Christian Nationalism

One type of journalism I particularly enjoy not reading is the LDS-shaped hole in long-form articles about the agonies of American Christianity. Of course the Church faces challenges in the U.S., but it isn’t currently dealing with or facing an imminent separation into competing denominations. Church leadership is not currently on a collision course with its most committed members. Where other faiths are looking at how going all in for Trump harmed their witness and wondering what went wrong, we get occasional reminders to avoid party-line voting or politicking at church.

And there isn’t currently a Mormon flavor of Christian Nationalism. Despite a tradition of investing the United States and the Constitution with religious significance, there’s a notable lack of Mormon intellectuals advancing the possibility of minoritarian religious rule as the solution to the nation’s ills. We don’t have general authorities publicly contemplating the end of the liberal order.

To address the whatabouts:

  • DezNat doesn’t count. From what I can tell, all their manifesto amounts to is the claim that it’s okay to be jerks online (it’s not). The DezNats who have been unmasked are bank tellers, not think tankers. If they’re still around, they’re an inconsequential online sideshow without influence. I don’t think they even fall within a broad definition of Christian Nationalism, as their goals seem to be limited to being jerks online.
  • Voting for Trump doesn’t count. Republicans voting for the Republican candidate, conservatives voting for the conservative party, and religious voters voting for the candidate that seems better aligned with their preferences do not constitute Christian Nationalism. It’s just democracy in action. If you don’t want to see it keep happening, you’ll have to persuade them to vote for candidates or policies that you prefer. Trump is a menace, but the discussion would be a lot easier if people would avoid mistaking core elements of democracy – such as voters making choices you disagree with – for Christian Nationalism.

It’s not entirely unreasonable to wonder about the attractions Christian Nationalism might hold for Latter-day Saints. We actually have some institutional experience with theocracy, and to be honest, I think if we had to do it again, we’d be relatively good at it. I mean, you’d hate it and I’d hate it, but compared to the alternatives, you could do a lot worse. For Catholicism, the peak alignment sacral and secular rule came during the High Middle Ages when the Holy Roman Empire and papacy were at their height, while for Protestants, the absolute monarchies of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries represent the pinnacle. In contrast, the Mormon theocracies of Nauvoo and Utah were built under the overarching structure of American Constitutionalism and made explicit provision for religious pluralism. Like I said, we’d all hate it, but if someone forces you to pick a variety of theocracy to live under, maybe give us a call? You could do a lot worse.

But the truth is that reviving the Great Basin Kingdom isn’t on anyone’s agenda. The theorists of illiberalism are not interested in making room for Greater Deseret as one element in a rich tapestry of post-American regional despotisms. Not only do Latter-day Saints revere the Constitution, our lost golden age isn’t the nineteenth century – it’s the recently departed postwar decades where we were within shouting distance of the American mainstream. The basic reason that Christian Nationalism holds no appeal is simply the recognition that pluralism and liberal democracy is the best we can hope for. There is no illiberal future, either under a post-liberal successor ideology or a minoritarian Christian Nationalism, where we would be anything but barely tolerated outsiders at best, if not candidates for re-education or forcible conversion.

10 comments for “Christian Nationalism

  1. 5% of us are Christian Nationalists (which is low compared to other religions) and another 33% of us are Christian Nationalist sympathizers (which is high when compared to other religions). They’re a minority but they have a lot of allies among the membership of the church.

    Obviously LDS CN and their sympathizers are going to be more concentrated in places like Arizona and Idaho.

  2. “We don’t have any Christian Nationalists! Yay! (just don’t count the actual, self-proclaimed, LDS nationalists and Trump supporters)

  3. Are Mormon’s Christians? My sense is that our bulwark against Christian Nationalism is a historical remembrance that when Christians take over, we’re the first ones kicked out of the club. The few places where some church members may feel comfortable with Christian Nationalism are those where both Mormons and Christian Nationalist are relatively prevalent (think Idaho).

  4. I wouldn’t be surprised if Christian Nationalists wanted to “purify” the country of Mormons post haste, should they ever take power.

  5. When a Church member becomes a Christian Nationalist, I blame the Anti-Mormons from the person’s mission. Clearly they were slacking off or the member would realize just what our status would be in a “Christian States of America.” Right now the Christian Nationalists need Latter-day Saint and Catholic votes, but were that to change it would quickly become clear that the movement is really by and for Evangelicals.

    The Church has made it pretty darn clear that we believe in a constitutional and pluralistic society, but the PRRI numbers Tim shared for Christian Nationalist sympathizers sound about right. In particular, too many Church members buy into David Barton’s nonsense about the Founding Fathers all being devout Christians.

  6. Tim, thanks for linking to the PRRI survey. The results are in line with what I wrote: there are ideas that seem like they should generate sympathy, but they’re not gaining a lot of LDS adherents. Looking at the survey’s findings, Church members are as likely to be rated as Christian Nationalist sympathizers as your average Republican (33%), but only as likely to be rated Christian Nationalist adherents as your average Democrat (5%).

    The other thing the survey illustrates is how loosely defined the concept of Christian Nationalism is. The survey questions are kind of a grab back of truly alarming statements like “The U.S. government should declare America a Christian nation”/”God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society” and much weaker stuff like “U.S. laws should be based on Christian values” (I’m a Christian, and I want U.S. laws to reflect my values when I vote, so what am I supposed to say here?). If people stated that “If the U.S. moves away from our Enlightenment foundations, we will not have a country anymore,” would we see that as evidence of militant atheism on the rise? So I’d like to see some more effort to make a distinction between a potential threat, and religious people having religious views.

  7. Jonathan, they explain how they defined the categories in Appendix A, but basically they defined a “sympathizer” as someone who agrees with the five statements more than they disagree. If you completely agree with “U.S. laws should be based on Christian values” but completely disagree with the other four, that makes you a “skeptic” by their definition.

    Note that they use strong language. Not “If the U.S. moves away from our Christian foundations, that would be a bad thing” but “If the U.S. moves away from our Christian foundations, we will not have a country anymore.” (I’m sure the reference to Trump’s infamous speech on January 6 was deliberate.) You have to be pretty serious to agree with most of it.

    As for “If the U.S. moves away from our Enlightenment foundations…”, one important difference is that, while “Enlightenment” is a much more nebulous concept than “Christian”, I think the vast majority of credible historians would agree that our system of government does in fact have Enlightenment foundations. But I would not describe the Enlightenment as atheist.

  8. We should be very cautious about the idea of Christian nationalism: it’s a concept that is both nebulous and opportunistically abused by critics and academics. See Jesse Smith & Gary J. Adler, Jr., What Isn’t Christian Nationalism? A Call for Conceptual and Empirical Splitting, in Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World (September 20, 2022),

  9. SDS, thanks very much for linking to that article. It describes the problems with the definition of Christian Nationalism far better than I can.

    RLD, I don’t think you can assume that the survey questions’ strong language is understood that way by survey participants. I spend a certain amount of time (just coincidentally about 3 hours this week) looking at raw responses to surveys, and the reading comprehension level isn’t super high.

Comments are closed.