Carla Hinton of The Oklahoman writes about a recent Oklahoma City forum where a panel of religious experts and scholars outlined the often uncomfortable history of white Christian nationalism in the state. Much of the panel included KKK pamphlets and memorabilia from the 1920s and 30s, a time when the infamous white supremacist organization gained support by promoting a certain idea of what good American citizens and Christians should be.
The panel also examined the growing trend of Christian nationalism in the modern era, a trend usually less overt than the white robes of the KKK and that still rejects marginalized groups.
A photo of robed Ku Klux Klan members proudly posing at a 1933 Oklahoma City church dedication was shown Saturday as an example of how Christianity has been linked over the years to ideologies deemed as un-democratic and un-Christian in some circles.
Two Oklahoma scholars discussed these viewpoints at “The Threat of White Christian Nationalism” forum on Friday and Saturday at Edmond Trinity Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Samuel Perry, Ph.D., a University of Oklahoma sociologist and co-author of the book “The Flag and the Cross,” talked to a mostly white crowd of 130 people about what is and isn’t white Christian nationalism, which he described as an ideology, political strategy and an emerging identity.
Many of the vintage KKK pamphlets, brochures and photos she showed elicited audible gasps from attendees. Some of the images intermingled Christian symbols like the cross with symbols like the American flag. One photograph that seemed to disturb the crowd more than others was one taken at the (now defunct) Lincoln Terrace Christian Church dedication in Oklahoma City which showed a crowd of people in the church sanctuary, while above them in a balcony stood a large group of robed and hooded KKK members.
Perry told the crowd his research did not show that white Christian nationalism is “exploding,” but people needed to know what it is because more people are beginning to openly identify with the ideology. Perry said it has also surfaced in the political arena, which is another reason attendees needed key information.