sentiments. Only a quarter (24% in Utah and 26% in Arizona) fall into the lower two categories of Christian Nationalism where few or none of these viewpoints are held. Roughly the same proportions of Latter-day Saints and evangelical Protestants are Christian Nationalism “Ambassadors.” But ironically the most fervent belief in Christian Nationalism among evangelical Protestants is accompanied by a belief in boundaries that exclude outsiders that threaten their belief in the status of United States as a fundamentally Christian nation, whether because of race, ethnicity, or religion. Some of the main proponents of Christian Nationalist rhetoric within evangelical circles comes from religious and political leaders such as Robert Jeffress and Mike Huckabee who do not believe that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are Christians. In short, Latter-day Saints who express the strongest Christian Nationalist beliefs would not be welcomed as fellow Christians by evangelical Protestants who share their sentiments.

...

National observers have often wondered about the gap between President Trump’s behavior and the values held by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This puzzle is partly answered by the fact that like many evangelical Protestants, many Latter-day Saint voters subscribe to Christian Nationalism sentiments and that some Latter-day Saint voters believe God has chosen Trump or that his election is part of God’s overall plan, despite his non-religious demeanor.

Again, there does not seem to be a "racial" component in the above analysis, and yet "Christian Nationalism" appears to be getting correlated with "White Nationalism."  For example, in 2019 the Deseret News interviewed Andrew Whitehead: What is white nationalism? And what does it have to do with religion? Some excerpts:

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In the wake of this weekend's tragic shootings in Texas and Ohio, President Donald Trump condemned harmful ideas and violent people, urging Americans to focus on unity instead of spreading hate.

"In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated," he said.

But to be defeated, they have to be understood. And that's not an easy task, according to Andrew Whitehead, an associate professor of sociology at Clemson University.

Most people can memorize the definition of racism or white nationalism and grasp that some Americans think white people deserve to be in power more than people of color. However, it's more difficult to recognize or grapple with how these ideas interact with more common beliefs.

For example, it's relatively common to think America is meant to be a Christian nation. But, in some cases, this belief is infused with racism and bigotry and becomes a reason to harm members of racial or religious minority groups, said Whitehead, the co-author of a forthcoming book titled "Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States."

White nationalists believe whites deserve privileged status in the United States and Christian nationalists believe Christians deserve the same. Both ideologies stand in the way of unity, he said.

On Monday, the Deseret News spoke with Whitehead about dangerous ideologies and how to address them. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Deseret News: How do you define white supremacy and nationalism?

Andrew Whitehead: White supremacy is a desire to see white people have a privileged position in the public sphere. It means you want white people to have greater access to power and to positions of authority.

White supremacy and white nationalism are closely related concepts. White nationalists believe white privilege should be built into social institutions. They believe that to be American is to be white.

DN: And so Christian nationalists think you have to be Christian to be truly American?

AW: Yes, Christian nationalism is the desire to see Christianity hold a place of prominence. It's intertwined with the idea of white racial superiority.

What we've found in our research is that the more strongly you embrace Christian nationalism, the more likely you are to hold negative attitudes toward racial and religious minorities. That's consistent over time and in different surveys.

There's the supposed nexus.  Whitehead is suggesting that "the more strongly you embrace Christian nationalism, the more likely you are to hold negative attitudes toward racial and religious minorities," and that this is "consistent over time and in different surveys."

I would like to better understand this.  If it is true, the Latter-day Saints need to know about this nexus and be cautious of it.  

The article continues:

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The idea that America should be a Christian nation undergirds a history of white supremacy and some Christians' support for slavery in the past.

DN: Surveys have shown that around one-third of U.S. adults believe being Christian is a "very important" part of being American. Does that mean one-third of Americans are white supremacists?

AW: Many Americans believe this is a Christian nation but don't actively hate racial or religious minorities. As the author Jemar Tisby has pointed out, they can still be part of the problem.

Tisby describes American culture like a moving walkway in the airport. We're pulled toward racism and white privilege. Even if you're standing still and not actively attacking minority groups, you're being pulled in that direction.

Until you turn around and move in the opposite direction and oppose people who say harmful things, you're allowing white Christian nationalism to be taken for granted.
...
DN: But again, wanting more Christian voices in the public square isn't an extreme belief. Is it fair to equate that with nationalism or white supremacy?

AW: I think the key is asking whether those that want to see more Christianity in the public sphere want it to be the only voice there. If you're desiring Christianity to be privileged, it begins to ostracize those who belong to other faiths. It becomes more problematic.

Making room for more Christian voices shouldn't require silencing people of other religious faiths and races.

DN: Now that President Trump and others have started talking about white supremacy and nationalism, how do we move from talk into action? What can we do to stop harmful beliefs?

AW: I do think calling them out is part of the solution.

Some Christian leaders recently joined together to do that. They spoke out against the idea that Christianity should be privileged.

When you speak out about problematic beliefs, you may help others speak out, too. They'll see you talking about it online and think, 'OK. This isn't right.'"

The Deseret News followed up on this topic in February 2021:  How Americans can address Christian nationalism in their congregations and communities

Worth a reas.  This one also (a May 2022 opinion piece in the Deseret News) : Perspective: What’s the difference between Christian nationalism and healthy patriotism?

Also probably worth a read: 

To sum up:

  • The apparent racial component of Christian Nationalism (in some quarters) is problematic.
  • The advocacy of intertwining religion with the State is problematic.
  • The notion that the Latter-day Saints would be welcomed to the table should ardent Christian Nationalists have their way is . . . pretty iffy.
  • I have questions about the legitimacy of connecting "Christian Nationalism" to "White Nationalism," as Whitehead does above.  I'll need to look at the data.  

Thoughts?

Thanks,

-Smac

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20 minutes ago, Amulek said:

I've never been worried about "Christian Nationalism" ever becoming a thing in reality, but it is the sort of thing that some of my atheist friends / acquaintances have been paranoid about for decades.

 

It already is a thing in reality.   The question is are you going to feed that thing with votes to give it more power? 

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36 minutes ago, The Nehor said:

Considering the Christian Nationalists are already asserting that there is no place for non-Christians in their new nation how is this even a question? Also the rampant anti-Semitism should remind us of some passages in the Book of Mormon warning what the fate of those who persecute the Jews will be.

If you want to argue that members of the Church are Christians I hope your rhetorical skills are up to snuff so you can convince whoever is dragging you to the camps that this is the case. Also if you think it is okay because you believe you will be okay you are devoid of empathy.

Another example: My mother was recently complaining about how the local school district does not hold classes on major Jewish holidays. They have done so at least since I was in elementary school some 50 years ago. “I just don’t think they be accommodating a specific religious group. It’s not fair to the other kids.” Mind you, my school was at least one-third Jewish, meaning there were a lot of students who would be absent on Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah. I said maybe we should have classes on Christmas Day to be fair to everyone. She was not pleased. 

A phone conversation from a few weeks ago:

Mom: “I’m not racist, but—“

Dad in the background: “I am! How could anyone not be?”

Edited by jkwilliams
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It's come full circle, it feels like. First, the native Americans were on the US lands before the whites showed up. And second, the whites started thinking they had to convert them all to be Christian. And the Christian whites took the blacks into slavery. And our very own church was late to the game as far as the blacks not getting the PH until 1978. It seems that White Nationalists is not a new thing. It's been the elephant in the room, so to speak.

But @smac97I appreciate this very laid out topic, and your thoughts.

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7 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

A phone conversation from a few weeks ago:

Mom: “I’m not racist, but—“

Dad in the background: “I am! How could anyone not be?”

I am racist. Like other things that are abhorrent to God, I am not fully free of racism. Where I am perhaps marginally better (than I could be) is that I wish to be open and honest about what is.

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1 minute ago, Chum said:

I am racist. Like other things that are abhorrent to God, I am not fully free of racism. Where I am perhaps marginally better (than I could be) is that I wish to be open and honest about what is.

My dad’s tone was one of pride. Makes me very sad. 

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1 hour ago, pogi said:

It already is a thing in reality.   

In America? I don't think so, but maybe we are operating under different definitions. I certainly see that there is some overlap between the sorts of policies that Christian Nationalists would want to enact and the kinds of policies we see being rolled out in certain parts of the country, but I don't think there's any danger of Christian Nationalism taking over the country - though they may have a slightly marginally better shot at doing so than the national socialist party.

 

1 hour ago, pogi said:

The question is are you going to feed that thing with votes to give it more power? 

Doubtful. I've been a staunch Libertarian since I was in college, which means that I have (functionally) given nobody power for decades now. ;)

 

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The entire concept of "Christian nationalism" is an attempt to exclude traditional Americanism from civic life and tie it to White Supremacy.  It has clearly been an organized campaign and an effort to make good people question their beliefs. 

America 50 years ago was 85% or so white and 90% or so Christian.  It was clearly a nation of Christian Englishmen and most people assimilated into the WASP culture and values. 

It isn't a secret that there have been those who have attempted to change America into an "idea" and not a place,  something that is the birthright of the entire world.   

Samuel Huntington was correct that we were losing, even 25 years ago, the grand organizing forces of the country.   Robert Putnam found that increasing diversity led to lower civic virtue and social trust.

The idea of the Melting Pot is now "racist".  And straight white men are the only acceptable group to discriminate against today.  It doesn't matter about death rates, suicide rates,  or anything else. 

In short, "Christian nationalism" is a bogeyman scare tactic.  Those hyping the issue are just creating a new "other" to be attacked, in an effort to unify their coalition against the tradition of the country.

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54 minutes ago, Amulek said:

In America?

Yes.  I don't understand your reluctance on this.  Do you not believe there is a nationalist movement in America?  Do you believe these people don't have power and influence on policy and decision making?  They are in the legislature already.  They have been president.  They are voting and making decisions based on their nationalistic ideals.    It has historically influenced policy and decision making.   It has power to influence policies related to ethnic and racial minorities, attitudes towards immigrants, and foreign policy and the role the US plays in the world in general and in prosecuting foreign wars, how we seek international cooperation, international trade, and global environmental issues.   

Quote

Doubtful. I've been a staunch Libertarian since I was in college, which means that I have (functionally) given nobody power for decades now. ;)

You don't vote?

Edited by pogi
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21 minutes ago, SkyRock said:

The entire concept of "Christian nationalism" is an attempt to exclude traditional Americanism from civic life and tie it to White Supremacy.  It has clearly been an organized campaign and an effort to make good people question their beliefs. 

America 50 years ago was 85% or so white and 90% or so Christian.  It was clearly a nation of Christian Englishmen and most people assimilated into the WASP culture and values. 

It isn't a secret that there have been those who have attempted to change America into an "idea" and not a place,  something that is the birthright of the entire world.   

Samuel Huntington was correct that we were losing, even 25 years ago, the grand organizing forces of the country.   Robert Putnam found that increasing diversity led to lower civic virtue and social trust.

The idea of the Melting Pot is now "racist".  And straight white men are the only acceptable group to discriminate against today.  It doesn't matter about death rates, suicide rates,  or anything else. 

In short, "Christian nationalism" is a bogeyman scare tactic.  Those hyping the issue are just creating a new "other" to be attacked, in an effort to unify their coalition against the tradition of the country.

Yes, I remember what it was like in my childhood, 50 years ago. America was a place where Irish Catholics, black people, Jews, Greeks, Italians, Latin Americans, and atheists all lived WASP culture and lifestyles. We all celebrated white English culture as the ideal in which we all could melt. 

Nowadays, as a white male in my late fifties, I face unprecedented discrimination and distrust of people who “other” me. 

Thank heavens no one believes in Christian nationalism!

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22 minutes ago, SkyRock said:

The entire concept of "Christian nationalism" is an attempt to exclude traditional Americanism from civic life and tie it to White Supremacy.  It has clearly been an organized campaign and an effort to make good people question their beliefs. 

America 50 years ago was 85% or so white and 90% or so Christian.  It was clearly a nation of Christian Englishmen and most people assimilated into the WASP culture and values. 

It isn't a secret that there have been those who have attempted to change America into an "idea" and not a place,  something that is the birthright of the entire world.   

Samuel Huntington was correct that we were losing, even 25 years ago, the grand organizing forces of the country.   Robert Putnam found that increasing diversity led to lower civic virtue and social trust.

The idea of the Melting Pot is now "racist".  And straight white men are the only acceptable group to discriminate against today.  It doesn't matter about death rates, suicide rates,  or anything else. 

In short, "Christian nationalism" is a bogeyman scare tactic.  Those hyping the issue are just creating a new "other" to be attacked, in an effort to unify their coalition against the tradition of the country.

Unlike the boogeyman it is real and getting louder. To White Christians it is not a threat. To others (minorities, followers of other religions, lgbt folks) it is an existential threat.

Also traditional Americanism IS tied to white supremacy. It is time to cut those cords but unsurprisingly there is a reactionary backlash to that from (surprise) white supremacists. The house needs to be cleaned and the white supremacists shamed back into the boonies instead of being given the spotlight and invited to the table.

The poor straight white men………whatever shall be be done for these poor souls that have disproportionate political and economic power? They get punished less than minorities for criminal activity and get paid more. However some meanie said something about them on social media and it hurt their widdle feelings. Oh please. Grow up. I have been told twice today in the last week that me and “my kind” should be rounded up in camps for the good of American society.

If you want a Christian ethnostate then move to one. They are out there. America was supposed to be something different. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are clear on that. It was supposed to NOT be based on “blood and soil” like other nations but on shared ideals of opportunity and freedom. The ideal was limited to white Northern Europeans at first but it slowly expanded. Very fitfully and slowly. Now you want to tear that down, cross out the First Amendment, and call it a day. If you somehow win know they WILL come for the “Mormons” eventually.

Note: Yes, the whole “move” thing is satire of those who tell immigrants and the like to shut up, sit down, and just be grateful instead of being participants in the society they live in. That is what those immigrants hear all the time if they want to have a voice or seek election to office. Only “blood and soil” Americans are permitted to critique their nation. The newcomers should just kiss the feet of those who happened to have been born here for the privilege of being let in. Le sigh.

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46 minutes ago, SkyRock said:

The entire concept of "Christian nationalism" is an attempt to exclude traditional Americanism from civic life and tie it to White Supremacy.  It has clearly been an organized campaign and an effort to make good people question their beliefs. 

America 50 years ago was 85% or so white and 90% or so Christian.  It was clearly a nation of Christian Englishmen and most people assimilated into the WASP culture and values. 

It isn't a secret that there have been those who have attempted to change America into an "idea" and not a place,  something that is the birthright of the entire world.   

Samuel Huntington was correct that we were losing, even 25 years ago, the grand organizing forces of the country.   Robert Putnam found that increasing diversity led to lower civic virtue and social trust.

The idea of the Melting Pot is now "racist".  And straight white men are the only acceptable group to discriminate against today.  It doesn't matter about death rates, suicide rates,  or anything else. 

In short, "Christian nationalism" is a bogeyman scare tactic.  Those hyping the issue are just creating a new "other" to be attacked, in an effort to unify their coalition against the tradition of the country.

Archie Bunker, is that you?

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1 hour ago, jkwilliams said:

the reintroduction of religious control in government functions, such as the recent court case about pre-game prayers.

Hmmm. I would have thought you would have been better-read about the case than this. The case wasn't about pre-game prayers, especially ones mandated by a government body, and had nothing to do with reintroduction of religious control in government functions. <-- Unless one believes that any private religious observance is unconstitutional.

For a number of years, an assistant coach at a public high school would have a private prayer at the 50-yard line after football games. He was often joined by student athletes, who would surround him, heads bowed, at the field’s midway mark. Someone decided they didn't like this, and reported him to the school district. The SD, in an apparent concern over state establishment of religion, warned him not to pray if it would involve students. There was some tussle over whether he was obeying the district's orders (the students who joined him were voluntarily doing so on their own initiative), and they fired him. He took this to court, and it ended up with SCOTUS.

Essentially, the court's decision had these key take-aways:

  1. The school district seemed to be under the mistaken impression that it had to scrub any private religious expression from the public square.
  2. Bremerton School District had focused on suppressing religious expression, rather than on Free Exercise and pluralism, and Justice Gorsuch hinted as much.
  3. The Founders did not countenance such a limited understanding of religious exercise, and the Court’s long-standing precedents don’t support it.

The school district was concerned that by his private prayers at the 50-yard line that this coach was violating the establishment clause of the first amendment. But the court ruled that his quiet prayers after school football games — while visible to others — in no way represented a government establishment or endorsement of religion.

Justice Gorsuch wrote: "Joseph Kennedy lost his job as a high school football coach because he knelt at midfield after games to offer a quiet prayer of thanks. Mr. Kennedy prayed during a period when school employees were free to speak with a friend, call for a reservation at a restaurant, check email, or attend to other personal matters. He offered his prayers quietly while his students were otherwise occupied. Still, the Bremerton School District disciplined him anyway. It did so because it thought anything less could lead a reasonable observer to conclude (mistakenly) that it endorsed Mr. Kennedy’s religious beliefs. That reasoning was misguided. Both the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect expressions like Mr. Kennedy’s. Nor does a proper understanding of the Amendment’s Establishment Clause require the government to single out private religious speech for special disfavor. The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike."

I know a little about establishment of religion. I spent 2 years in a Canadian high school in 1967-69. Every morning O Canada was played over the classroom annunciators while we sat in homeroom, and at the conclusion of the song, a pupil who had volunteered to do so recited the Lord's Prayer. When my family moved to England, again I was subjected to religion in public school. We had a weekly assembly in my school and we not only sang hymns (Church of England hymns, but some of them could be found in the LDS hymnbook, too), but we got little recited prayer, too. The annual Speech Day included an actual C of E clergyman who came to give a sermon. And then there were the daily lunchtimes, when the various "houses" would sit down to eat a hot lunch prepared by the school kitchen (all ages, from 12 to 18), before anyone would begin eating we always had someone say "grace", which in this case was the standard C of E "For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful." It was great fun, especially after I got appointed to be the House Captain and I assigned who among the older boys would say this little "prayerlet" before the meal -- it was fun especially since when I assigned myself into the rotation I would say a "proper" blessing on the food -- at first I got peculiar looks, but eventually they got used to it. Perhaps this totally destroyed the value of the education we received at these schools.

I am sure both the Canadian and English schools no longer do this. My English stepson says that only happens now in the schools operated by the Church of England.

 

 

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4 hours ago, SkyRock said:

It was clearly a nation of Christian Englishmen

I need to double check….you are serious about this claim?  Or are you doing a parody or something?

If you are serious, are you aware of the huge influx of Scandinavians into Utah to join Zion (they were 45,000 in 1862 according to one church leader and still growing, Swedes alone got up to almost 5% of the state at one time).  They settled in communities often together as stalwart saints and some never did get the hang of English, but published church and civic news in their native language and even had church meetings in Swedish, Danish, etc.  

Were they somehow not as American in your view as the Saints that came from England?

Edited by Calm
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2 hours ago, smac97 said:

I've been reading a bit about "Christian Nationalism."  As with so many things these days, it's sort of challenging to find a clinical, objective assessment of the concept.  For example, Dictionary.com defines nationalism as 

That seems pretty reasonable.  But then Dictionary.com also has an article comparing "nationalism" with "patriotism" (notably, which was published on April 17, 2020, in the run-up to the presidential election between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden).  This article focuses on connotations (patriotism = good, nationalism = bad) :

See also Wikipedia's entry on nationalism:

One of the links above, about "different types of nationalism," merits some attention:

So "Christian Nationalism" would, arguably, be a manifestation of "Religious nationalism":  

As Latter-day Saints, we may want to look at "religious nationalism" in Russia and how the Church and its members have been treated there (not good).

The Wikipedia entry on "Christian Nationalism" in the U.S. is also worth a look:

Notably, however, Whitehead and Perry, authors of Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States, based the above list on survey/polling results (they framed the above six statements as questions and asked respondents their level of agreement/disagreement), note that "just over seven percent of the population strongly disagrees with every question," while "{o}nly one percent of Americans strongly agree  with all the statements."  Put another way, they state that "most Americans fall somewhere in the middle of the distribution" because "{w}hile a significant number place themselves at the upper and lower ends of the distribution, a majority are neither strongly opposed to nor strongly supportive of Christian nationalism," and that "Americans are not unevenly clumped at either end of the the scale, {and} their support for Christian nationalism is widely distributed along the scale." 

The authors propose that the "distribution" spectrum can be categorized using "rougth guidelines" of 1) "Rejecters" (of Christian nationalism) to 2) "Resisters" to 3) "Accommodators" to 4) "Ambassadors," as follows:

Christian-Nationalism.jpg

The authors further state that "while 50 to 60 percent of Americans may agree or strongly agree with one of the six questions, fewer will answer consistently across all six," such that Americans have "diverse responses to Christian nationalism and the consequences of that ideology for public opinion and political behavior."

Christian nationalism seems far from monolithic, or cohesive, or coherently defined.  Only one percent of Americans "strongly agree" with it, as compared with seven percent who "strongly disagree" with it.

Also, the six statements used by Whitehead and Perry do not seem to have a racial component, and yet racism is a central criticism against Christian Nationalism.

Anyway, in the spirit of Krister Stendahl first Rule of Religious Understanding ("When you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies"), I figured Christianity Today would be a good place to start (written by Paul D. Miller, a professor of the practice of international affairs at Georgetown University and a research fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) :

That last bit drew my attention as a Latter-day Saint: "When nationalists go about constructing their nation, they have to define who is, and who is not, part of the nation."

More:

"Christian nationalists want to define America as a Christian nation."

Why?  Why would defining America "as a Christian nation" be superior to the America being a religiously pluralistic, secular-but-still-zealously-protective-of-religious-liberty country?

"{T}hey want the government to promote a specific cultural template as the official culture of the country."

Again, why?  Can't we inculcate our preferred values on Sundays and at home?  Why have the government do it?  

And note the emphasis on schools.  Boy, it sure would be nice if schools got back to the basics.  I don't like the over-the-top indoctrination in schools of LGBT stuff, but I also don't like the idea of teachers and civil servants specifically advocating a particular set of religious sentiments on the taxpayer's dime.  

"Some ... have argued that the United States government must defend and enshrine its predominant 'Anglo-Protestant' culture."

Not really liking this.  Governments do a poor job when they expressly elevate one religion or religioius group over others.  

Also, the Church started with growth in mostly-Protestant America and Northern Europe.  In my lifetime, however, these sources have withered, replaced with growth of the Church happening amongst mostly-Hispanics (North and South America), the Phillipines, Polynesia, and Africa.  Most of these folks are neither "Anglo" nor "Protestant."  The Latter-day Saints are, in ever increasing measures, intertwined in terms of racial/ethnic categories, which should put us at odds with an ideology pushing a particular racial/ethnic "culture."  As Latter-day Saints I think we should be building our own culture, rather than pushing for the government to "enshrine" one.  And since we will, in the end, not quite fit in as "Protestants," we probably ought not support enshrining that either.

Back to the Christianity Today article:

The concern here about "exacerbat{ing} racial and ethnic cleavages" is, I think, a fair point.  But I'm not sure it is a basis for characterizing Christian Nationalism as inherently racist.

The above concern about a burgeoning willingness to resort to violence to pursue political objectives.

The article concludes well:

Very good stuff.

Another pretty good resource: Christian Nationalism Explained: An Interview with Rutgers Professor Joseph Williams

Here is a July 2022 article by Sam Brunson at By Common Consent: Christian Nationalis{m} Is Incompatible with Mormonism

Some excerpts: 

Solid points, all.

This article posits that Latter-day Saints, when plotted on the above Whitehead/Perry spectrum, "are comparable to evangelicals nationally":

Again, there does not seem to be a "racial" component in the above analysis, and yet "Christian Nationalism" appears to be getting correlated with "White Nationalism."  For example, in 2019 the Deseret News interviewed Andrew Whitehead: What is white nationalism? And what does it have to do with religion? Some excerpts:

There's the supposed nexus.  Whitehead is suggesting that "the more strongly you embrace Christian nationalism, the more likely you are to hold negative attitudes toward racial and religious minorities," and that this is "consistent over time and in different surveys."

I would like to better understand this.  If it is true, the Latter-day Saints need to know about this nexus and be cautious of it.  

The article continues:

The Deseret News followed up on this topic in February 2021:  How Americans can address Christian nationalism in their congregations and communities

Worth a reas.  This one also (a May 2022 opinion piece in the Deseret News) : Perspective: What’s the difference between Christian nationalism and healthy patriotism?

Also probably worth a read: 

To sum up:

  • The apparent racial component of Christian Nationalism (in some quarters) is problematic.
  • The advocacy of intertwining religion with the State is problematic.
  • The notion that the Latter-day Saints would be welcomed to the table should ardent Christian Nationalists have their way is . . . pretty iffy.
  • I have questions about the legitimacy of connecting "Christian Nationalism" to "White Nationalism," as Whitehead does above.  I'll need to look at the data.  

Thoughts?

Thanks,

-Smac

How does one debate a dictionary writer? No footnotes!

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