How Christian nationalism united the divergent far-right factions involved in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection
One of the most dangerous phrases in the English language has been “God is on our side.” When extremists believe they are doing God’s work — whether they are members of the Aryan Nations or al-Qaeda — the results can be deadly. And according to a disturbing article published by Religion News on January 26, Christian nationalism played a prominent role in the deadly January 6, 2021 insurrection.
Although former President Donald Trump was voted out of office in the 2020 election, he continues to be incredibly popular among far-right Christian fundamentalists and White evangelicals. And some of the extremists who attacked the U.S. Capitol Building, according to Religion News reporter Jack Jenkins, combined Christian fundamentalism with MAGA ideology.
“When supporters of former President Donald Trump rallied near the White House on January 6 of last year,” Jenkins explains, “a boisterous pocket of young men waving ‘America First’ flags broke into a chant: ‘Christ is King!’ It was one of the first indications that Christian nationalism would be a theme of the Capitol attack later that day, where insurrectionists prayed and waved banners that read ‘Proud American Christian.’”
Some of the Christian nationalists who attacked the Capitol Building, according to Jenkins, were followers of White nationalist Nick Fuentes.
“‘Christ is King’ is not controversial in itself: The phrase is rooted in Christian scripture and tradition,” Jenkins notes. “But Fuentes’ supporters have given it a different connotation. They have chanted it at anti-vaccine protests and the anti-abortion 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.’”
Jenkins adds, “The religious fervor of Fuentes’ followers is part of an unsettling resurgence of faith-based appeals among right-wing extremists in the aftermath of the insurrection. With so many ideological strands animating the far-right — including racism, anti-Semitism, and fervent nationalism — a shared affinity for Christian nationalism has come to serve as a unifying element, scholars of extremism say. And as Christian nationalism’s presence grows, experts are concerned it could expand extremism’s influence over other, more moderate conservative politicians and groups.”
Of course, millions of Christians around the world, from Catholics to Mainline Protestants, have no use for Christian nationalism, the Christian Right and far-right White evangelicals just as there are millions of Muslims who detest jihadist groups like al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Taliban and ISIS (Islamic State, Iraq and Syria). Some Catholics and Protestants, in fact, are big supporters of liberal and progressive causes. Members of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church have a long history of liberal activism in the Black community.
But the fact that Christian nationalists represent Christianity’s lunatic fringe, not its mainstream, doesn’t make them any less dangerous.
“Intermingling patriotism and piety has become common even among groups better known for nationalist violence than adherence to a particular faith,” Jenkins observes. “The Proud Boys, a chauvinist organization whose members trampled and burned Black Lives Matter banners at Washington, D.C. churches a year ago, were spotted praying together the morning of the insurrection.”
Jenkins continues, “A month earlier, ‘Rufio Panman’ — a.k.a., Ethan Nordean, currently facing federal charges stemming from January 6 — compared Jesus’ crucifixion to ‘sacrificing ourselves for our country,’ at an impromptu Proud Boys rally near the Washington Monument, according to footage provided to Religion News Service by independent journalist Dakota Santiago. Nordean and other Proud Boys knelt as another man prayed into a bullhorn, warning that anti-fascist activists known as Antifa were ‘coming’ for their children, freedom, culture, country and Constitution.”
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