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The political views of these Christian nationalists might surprise you

A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute finds that a substantial percentage of Black and Hispanic Americans are Christian nationalists.

Based on a substantial survey of 22,000 adults from across the country,?new polling from the Public Religion Research Institute on Christian nationalism confirms that Christian nationalism is strongly linked to voting for Republicans, higher church attendance and white evangelical Protestant affiliation. But not for everybody. The poll finds that a substantial percentage of Black and Hispanic Americans are Christian nationalists. It also finds that Black people who identify as Christian nationalists diverge politically from their white and Hispanic counterparts.

Black people who identify as Christian nationalists diverge politically from their white and Hispanic counterparts.

Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Many, but certainly not all, people who espouse Christian nationalist beliefs often believe that America was founded as a Christian nation, that it is a providential nation in history and, most important, that Christianity should have a prominent, if not pre-eminent, place in American life. Christian nationalism, in many ways, is an instantiation of state religion.

The PRRI poll breaks down the intensity of Christian nationalist beliefs by defining those with such leanings as either “sympathizers” or “adherents.” The poll finds that roughly 3 in 10 white Americans (20% Sympathizers, 10% Adherents), roughly 3 in 10 Black Americans (21% Sympathizers, 12% adherents), roughly 3 in 10 Hispanic Americans (20% Sympathizers, 9% adherents ) and roughly 3 in 10 multiracial Americans (19% Sympathizers, 8% adherents) qualify as Christian nationalists.

While there is not much deviation among these groups' support of Christian nationalism, PRRI’s polling shows us two divergent political stories about Black Americans vs. Hispanic and white people with regard to Christian nationalism. White Americans and Hispanic Americans who are sympathizers or adherents to Christian nationalism are more likely to identify as Republicans, while Black Americans who are sympathizers or adherents to Christian nationalism are most likely to identify as Democrats.

Among white Christian nationalists, 64% are Republicans, 23% are independents, and 6% are Democrats. Hispanic Christian nationalists are more evenly divided: 32% are Republicans, 27% are independents, and 27% are Democrats. The breakdown of Black Christian nationalists is almost a reverse image of the breakdown of their white counterparts. Only 8% of Black Christian nationalists are Republican, 26% are independents, and the majority, 56%, are Democrats.

What does this all mean, not only for how Christian nationalism is described and defined, but also for the 2024 election cycle?

Black Americans who are sympathizers or adherents to Christian nationalism are most likely to identify as Democrats.

I spoke with Robert P. Jones, who recently wrote the book “The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy.” He said: “I made the case that ‘Christian nationalism’ is a new term for the current incarnation of an old conflict between two conceptions of our nation: an image of America as a God-ordained promised land for European Christians and an image of America as a pluralistic democracy. We’ve never fully resolved these tensions, and this new survey shows how these mutually incompatible visions continue to divide the country.”

For white people and Hispanic people who embrace Christian nationalism, their ideas line up with the belief that God has ordained America as a promised land. It’s a belief predicated on a mythical history that has been constructed about America and on a nostalgia for a time when white men led the country and women and people in other ethnic groups knew their place. That belief dovetails with what I call in my recent book “White Evangelical Racism, the Politics of Morality in Americathe “Promise of Whiteness”; that is, the ability to attain the perceived benefits of being white and conservative in America.

By contrast, Black Americans believe that their Christian nationalism is predicated on the prophetic and practical demands for democracy to be extended to them in America. This is why, for Black Americans, fighting for freedom during slavery and during Jim Crow via the Civil Rights Movement was rooted in a different religious ideal: the prophetic call for justice.

Black Americans’ Christian nationalism is most often about calling the nation to account, to hew to what Martin Luther King Jr. said in his “I Have a Dream” speech: “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

Appeals to Americans to see America as a Christian nation sound different for different groups.

The discussion about Christian nationalism, then, is a profoundly different one depending on the group, and it should be an important distinction for candidates in the 2024 election cycle. Appeals to Americans to see America as a Christian nation sound different for different groups, and with election season upon us, it is crucial to note not only who is embracing the appeals for Christian nationalism, but also how that embrace plays out among different ethnic communities.

To be clear, the 2024 election cycle is a “Make American Godly Again” kind of Christian nationalism for some —?embodied by abortion bans, book crackdowns and anti-LGBTQ initiatives — while for others, Christian nationalism is an appeal for America to hold to its promises of democracy through voting rights, reproductive rights, religious freedom and the rights of people to live freely without regard to their sexual orientation. It remains to be seen what vision of America will win out.

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