This past weekend, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., repeated her call that Republicans should embrace Christian nationalism, stating, “We need to be the party of nationalism and I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists.”
This is the same Greene who in 2019, when she was a candidate seeking office, claimed the two female Muslim members of Congress, Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., wanted to impose “Sharia in America” and demanded they “go back to the Middle East.”
This juxtaposition of a party that embraces a white, Christian nationalism as a platform, while condemning an imagined attempt to impose religious law of a different faith, is more than just glaring hypocrisy; it poses a very real threat to our freedoms and our democracy. Yet Democrats have still not found a convincing way to call out and rally against this xenophobic radical religious movement, even though the answer is staring them in the face: This is yet another example of the GOP’s dangerous embrace of extremism.
For years, GOP-elected officials falsely claimed Muslim Americans wanted to impose Islamic law in the United States — which they referred to as “Sharia law.” It didn’t matter that we, Muslims, who only clock in at about 1% of the U.S. population, were definitely not trying to do that. Republicans simply saw a political benefit in stoking hate against a minority group, a staple of the GOP playbook.
The irony feels extra rich now that these same Republicans are openly seeking to legally impose their extreme religious beliefs on Americans.
Christian nationalism has a long dark history in the United States, one of white supremacy, bigotry and ties to the Nazi party. In the 1948 presidential election, a political party called the Christian Nationalist Party nominated Gerald L. K. Smith, a pastor who openly sympathized with Nazi ideologies in his party’s antisemitic, anti-Black platform.
The term Christian nationalism is inseparable from white nationalism and is defined by the belief that the United States was founded as a white, Christian nation. It also relies on the core belief that there should be no wall between church and state, rather that our laws should be based on right-wing, extreme interpretations of the Christian faith.
Greene is not alone in touting the fabricated threat that Muslim Americans wanted to impose Islamic law while advocating for their own religious views to be turned into law. Pennsylvania’s 2022 Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano warned in two 2018 social media posts titled “Stop Islam” that we should be fearful of Muslims being elected to Congress who “practice Sharia law,” because in his view Muslims are “people who respect neither the culture nor the rights of the original population.” Today, Mastriano tells anyone who will listen that the separation of church and state was a “myth,” as he seeks to ban abortion even in case of rape, incest or threat to the life of the pregnant woman — all based on his extreme religious beliefs. The hypocrisy would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous.
Since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the conservative Supreme Court, seven GOP-controlled states have imposed laws banning abortion at conception. These laws are grounded on the religious belief that life begins at conception, which, notably, is not shared by all faiths, or even all branches of Christianity. Still, Republicans seek to force their beliefs upon us just as the religious radicals in the Taliban despicably impose their extreme religious beliefs: by law.
Unfortunately, the GOP is far from done in waging its crusade. Former Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday implored attendees of the student conference for the Young America’s Foundation to work toward that very goal: “We must not tire until we have restored the sanctity of life to the center of American law in every state in the nation,” he said.
Last week, we saw 195 of 203 House Republicans vote against codifying federal protections for access to birth control and nearly three quarters of the GOP House caucus opposing codifying marriage equality.
To say that white Christian nationalism is a threat to our democracy is not an exaggeration. Yale sociologist Philip Gorski explained in a recent interview with Yale News that Christianity and democracy can and have complemented each other in the United States. But this Christian nationalism, he has noted, is a dangerous threat to our democracy. The notion stipulates that only white Christians should have full rights — even when it comes to voting. Gorski shared his finding of "strong correlations between white Christian nationalism and support for gerrymandering, support for the Electoral College, support for various other kinds of means of restricting the vote.”
Professor Kristin Du Mez, author of New York Times bestseller "Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation,” recently warned on my SiriusXM show that there’s a growing and loud authoritarian strain in the movement that would accept an end to democracy if replaced by an autocrat who delivered on its Christian nationalist dreams.
The challenge now for Democrats is calling out the threat of white Christian nationalism in a way that won’t enable the GOP to smear them as being anti-Christian, an attack long used by the GOP against the Democratic Party. Democratic Rep. Susan Wild saw a mini-backlash by Fox News when recently on my SiriusXM show she slammed the GOP-controlled Supreme Court for overturning Roe and chipping away at the wall between church and state as “about making Christianity the law of the land."
Wild is 100% correct. And this yet another example of the GOP’s embrace of extremism: from bans on abortion that would force a 10-year-child who is raped to carry the fetus of the rapist to term, to prohibiting books to opposing access to birth control and marriage equality.
Democrats can’t allow the GOP’s embrace of Christian nationalism to go unchallenged. They need to make the case that there’s a difference between Christianity and white Christian nationalism. The former is a beautiful religion, the latter is a threat to our freedoms and our democracy.