Magazine article Church & State

Race and Religion: A New Book Examines Christianity's Place within White Nationalism in the United States

Magazine article Church & State

Race and Religion: A New Book Examines Christianity's Place within White Nationalism in the United States

Article excerpt

Blood & Faith: Christianity in American White Nationalism by Damon T. Berry, Syracuse University Press, 268 pp.

When the white supremacist terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Va., occurred in August, the Religious Right was not fazed. Members of the movement continued to be President Donald J. Trump's most loyal and complicit supporters - despite his divisive comments about how "both sides" (protesters and white supremacists) were to blame for the violence.

But aside from the Religious Right's reaction that failed to oppose racial injustice in the United States, there was a very different religious connection to the vioence. Members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), who are white supremacists with a racist interpretation of Christianity, as well as others who espouse religion-based racist views, participated in various white supremacist marches that weekend.

The intersection between racism and religion has been the topic of research nationwide, and a new book adds to that scholarship. Blood & Faith: Christianity in American White Nationalism by Damon T. Berry explores white nationalism's relationship with religion after World War II, and in particular, with the most dominant religion in the United States--Christianity.

Berry notes that the marriage between the Religious Right and the Republican Party remains strong, observing, "Relationships between Christianity and right wing politics were by that time hardly new in US history. Certain forms of Christianity have long shared space with the political and nationalist Right."

Berry ponders whether the relationship between Christians and white nationalists may only strengthen as demographics in America change. As the population of people of color who were traditionally minorities in America increases, Berry suggests that far-right white evangelicals will feel increasingly disenfranchised and relate even more to white nationalist identity politics. A new generation of white nationalism could feature racialized Christianity more openly.

"Religious toleration among the newer white nationalists, aimed mainly at reconciling white nationalism with Christianity, signals renewed interest in participation in American conservatism," Berry observes.

Looking at the rise of the "alt-right," Berry notes that white nationalists who consider themselves a part of that movement share anxieties about multiculturalism and oppose the Black Lives Matter movement while supporting attempts to ban Muslims, refugees and other immigrants.

Trump's xenophobic presidential campaign rhetoric appealed to "alt-right" and white supremacist figures like ex-KKK leader David Duke. This, Berry suggests, should prompt further research.

"Such overlap of support for Trump's ideas between a large portion of the American public and white nationalists should signal the importance of studying the internal logics of white nationalism," Berry writes. "American white nationalists' efforts to access the political mainstream through popular racialized discourses on multiculturalism and immigration may point to the importance of studying the racist Right as more than an outlier in American public life."

Berry adds: "To ignore the logic of the so-called extremists is not only foolish but also neglectful of the fact that extremism can easily become the norm if we are not vigilant in valuing human lives beyond our own closed notions of society."

Berry's inquiry is important, especially given white supremacy's significant influence on current attacks on religious, racial and ethnic minorities. Some critics have argued that Trump's presidency has empowered his "alt-right" and white nationalist supporters to promote a culture of Islamophobia, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. The Religious Right, for the most part, has remained complicit by refusing to condemn the racism that Trump, as well as people within his administration, sometimes promote. …

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