News and Notes: Christian Nationalism; the Very Vocal Minority

Published by Minnesota Atheists on

By George Francis Kane

Head shot of George, smiling in jacket and tie.

In February the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Brookings Institution released the findings of their survey of the attitudes of Americans towards Christian nationalism. The study sought to quantify the support and opposition to Christian nationalism and to see how that breaks down by factors such as religion, political allegiance and education. In early March I watched an Americans United for Separation of Church and State webinar featuring Robert Jones of PRRI, who detailed the findings.

The study began by grouping respondents according to their response to five defining tenets of Christian nationalism:

  1. God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society.
  2. The U.S. Government should declare America a Christian nation.
  3. Being a Christian is an important part of being truly American.
  4. If the U.S. moves away from our Christian foundations, we will not have a country anymore.
  5. U.S. laws should be based on Christian values. Based on their answers to these questions,

respondents were grouped into four categories:

  • Adherents (10%) overwhelmingly agree or completely agree with these Christian nationalist statements;
  • Sympathizers (19%) agree, but are less likely than adherents to completely agree;
  • Skeptics (39%) disagree, but are less likely than rejecters to completely disagree; and
  • Rejecters (29%) Completely disagree with all five questions.
    These groups do not total 100% because not everyone responded to every question.

The study found that 7 in 10 Americans generally oppose Christian nationalism. Naturally, the breakdown correlates to the religion and race of the respondents. Nearly 3/4 of all Evangelical Christians support it, while nearly 9 in 10 non-Christians oppose it.

Agreement with Christian nationalism is strongly influenced by political party. Adherents and Sympathizers comprise 54% of Republicans, but only 15% of Democrats. Republicans, at 21%, are about four times more likely than Democrats or independents to be “Adherents” of Christian nationalism.

Similarly, attitudes toward former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden are highly correlated with attitudes toward Christian nationalism. Only about a third of Americans hold
a favorable view of former President Trump, but more than 7 in 10 Christian nationalist “Adherents” do.

Overall opinion of President Biden is more evenly divided, 47% favorable, 49% unfavorable. Among “Adherents” this is just 17%, and among “Sympathizers” just 24% have favorable feelings toward him.

There is also a wide gap in educational level between Christian nationalist supporters and opponents. Among Americans with no education beyond high school, 60% are “Skeptics” and “Rejectors”; with a college degree that rises to 79%; and with a postgraduate degree, to 84%.

Surprisingly, more than one-third of Americans are not familiar with the term “Christian nationalism.” Those in the “Adherent” and “Sympathizer” classes responded only 54% favorable, because another 38% did not know what it meant. “Rejecters” by 71% hold a very unfavorable view of Christian nationalism, and only 19% are not familiar with it.

Christian nationalism is a political goal held mostly by white Evangelical Christians, but they are well-funded and well-organized. A strong majority of the rest of America opposes it, so it seems unlikely that it can ever be imposed by democratic means. We live, however, in an age of division over “culture wars” issues that inflame the political passions of religious conservatives who perceive themselves as aggrieved victims. In this discussion, the specter of extra-political resolution must be recognized. Supporters of Christian nationalism agree by 40% with the statement that “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” As a whole, 81% of Americans disagree with this assessment. The events of January 6, 2021 prove that political violence cannot, however, be lightly dismissed as a potential factor in our national political development.

It is an unacceptable risk to ignore the threat to secular democracy in America posed by Christian nationalism. Not only is it their goal to impose their version of Christianity on the rest of us, but they may employ violence to achieve it.

Categories: Articles

Minnesota Atheists

Positive Atheism in Action Since 1991