By Jack Jenkins
January 26, 2022
photo above: Right-wing podcaster Nick Fuentes, center, speaks to Trump supporters during a march on Nov. 14, 2020, in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
WN: We can hope and pray they not become even nastier, even more anti-Christian . . .
It also announced the presence of followers of Nick Fuentes, a 23-year-old white nationalist and former YouTube personality who was subpoenaed this month by the U.S. House of Representatives committee investigating the Capitol attack. (Though a person holding a flag reading “America First” — Fuentes’s personal brand — was among the first to barrel into the Senate chamber during the insurrection, there is no evidence Fuentes entered the Capitol himself.)
“Christ is King” is not controversial in itself: The phrase is rooted in Christian scripture and tradition. But Fuentes’s supporters have given it a different connotation. They have chanted it at anti-vaccine protests and the antiabortion March for Life, some of them holding crucifixes aloft. It was heard in March, at an America First conference, where Fuentes delivered a speech saying America will cease to be America “if it loses its White demographic core and if it loses its faith in Jesus Christ.” Fuentes also declared the country “a Christian nation.”
And as Christian nationalism’s presence grows, experts are concerned it could expand extremism’s influence over other, more moderate, conservative politicians and groups.
“Christian nationalism — and even the idea of separatism, with a subtext of White, Christian and conservative-leaning [influences] — took a more dominant role in the way that extremist groups talk to each other and try to propagandize in public,” said Jared Holt, who studies extremism at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930.” Fuentes’s rhetoric “could have come word-for-word from a Klan speech in 1922,” she said. “The Klan’s goal here was patriotism and nationalism, but it was combined with their focus on White Christianity.”
Alex Bradley Newhouse, deputy director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said three Christian nationalist movements have grown or enhanced their visibility since 2019: “Deseret nationalists,” a primarily Mormon group based in Utah; the inherently racist “Christian Identity” movement; and “dominionists,” a term used to describe Christians with theocratic political goals that now overlaps heavily with Christian nationalism.
After the Capitol attack, the latter two have become markedly more popular, Newhouse said. “Post-insurrection, we have 100 percent tracked the emergence of this Christian — revolutionary Christian — framework imposed or adopted by communities that have lost faith in the government.”
A month before the insurrection, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, who on Jan. 13 was arrested on sedition charges related to the Capitol attack, gave a speech at a faith-themed Jericho March event in Washington, where speakers espoused baseless claims about election fraud in 2020 and trumpeted Christian nationalism.
Christian nationalism has also become common among anti-vaccine activists and the extremist QAnon ideology, which has prospered in evangelical Christian congregations.
Elizabeth Neumann, who served as assistant secretary of counterterrorism and threat prevention at the Department of Homeland Security in the Trump administration, told RNS the religious turn in extremist groups would have surprised her several years ago, but not anymore.
Neumann resigned her government post in April 2020, claiming Trump was dismissive of domestic terrorist threats, and now works with the Moonshot CVE Group, which studies violent extremism. Raised evangelical (she now rejects the label, preferring “follower of Christ”), she has expressed concern about radicalization in Christian communities and worked to combat it.
“The whole concept of ‘We need to secure our nation within its Christian heritage’ … it’s heretical,” she said. “If that is where you’re going to put your focus, I’m concerned for your soul and you might have missed the point of the Gospel. But it is also not without precedent that when people think that something is allowable because their religion calls for it, we do see violence come out of that.”
People who join violent groups are often searching for “belonging and significance,” Neumann said, explaining that modern versions of Christian nationalism can fill that vacuum for some.
Besides faith, a strong unifying force has been social media, scholars say, which in turn fortifies adherence to Christian themes. “This unification is pretty unprecedented,” said Newhouse of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. “The infusion of Christian nationalism throughout that unification process has been particularly interesting and, in my opinion, is going to end up being pretty dangerous.”
“There’s this gradual move toward a more revolutionary, burn-it-all-down posture, and I think Christian Identity for a lot of these people has become a way for them to organize their thoughts,” he said.
The growth in Christian nationalism has translated into threats against the Jewish community. A recent study conducted by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism revealed a December Telegram post from Mike Lasater, president of the St. Louis Proud Boys chapter, that read, verbatim: “Our time is not up; it is the jewish hegemony whose days our numbered. This is a Christian nation; jews may be citizens of this country, but they are guests of our nation, and they should remember that.”
Experts stress that Christian nationalism is not always synonymous with Christian Identity — a point made by some conservative Christians who want to differentiate their belief that the United States is a Christian nation from that of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists.
But Baker, the author, argued that even relatively moderate Christian nationalism can encourage violent groups. “A number of celebrity pastors who are involved in white Christian nationalism have tried to separate themselves from the violence,” she said, “but are not realizing they are part of the pipeline.”
…[Anthea Butler, chair of the department of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania] pointed to a November speech by Archbishop José Gómez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The prelate, who has condemned racism and the insurrection, warned that the United States has lost its “story” — namely, one “rooted in a biblical worldview and the values of our Judeo-Christian heritage” that “underwrote America’s founding documents.”
Newhouse said there are signs that Christian nationalism’s rise is already pushing the “already radicalized” toward a “more violent posture.”
Andrew Torba, a conservative tech entrepreneur, has been venting what Newhouse described as an “extreme anti-modern version of Christian nationalism” on Gab, the alternative social media website Torba founded.
Torba’s vision for a “parallel Christian society” has crossover appeal to “accelerationist authors” — people who hope to bring on the end times by, among other things, provoking a race war, according to Newhouse.
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