Why White Christian Nationalism Won't Go Away

TThe mid-term elections were hardly a confidence booster for Christian Nationalist politicians. It’s true that Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Green a lot gerrymandered areas traveling to victory. But candidates like Doug Mastriano, Dan Cox and Darren Bailey easily lost their elections and others like Lauren Bobert, Kari Lakeand Mark Finchem were in hotly contested races.

What is the likelihood that Americans who are supporters of Christian nationalism will take these results as a referendum against their movement? We think this is highly doubtful. This is because white Christian nationalists systematically overestimate their numbers. And they almost certainly will in the future.

Christian nationalism is currently a minority position in the United States. Most Americans do not believe America exists special relationship with God, or that the federal government should I declare The US is a “Christian nation” or that it is important to be a Christian truly american. And most Americans want to separation of church and state. Furthermore, tracking such views over decades shows that they evolve slowly decreasingnot growing.

But that’s not what white Christian nationalists believe. In fact, we find that white Christian nationalists are uniquely confident in the spread and growth of their own views.

In our recent national survey, we asked Americans how much they agreed with statements such as “My views about the role of religion in government reflect the views of most Americans” and “The percentage of Americans who share my views about the role of religion in government is growing.”

Empirically speaking, neither statement is true of Christian nationalists. Yet the more white Americans subscribe to Christian nationalist ideology, the more they believe that most Americans share their views about religion in government, and the more they believe that percentage is growing.

For example, among white Americans who I do not agree with the statement, “The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation,” less than 25 percent believed most Americans shared their views on religion in government. Under 30 percent believe this percentage is growing.

Unlike those who strongly Agreed that the government should officially recognize Christianity as the national religion, nearly half (46 percent) think most Americans share their views, and that percentage is growing. Less than a quarter disagreed with any of the statements. And we see almost identical patterns for other indicators of Christian nationalism.

Given what we know about the slow decline of Christian Nationalist beliefs and the mixed results that Christian Nationalist candidates experienced last Tuesday, how could white Americans who subscribe to this ideology believe that most Americans support their views in increasing numbers? Where does such confidence come from?

One reason is what social scientists call the “false consensus effect.” The false consensus effect is when people tend to mistakenly believe that their own views are supported by the majority. This happens most often when people are surrounded only by people who agree with them. This is certainly likely to be the case among right-wing leaders and groups who trust few media sources other than those that cater to their views.

Another, more theological reason lies in various assurances that all Christians hold: that victory is in God’s hands and thus assured. And in even more nuanced versions of this theology, some outspoken Christian nationalists like the anti-Semitic founder of Gab Andrew Torba explicitly preach a “theology of victory.” They believe that Jesus Christ already rules and all his followers have to do is claim dominion over the nations in his name.

Yet another answer goes beyond Christian theology and helps make sense of a curious paradox. With others studies, we showed that white Christian nationalists tend to believe that whites and Christians are the most persecuted group in the country. Yet here we have shown that they also believe they represent the growing majority. This paradox – to believe we are the majority but we are also oppressed—reflects the populist, anti-elite nature of white Christian nationalism.

Americans who espouse white Christian nationalism see themselves as the representatives of “the nation” and “real Americans” against and against a corrupt elite “regime” that will take away their rights and plunge the nation further into decline. This should sound familiar. White Christian nationalists see themselves as a “moral majority” that only needs to be mobilized to thwart “Luciferian” agenda of globalism, socialism, secularism, rampant crime and sexual deviance.

Whatever the reasons for their confidence, it is clear that white Christian nationalist leaders and those who follow them are unlikely to be dissuaded from their mission when faced with the reality of their dwindling numbers or the struggles of candidates like Mastriano or Bobert.

If the results of 2020 and the subsequent acceptance of The Big Lie are any indication, empirical reality is unlikely to change the narrative in their minds.

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