Religion, Populism, and Modernity
Confronting White Christian Nationalism and Racism
310 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 2 b&w illustrations
- Published: September 2023
- ISBN: 9780268205829
- Published: September 2023
- ISBN: 9780268205812
- Published: September 2023
- ISBN: 9780268205805
In this timely book, an interdisciplinary group of scholars investigates the recent resurfacing of White Christian nationalism and racism in populist movements across the globe.
Religion, Populism, and Modernity examines the recent rise of White Christian nationalism in Europe and the United States, focusing on how right-wing populist leaders and groups have mobilized racist and xenophobic rhetoric in their bids for political power. As the contributors to this volume show, this mobilization is deeply rooted in the broader structures of western modernity and as such requires an intersectional analysis that considers race, gender, ethnicity, nationalism, and religion together. The contributors explore a number of case studies, including White nationalism in the United States among both evangelicals and Catholics, anti- and philosemitism in Poland, the Far Right party Alternative for Germany, Islamophobia in Norway and France, and the entanglement of climate change opposition in right-wing parties throughout Europe. By extending the scope of these essays beyond Trump and Brexit, the contributors remind us that these two events are not exceptions to the rule of the normal functioning of liberal democracies. Rather, they are in fact but recent examples of long-standing trends in Europe and the United States. As the editors to the volume contend, confronting these issues requires that we not only unearth their historical precedents but also imagine futures that point to new ways of being beyond them.
Contributors: Atalia Omer, Joshua Lupo, Philip Gorski, Jason A. Springs, R. Scott Appleby, Richard Amesbury, Geneviève Zubrzycki, Yolande Jansen, Jasmijn Leeuwenkamp, Sindre Bangstad, and Ebrahim Moosa.
Introduction to Meditations on Religion, Populism and Modernity: The Cultural Logic of White Christian Nationalisms by Atalia Omer and Joshua Lupo
1. Religious Nationalism and Right-Wing Populism: Trumpism and Beyond by Philip Gorski
2. Zombie Nationalism: The Sexual Politics of White Evangelical Christian Nihilism by Jason A. Springs
3. Re-Narrating the Past: The Case of ‘Modern’ ‘White’ ‘American’ Catholics by Scott Appleby
4. Constructing ‘Religion,’ Performing ‘The People’: Political Theology and the Paradox of Popular Sovereignty by Richard Amesbury
5. Anti/Philosemitism, Religion, and the Logic of Ethnic Nationalism in Poland by Geneviève Zubrzycki
6. The Pull to the Right of the Right, Religion, and the Ecological Crisis: Evaluating a Religio-Secular Perspective through a Reading of Bruno Latour’s Late Work by Yolande Jansen and Jasmijn Leeuwenkamp
7. Which Populism, Which Christianity? by Sindre Bangstad
8. Going Rogue on Islam: Derrida’s Muslim Hauntology & Nationalism’s Specters by Ebrahim Moosa
“At once granular and general, this thought-provoking compilation explores how the logic of White Christian nationalism operates in American and European politics today, sometimes hidden and sometimes hidden in plain sight. All too often, scholars of religion shy away from asking and answering normative questions—here they don’t.” —Ulrich Schmiedel, author of Terror und Theologie
“Religion, Populism, and Modernity offers a multidisciplinary and contextually rich comparative study that moves the conversation beyond a priori assumptions and equips the reader with insights for better understanding the complexities that create and sustain White Christian nationalisms today.” —John A. Rees, author of Religion in International Politics and Development
"This audacious volume offers an original and multisited perspective into the entanglements between whiteness, populism, Christianity, nationalism and secularism. By weaving threads throughout phenomena as diverse as Trumpism in the US, philosemitism in Poland or the far-right resistance to the ecological crisis, it compels us to critically address how race and coloniality are reenacted in complex and unexpected ways." —Nadia Fadil, author of Tegen Radicalisering
From the start, the whiteness of White Christian nationalism was opposed to blackness as well as to redness and to color more generally. Until well into the 19th century, many American Whites believed that their Black slaves had no souls to save. To be Black was to be irredeemable. The reverse was also true. To be unredeemed was to be “Black.” Until well into the 20th century, the Irish and Italian Catholics and Central and East European Jews who immigrated to America were regarded not only as religious others but also—and therefore—as racial others. Italians, Irish, and Jews were widely understood as not quite White. Their whitening was only gradual. The whitening of Mexican-Americans, meanwhile, was halting at best, that of Asian-Americans more halting still.
The racial segregation of American churches is well-known—and enduring. But the effects of whiteness on evangelical Christianity were theological as well as sociological. Consider Biblical literalism. Its origins are usually traced to the American reception of German “historical-criticism” during the late 19th-century and the eruption of the “fundamentalist/modernist” controversy during the early 20th century. But as the religious historian Mark Noll has persuasively shown, Biblical literalism initially emerged a half century earlier – as a means of defending slavery. Whereas abolitionists appealed to the “spirit” of the Bible, pro-slavery theologians fastened onto the “letter”—onto specific passages that mentioned slavery in an approving fashion. Many conservative Protestants were already inclined to Biblical literalism long before the Social Gospel and the Scopes Trials turned them against political and theological liberalism.
Or consider the evangelical reading of Christian ethics in terms of “personal accountability” rather than “social justice.” As the political scientist Michael Lienesch and other scholars have shown, it was propagated by Gilded Age business elites as a means of opposing the Social Gospel and providing theological cover for laissez-faire economics. And as the American historian Kevin Kruse and others have shown, it was repropagated by Cold War business elites for similar purposes. Conservative Christians were taught that their faith was about saving individual souls not pursuing the common good. But the ethics of personal accountability had as much to do with race as with economics. As sociologists Christian Smith and Michael Emerson have demonstrated, personal accountability talk has also become a means of stripping inequality of its social context—a means, that is, of blaming the poor, and especially poor Blacks, for their own poverty, for a lack of wealth that is demonstrably better understood in structural and historical terms.
Finally, consider evangelical theologians newfound love for the subtleties of the Holy Trinity. For decades, evangelical preachers have urged their followers to establish a “personal relationship with Jesus.” So “Christ-centered” was their theology that God the Father sometimes seemed to fade into the background. As for the Holy Spirit, that was for the “Holy Rollers” of a Pentecostal persuasion. No more. As “radical Islam” has replaced “Godless communism” as the religio-racial other for religious conservatives, evangelical theologians have rediscovered the Triune God. For trinitarian doctrine makes it possible to draw a sharp line between Christianity and Islam, which insists on the one-ness of God. It allows evangelical theologians to argue that Christian and Muslims do not worship the same God. That this dividing line also runs between Christianity and Judaism, or that the doctrine of the Trinity has no “Biblical basis” whatsoever (i.e., is not explicitly mentioned in the scripture), is evidently of no account. The theology must be bent to fit the politics. The racial tail is wagging the theological dog, and not for the first time in the history of evangelicalism.