White nationalism advocates for a white nation and the protection of white interests. (Photo illustration by Laina Stebbins/The Michigan Advance).
By Sandra Strauss
There is certainly no deficit of pundits who have weighed in on the issues that would drive voters to the polls for Tuesday’s consequential mid-term elections—from inflation to abortion, from crime (with heavy racial overtones) to book bans and censorship, from uncontrolled immigration to the future of Social Security and Medicare.
More broadly speaking, all of these issues, along with continued claims of major fraud in the 2020 general election and hundreds of election deniers on the ballot nationally, led millions of Americans to conclude that in fact, democracy itself was on the ballot.
But there was also an undercurrent that emerged more clearly in the closing weeks of this year’s mid-term election—White Christian Nationalism.
Some elected officials— such as U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia — unapologetically espoused the belief that the United States is—or should be—a Christian country, governed by Christian beliefs and leaders.
Others — such as Pennsylvania senator and gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano — denied ties to this movement, but clearly delivered messages that were sympathetic, if not supportive without the specific statement of support. And I would venture to say that all the issues described above are tied into a White Christian Nationalist philosophy.
In a state such as Pennsylvania, founded on the “holy experiment” championed by William Penn and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)—which supported a society that would be safe for Quakers and other religious minorities (including non-Christians)—implementation of White Christian Nationalist rule would be a repudiation of this Commonwealth’s history.
For those who may not be familiar, a statement from Christians Against Christian Nationalism describes the movement as follows:
Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation.
Before speaking about my own observations of how this movement affected the outcomes of races nationwide on Nov. 8, I want to share my thoughts on White Christian Nationalism as a Christian and member of the clergy. It is my belief and my assertion that this movement has nothing to do with the Christianity that takes following Jesus, the Christ, seriously.
If one takes the words of Jesus (the “red letters” in some bibles) and the example of his life into account, one might question what it has to do with Christianity at all.
It strikes me that White Christian Nationalism might be the logical conclusion or the end game of self-described Christians who began a concerted effort to immerse themselves in the political system beginning in the late 1970s. It reeks of power and patriarchy, not the love and compassion that is the hallmark of the Jesus movement 2000 years ago.
So — was White Christian Nationalism a factor in the 2022 mid-term elections? I would offer an enthusiastic … maybe.
The thought of having purveyors of White Christian Nationalism run our country or our state strikes terror in the hearts of Christians like myself and the communities that I serve.
Here in Pennsylvania, the recent “ReAwaken America” tour that landed at the Spooky Nook Sports complex in Manheim Township in Lancaster County, may have awakened just enough awareness about this movement to lead at least some voters to recognize how dangerous it is.
However, I believe that the outcome was driven primarily by many of the issues covered by the pundits, as described above—or rejection of the narrative that some pundits and politicians were promoting.
A number of candidates stumped on the idea that the inflation was hurting their constituents, and that it was the fault of their opponents.
Certainly, inflation is hurting many Americans, but it is mostly attributable to things like the Russian war on Ukraine, price gouging by suppliers of fossil fuels, health care, and increases in other consumer goods as a result. Some cynically claimed crime is rampant and blamed that on their opponents. Again, voters worry about crime, but this did not seem to be what drove the vote.
In following the returns from Nov. 8, it appears to me that voters were rejecting the candidates who promoted the Big Lie and attempts to remove access to basic rights (like the right to choose).
Perhaps millions are simply tired of politicians fanning the flames of conflict and chaos and performing political stunts (like sending busloads of immigrants to places like Martha’s Vineyard) and are seeking a way back to more peace and collaboration among the people they elect to do their work.
I think that while many voters continue to struggle in the wake of a once-in-century pandemic and current levels of inflation, they also recognize that there is some good work that has been and is being done to help them in the legislation and policies that have been enacted over the past two years. It’s hard to reject things like reductions in prescription drug costs, bringing tech and manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., protecting the environment, and some curbs on the proliferation of guns.
Because White Christian Nationalist politicians’ offered full throated rejection of a woman’s right to choose (often with no exceptions), vilification of most who are LGBTQ+ and not white and Christian (and in many cases, male), support of unrestricted access to guns, and lack of compassion for those who are less fortunate (which flies in the face of the Jesus I know), and continued claims that our election system is corrupt and the 2020 election was stolen, they may have become inextricably linked with these unpopular policies. If that is the case, we might view the results of the election as a rejection of White Christian Nationalism.
Whatever the motivation for voters on Nov. 8, for Christians like me who believe that all people are beloved in the eyes of God, rejection of proponents of White Christian Nationalism was one of the most positive outcomes.
It is my fervent hope that the apparent rejection of much of what they represent—restricting cherished freedoms, adherence to hate, lack of compassion, and fostering fear—will lead us to a more peaceful time in our nation, and maybe even some positive movement to King’s vision of the Beloved Community.
The Rev. Sandra Strauss is director of Advocacy & Ecumenical Outreach for the Pennsylvania Council of Churches. She holds a M.Div. from Lancaster Theological Seminary, a M.A. in Public Policy from Duke University, and is ordained as Minister of Word and Sacrament with the Presbyterian Church.
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