Sunday, January 24, 2021

Taking America Back for God by Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry

I listened to this book in my ongoing effort to understand the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential elections and the years in between. While I consider myself an evangelical Christian, I was greatly surprised at the number of evangelicals reported to have voted for Trump in 2016. In previous presidential elections, the morality of the candidates seemed to have an impact on how evangelicals voted. This did not seem to be the case in 2016.

This book helped me understand the underlying ideology of Christian nationalism. I had no idea of the intensity of its existence in the political realm. The authors helped me understand what the ideology is and how Christians and others embrace or reject it. Much of the information in this book comes from questionnaires and personal interviews.

Many strongly believe that the United States is a “Christian nation,” blessed by God from its founding. That blessing is in danger of being lost because of moral and cultural decline so drastic action needed to be taken. I was surprised to find that this movement is not a grass roots one but was strategically designed. While initially one might consider the actions as aimed toward cultural issues, it soon became a strong political force.

The authors take a good look at the current state of Christian nationalism, at least up to mid-2019 when this book was written. They are quick to point out that not all evangelical Christians advocate Christian nationalism. There is some pressure from well known Christian leaders, however, as they claim a true Christian is one who believes the U.S. is a Christian nation, blessed by God. Like the authors, I wonder what Christians in other nations think of that kind of rhetoric.

The book is not a critique of Christian nationalism but rather a statistical look at it as well as what people say who embrace or oppose it. The authors did make a prediction, suggesting the future will see a reduction in numbers but an increase in activity. Sobering words with some prophetic force.

I recommend this book to those interested in understanding the movement and its current state.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Andrew L. Whitehead is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Clemson University and Assistant Director of the Association of Religion Data Archives.

Samuel L. Perry is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Oxford University Press, 288 pages.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

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