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An Inauspicious Anniversary: 1 Year Since the Jan 6 Coup Attempt
Featuring a conversation with Chrissy Stroop.
Today will be flooded, first and foremost, with memories and myths that feel like memories. What those memories evoke—whether it is dismay at the devolution of democratic norms and the loss of life, or dismissal of the severity of the events—will largely (and sadly) depend on which media ecosystem you’ve lived in over the past year.
Leftists, liberals, and Democrats are quick to remember that it was President Trump who goaded this mass of people to storm the Capitol. Meanwhile, mainstream conservative pundits like Tucker Carlson have said blatantly that “Jan 6 was not a terrorist attack,” even though it perfectly fits the FBI’s definition of domestic terrorism.
Conservative media and GOP politicians have spent the past year downplaying the seriousness of the Capitol Riot. What Bradley Onishi wrote in January 2021 for The New York Times has come to pass - the storming of the capitol has become a creation myth for their political movement:
The lasting legacy of the Jan. 6 insurrection is the myth and symbol of Mr. Trump’s lost cause. He has successfully nurtured a feeling in the 74 million Americans who voted for him that they can trust neither their government nor the electoral process. By encouraging them to question the validity of votes in some of the Blackest cities in the country, such as Detroit, and stoking anger that such constituencies would have the power to swing an election, he convinced them that the process is rigged, thus giving his supporters the moral high ground. This creates the foundation for a collective memory based on a separate national identity held together by the tragic stealing of his presidency and the evil of his opponents.
More thoughts below.
On The Pod
Yesterday, on the eve of the Jan 6 anniversary, I spoke with Chrissy Stroop about the lead-up to the insurrection and what has happened since. That conversation was published today.
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White Evangelicalism & The Fostering of Christian Nationalism
Since Jan 6, there has been an increased focus on Christian nationalism in the United States, both within and without of white evangelical circles. Yet I fear that the use of the term “Christian nationalism” itself - while useful in specific sociological contexts, diminishes and distracts from being able to discuss the role of white evangelicalism in fostering Christian nationalism.
In these instances, it’s valuable and useful to turn to metaphor, and one that we can all understand: Christian nationalism is a virus. White evangelicalism is a host through which Christian nationalism spreads. While there are other hosts of Christian nationalism - the virus can also be found in the bodies of mainline Protestant denominations, Catholicism, even in secular places - when tested, there is a significant viral load found in white evangelicalism. And even metaphorically, white evangelicalism is anti-vaxx and in a poor position to defend itself from this virus.
That’s because, as I’ve written before, white evangelicalism doesn’t want to be reformed. It has rejected, over and over, any reforming influence. In fact, even relative moderates like Russell Moore & Beth Moore (within overwhelmingly conservative spaces like the SBC) have been pushed out. While they continue to have necessary conversations in evangelical spaces, what it means to be ‘evangelical’ will continue to evolve, and the “conservative” expression of identity will force more and more people to the margins, and eventually, out entirely.
As a result, it’s hard to feel optimistic about things. So many conservatives who also identify as evangelical have already made up their minds.
I don’t know what will happen next—for democracy, for Christianity, for religion & society writ large—but what we’ve seen so far is not encouraging. But the struggle itself is worth the effort.
Hope is a choice. In the face of everything, I choose hope.
More Reading & Listening
Here are some recommended posts & podcast episodes.
Check out the first season of Powers & Principalities, all about Christian nationalism from multiple angles, featuring conversations with Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Anthea Butler, Reza Aslan, Jeff Sharlet, Diana Butler Bass, Bradley Onishi, and many others:
Also read these from the archive: