“Christian nationalism, a belief that the United States was founded as a white, Christian nation and that there is no separation between church and state, is gaining steam on the right,” contends a new Politico article on the dangers of the theocratic democracy-destroying right. The headline reads, “Most Republicans Support Declaring the United States a Christian Nation.” Most? It is all very disturbing. And since the piece is categorized as “political science” and written by two professors from the University of Maryland’s Critical Issues Poll — one of them a distinguished scholar — it also sounds quite genuine.
Alas, when you open the two-question (online) poll that forms the basis for this 1,000-word piece condemning Republicans as modern-day Crusaders, you will notice that Stella Rouse and Shibley Telhami have asked participants if they would “declare” the United States “a Christian nation.” They do not define what “declare” means. And nowhere do they mention anything about a “white Christian nation” or a “Christian nationalist” state or anything about stripping other faiths of their religious freedoms.
Why not? Well, you know why. But not only is the questioning deceptive — a set-up, really — but the two professors then retroactively define what a “Christian nation” means and attribute those beliefs to an entire political party. This would be tantamount to a conservative pollster asking a bunch of leftists if they want to declare America a “progressive nation,” and then, later, defining the state as an antisemitic Communist dictatorship. Not in a million years would Politico run such a piece.
None of this is to say that there aren’t some conservatives who support theocratic and illiberal ideas. There’s nothing, however, shocking or radical about contending that the United States is a “Christian nation.” Many of the foundational ideas of the nation were bound up in Christian ethics and ideas. Though it may not be so forever, we have been a predominantly Christian nation. These are objective historical facts. Nor is there anything extreme or theocratic about allowing Christianity to inform your political principles. I know this because leftists will often ask me “What would Jesus do?” (Probably not conduct partisan push-polling, is one of my guesses.)
To bolster their bogus findings, the professors contend that “prominent Republicans” across the nation have been mainstreaming Christian nationalism. They offer us three people. First, the doltish fringe extremist backbencher Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is mostly “prominent” because she’s the favorite strawman of political journalists.
Then there is Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who apparently once said, “separation of church and state” is a “myth” at a “QAnon meeting.” Now, I don’t know much about Mastriano, and I can’t track down the context of this comment, but let’s concede for the sake of argument he’s a theocrat. It is a long-standing, and accurate, position of most social conservatives that the “separation of church and state” is not the same as the Establishment Clause, but an idea that has been appropriated, almost exclusively, as a tool to strip religious institutions of funding, push God from the public square, and attack religious liberty. The Americans United for Separation of Church and State, for instance, is in the business of launching preposterous legal assaults on people of faith. Consequently, they lose most of them.
And, finally, we also learn that Ron DeSantis has also been “flirting” with Christian white nationalist ideas. As evidence, the professors link to a Miami Herald article making this claim:
The Republican governor, a strategic politician who is up for reelection in November, is increasingly using biblical references in speeches that cater to those who see policy fights through a morality lens and flirting with those who embrace nationalist ideas that see the true identity of the nation as Christian.
A “strategic politician,” you say? Get out of here. The Herald reports that DeSantis, a Catholic, recently dropped a biblical reference while speaking to an audience at a private Christian college, Hillsdale College. Nothing about “white” people or theocracies, mind you. The Herald correctly notes that Christianity has been a “recurring theme” for DeSantis and others. If you’re shocked that Christian politicians see the world through the prism of their faith or infuse religious imagery in their rhetoric, I have some more news for you. Virtually every major politician in American history has integrated Scripture into their speeches — including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden.
But then, Rouse and Telhami are partisan hacks. Not because they have a distaste for social conservatism, but because they write under the false patina of “science” to mislead their readers. Shoddy and shameful stuff from Politico.