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In their own words: How Americans describe ‘Christian nationalism’

Public attention to the concept of “Christian nationalism” has grown rapidly in the past few years. Google Trends data shows a significant rise in searches for the term following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, and searches for the term peaked in July 2022 after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., declared in an interview that “We need to be the party of nationalism and I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists.” Several other religious and political leaders also recently have embraced the “Christian nationalist” label.

Despite this growing attention, less is known about how the U.S. public views Christian nationalism. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that more than half of all U.S. adults (54%) have not heard or read anything about Christian nationalism. An additional 16% of Americans have heard at least “a little” about Christian nationalism but say they have neither a favorable nor unfavorable view of it, or that they don’t know enough to take a position. And about one-quarter of all Americans (24%) express an unfavorable view of Christian nationalism, while 5% view it favorably.

The survey asked 2,540 respondents who have heard at least “a little” about Christian nationalism: “In your own words, what does the phrase ‘Christian nationalism’ mean to you?” Many describe “Christian nationalism” in terms of Christian dominance in society, while others associate the concept with racism, authoritarianism, bigotry and exclusion. A smaller portion of Americans describe it as the positive influence of faith and morals in society. The following selection of responses captures the range of different views expressed.

““Christians” demanding that their views be the one and only way people should be accepted.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 65+
“The Christian religion is the only recognized religion for some whack-a-doodles.”
Catholic, age 65+
“A society in which patriotism and religion are inseparably entwined doing the will of God in and for America and believing God is on America’s side.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 65+
“Nothing at all, just misguided people.”
Religious none, age 65+
“It means to me, 1930s Nazi Germany. They are domestic terrorists who want to topple American democracy and turn the USA into a FASCIST regime.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 50-64
“I have seen recently in the media how people use, misuse and misconstrue the Bible to fit their agenda. Christian nationalism focuses on passing laws that reflect a certain view on Christianity.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 18-29
“People who are standing behind a twisted view of religion to spread hate. Not all involved understand this because it is a deceptive group.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 50-64
“Christians who don’t necessarily believe in Christian principles, like love your neighbor, being forgiving, etc.; also being OK with at least a degree of authoritarianism if it gets them what they want.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 65+
“Society where Christianity is dominant in government and culturally, violating the traditional freedom of [the] religion idea.”
Religious none, age 65+
“People who love God and USA.”
Catholic, age 30-49
“A belief that national policies, culture and life should be governed by so-called Christian “values.””
Religious none, age 50-64
“One religion is trying to direct the government to follow their creed. They believe that they are the true and right religion for America. White nationalists thought process.”
Catholic, age 50-64
“The fact that our country was founded on the beliefs of a Christian philosophy.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 50-64
“Christians who are political and open about it.”
Religious none, age 30-49
“Making the nation based on laws with biblical principles.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 30-49
“Christian nationalists feel threatened by other religions and cultures and want everyone to live the way THEY feel is right.”
Religious none, age 65+
“Group of people who do not follow the teachings of Jesus Christ of the Bible but are more interested in gaining and maintaining power to keep White people in power and control of the United States. Christian Nationalist is a more acceptable name than White [Supremacist].”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 65+
“Phrase used by people claiming to be religious and patriotic, but instead are a bunch of racist fascists.”
Catholic, age 30-49
“A movement within the Christian faith that has gotten a bit out of hand.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 65+
“Using Christian beliefs and morals to guide political decisions.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 30-49
“Christian nationalism means to me applying the principles of Christianity into American society without being compelled to believe in Jesus as the savior of the world.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 18-29
“It means that America was founded as a Christian nation and should continue on that trek when it comes to policy, culture and legislation.”
Catholic, age 30-49
“Means to be Christlike.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 30-49
“Taking back the country for God, or turning the nation towards God and His word.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 18-29
“Not sure, but since you ask I am a Christian and patriotic. Does that make me a Christion nationalist, I don’t know.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 65+
“A Christian movement that focuses on promoting Christian beliefs into law.”
Jewish, age 65+
“Placing more emphasis and attention on one’s political beliefs rather than God’s law and Gospel. It is a form of idolatry and has no place in Christianity.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 30-49
“A desire to keep one’s country dominant in Christian ethics and values. Meanwhile, tolerating all other religious freedoms in our history as a republic.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 50-64
“I know how the media portrays it, but I consider a Christian nationalist to be someone who believes in God and the United States above all and everyone else.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 30-49
“People who hold a sense of supremacy about their Christian faith and impose their values and preferences of others militantly.”
Religious none, age 30-49
“Religious people who love their country.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 50-64
“Christian nationalism is a movement toward theocracy, with evangelical Christianity being the theology behind it. There is a heretical teaching that the United States is some sort of new Israel.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 30-49
“Unconstitutional and traitorous. Christianity doesn’t belong in politics, the rise of Christian nationalism hints at a crumbling nation.”
Religious none, age 18-29
“That the U.S. is and was founded as a Christian nation. I believe that people came to the New World to escape that sort of persecution.”
Religious none, age 50-64
“This country was founded on Judeo-Christian values. Our laws are based on the Ten Commandments. Christian nationalism is the belief that this country should follow God’s law.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 30-49
“Putting Christian morals and values first – leading to a stronger nation.”
Religious none, age 30-49
“People that are Christian and patriotic.”
Catholic, age 30-49
“A nation that espouses Christian principles and prioritizes the faith above secular humanistic principles that are more prevalent in the secular society of the U.S. today.”
Catholic, age 30-49
“Zealot, extremism, terrorism, brainwashed, hate group, lonely, isolated … looking for anything to believe in.”
Religious none, age 50-64
“Political nomenclature being used to label, categorize, marginalize and demonize an element of society that one doesn’t agree with.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 65+
“It is a euphemism for racism and antisemitic fascism; a polite term for a Nazi sympathizer.”
Religious none, age 65+
“A tribalistic ideology that America is defined by Christianity.”
Religious none, age 30-49
“Standing togetber as Christians in support of our country and beleifs.”
Latter-day Saint (Mormon), age 30-49
“A group trying to install a Christian theocracy in this country where Christians have more rights than everyone else and everyone will have to live by the rules of their religion. Rules, I will add, that they themselves do not follow nor understand, as most of them have never read the Bible and certainly do not understand it.”
Religious none, age 30-49
“It means the country following the Christian faith in laws and politics.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 50-64
“It means those who desire to acknowledge God in our country as the Declaration of Independence did. And the follow-through of many verses inscribed on public buildings in Washington, D.C.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 65+
“A proud Christian that is proud to be American and puts their country up there with God.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 30-49
“Christian principles influencing all matters.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 50-64
“It means those who want to preserve America as a country with Christian values.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 50-64
“Evangelicals driving policy far right.”
Catholic, age 50-64
“White supremacists and male superiority.”
Religious none, age 50-64
“For the biblical good to have a national scope. Not to dominate and be oppressive, but have Christlike views demonstrated by the love of God. Not a religious strong arm to force a faith on nonbelievers. Mutually exist but the core values are better for society.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 65+
“To me it means that we should have the opinions of Christians and make decisions based on the Christian views.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 65+
“People who have made their view of the U.S. into the god they worship, pursue and fight for. Completely lost sight of Jesus of Nazareth. The Venn diagram of Christian nationalists and White supremacists has a large overlap.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 30-49
“A nation of Christians coming together as one.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 30-49
“Using religion to further political agendas.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 50-64
“It’s made up by the left, but I’m a Christian and it makes liberals mad so I like it.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 30-49
“Christian nationalism means, in my opinion, laws and all aspects of life be guided by biblical interpretation.”
Hindu, age 50-64
“Trying to take the U.S. back to the 1950s where White men were king and women should stay home and raise kids.”
Religious none, age 65+
“White evangelicals who want to take and assert political power to create a White Chrisitian nation.”
Jewish, age 30-49
“Totally wrapping up political behavior in religious clothes.”
Latter-day Saint (Mormon), age 65+
“Using Christianity to promote White supremacy.”
Catholic, age 65+
“Christians that want to put their beliefs into politics, into others lives.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 18-29
“It’s code used by extremists to indicate government for White Christians by White Christians.”
Religious none, age 30-49
“It is prioritizing a very specific interpretation of the Bible over tolerance towards other people’s beliefs and faiths. It’s saying “if you don’t follow these beliefs, you can’t live here” and taking a very violent approach to ensuring that reality.”
Religious none, age 18-29
“Just a buzzword for the dirty and corrupt Democrats to use to further the division.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 50-64
“When a country is filled with only Christians.”
Muslim, age 18-29
“It seems more of a cult to me. A way of pushing religion and White supremacy ideology.”
Catholic, age 65+
“One nation under God.”
Catholic, age 30-49
“People who believe in Jesus, but do not trust him enough to take us through periods where the government is unsatisfactory. Their “nationalism” damages their credibility, and thereby hurts their ability to portray Jesus as only giver of salvation and peace.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 65+
“Going and telling people the great news.”
Religious none, age 18-29
“Attempting to use the government to impose an extreme, fringe version of Christianity on everyone in the nation, regardless of others’ religious views. They are no different than al-Qaida or the Taliban.”
Religious none, age 30-49
“USA governance and policies should [be] controlled and dictated by “evangelicals” using evangelical biblical interpretation – typically an overt or covert racist misogynistic antiquarian worldview.”
Religious none, age 50-64
“Violently forcing Christian values into the social and political sphere. Incorrectly believing that America is God’s chosen nation.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 18-29
“Bringing back the faith in God.”
Catholic, age 30-49
“According to media, anyone that wants to destroy USA way of life … near fascist, BUT that’s not my view. It’s a term used to dismiss any Christian because they are dangerous, therefore dehumanize them and make them the enemy. It should mean a follower of Christ and someone who is patriotic.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 65+
“To me it means a nation that believes that each person is a Child of the Most High, received this right through faith in Jesus, and follows Christian principles. It means operating through love, not legality.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 30-49
“Being a Christian first and foremost. But being keenly aware that what happens at the government level affects us all, and we should not sit by allowing others to make changes in the country that are opposed to Christian beliefs, we should be involved.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 50-64
“Fascism, and a hatred of women and other races and religions.”
Jewish, age 50-64
“A political agenda guided by Christian beliefs. At times, some of these beliefs can be somewhat radical in nature, but not always. This agenda seems to lean toward establishing a Christian state in which the beliefs/values of Christians are upheld, while also devaluing the beliefs/values of non-Christians.”
Buddhist, age 30-49
“The country was started with Judeo-Christian values. Today’s U.S. government is trying to destroy all morals that Christians hold dear. If our corrupt government wins we will have a immortal society in the U.S. which is against Christian beliefs.”
Catholic, age 50-64
“Fanatics distorting Christian values for self-serving opportunities to further their perceived righteousness.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 50-64
“Running a nation with forced adherance to the beliefs of the governing body of “Christians.””
Latter-day Saint (Mormon), age 65+
“An abuse of the Christian faith, putting politics and religion on an equal base.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 65+
“Christians who want their beliefs to become everyone’s beliefs.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 30-49
“The nation and its laws should follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.”
Catholic, age 30-49
“It is wanting a country centered on God.”
Religious none, age 65+
“People that manipulate the Bible and use scripture that is convenient for them. They are false prophets, plain and simple.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 30-49
“Ordering society according to a biblical worldview.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 30-49
“Godly influence in government legislation.”
Catholic, age 50-64
“Excessive pride in White Christian identity, often trying to impose their own religious beliefs on the rest of the nation and attempting to transform the U.S. into a Christian theocracy.”
Jewish, age 18-29
“Christians who pride in America being a blessed nation and God’s favored nation. They err on the side of being American first and Christian second.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 30-49
“Racist, misogynistic, White, older, retro group of people wanting to return the U.S. to a time when everyone “knew their place.” Narrow-minded view that the Bible is key to life for everyone. Ugh!!”
Religious none, age 50-64
“Using Christian text to defend nationalistic beliefs.”
Religious none, age 18-29
“It’s a view held primarily by straight, White, Christian males that the U.S. should be RULED – as opposed to being GOVERNED – according to their interpretation of the Bible and therefore that women, members of the LGBTQ community, practitioners of other faiths, and people of other races and ethnicities, etc., are inferior beings and should be subjugated and controlled as such.”
Religious none, age 65+
“Racism, bigotry, fascism, hateful, judgmental, the antithesis of Christian teaching.”
Religious none, age 30-49
“Living within Christian guidelines and applying these principles to our government.”
Catholic, age 65+
“Supporting the U.S. because this nation was founded on God’s word and can be a beacon of freedom to the world.”
Born-again/evangelical Protestant, age 65+
“Militant Christians openly attempting to install a right-wing Christian theocracy leading to a Christian ethno-state.”
Religious none, age 30-49
“Christians who try to influence politics to make the country better fit their beliefs.”
Religious none, age 65+
“Allowing prayer in school, but only Christian prayer and no other religions. Allowing religious statues on government property. Allowing Christian churches a voice in politics but still not requiring them to pay taxes.”
Religious none, age 50-64
“Not accepting of other religions.”
Orthodox Christian, age 50-64
“Turning the country into a Christian and White society only.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 65+
“Values of society based on Judaic-Christian values and practices.”
Catholic, age 65+
“Racism disguised as religion.”
Religious none, age 30-49
“Agreeing that this country was established with Christian beliefs at its core and has drifted toward allowing immoral conduct being protected and supported. A movement to help correct that.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 65+
“Made-up term by the far left.”
Catholic, age 50-64
“It means that people think that Christianity is the main religion of the people.”
Religious none, age 18-29
“That Christian beliefs should prevail in all aspects of the government. Decisions made by the Supreme Court should reflect Christian views.”
Protestant, not born-again/evangelical, age 50-64