A spike in rosary sales may be linked to far-right Christian nationalism
According to Newsweek reporter Jake Thomas, there may be a link between Christian nationalism and a sudden increase in rosary bead sales.
Politically, Catholicism is quite diverse in the United States. American Catholics range from centrist Democrats like President Joe Biden and three-term Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania to Sister Mary Scullion (a Philadelphia-based nun who is famous for her liberal/progressive activism) to far-right social conservatives like former Sen. Rick Santorum. Six of the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are Catholic, and they range from Democratic Barack Obama appointee Sonia Sotomayor to right-wing Republican appointees who include Clarence Thomas, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts. There are no far-right Protestant evangelicals on the U.S. Supreme Court, which is now dominated by right-wing socially conservative Catholics — although Sotomayor is a practicing Catholic who has been a scathing critic of the Court’s current direction and its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Another practicing Catholic and outspoken critic of the Court’s right-wing supermajority is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. When it comes to politics, American Catholics are far from one-dimensional. But according to Thomas, the sudden spike in rosary bead sales isn’t due to moderate or liberal/progressive Catholics, but to those who identify with Christian nationalism.
“Online retailers of rosaries have reportedly seen a spike in sales after an article in The Atlantic reported that the sacramental beads have taken on new importance for extremist Catholics and Christian nationalists,” Thomas explains. “Three online stores that sell rosaries said they've all seen an uptick in businesses after The Atlantic article stirred interest and controversy, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported Tuesday (August 16). The reporting comes as conservatives have openly embraced the once-eschewed Christian nationalist label.”
Thomas adds, “Writing in The Atlantic, Daniel Panneton argued that rosary beads have taken on a ‘militaristic meaning’ for so-called radical traditional Catholics, similar to how the AR-15 rifle has become a ‘sacred object’ for Christian nationalists. Panneton wrote that rosaries now appear on far-right social media pages and memes, often accompanied by images of firearms and praying warriors.
Rugged Rosaries CEO Shannon Doty, who sells rosaries on her websites RuggedRosaries.com and MonkRosaries.com, told CNA that she saw a “pretty good boost in sales” after Panneton’s Atlantic article was published on August 14. And the Catholic Woodworker’s Jonathan Conrad told CNA that on August 15, he has his best sales day so far in August.
Catholics in the U.S. have a complex relationship with the far-right evangelical movement. On one hand, there are millions of American Catholics who have a lot more in commons with Mainline Protestants — Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church — than they do with evangelicals. And some far-right evangelicals are vehemently anti-Catholic. But on the other hand, People of Praise is a far-right group that combines Catholic and evangelical elements — and Barrett has been a part of that group.
Thomas observes, “Christian nationalism attracted new interest after Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said during a conservative political convention last month that the label is ‘not a bad word’…. Critics of the ideology say that it leads to violent radicalization and is incompatible with the universal teachings of Jesus. However, other conservative political and media figures have latched on to the label. Political commentator Dinesh D'Souza called Christian nationalism ‘good and healthy.’"
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