Christian Nationalism at USIH



1 comments
Mark Edwards

For those of you in or near the DC area the weekend of October 15th-18th, be sure to swing by the Hamilton Crowne Plaza Hotel for the Seventh Annual Society for U. S. Intellectual History Conference.  The Society is offering a one-day "local" pass at a reduced rate.

As usual, there are a number of excellent panels on the subject of religion.  I'd like to highlight one Saturday morning panel in particular on the topic of Christian nationalism:

Roundtable: “Christian Nationalism in American History”

Chair/Discussant: Mark Edwards, Spring Arbor University

Emily Conroy-Krutz, Michigan State University

Raymond Haberski, IUPUI

Lauren Turek, Trinity University

Steven K. Green, Willamette University

Matthew Sutton, Washington State University


Here's a bit more about our subject:


America’s allegedly “Christian” founding and culture remains a subject of substantial debate among scholars as well as the general public.  Many persons associate conflicts over the civil religious nature of America with the rise of evangelical conservativism during the 1970s and 1980s.  However, the intellectual tradition of Christian nationalism is much older and messier—as studies by historians such as Robert Handy and Frank Lambert and newer work by Kevin Kruse, Steven Green, and Matthew Sutton have demonstrated.  Their scholarship teaches us several lessons.  First, we should avoid “decline and revival” narratives and understand Christian nationalism as a construction (if not fiction) that has arisen at various times in various places to accomplish a myriad of work.  Second, Christian nationalism has been advanced by a diversity of persons and groups favorable and hostile to the idea, not just by evangelical Protestants.  Third, Christian nationalism can be operational even when its keywords “Christian nation” and “Christian America” are absent.  Finally, and most importantly, “Christian nationalism” like “secularism” is a discursive site where politics and history meet—where assertions of identity and power are conjoined.

Engaging and building upon these observations, this roundtable will use brief case studies to consider the viability of Christian nationalism as an analytical tool alongside sister concepts like civil religion and culture wars.  Should historians coopt this catchphrase in an effort to offer clearer thinking about fights over pluralism, modernism vs. antimodernism, public policy, and so on?  Or, is Christian nationalism better left as something historians try to periodize and define but not utilize?



1 comments:

Tom Van Dyke at: September 25, 2015 at 11:48 PM said...

Engaging and building upon these observations, this roundtable will use brief case studies to consider the viability of Christian nationalism as an analytical tool alongside sister concepts like civil religion and culture wars. Should historians coopt this catchphrase in an effort to offer clearer thinking about fights over pluralism, modernism vs. antimodernism, public policy, and so on? Or, is Christian nationalism better left as something historians try to periodize and define but not utilize?

Much of the above might be moot. Likely in light of the political events over the past 6½ years, according to one poll, this is no longer a live discussion.

http://publicreligion.org/2015/07/is-america-a-christian-nation-nearly-half-of-americans-no-longer-think-so/#.VgYp--xViko

14% agreed America was NEVER a Christian nation
35% believe it still is one

but a strong plurality of 45% believe America was once a Christian nation, but no longer is. That may be the live wire here in 2015.

There's a lot of signaling in these things, but acc to the same poll, 61% of all Americans [68% of Christians] think this is a "bad thing," and that might be most significant. [There are other polls, including the "authoritative" Pew polls, but I think the phrasing of this poll's questions is most probative.]

At his blog, John Fea aptly notes that the GOP "Value Voters summit" made zero noise about a "Christian America." The topic was "religious liberty," a defensive stature, which is at least indirect conformation of the PRRI/RNS report.

http://www.philipvickersfithian.com/2015/09/gop-candidates-at-values-voter-summit.html

So I don't know about "historians co-opt[ing] this catchphrase in an effort to offer clearer thinking." Christians in America seem to have a pretty damn good idea where they stand.


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