Senator Josh Hawley: ‘Christian Nationalism Founded American Democracy’

The Missouri Senator believes Christian Nationalism is not just the past, but the necessary future of the country. We dismiss this at our own peril.
Photo by Zach D. Roberts.

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley told an audience at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington D.C., on Monday that he is a Christian Nationalist. 

Moreso, Hawley believes that this movement is the only thing that can save the country, and the Republican party, and that Christian nationalism defines both the founding and future of the United States. 

“And I’m sure some will say now that I am calling America a Christian nation. So I am. And some will say that I’m advocating Christian nationalism. And so I did,” said Hawley to the applauding audience’s delight, continuing, “The truth is Christian nationalism is not a threat to American democracy. Christian nationalism founded American democracy.” 

Full video recording of Senator Josh Hawley’s speech at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington D.C., on Monday. Video by Zach D. Roberts.

This is a big deal, said Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.

“A speech like this from a Republican senator would not have been possible 20 years ago. Hawley isn’t offering the old-school grievances of the religious right about a handful of social issues, like gay marriage and abortion,” said Stewart. “He is talking about ending American democracy and instead imposing his preferred religion through the power of government. Christian nationalism has always been an anti-democratic, theocratic, and authoritarian movement at its core; Hawley is openly embracing the project.”

Frederick Clarkson, a senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank in Somerville, Massachusetts, also believes that while there has long been a Christian nationalist political faction operating within the Republican Party, Hawley’s embrace of it shows how it “has become not only acceptable, but fashionable on the political Right.” Clarkson added, “the difference now is that a pol with national ambitions like Hawley thinks openly wearing the label will help his cause.” 

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In Hawley’s 30-minute address, the Republican senator provides the audience with a sweeping alternative, counterfactual history of Christianity, Christian nationalism, and the founding of the United States. His revisionist history starts off with Augustine all the way to the Puritans and then the Declaration of Independence.

Except he is wrong, not that that matters to his crowd of believers.  

“History does not support Hawley’s claims,” said Clarkson, who calls Hawley’s speech “shallow demagoguery.”

“There is nothing in the Declaration of Independence to justify any notion of Christian nationalism. The vague reference to ‘Nature’s God’ in the text certainly doesn’t get one there. But more importantly, when Christian Rightists like Hawley invoke the Declaration, it’s an act of desperation,” added Clarkson. “The Declaration was a revolutionary manifesto of revolt against the King of England. The founding document of the United States, written two decades later, is the Constitution, which makes no mention of God, Christianity or even religion except in Article 6 which states that there will be ‘no religious test for public office.’”

“And I’m sure some will say now that I am calling America a Christian nation. So I am. And some will say that I’m advocating Christian nationalism. And so I did,” said Hawley to the applauding audience’s delight, continuing, “The truth is Christian nationalism is not a threat to American democracy. Christian nationalism founded American democracy.” 

“The truth is Christian nationalism is not a threat to American democracy. Christian nationalism founded American democracy.”  Video by Zach D. Roberts.

Christian nationalists’ revisionist history is nothing new. Truth is not the goal, it’s power. 

Hawley also offers a disturbing spin on the Great Replacement Theory. In his version it isn’t replacing the white race with Brown and Black foreign born people, but the “Left” replacing the country’s alleged unified historical Christian faith with a new secular religion borne from progressive ideals such as DEI and LGBTQ acceptance, and that this is what is destroying the country.

Hawley said:

“Instead of Christmas, they want pride month instead of prayer in schools, they venerate the trans flag. Diversity, equity and inclusion are their watchwords. Their new Holy Trinity, and they expect their preach much to be obeyed. They may speak of tolerance, but they practice fundamentalism…Now this is the left’s true replacement theory, their true replacement agenda to replace the Christian ideals of which this nation was founded, and to silence those Americans who dare still stand by. Sadly, the Republican Party of the last 30 years has been in no position to resist the onslaught.”

Clarkson notes that this is not just divisive, but dangerous. 

“It is a false framing designed to demonize religious, political, and gender differences, and create irreconcilable polarizations,” said Clarkson. “The fusion with racist Replacement Theory is a disturbing element in a rising and open fascism.”

Stewart also warns of the fascist elements of Hawley’s demagoguery.

“All fascist movements depend on the demonization of a backstabbing ‘elite.’ Hawley does not disappoint,” said Stweart. “The ‘woke libs’ in his ideology play the same role that the Jews and other groups do in other fascist ideologies: Hawley casts them as devious, depraved, yet somehow secretly in control of everything and hell-bent on harming the authentic folk.”

So much for the “love” that Hawley claims drives his Christian nationalism that he mentioned in his speech. “A Christian nationalism organized around Christian ideals, a nationalism driven not by conquest but by common purpose, animated not by fear, but by common love.”

INTERVIEW: The Christian Right’s Crusade for Power and War on Democracy, with Katherine Stewart

Hate and discrimination and nationalism masquerading as love. Stewart pointed out this contradiction. 

“Hawley pretends that his Christian nationalism is about ‘love,’” says Stewart. “But Hawley appears to have no love here for anyone to the left of him, no effort to understand, no desire for compromise. ‘They’ must be destroyed, Hawley implies, before they destroy the nation.”

Christian nationalism’s power is undeniably growing, as it can claim the likes of Senator Hawley, Speaker Mike Johnson, and their modern day King Cyrus Donald Trump.  And now they even have a roadmap they helped draft –  Project 2025 – for Trump to use if reelected in order to drive the country toward a more theocratic, exclusionary, and discriminatory state. 

“This is a good taking stock moment,” said Stewart. “The Christian nationalist movement is changing even as it continues to gain power. But a lot of outsiders haven’t caught up. They still think it’s all about a bunch of aging reactionaries complaining about a few social policies. It isn’t. This is an authoritarian political movement, and it represents a threat to our democracy.” 

Clarkson advises that for people who want to preserve our secular, multiracial, inclusive democracy, it’s November or bust. 

“Hawley is taking a rhetorical sledgehammer to the foundations of democratic thought and institutions. Most people do not agree with Hawley and his ilk” said Clarkson. “It’s time for us to follow the lead of the French in their recent elections and stop this nascent American fascism in its tracks.”

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Cyril Mychalejko

Cyril Mychalejko is the Editor-in-Chief of the Bucks County Beacon. Read his columns on Sundays and follow him on Twitter.

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