"For the Christian Nationalist, Christianity is not really a faith as such: it is just an expression of the Western volksgeist; the emphasis is on the Nationalism part, not so much on the Christian part."

I think the most important observation about the Christian Nationalist phenomenon is that the volksgeist here is not really a "Western" volksgeist or even a general (white, protestant) American one--it reflects a very specific ethnic character, and the use of "Christian" is meant to be a more polite way of referring to that ethnicity.

One thing that's interesting to note is that there *was* an Christian theocracy in American history in the form of the Puritan New England--and for that matter one that was exclusively white and protestant--but the Christian Nationalists now who ostensibly want to build a Christian nation are largely disconnected from that history. Ironically, if anything it's the Catholic integralists who take positive inspiration from the Puritans--the Christian Nationalist types are more likely to use that as a word of derision than praise.

The "Christian" in Christian Nationalism doesn't merely refer to Christianity or even white protestant Christianity but specifically the born again evangelicalism, either Charismatics or sects associated with 2nd Great Awakening revivalism. These sects are all heavily associated with white southern "plain folk" types, and more generally people of Scots-Irish settler origin--the sort of people who ethnically identify themselves as American without adjectives. Notably, a map of where that ethnicity is most prominent almost perfectly maps to where Christian Nationalism is a strong political force in local conservatism, as opposed to Mountain West anti-government libertarianism or Midwestern "hardhat" Middle American radicalism--note in particular the exclaves in Idaho and Indiana, non-southern states where Christian Nationalism is unusually prominent:


Also note how closely this matches a map of where Mainline vs. Evangelical protestants predominate, in states where whites are the predominant population (nonwhite protestants tend to be evangelical because the evangelicals were the ones doing the evangelizing).


"Christian" here is an attempt at giving a definition for that group without specifically identifying the ethnicity in question, an ethnicity which most Americans--and for that matter most Christian nationalists themselves--are not explicitly aware of. Christian Nationalism is meant to be a heritage American, Anglo-Protestant nationalism that excludes--and in fact primarily opposes--the Northeast, which always figures in Christian nationalist rhetoric as malicious, anti-Christian force (although they'll always call them coastal elites or somesuch instead).

.This is, I think, also key to understanding the strange beliefs Christian Nationalists have about Jews, which wildly swing between philosemitism and antisemitism. A lot of the qualities attributed to Jews in Postonian antisemitism are associated with Northeastern elites and culture more generally by Christian Nationalists, of which liberal Jews just become one part. This produces the sort of "broad conspiracism" that we typically associate with Christian Nationalists--there are the Rothschilds and Soros and what not, but also the Clintons and the Qanon Satanic Cabal and so forth. When Wolfe says "non-Christian radicals in the northeast", he doesn't necessarily just mean Jews but liberal northeasterners as a whole, who are made into an ethnicity in their own right. Since Jews are not the end-be-all of the conspiracy anymore, conservative Jews have an out for now and can be welcomed into the movement in a way that they can't for explicitly white nationalist types--although I can't imagine that will last for long if these guys actually take power.

This all not only makes Christian Nationalism definitely a form of volkisch, ethnocentric fascism, but actually makes it probably the least inclusive of all the fascoid political currents in the US. The imported European fascisms, neo-nazi white nationalism and integralist clerofascism, have a sort of artificial, fetishistic character to them--they are built around groups, whites and the traditional religious respectively, that don't actually have a genuine, shared ethnic identity with a significant population to rally around, which generally restricts them to fringe movements. Traditional American nativism as represented by the Old Right, on the other hand, included and was driven by northeastern WASP conservatives, who have now mostly become irrelevant--the transition from the Old Right to modern paleoconservatism is probably best understood by this shift in ethnic character.

The Christian Nationalists' obvious cousin among the American fascoids are the neo-Confederate southern white nationalists as represented by the KKK and the like--effectively, they're what happens when that movement breaks out of narrow Southern particularism and its specific relationship with slavery and segregation, and is able to appeal to the "plain folk" ethnicity even outside of the south, which is pretty much what you see from the movement's lineage. That being said, even then the specific group that Christian Nationalism appeals to probably isn't enough to win power on its lonesome--especially since the mainline white anglo-protestants and white ethnics tend to look down upon this tendency in particular as being backwards and provincial as 2022 demonstrated, correctly sensing that Christian Nationalism is basically meant to oppose their own ethnicity.

I think that the broad coalitional nature of Trumpism, which loosely unites divergent fascoid political tendencies that each aren't large enough to win power individually, is an underexplored element of the whole movement. You can basically think of each major element of Trumpism as attempting to construct their own notion of the predominant white American volk:

-Christian Nationalists: Evangelical heritage American-without-adjectives and white ethnics who assimilate into that culture

-"Middle American Radicals"/2016 MAGAs: Working-class white ethnics

-Radicalized Movement Conservatives/2020 MAGAs: White petty bourgeois boomers

-Anti-Woke/Barstool Conservatives: GenX men (oft. multiracial)

-Antigovernment extremists (Militia movement, sovcits, etc.): Rural people, esp. in the Mountain West

-New Right trads and Alt-Right white nationalists: Alter-political tendencies within the white college-educated coastal population, who still identify with that population and want it to be in charge but don't want it to be liberal

These groups, and the underlying populations that they want to appeal to, are actually pretty heterogenous, and building a complete political program that can satisfy all of them is pretty hard because of serious fissure issues that exist *within* the coalition like abortion. It might potentially speak to ways that elements of this coalition could be pealed off without having to actually compromise left-wing values by pushing those fissure points--an extremely funny example of this is how few marginalized alt-right white nationalist types, most notably Richard Spencer, have basically migrated back into mainstream liberalism as a result of rightist infighting about Ukraine.

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Interesting post. Wolfe's views do seem like fascism, with the "Christian" part mostly a nickname for white heartland folks. How does that variety of fascism, apparently gaining ground among Christians, relate (or not) to the organized, activist religious right described in studies like Kathleen Stewart's The Power Worshippers?

On one hand, their goals seem more openly religious rather than only ethno-nationalist. But it also seems possible to me that these Christian nationalist networks––very plugged into Washington––may be getting their agenda newly advanced by the national GOP and by policy entrepreneurs like Chris Rufo. I'm thinking, for instance, of the way the GOP seems to be seizing the post-covid moment to go all in undermining the current public education system so as to give state and federal funding to highly segregated Christian schools (the issue that sparked the original organizing according to Stewart). The reversion back to open hostility to gays and lesbians (still very much there within the anti-trans stalking horse) seems like another possible piece of evidence that these networks have acquired new power.

Their goals are certainly fascist and by definition totalitarian (capture all seven "mountains" of social authority). But they seem to me like something distinct from either MAGAverse people like Taylor Greene, or paleoconservatives. I find reflexive hostility to religion among leftists to be tedious, and I don't think politics should even try to banish religious interests. But this may not be the religious right of the Bush era anymore.

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How did Smith's Protestant Christian Nationalism square with his support for figures like Huey Long and Father Coughlin? While Long was at least nominally a Baptist, his political machine was dependent on people like Leander Perez in St. Bernard Parish (where my dad grew up) and he couldn't wield power if he totally alienated the Catholics of South Louisiana. Did Smith think of these Catholics as useful idiots of a kind, or did his anti-Catholicism grow more prominent over time.

It's worth pointing out that David Duke totally dominated St. Bernard Parish in his statewide runs in 1990 and 91.

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Jun 22, 2023·edited Jun 22, 2023

Great piece thank you. I’m in process of writing up a piece on Christian Nationalism myself and found this line to be pretty central to my thesis as well:

“ For the Christian Nationalist, Christianity is not really a faith as such: it is just an expression of the Western volksgeist; the emphasis is on the Nationalism part, not so much on the Christian part.”

Really thought provoking and well done. The Christian nationalism being pushed is totally a form of fascism imo, I agree. My piece comes from the angle that the conflict over veneration of Columbus is essentially this same thing as the global conflict of today - authoritarianism vs liberalism. Columbus’s actions can only be justified by Christian Nationalism, certainly not Christ’s teachings. Slavery, imperialism, colonialism etc…these were all widely accepted before liberalism came to supplant Christian Nationalism as the dominating philosophy of the West. European monarchs nearly all justified their power by such - divine right of kings.

Such attitudes combined with mass media and modern personality cults, viola, fascism.

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I miss the days when Gordon Liddy could use the term “untermensch” on Buckley’s t.v. show and the world champ chair-slumper, or anybody else, doesn’t bat an eyelash. The English language was not improved by fascism acquiring euphemisms.

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So right on. Tribalism where the "other" loses human qualities and those who are "othering" suffer as well. We very soon arrive at a "mystical" practice common to the fascists of yore. Ego on steroids!!

If, indeed, all the major religions including, of course, Christianity are based on a truly mystical experience of love, then this is manifestly not Christian. Mystical Christianity is non-dual and appears to revere a practice that leads to non Valentines Day love. (Valentines Day love being, by this definition, almost exclusively ego based and, therefore, without any heart or compassion.) Been following Richard Rohr for years and it seems that, as I read him, dualistic living is "living in sin." I believe that he argues that "sin", "evil," and the devil don't actually exist in the New Testament except by inference. His version of Christianity is extremely liberal--even progressive. The same can be said of traditional Islam and Judaism--the Abrahamic traditions.

Assuming the above is a fair reading of these foundational religious texts, then "Christian Nationalism" is patently absurd. So then, what is going on? And, Dear John, it seems that you are getting to it.

I've been waiting for thoughtful non-Christians to start really raising hell. The Canary in the coal mine, as it were. Who has recently suffered deeply at the hands of fascism? And I love your way to clarity. However, "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis" is a warning that we might wait too long. Hope, and all that. Please continue with your good works.

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Well, Christ on a cracker and Holy Jesus this post made me so nervous I had to read it three times. These people scare the bejesus out of me. And what the feck is he talking about? You are restored to godliness, unity, like being in a family, nursing at your mother’s breast, you will live always in the oceanic moment like a baby--just as long as you get rid of the ethnic undesirables? Forever? Just perfect psychic harmony or something? I suppose this is the part that I find the most scary because if you’re selling something selling perfect oceanic unity of human perfection is really going for the ultimate even more than what the right extremists usually sell which is some vague fantasy that somebody not white stole your stuff and Obama is giving them free stuff and you can go with the far right and get some free stuff too or at least get a chance to unleash your sadism. The utopianism where you are promised nothing will ever annoy you again and you will never be lonely again alarms me because these are such irritable, lonely people. It’s like they’ve mixed hate with a self-help book and that feels in my guts like a potent combination.

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John, to reply to your last sentence, I think the reason that no one calls fascists fascists or Nazis Nazis anymore is because the terms have been so over used for so long that even accurate use of them will cause someone to be accused of hyperbole.

Thanks for the article though.

It's chilling to watch our nation, including my many neighbors in the red state in which I live, go through this process like a frog in a pot.

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Nice review and analysis. I would only add that fascism is a species of the genus of irredentist religious Caesarism, not the other way around. These ideas predate Hitler and cannot be restricted to a Germanic, postwar American, or even Western context. To call Christian Nationalism in America "fascist" is a kind of understandable shorthand, but it runs the risk of missing similar irredentist movements in other cultural contexts.

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This is excellent, Mr. Ganz. It does seem as if Christian Nationalism is another form of fascism, but help out a layperson: where would one find the best arguments against the belief that the USA was, or inherently is a "Christian (Anglo-Protestant) nation"?

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Of COURSE Shreveport is involved. The ArkLaTex region (NE TX/NW LA/SE AR, where you can get from any of them to either of the others in an hour) is the cancerous rectal polyp of humanity.

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This article has pulled together a number of strings I’ve been wondering about for years. Sounds like Buckley tried to “improve/update” conservatism by removing its tribal, fear-based past (paleo) but by doing so he drained if of any real content. 2008 collapse exposed the core vacuity at the heart of Buckley’s conservatism and since then paleo conservatism has been successfully re-seizing the political ground it lost long ago. Illuminating.

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With regards to the New Yorker, Kelefa Sanneh wrote a sympathetic profile is Tucker Carlson maybe a decade ago, along with some other reprehensible figures. I haven't read the recent article, but I wouldn't trust him to not sand down the rough edges to begin with.

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