Christofascism, not Christian nationalism

By March 3, 2024Religion, Society, US Politics

Nationalism is an ideology based on the premise that the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual, family or group loyalties. In world politics, nationalism implies the identification of the nation-state with the people1.

Columnist David French has written an opinion piece in the New York Times entitled ‘What is Christian Nationalism, Exactly?’ In that article, he relates that in 2022, a coalition of right-wing writers and leaders published a document called “National Conservatism: A Statement of Principles.” Its stated “Where a Christian majority exists, public life should be rooted in Christianity and its moral vision, which should be honored [sic] by the state and other institutions both public and private.” That immediately relegates non-Christians to second-class status. He further noted that it was contrary to the First Amendment and would compel deference to Christianity on both religious minorities and the nonreligious2.

When I started writing this, I remembered something that George Bernard Shaw said: “Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it”.Aside from making me giggle at its portrayal of narcissism, this made me wonder what the difference between nationalism and patriotism was, so I looked it up. It is a rather arcane distinction, but it is useful to understand why the bastardry now afoot in the United States is called Christian nationalism. 

  • A nation is a group of people who share a history, culture, language, religion or some combination thereof.
  • A country, which is sometimes called a state in political science terminology, is an area of land that has its own government.
  • A nation-state is a homogeneous political entity, mostly comprising a single nation. Nation-states are rare, because nearly every country is home to more than one national group. One example of a nation-state would be North Korea, where almost all residents are ethnic Koreans.

Australia, like the United States, is neither a nation nor a nation-state. Rather, it is a country of many different groups of people who have a variety of shared histories, cultures, languages and religions3. This was news to me, because I simply assumed that most modern countries were nation-states. It always pays to make sure that what you think is true, is actually true.

A dictionary definition of nationalism is: “loyalty and devotion to a nation.” It is a person’s strong affinity for those who share the same history, culture, language or religion. Scholars understand nationalism as exclusive, boosting one identity group over and above others. In contrast to nationalism’s loyalty for or devotion to one’s nation, patriotism is, “love for or devotion to one’s country.” It comes from the Greek word patrios, which means “of one’s father”. In other words, patriotism has historically meant a love for and devotion to one’s fatherland, or country of origin3.

As I have noted elsewhere, the evangelical religious nutters in the US have thrown in their lot with Trump and his Republican Party, who, to put it bluntly, are anti-democratic4. It is also true of ‘Christian nationalism’; that it is anti-democratic. Much of the legislation curbing women’s and others’ rights in Republican parts of the US, is driven by the religious. These include the overturning of Roe vs Wade (which granted women the right to abortion). Equally alarming was the Texas bill SB-8, which passed only months after the Roe vs Wade decision. It offered a $10,000 bounty to individuals who report those involved in illegal abortions (which are often unbelieved miscarriages). Even before the overturn of the Roe v. Wade decision, Texas exhibited a maternal mortality ratio* comparable to third-world countries, at 35.8 per 100,000 live births5 (Australia’s maternal mortality rate is 5.86). Since the overturn, maternal death rates increased by 62 percent, with a 10 percent rise in infant mortality5.

The speaker of the House of Representatives, religious nutter Mike Johnson, who has featured here before7, is pivotal in the continuation of this ‘christian nationalism’. Johnson wants to defund Planned Parenthood, to propagate scientifically inaccurate information about abortions, and supports legislation declaring that life begins at conception5. People like Johnson, and their Republican Party’s continue attempts at gerrymandering electorates8, and disenfranchisement of people who they perceive as more likely to vote Democrat9. In addition, they are engaging in what is termed voter suppression. These include limitations on absentee and early voting, stricter voter ID requirements, restrictions on voter registration, and other systemic barriers that decrease the voting engagement of minority populations10.

All these together are anti-democratic and with the deep involvement of the religious in the Republican Party, it seems that christofascism** is a more accurate term than christian nationalism.

*Maternal Mortality Ratio. The incidence of maternal death is expressed as the maternal mortality ratio (MMR). The MMR is calculated using direct, indirect and not classified maternal deaths and expressed as the number of deaths per 100,000 women giving birth6.

**Christofascism: Evangelical, theocratical movement of Americans who stand against abortion, sex education, homosexuality, science, anti-Zionism, gun control, the separation of church and state, and anything else vaguely progressive. The term was coined by liberation theologian Dorothee Sölle in 1970. In the mid-2000s, the Bush administration refined its broadly titled “War on Terror” campaign to the ‘Fight Against Islamofascism’. This transferred the stigma of the 9/11 attacks from terrorists and their tactics to their religion and their policies (e.g., a Muslim caliphate)11.



One Comment

  • Doderamus says:

    We could all make better use of dictionaries (and thesauruses, and textbooks on grammar) in my opinion. Too many people just speak – or write – words. without a good understanding of what those words mean. And with English, in particular, it seems to be getting worse. Meaning becomes ambuguous, the reliance on ‘but you know what I mean’ increases, and people actually infer different meanings from what the speaker, or writer, intended.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.