Violence Isn’t The Only Way Christian Nationalism Endangers Democracy

 Violence and Christian Nationalism
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One year ago at the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, the world witnessed one way in which Christian nationalism imperils American democracy. We’ve all seen photos and footage of the mob violence perpetrated by Americans waving Christian flags, clad in Christian clothing, saying Christian prayers.

As some increasingly isolated and radicalized religious conservatives react to their loss of power, the threat of their political violence is real. But it is not the only way Christian nationalism jeopardizes our democracy.

The fact is, Christian nationalist ideology — particularly when it is held by white Americans — is fundamentally anti-democratic because its goal isn’t “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Its goal is power.

Specifically, power for “true Americans like us,” Christians in an almost ethnic sense, those who belong — the worthy. Stemming from this, the most salient threat white Christian nationalism poses to democracy is that it seeks to undermine the very foundation of democracy itself: voting.

We can see this connection long before the 2020 presidential election or recent efforts to restrict voter access throughout the country. As historian Anthea Butler recounts, at a 1980 conference Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Moral Majority, spoke about electoral strategy to Christian right leaders including Tim LaHaye, Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell Sr. and then-presidential candidate Ronald Reagan.

Weyrich famously explained:

“Many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome. Good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

In Weyrich’s own words, the goal of these Christian right leaders wasn’t more Americans exercising their democratic rights. The goal is “leverage” and, with it, victory.

Over the next few decades, Weyrich and other organizations he co-founded, like the American Legislative Exchange Council, tirelessly promoted legislation to restrict voter access, guided by the belief that voting must be controlled, lest the wrong sorts of people determine the outcome. Read more.

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