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Rejecting the Theocracy: Americans’ skepticism of Christian nationalism

Key Points

  • Widespread Rejection and Skepticism: About two-thirds of Americans reject or are skeptical of Christian nationalism, despite its increasing influence on policies related to education, immigration, and health care.
  • Regional and Political Divides: Support for Christian nationalism is significantly higher in deeply red states and among Republicans, with notable support from white and Hispanic evangelicals.
  • Concerns Over Democracy and Ethno-Religious State: Critics argue that Christian nationalism’s push for a theocratic state undermines democratic principles, with some leaders using religious justification for legal rulings, such as Alabama’s Supreme Court decision on frozen embryos.

A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) reveals that a significant majority of Americans, approximately two-thirds, either reject or are skeptical of Christian nationalism, highlighting a critical divide in the nation’s political and religious landscape. This ideology, which advocates for the dominance of white American Christianity in various aspects of U.S. life, has gained traction in certain deeply red states, even as the nation becomes more diverse and less religious overall. The survey found that states with the highest support for Christian nationalism form a distinctive geographical pattern, with notable adherence among Republicans and white and Hispanic evangelicals, many of whom are supporters of former President Trump.

Christian nationalism’s influence has permeated policy discussions, ranging from the integration of religion in public schools to book bans and debates over the nature of democracy itself. The ideology’s aspiration for the U.S. to be declared a Christian nation, with laws based on Christian values, has raised concerns about its implications for democracy and the concept of an ethno-religious state. This debate was recently highlighted by the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling that cited Christianity in granting legal protections to frozen embryos as “unborn life,” a decision that has had significant repercussions for in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics and sparked a legislative scramble across the country.

Critics, including PRRI’s president Robert P. Jones, argue that Christian nationalism’s vision is fundamentally undemocratic, viewing political opponents as enemies rather than fellow citizens with differing views. The recent court ruling in Alabama, and the chief justice’s invocation of Christian nationalist beliefs, underscores the growing influence of this once-fringe ideology on American legal and political systems.

Axios reports on this extensive survey conducted from March 9 to December 7, 2023 which covered a representative sample of over 20,000 adults across all 50 states, providing a comprehensive overview of the American public’s stance on Christian nationalism. With a margin of error of ±0.82 percentage points, the findings highlight the complex and often contentious role of religion in U.S. politics and society.

Read the full article here.

Pros and Cons

Themes Pros Cons
Influence on Policy Can drive policy in line with certain moral or ethical standards. May lead to exclusionary or discriminatory policies against those who do not share the same beliefs.
Public Education Advocates for more religion in schools could foster a sense of community and shared values. Risks undermining the separation of church and state, potentially marginalizing non-Christian students.
Legal and Political System Promotes engagement from religious communities in the political process. Risks eroding democratic principles by prioritizing one religion over others and viewing dissent as illegitimate.


Questions to Consider

  1. How does the rise of Christian nationalism reflect broader trends in American political and religious life?
  2. What are the potential long-term implications of equating religious beliefs with legal and governmental authority?
  3. How can the U.S. navigate the tension between religious freedom and the principles of a pluralistic, democratic society?

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