I’ve been reading The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism (InterVarsity Press, 2022) by Paul D. Miller. The author is a PhD foreign policy guy at Georgetown, described in the dust jacket blurb as “a Christian scholar, political theorist, veteran, and former White House staffer.” Which is fine. It takes a broad range of expertise and experience to understand Christian nationalism. Miller also makes it clear in the book that he is a conservative Christian himself, so this is more of an inside critique than the standard Left attacks Right or Right attacks Left pieces that are so popular in publishing right now. The book is of interest to Mormon readers because just about everything Miller writes about Which Christian Nationalism (“WCN”) is equally applicable to White Mormon Nationalism. It’s all the same thing, really.
First, Some Terms
Nationalism is not the same as patriotism. Patriotism is directed towards a political entity, a state (in the sense France or Japan is a state, not the Nebraska or Montana kind of state). Nationalism is directed towards a nation in the sense of a racial, ethnic, cultural, or linguistic group that holds a controlling position within a particular state or that seeks to establish its own political state where it can exercise some control. The modern nation-state is where a nation and a political state overlap to a large extent, but that overlap is often exaggerated and almost every modern state deals with internal tension and conflict. Moderate nationalism can be a positive force, but extreme nationalism can disrupt a state internally and also lead to external armed conflict. It is also a handy justification for any authoritarian leader that wants to attack and annex a neighboring country. Ask Ukraine.
Christian Nationalism is Christian not in the formal sense of being sponsored by Christian churches or being rooted in Christian values (quite the opposite!), but rather in drawing from Christian culture, history, and identity in a loose and general sense. Christian Nationalism is not Christianity. Whatever is Christian in Christian Nationalism is primarily used to justify the particular nationalist aims and goals of the movement. You’ve heard the phrase “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”? Nationalism invoke Christian culture and history in the same way scoundrels invoke patriotism.
What’s White about WCN? The ideology is rooted in the sense that the original and authentic form of America is threatened by outside forces and outside persons. Immigration and everything that comes with it — racial diversity and religious pluralism and minority groups that demand equal civil rights — is the big threat. The “original and authentic” America are White Christian Protestants who largely settled the original colonies (although that, too, is exaggerated). The threat is anyone who doesn’t fit that story: Catholics, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and any other group you can identify, almost always (surprise!) non-white. The racist component generally lies under the surface but is undeniably a real and emotional component of the ideology. The reaction to Black enfranchisement after the Civil War gave rise to an early form of WCN in the South. The reaction to the election of Barack Obama in 2008 gave rise to the acceleration of the current form of WCN across the country as a whole.
As an aside, this is not just an American problem. A potent form of Russian Christian Nationalism is the political ideology or Mr. Putin in Russia, or at least the one he publicly employs to further his political aims. The best book I’ve read on this is Timoth Snyder’s The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America (2018).
Now Some Quotes
I’m just going to pull some quotes from the book and add a comment to each rather than try to synthesize the whole book.
There are effectively no true nation-states in the world today. Virtually every state in the world is a pluralistic, multiethnic, multilingual polity in which questions of who or what defines the polity are live debates. … Nationalism is a yearning for prehistorical tribalism … (p. 71)
So any nationalism is going to overstate its role in the history and success of its country and seek to marginalize or ignore alternative claims. White Christian Nationalism in America overstates the degree to which America, even original America, was white or Christian. The Founding Founders weren’t very Christian. America during and after the Revolutionary War was not very religious. The Great Awakening of the early decades of the 19th century, which among other things gave rise to Mormonism, only makes sense in light of the largely unreligious decades preceding it. The WCN rhetoric about early Christian America is largely a fiction.
[I] is helpful to recognize that nationalism is another form of identity politics. … Nationalism is the identity politics of the majority tribe; identity politics is the nationalism of small groups. In each case, groups of people defined by some shared identity trait look to the public square for status, spoils, recognition, and power. (p. 105)
I know you’ve heard the term “identity politics” before. You might think, why don’t those people stop banging their drum and just be regular Americans? That’s equivalent to saying, why don’t you just give up your (minority) identity and embrace my (majority) identity?
It is telling that when the Bible seeks to convey the reality of demonic power, oppression, and deceit, the image or metaphor it uses is a government trying to be a god. When we invest our governments — nationalist, imperialist, fascist, communist, progressive, or any other kind — with sacred meaning or saddle them with the expectations that they act godlike or carry out a divine mission, we are erecting a frighteningly powerful idol. (p. 132)
He is saying that it is wrong and unbiblical to think that any modern nation is favored of God or carrying out a divine mission. Not only wrong, but misguided and dangerous. Obviously, this is something Mormons are going to struggle with. The author identifies any post-Jesus divine mission with the Church or with Christians as a whole, not with any country or nation. That makes more sense to Mormons, although they identify the carriers of that divine mission much more narrowly.
I’ve got about twenty more quotes, so I’m going to just list some of them briefly in a few bullet points, then wind up.
- The myth of the chosen nation with a special historical destiny (p. 139).
- Christian nationalism is a uniquely American form of Caesaropapism, where the church is subordinate to the state (p. 140).
- The Christian Right professes universal values while protecting tribal interests (p. 146). Sound familiar?
- Recall that “under God” in the Pledge and “in God we trust” on our currency were added in 1954 and 1956, respectively (p. 148). These were in response to the godless communism of the USSR, not part of traditional American values or religiosity. Traditionally, Americans didn’t mix politics and religion. WCN as a political movement is an aberration.
- Jerry Falwell, Sr., on civic virtue: God will bless America and preserve our freedoms if we are righteous (p. 155-56). Sound familiar?
- “White American Christians have a history of believing themselves to have access to a universal vantage point and an unmediated interpretation of the Bible, and using that moral high ground to ride roughshod over the perspectives of those who disagree with them” (p. 190). Sound familiar?
There’s a chapter toward the end of the book, “Evangelicals and Donald J. Trump.” Essentially, Trump has tapped into WCN and weaponized it in devious ways for his own political purposes and gain. For Evangelicals, Miller argues, Trump is a road to increased Christian political power, which garners him overwhelming support from Evangelicals despite the obvious fact that Trump embodies few if any Christian virtues or attributes. It’s a great chapter for any Mormon trying to understand why Mormons, to a large extent, give similar support to Trump.
I’m going to wind up rather than continue. If there are too many loose threads here, I could follow up with another post next week, maybe looking at LDS scriptural passages which push roughly the same ideas as WCN and are subject to the same objections that Miller makes in the book. Or look at General Conference quotes that push the same ideas. For now, here are some points to kick around in the comments.
- I would love to hear non-US commenters give their take on the traditional and ongoing LDS view of the USA as a divinely chosen country working God’s will in the world. Don’t pull your punches.
- Remember, Mormons were not American patriots in the 19th century. Most Mormons left the country following Brigham Young and fought (or at least strenuously opposed) the US Army when it came out to Utah in 1856. Mormons didn’t become good Americans until the last decade of the 19th century.
- To what extent has the LDS Church as an institution and the membership of the Church as a whole overcome its previous racist ideology? Or is it still, as with WCN, lurking just beneath the surface?
- Is there a Mormon identity politics? Is it different in state level politics (Utah, Idaho, Arizona) than in national politics?
- I shudder to think what is included in the political and historical curriculum of private Mormon schools that are so popular in Utah. I’m thinking all the misguided ideas of WCN, plus additional misguided Mormon ideas.
I’m not going to accuse the Church or the Brethren of being White Christian Nationalists. I’m also not going to say they aren’t. I will simply say this: if I constructed a Venn diagram that illustrated the statements and beliefs of Christian White Nationalists and the statements and beliefs corresponding to what I was taught growing up in the Church (born 1965), there would be a ton of overlap. I’m trying to be nice and not make accusations or apply labels but honestly the overlap is almost complete. Just sayin.
Great post! Been thinking a lot about this subject lately. I sit on the board of the largest interfaith organization in our community. I few weeks ago we held a retreat and spoke extensively about this issue. It is not just an LDS problem. It is becoming pervasive. I see very little in our LDS community on both the ward, stake, and regional level. However, I am appalled at what I see coming out of the Mormon Corridor. I am shocked at some of the people I know that have been pulled into it. I think it is worse than the 60’s with the rise of the JBS. Back then members could point to EBT for support. Today, there is not a single member of the Q12 and most likely any general leader that support the extremism of the right. Despite the conservatism they do not espose, teach, or endorse the nationalism any form. Yet the Dez Nat crowd seems to be thriving. I wish they would be more vocal in condemning. They do on occasion but too often it is nuanced just enough that the extremists don’t get the message.
Just a few days ago I received an email notice of some blog I had never heard of (Faithful Saints). It was appalling. I also received an invite for a UT conference that included an ad by the JBS. Virtually all fo the presenters were LDS and extremists e.g. Glen Beck). I perused the speaker bios and was amused/dismayed at the large number of speakers who spoke in glowing terms about the LDS creds, (e.g. “I served and honorable mission and served as an AP”, and much worse.). The fundamental problem is as Elder Packer once said, “We don’t worry to much about the left in the Church. but right wing conservative, however, think God inspires them and talks to them.” I know I was surprised by that statement directly from Elder Packer given the perceived public persona.
From my observation having lived in the West, the East, and Latin America this is mostly a Mormon Corridor issue. Didn’t see any of it in South America. So the Church needs to be precise in its dealing with the issue since it is very localized. And yes white nationalism plays into the old racist doctrines. Paul Reeve is the foremost expert and has had incredible support from the Brethren in his writing and speaking. And now he is being attacked by the white nationalists who don’t accept his research and still thing the priesthood restriction was divinely inspired and only removed due to government pressure.
Lastly, re the comment on the LDS oriented charter schools. Without going into detail I am currently representing an individual before the EEOC who was the subject of blatant racism at one of these schools. Since taking the case I have had others come forward supporting the claims. All of which are denied by the school admin. The business model of these charter schools is essentially to enrich the developers while teachers are underpaid but willing to teach what the see as the inspired mission of the school. A developer typically buys the land and builds the facility then leases it to the school. Some are making big big money. But that’s a whole different topic. May when the case is over I’ll do a post about it.
There’s the old Ezra Taft Benson/Bircher type of White Christian Nationalism, which relies on the anti-communist Cleon Skousen materials. I think that’s what the private schools in Utah still draw from. This is what most Mormon Corridor members are familiar with.
The newer variety of Mormon Nationalism that I blogged about several years ago really comes out of 21st century reactionary identity politics. These are men’s rights movements (vs feminism), trad movements (vs secularism & LGBT rights advances), white culture (vs diversity/integration), and nationalism (vs globalization).
When I was researching these movements back when I was covering Wife with a Purpose (trad & white culture) & DezNat, one element that struck me was the relationship with 9/11. There was a heavy anti-religion streak after that event, but some Christians developed a type of holy envy. Guns & violence in the name of religion seemed so much cooler than the effeminate secularist male role models. The desire to create one’s OWN ethnostate/theodemocracy. These were the ideas that Deseret Nationalism (DezNat) grew out of, even if a lot of them considered it LARPing online as defenders of the faith until they could get the real thing. Just like Deus Vult (a Catholic strain) drawing on crusader imagery, DezNat folks drew on early Mormon Danite motifs of bowie knives, blood atonement, and Porter Rockwell.
There is a serious disconnect where a lot of the older generations (including many of the Brethren) don’t quite grasp the passion and anger behind the newer reactionary strains of Mormon Nationalism. That’s the only way I can make sense of Holland choosing to use the musket fire language. They just see younger groups that are anti-feminist, anti-LGBT, and anti-intellectual and think, “See, these millennials/Gen Z get it! Why can’t the other young members of the Church get on board?”
I’m a Canadian Latter-day Saint and even here I can’t escape American exceptionalism. Last year, our July 3rd sacrament meeting opened with our national anthem, “O Canada”. Good choice because July 1st was Canada Day. But the sacrament meeting closed with “America the Beautiful” as an acknowledgment of July 4th. (This has happened before and it makes me crazy every time.)
After sacrament meeting, I pointed out to the bishopric counsellor who was in charge that 1) it’s impossible for us to shake the stereotype that we are an American/Republican church if we sing American patriotic music, and 2) American cultural symbols are not neutral but are laden with all kinds of baggage (much of it negative), and 3) celebrating the US at a time when the US Supreme Court had just gutted EPA protections, leaving Canada’s environment open to damage, was in poor taste.
The counsellor (who is Canadian but went to BYU) informed me that it’s fine to sing patriotic American music because it makes Americans who live here or visit feel good (as if the reverse would ever happen in the USA!). He also told me that the US is God’s chosen land and was pivotal to the founding of the church and central to it now and so we need to keep recognizing that is important. When I pointed out that we now have a global church and should act like it, he retreated back to history. I agreed that, yes post-revolutionary America was indispensable to the Restoration but that was a long time ago and obsessing on American symbols today looks an awful lot like cluelessness at best or idolatry at worst.
From my perspective north of the border, the USA is a country that allows its children to be slaughtered in schools, doesn’t acknowledge healthcare as a human right, progressively guts its social safety net, allows massive attacks on the foundations of its democracy (gerrymandering, uncontrolled election spending, Jan 6, etc), and has run a disastrous foreign policy for decades. (Think: Afghanistan War, Iraq War, Guantanamo Bay, “enhanced interrogation techniques”, black sites, etc.)
I totally understand that Americans want to celebrate their country, warts and all, but I see no reason why I should be expected to do so. It feels even more staggeringly inappropriate in a church where I come to worship a God of love, forgiveness, compassion, and endless care for the poor and marginalized. The cognitive dissonance is mindboggling for me.
I have heard a rumor that national anthems are being removed from the replacement hymn book and I desperately hope that’s true so I don’t have to deal with this every July. It won’t end all the Rocky Mountain LDS corridor cultural and political stuff that drives me insane but at least I won’t be expected to sing about it.
The Paradox is: if the World’s economies collapse – and international financial systems fail (as it certainly looks quite possible – if not probable) I will, most likely join the White, Christian Nationalists, pronto. Why? Because they’ll have the structure and means to survive; while the vast majority of humanity will slump to the ground, wring their hands and cry “Who is coming to save us?” No. One. Is. Coming.
And this….all the while, I simply loathe the LDS Church and all organized religions. Just a matter of survival…
I was born in 1980 at the tail end of the clash between Mormonism and White Evangelical Churches. I remember during the 1990s when the church felt it was having a surge that one of its stated foes was Evangelicals. However, things took a turn in the 2000s with more and more youth leaving the church and not as many joining. Evangelicals felt the same impact. Since then, secularism has been viewed as the church’s largest foe and there has risen a sort of sympathy, if not tepid alliance, between Mormonism and Evangelicals in the fight against secularism.
With Evangelicalism’s decentralized structure, and with pastors having to compete for parishioners, there are a lot of pastors trying to inject the politics of their congregations into their sermons in order to “sex” things up a bit and stimulate devotion. In the short term, this may work. There was a huge Trumpist phenomenon that is still going. But I have little doubt that it will crash and burn a horrific death by the decade’s end. Mormonism has been more tempered feeling comfortable to issue statements on race, immigrants, and vaccines that are more in line with the mainstream and at odds with Trumpism, figuring that it has the money, status, and the structure to endure the bristling of Mormon Trumpists. The Mormon church is plenty anti-LGBTQ, but not as much as the White Christian Nationalists. Mormonism is playing a long game, and I think that it will fair better in the coming decades than White Christian Nationalism, which will decline rapidly, especially as the demographics of the US become less white and the older more Trumpist generation dies out to be replaced by the rising young generation, which tends more liberal.
The greatest and most desirable nations of the late 20th century all had ties to English culture and English law. This includes Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan (following WWII). Why? What is it about English ideas of economy and government that nations sought to incorporate those rules in the governments they established? Even the USA was founded by “English” people with “English” sensibilities.
What are these sensibilities? They are the desire for both personal and national self-determination. Freedom to prosper, freedom to think, freedom to flourish.
Language that associates principles of freedom and the fair rule of law with racist and negative connotations is destructive to freedom. For this reason I find almost all analysis of “White Christian Nationalism” to be unhelpful.
For one, I am not a young lad – I’ve been around the block many decades with ties to the Mountain West and East Coast – and I know of no one personally or tangentially who bears the WCN label. I suppose there are groups who do. But they are clearly fringe. So why the effort to elevate fringe movements?
Second, the hand wringing about WCN deliberately conflates issues and concerns. Histories of nations and the people of nations are complicated. But the lessons of those histories are instructive. For one, Communism and all forms of it are destructive to human flourishing. The essence of Communism is the denial of human liberty and human dignity as realized by elevating the state / experts over the individual. Rejecting Communism is a good thing. Why would anyone argue otherwise, or give reason to ridicule opposition to Communism?
Third, any claim that race dictates one’s affinity for freedom is a lie. If a group makes this claim then they ought to be criticized. Likewise any person who declares the principles of freedom established by “English” people are racist is a scoundrel. Principles of freedom and liberty are universal and that is the ideal we all ought to support .
Responding to Disciple
Respectfully disagree. I too have been a round a while. I read a lot and lived internationally. And I have read a lot of English history and have English roots. This is not a choice between Communism and White Nationalism. That is a false dichotomy. The English have done some great things but they also committed unthinkable crimes against humanity in the name of expansion of the Empire. I have no desire to list them but they are legion and the reason why the Founder threw off the yoke of the Monarchy.
Yes, there was a strong nationalistic strand in LDS culture from the late 20th century and it echoes through to today. Anyone who had to endure an Ezra Taft Benson rant or Reed Benson’s John Birch speeches… oops, I mean Book of Mormon lessons at BYU, knew it was there.
When it comes to DezNat, I do not believe they are really what they are purported to be. Everything in social media is smoke and mirrors. I suspect they are sort of the wannabe Proud Boys of the Wasatch Front, regurgitating ideas from their grandparents’ past and looking for reasons they can’t seem move out of their mother’s basement, with the most weak-minded turning into online bullies.
A Disciple: And to your very good points (great narrative by the way) the reality is that if we start to experience systemic collapse – economic, energy, food supply, supply chain etc. – progressive liberalism/democratic socialism have very little to offer. Oh sure, there’s always a great deal of “beautifully sounding words, phrases, chants and slogans”…..but ultimately, any success they experience comes from taking from one group and giving to another. They generally are not producers of much of anything; especially anything of substance that “fills the belly”…And, it becomes ever more obvious…when there’s simply not much else take….
On what foundation of principles and philosophies are you going to build a free and prosperous society?
Is it your belief that Jefferson and Madison were “White Nationalists”? Throw them in the dumpster and what do you have left to offer? Where are you going to turn to build a foundational philosophy for human flourishing? Throw away the English tradition of law and where are you going to turn to establish a fair and impartial system for resolving disputes?
You should know that the English system of law was instituted in Barbados and the island is the most prosperous in the Caribbean. 92% of the population of Barbados is black, proving that freedom and prosperity under the English system of law is universal – independent of race.
Thomas Sowell, one of America’s greatest Economists (who also happens to be a black raised in poverty) wrote:
“Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.”
The question we individually and collectively need to decide is what do we teach our children to make them civilized? What philosophical arguments do we present to them? What principles of law and economy do we want them to learn?
If your answer is they can’t be taught the Declaration of Independence without being told the men who signed it were evil then you will not be civilizing the barbarians, but inciting them.
A Disciple, your comment is a bit fraught. A couple of points:
“The greatest and most desirable nations of the late 20th century all had ties to English culture and English law”
Greatest and most desirable are relative terms. There are lots of measures of countries’ economic performance, sure. But bear in mind that there are many countries that had deep ties to the English and English law that have not faired too well. These include Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Sudan, and Iraq among many others in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. There are also several countries that are performing well that haven’t done so on the basis of English-specific laws and customs. Germany, Norway, and Switzerland are quite well off. South Korea has done well too. The idea that English ideas are what is making everything that is great in the world great and that all bad ideas that are destroying human flourishing are not attributable to English thinking seems quite a facile, indefensible idea indeed.
“Language that associates principles of freedom and the fair rule of law with racist and negative connotations is destructive to freedom. For this reason I find almost all analysis of ‘White Christian Nationalism’ to be unhelpful.”
I’m not sure I follow this too well. Racist philosophies have most certainly appeared and flourished in the English language. Are you saying that because the folks being called White Christian Nationalists like to beat their chests about freedom, rule of law, and think (quite erroneously) that they are carrying on the legacy of the Founding Fathers that we shouldn’t call them racists?
“I know of no one personally or tangentially who bears the WCN label. I suppose there are groups who do. But they are clearly fringe. So why the effort to elevate fringe movements?”
A valid point. White Christian Nationalism doesn’t seem to be a label whose adherents fully adopt. But I think the category is valid across a fairly large segment of the US, to the extent that it is more than just fringe. Many of the leading Republican politicians and conservative influencers and pundits regularly invoke ideas of the US being a Christian nation whose laws should defend Christianity and be rooted in it. There is plenty of white supremacist rhetoric coming from these same voices, who view non-white immigrants coming into the US as making it “dirty,” poorer, and full of drugs and crime. The leading figures know that they have to be careful about what they say, so they are careful not to sound too white supremacist, but their discourse over time reveals tendencies to invoke white supremacy.
“But the lessons of those histories are instructive. For one, Communism and all forms of it are destructive to human flourishing.”
I don’t support communism, but I support a mixed economy of strongly regulated capitalism with a generous welfare state that balances against private excess and redistributes some wealth to the poorer classes, which right-wingers erroneously label “communism.” Your comment here is based on a communism/freedom false dichotomy. The fact is that there have been experiments in state-led social spending and social engineering that have gone bad and those that have expanding freedom and flourishing beyond our wildest imaginations (the internet was the product of government spending and experimentation). The idea that private=good and public=bad is extremely facile to the point of being nonsensical. The US has thrived because of some degree of redistribution and government programs. And so has the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. It should be borne in mind, too, that as bad as the Soviet Union was, it was a system of government that lasted decades and was competitive with the US in many areas. Its collapse was in part economic, but it also had a lot to do with nationalism, with the Estonian assembly’s vote to independence a key factor in the eventually fragmentation of the Soviet Union into 15 different countries.
A few years ago a private music student of mine asked me if I would attend her private Mormon school’s patriotic program that she was performing a solo on. Before going to that program I had no idea what to expect. What I witnessed and heard was beyond terrifying. The closest thing that I can compare it to is the Hitler Youth Movement during the 1930’s until the end of WWII. It was like the book “1984”coming to life before me except that Big Brother was the Ezra Taft Benson/Cleon Skousen Mormon version of American History with large helpings of Book of Mormon Gadianton Robbers and secret combinations thrown in for good measure. In fact, I was so dismayed and upset by the White Christian Nationalist meets John Birch and the Book of Mormon propaganda that I witnessed there that after my student performed I promptly got up and left.
These kinds of private or charter schools are multiplying like rabbits throughout Utah and the other Mormon Corridor states. They always have words such as American “Heritage”, “Freedom”, “Patriot” or “Independence” in the school’s name. More and more ultra conservative Mormon parents are choosing to send their children to be indoctrinated in these schools. These schools advertise themselves as places where little Oliver or Olivia won’t be exposed to such modern “evils” as multiculturalism, learning to respect and accept people who are different from WASNEMs (White, Anglo-Saxon/Northern European Mormons) such as people who are LGBTQ+, independently minded females, of a different color or ethnicity, are low income, non TBMs, registered Democrats and Independents, etc. The Proclamation on the Family is drilled into students’ heads along with a very skewed view of American History where America is ALWAYS right because God via Joseph Smith and the BoM says so and that other countries and people who are different than us in any way have absolutely nothing of value to offer us. General Authorities are even invited to come and speak to the students and their parents at these schools. This supposedly “shows” that the school and their ideology/propaganda is sanctioned by the church.
The upshot is that any child who graduates from one of these schools is woefully ignorant and unprepared to deal with life outside of the Mormon Corridor and the ultra conservative wing of the Republican Party. The student that I mentioned above received a full music performance scholarship to one of the top music schools in the country. Living outside of Utah County and Utah was very overwhelming for her at first because what she’d been taught about “the evil world” and what she discovered after living in a place where she was the only Mormon in her music program and in the dorms was 99% wrong. Fortunately for her, she was able to adapt and became a multidimensional individual. Sadly, the opposite is more common for students who graduate from such schools.
So yes, I am extremely concerned that White Christian Nationalism goes hand in glove with the way that more and more Mormon children are being taught, at least in states and communities with a large TBM population. I predict that this will become a problem for the Church in the future as the students who are a product of this type of “education” become leaders in their communities and church congregations.
I often compare Mormonism to the Baha’i religion, but you will never, ever meet a racist Baha’i. It just wouldn’t happen. Not only are they very diverse, but anti-racism has always been a major emphasis. While Mormons are also diverse, and not usually racist, racism is not unknown among them, hence the regular reports of BYU students disgracing themselves, e.g..
The idea of a resurgent “white Christian nationalism” obscures the reality that alt-right groups are very divided in their attitudes towards race, religion, and cultural nationalism (e.g. what to make of Russia). The most successful politicians have appealed to these groups, without really joining them.
Let’s start with Trump. To hear him tell it, Trump is the least racist person in the world. Blacks and Mexicans love Donald Trump. It’s the Democrats who are racist. (That “good people on both sides” quote probably referred to the Confederate flag controversy, not neo-Nazis.) As for his Christian credentials, I think it is generally understood that he is not very devout, but happy to ally with Christian conservatives on a strategic basis (think judicial appointments), and wave the Bible around when the mood strikes him. It is also important to note that in contrast to earlier Republican leaders, and Christian conservatives, Trump does not seem to care about the gays either way (and apparently made fun of Pence for wanting to kill them).
DeSantis, the other major Republican figure today, could be fairly described as a Christian nationalist, although he is not only a Christian nationalist. While his Italian Catholic stock is not normally associated with “white” Christian nationalism, certain aspects of Catholicism are popular in paleo-conservative and alt-right circles (Wm. F. Buckley, Steve Bannon), while non-whites or “white-adjacents” (Dinesh D’Souza, Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio) are prominent alt-right figures. DeSantis has worked with such people on a strategic basis, perhaps avoiding direct affiliation out of political calculus. Themes of Judeo-Christian values, Western civilization, and opposition to DIE / crt / transgenderism / “grooming” are the framing here.
The Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution recently released a survey on WCN. You can read it here.
They ask respondents how strongly they agree or disagree with each of a series of WCN principles and categorize them as adherents, sympathizers, skeptics, or rejecters based on their answers. Results are broken down by denomination (and, for larger denominations, by ethnicity) and although the same size is small (90), “Latter Day Saints” made the cut. The results are very interesting. We have the smallest percentage of WCN adherents of any Christian denomination at 5%. And we have the largest percentage of WCN skeptics (50%) of any denomination, period. But we also have the second highest percentage of WCN sympathizers (33%) behind only white evangelical protestants. Our percentage of rejecters is pretty low (10%), but that doesn’t really bother me since my own answers put me in the skeptic category. Our combined percentage of adherents and sympathizers (38%) is far below that of white evangelical protestants and in fact is exactly the same as black protestants. So although that 38% is too high, it is still a distinct minority. All is not lost.
A Disciple, I didn’t see your second comment before I published my response. A couple more brief observations:
“If your answer is they can’t be taught the Declaration of Independence without being told the men who signed it were evil then you will not be civilizing the barbarians, but inciting them.”
It sounds here like you don’t like people evaluating the Declaration of Independence through present value judgments. Inasmuch as that is what you are trying to say, I fully agree. But the way I see the problem is that the right-wing wants to interpret US history aggressively through a special right-wing lens that practically creates a rose-colored myth about the American past. I object to that. Obviously we can’t explain American history without the Declaration of Independence, but let’s stop treating 1776 as some hallowed and sacred year and the American patriots and Founding Framers as these sorts of demigods beyond question. Let’s get into the finer details of American history. Not simply feature selective information that paints a highly biased picture. Let’s talk about how Benjamin Franklin was originally in favor of the Stamp Act of 1766. Let’s talk about how the prominent colonial patriots such as Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and several others who were forthright advocates of independence were not in favor of the 1787 Constitution. Let’s talk about how Crispus Attucks, a patriot killed in the Boston Massacre of 1770, was actually black but was portrayed as white in many writings and artwork. Let’s talk about the role of women and blacks in the revolution, not just white men. Furthermore, let’s talk about the various stages of the founding of the US. It wasn’t just 1776, now was it? It was the Constitutional Convention, the massive land expansion from the Louisiana Purchase and War with Mexico, it was the Second War of Independence in 1812, it was the Civil War, the Union victory, and the Reconstruction. Kermit Roosevelt III argues in his wonderful most recent book that the most relevant stage of founding of the US that most greatly influences today’s country is the post-Civil War Reconstruction. The American Revolution is simply a more distant past, but it what the right-wing loves to obsessively fixate on (and only selective aspects of it) all while saying that we should sweep under the rug the US’s racist past, because talking “too much” about race for some bizarre reason in many right-wingers’ minds is racism.
You may be so inclined to minimize the presence of White Christian Nationalism in today’s American social and political fabric. But the most popular right-wing narratives of US history that I read and hear regularly 1) emphasize the contributions of white males to US history, 2) downplay slavery and Jim Crow and historical racism against Asians and Mexicans, 3) talk about how the US is a Christian nation based on Judeo-Christian values, 4) portray “true Americans” as mostly white with some token minorities (but minorities who are heavily assimilated to predominantly white culture), and 5) treat the US as supreme among all other countries and exceptionally right and righteous. I fully disagree with this portrayal of US history and find it misleading and full of inaccuracies.
“Thomas Sowell, one of America’s greatest Economists”
Only among right-wingers and right-wing libertarians. In the actual academic field of economics he has little standing.
Lawrence and Wayfaring Stranger, I would love to learn more about these private schools you are referring to in more detail. What are their numbers, how similar or connected are they to each other, etc. A post on this would be very interesting.
WordPress didn’t like the link to the PRRI study I embedded in my earlier comment, so use this url:
You know it’s entirely possible that people’s within the former Soviet “break off” provinces….simply wanted more personal freedom and self governance. Yes, that may very well be proud of their “country” and their unique heritage….but a sincere desire for freedom…is the fuel that drives a desire to fight….
Just read the comments from the Deseret News and you can see the Church has a problem with many of its members being WCN, and that we have not overcome our racist past, we just use nicer words.
Let’s face it, Whites are boring, conservative Christian’s are obnoxious. Trying to force their version of morality on the world. Spreading their stupid conspiracy theories. And Nationalism is just plain wrong. Why is a person living south of the US border different from one who lives north of the border? Three strikes and you’re out.
Thomas Sowell is a great American. And you and the “mainstream” minimize his achievement and his message. Fascinating.
The biggest promoters of WCN and White Supremacy is the US Government. This is also fascinating. Of course the Feds say they must elevate WCN because WCN is a threat to the country.
Of course it was the Federal government who eradicated Native Americans from their land. And it was the Federal government who tolerated the state governments of the South creating and imposing Jim Crow laws – never forget it was the Supreme court who ruled slaves were property and “separate but equal” was valid law.
Governments are often the source of much strife and inequality in the country. This is a point Sowell makes in his writings. That American government so often fails to uphold principles of liberty speaks of the need for liberty! And yet, those making this argument are caricatured as “White Christian Nationalists” even when the advocates are neither white nor Christian. Fascinating.
My life experience has taught me that (in a World that is filled with chaos and cruelty) every human being must find and create as much joy in their own being as possible; as often as they can. One of my most treasured guilty pleasures comes as a result of “watching progressive liberal heads figuratively explode” when I declare that Yes, I have problems with the LDS Church, Yes, I agree that it has done great harm, Yes, I decry all organized religion……But, I still love the United States, I still own guns, I still believe in the Bill of Rights, I still don’t view the Government as benign and philanthropic and that I view Liberalism and Democratic/Socialism is just a bunch of “puff and blow” which produces nothing of value (on it’s own) and is every bit as socially cancerous as White Christian Nationalism……It brings such joy to me.
grizzbear55, the Soviet Union and Soviet-style communism is fetishized as a boogeyman of ultimate evil by White Christian Nationalists. In reality the Soviet Union is much more complex than the strawman created by WCN. For instance, if you look at changes in GDP per capita over time adjusted for price changes over time, the Soviet Union outpaced most other countries for a considerable period of time. The common narrative is that the Soviet Union broke apart because of its socialist system of government and the inherent economic unsustainability built within it. Did the US break apart into many different countries because of the Great Depression? Did France break apart into many different countries because of the French Revolution? No. Ethnic nationalist separatism was a big reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some former Soviet countries have obtained greater freedom since their separation from the Soviet Union. Others, such as Turkmenistan and Belarus, are under freedom-suppressing dictatorships that impose suffering on their populations.
Maple Mom: I agree with everything you wrote in your comment, and I too hate the America worship that runs rampant through our meetings with the blessing of local leadership. Not that it lessens the gravity of your points at all, but I often attend a congregation about an hour south of the Canadian border in MT at the beginning of July where they also sing both national anthems. Were it up to me, we wouldn’t sing any kind of national anthem at all, but, yes, there are places they do both on the American side too.
For those who are interested, Leah Sottile has done some great work that speaks to extremist issues in a Mormon context.
Podcasts – Bundyville
Book – When the Moon Turns to Blood
Another of her podcasts, Two Minutes Past Nine, is also a great way to learn about how Christian Nationalism came to be what it is today, and it explains how the largest domestic terrorist attack in America’s history was carried out by a Christian Nationalist, motivated by those beliefs.
Another great resource for background understanding on how the church came to the point that 60% of it voted for a blatant racist like Donald Trump is almost any of Matthew Harris’ work, particularly his ETB book Making of the Mormon Right and the compilation of essays in Thunder from the Right.
“The biggest promoters of WCN and White Supremacy is the US Government. This is also fascinating. Of course the Feds say they must elevate WCN because WCN is a threat to the country.”
1) This seems to contradict what you were saying before, which is that WCN is a fringe movement. 2) This echoes the sentiments I hear expressed on the right about racism, which is that it is a non-issue and then in the same breath that the real racists are the Biden administration and the “woke” left who have taken over much of the country. It seems contradictory. WCN can’t both be an insignificant fringe movement and deeply embedded into the US government so much that it affects everyone. That doesn’t make sense.
“Of course it was the Federal government who eradicated Native Americans from their land. And it was the Federal government who tolerated the state governments of the South creating and imposing Jim Crow laws – never forget it was the Supreme court who ruled slaves were property and “separate but equal” was valid law.”
OK now we’re getting somewhere. Yes, white supremacy was promoted by the US government in the past, especially in local governments of the Jim Crow South. White Supremacy was predominant in the 1800s, heavily influential in the US government, and one of the leading factors behind the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans. You’re absolutely right. But what you seem to be suggesting is that Jim Crow wouldn’t have happened and Native Americans wouldn’t have been ethnically cleansed if there just weren’t so much government. No. It wasn’t just the government that was imposing Jim Crow or anti-Native American sentiment, it was a wider culture doing so. White Supremacist culture was so popular in the Jim Crow south that infiltrated all levels of local government. However, what rid the South of Jim Crow was larger government, not smaller government. Larger government based on more enlightened philosophies, that is. If the federal US government of the 1960s was pro-Jim Crow, we would still have Jim Crow, I imagine. But there was a larger cultural throughout much of the non-southern US that brought to power anti-Jim Crow politicians who appointed anti-Jim Crow judges who used federal power to rid the south of Jim Crow. On Native Americans, on the other hand, we haven’t been able to right the wrongs perpetrated against them in the past. They’ve been uprooted, scattered, and significantly thinned by a combination of disease and direct slaughter. The reservation system is a joke that has deprived different Native American groups of good land and resources in enable economic growth and flourishing.
“Governments are often the source of much strife and inequality in the country.”
I don’t disagree that governments can be a source of oppression and that the US government has and still is in some cases a source of great injustice. But governments, if properly managed, can be and have been a source of freedom, economic opportunities for individuals, stability, and greater economic equality. And I think libertarians in the vein of Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand (and Sowell was certainly partial to them) severely overreact to government in general and more specifically the idea that government and governments can justly and fairly employ redistribution of money and resources to improve the overall economy. Redistribution is already occurring in the US and has been for some time to great success in the form of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and welfare. Randian libertarianism is a fantastic unicorns-and-fairies pipedream that will only lead to anarchy and chaos and economic decline if aggressively employed.
John W. So you say…..Personally, give me good old Capitalism any day of the week; warts, sins and all…..You want to live the Soviet way? Do it. Just don’t attempt to compel others to do the same.
Once you see the BOM as a 19th C treatise on White, Christian Nationalism, it’s hard to unsee it. One of the key themes of the narrative is an exoneration of the white settlers’ actions against the natives, which were definitely ongoing during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. The white settlers (and Columbus, whose misdeeds were apparently not well known to JS even though they were very well documented in Spain during Columbus’s time) were chosen by God to “redeem” the native peoples of the Americas by elevating them out of their bad and corrupted culture (sins of their fathers, dark traditions, belief in a “Great Spirit”) into the culture of the white settlers (Christianity). It also enticed white Christians with the idea that the natives were not just Israelite descendents, but that they were actually the earliest Christians, one of the novel concepts in the BOM (pre-Christ Christology).
So, the roots are there, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a modern day embracing of WCN principles openly and politically. I tend to think that the church members who are white Christian nationalists either do so on the basis of these ideological parallels OR because they are so far to the right that they would anyway, but it’s not as deliberate or top-down as it is among Evangelicals.
grizzerbear55, oh wow! I point out the basic fact that the Soviet Union had accomplishments and that makes me a communist who would have preferred to live in the Soviet Union? Uh, no. I might as well just say that you should go live in Somalia since you are an Ayn Rand/Murray Rothbard libertarian who hates the government. The central government, after all, has collapsed there and the far-right libertarian Mises Institute has even spoken highly of Somalia compared with its neighbors.
In all seriousness, I think this post struck a nerve with you since you are a White Christian Nationalist sympathist and you just came on here to express you shallow, fact-free politics of resentment and anger. I feel sorry for you. Truly pathetic. I invite you to go troll elsewhere.
John W. no sympathies here – other than “Leave me the Hell Alone, Treat People as Well as You Can, Don’t Break Sh*t and attempt to Live in Peace”….beyond that I just don’t care. As for your faux outrage…..I’ve followed you for a long, long time….and think I have a pretty good idea (based upon your numerous and lengthy posts) of how you view the World…and I am thankful for one thing – in that regard – and that is you always provide for a good, hearty laugh.
WCN / White Supremacy is so fringe that the Feds must create such groups or infiltrate them with their own operators to generate attention. It is a near certainly that any “White advocacy” group making headlines in the US is infiltrated by the Feds. We saw this in the Michigan kidnapping story. We are seeing it with the J6 trials. It happened recently in Idaho. And it was a factor in the infamous Charlottesville rally. Why does the government do this? It is to create division. For the more people are divided, the greater control the government has over the people.
The question you need to answer is if government is the source of racism and prejudice, and it is (just review the Woodrow Wilson administration for starters), how do you correct it? If your answer is by giving government more power please explain the logic. How is giving the people who cause division more power going to lead to less division?
Also, what is the basis for claiming racism? When minorities living in cities governed 100% by Liberals suffer high crime and a failed education system, is that racism? Who is to blame for this outcome? Should not the Liberal leadership be held accountable?
How is it the fault of Republicans or “whitey” that black kids in Baltimore cannot read or do simple math? Republicans / “conservatives” do not exist in Baltimore and are an endangered species in Maryland, and yet we are supposed to believe it is their fault Baltimore is a failed city?
It is a fascinating thing that the Left hates the idea of people having freedom. They would rather people have failure imposed on them than people have the liberty to do for themselves what the government fails to provide, such as having a quality education and the privilege of living in a peaceful, law abiding community.
“WCN / White Supremacy is so fringe that the Feds must create such groups or infiltrate them with their own operators to generate attention.”
And the shark has been jumped. Sorry, I don’t have discussions with conspiracy theorists. For in the world of conspiracy theory, you just make up facts and distortions to get your way. When one argument is challenged to the point that it is indefensible, well, just make stuff up. I will respond to just one more thing though:
“We saw this in the Michigan kidnapping story”
Where the courts actually reached convictions of far-right groups plotting to kidnap the Michigan governor? Yeah, totally fringe group propped up by the gubmint. Oogity-boogity-boo!
I’ve read enough. Like grizzbear55, you seem like a WCN sympathist who was set off by this post. So you respond with all sorts of denialism and smoke and mirrors.
The Book of Mormon actually teaches that no race or people has a unique claim on righteousness or on the blessings of God. This truth is taught as doctrine (2Nephi 26:24, Alma 26:37) and it is illustrated by the story the book tells.
Now there is a misunderstanding taught in the LDS church concerning the interpretation of 1Nephi 13. The prophecies of the Gentiles better fits the arrival of the English settlers to America in the 17th century. The Puritan settlers in particular fit the description of a humble, God fearing people and the Puritan leaders William Bradford and John Winthrop better fit the description of a man led by the spirit to the Americas.
With this perspective that the Book of Mormon prophecy is about a religious people – Puritan Gentiles – heading to the New World to freely worship God, the contradictions of the Columbus story go away. The prophecy is not about Columbus! Furthermore the Book of Mormon is clear that the Gentiles will falter as they turn from God and lift themselves up in pride.
Now it is a fair concern that the Book of Mormon and the Bible give credibility to the notion that “natives” must be evangelized and converted to Christianity. To this I would say that yes, all people need the opportunity to receive the Gospel of Christ. What is problematuc is the idea that all people must join a certain church and adopt the culture of that church. On this American Christians ought to be better.
Your reflexive use of the term “great American” and near worship of Sowell signals to me that you are likely an old dittohead. Sowell was always on the Rush Limbaugh Show back in the day. I was never a fan, but worked for someone who loved talk radio. Did I guess correctly?
You are thinking of Walter Williams. Another great American. Thomas Sowell is more accomplished. I highly recommend looking into his work. Here is an interview with Sowell that touches on race, welfare, affirmative action and other socioeconomic issues. It must be appreciated that Sowell’s opinions are observations based on substantial evidence – he is prolific in gathering data from across the world. He also lived it.
As for Rush Limbaugh he was one of the talented communicators of our lifetime. That said, I was not a frequent listener the last decade of Limbaugh’s show. My favorite radio show was hosted by Ron Smith, a local Baltimore commentator who understood the meaning of liberty and explained it better than did Rush. Key difference, Rush was captive to partisan politics, Ron Smith was not. Rather he was consistent in his judgment no matter the political labels of the subjects involved. Here is an obituary/ eulogy of Ron Smith. I find it compelling that Smith and Sowell had similar experiences with being self-taught and both are stubborn with facts, even if it makes them less popular. https://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/bs-xpm-2011-12-19-bs-ae-ron-smith-obit-20111206-story.html
The BOM says nothing about Columbus. As a deep reader of history in my view is a more likely fit is De Las Casas. Columbus committed crimes against humanity. Yet LDS WCN assume he is the historical figure mentioned because frankly they don’t know history.
Then there’s this Salt Lake Tribune headline on Wednesday, 3/15:
“Utah treasurer tells Republicans that ESG is part of ‘Satan’s plan’”
The State Treasurer’s name is Marlo Oaks. From the article,
“Oaks, speaking to the Salt Lake County Republican Party Convention, said programs like ESG and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were laudable pursuits — like ending world hunger and poverty — but were part of “outcomes-based systems” designed to reach a pre-determined conclusion.
“ ‘goals have been identified. The truth has already been defined that these are the problems, and here are the solutions. The debate is over,’ Oaks said.
Oaks then veered into the biblical ‘war in Heaven’ from the Book of Revelation, calling it another ‘outcomes-based’ effort.
“ ‘Outcomes-based governance like the U.N.’s SDGs and ESG opens the door to authoritarianism. It is Satan’s plan,’ Oaks told the GOP delegates.
ESG is a framework used by companies to evaluate their approach to issues like the use of green energy, air and water pollution, diversity in hiring and gender equality. Last year, Oaks pulled about $100 million in state funds from the Blackrock investment firm because of their use of ESG in evaluating investments.”
His office provided Epoch Times links as justification for his remarks.
Link to follow.
Here’s the link to my comment.
SL Trib headline: Utah treasurer tells Republicans that ESG is part of ‘Satan’s plan’
It’s pretty clear that you are steeped in the right wing extremist echo system. Rush Limbaugh a talented communicator?
Here is my litmus test I’m todays environment – do you believe the election was stolen?
ESG is a deceit, a form of fraud being imposed on the economy. This is not just my opinion. Here is a quote from Harvard Business Review:
“The conclusion to be drawn from this evidence seems pretty clear: funds investing in companies that publicly embrace ESG sacrifice financial returns without gaining much, if anything, in terms of actually furthering ESG interests.”
I don’t know what or who you are a disciple of, but clearly not of the truth. The words ‘fraud’ and ‘deceit’ never make an appearance in the referenced HBR article. All the author says is that the returns on investment using this philosophical approach are not as robust as other approaches, which can’t be argued from a mathematical perspective but may be beside the point for some investors. Referencing high-falutin sources that don’t back up your assertions under the assumption that no one will read them is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest.
well holy shiz, this thread got almost as weird as the Utah Republican Party convention! Why a public official thought that talking about “Satan’s plan” in political meetings is beyond me, but shows you all you need to know about Utah politics and why I will get out of here one day.
And yes. There are plenty of valid complaints about ESG. But “fraud” doesn’t really apply unless you want to actually change the definition of fraud so much that you aren’t really talking about fraud anymore.
“‘but were part of “outcomes-based systems” designed to reach a pre-determined conclusion.
“ ‘goals have been identified. The truth has already been defined that these are the problems, and here are the solutions.
Oaks said that ending world hunger and poverty were laudable pursuits.
So, it looks like goals and “outcomes-based systems” are what they oppose. A goal seeks an outcome -it’s inherent to what a goal is. A goal ought to pursue laudable things.
Are Oaks and his ilk opposed to other predetermined outcomes? Lowering taxes on corporations and other wealthy individuals has a predetermined outcome of lowering taxes on people who need it least. It’s not laudable. It increases the national debt. Concentration of wealth, Citizens United, gerrymandering districts, appointing partisan judges, etc. actually dilute democracy by the people, and open the way for actual authoritarianism.
Marlo Oaks is both misguided and nonsensical.
I am pleased to not live in the US where so much energy is wasted on extreme right win lies.
Here is a section from an article about the rise of chinese power in the Pacific. Describing America as others see it.
“The economic gravity has shifted. Western economies are being left behind. By 2050, according to financial giant PwC, the US will be the only Western country in the world’s top 10 economies.
America is a long way from the beacon of democracy it promoted last century.
It is a tired, divided country. Its wealth gap is obscene. The opioid epidemic, gun violence and suicide – let alone the ravages of the COVID epidemic – mean life expectancy in the world’s richest country is declining.
Ask Black Americans, Native Americans, poor white Appalachian and rust-belt Americans whether they believe in the American dream.
Is America the best bet for world peace?”