Clemson faculty member co-authors book on Christian nationalism’s effect on US politics
Andrew Whitehead, associate professor in Clemson’s sociology, anthropology and criminal justice department, has co-authored a new book on Christian nationalism in the U.S. The book, “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States,” draws on national survey data and 50 in-depth interviews with Americans from across the political spectrum.
Whitehead will discuss the book, its findings and his extensive research in this area Monday, March 9 at 7 p.m. in the Watt Family Innovation Center, Room 109.
According to Whitehead and co-author Samuel Perry, Christian nationalism in the U.S. is the belief that the U.S. is—and should be—a Christian nation. By surveying people from various backgrounds, Whitehead and Perry sought to provide insight into how Americans think about a variety of topics, from gender roles and immigration to specific groups of people and gun control.
“This is obviously a very thorny topic, and it is only made more impenetrable by politicians and religious leaders—left, right and middle—who seek to advance an agenda,” Whitehead said. “We wanted to provide the first, comprehensive empirical analysis of Christian nationalism in the U.S. that would provide a balanced view on Christian nationalism’s effect on today’s most contentious social and political issues.”
Whitehead said that the book could not be written without touching on the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump and the policies he has advanced or introduced during his presidency. Whitehead said the last few years are rife with examples of xenophobia on the part of Christians as well as their tendency to overlook the moral failings of the political leaders with which they align.
However, Whitehead knows these issues did not begin with Donald Trump the candidate or the president. He and Perry seek to put forth a general understanding of the opposition to gender, class and racial equality that seems result from policies and beliefs that fuel Christian Nationalism.
“Voting for Trump was, for many Americans, a symbolic defense of the nation’s perceived Christian heritage,” Whitehead said. “We didn’t write the book to solely explain why people voted for Trump; we wrote it to help explain the thinking of people who, increasingly, see their idea of America as having eroded over the last several decades.”
In addition to his role at Clemson University, Whitehead serves as assistant director of the Association of Religion Data Archives. He is the author of numerous articles on Christian nationalism and religion in the modern world. Samuel Perry is an assistant professor of sociology and religious studies at the University of Oklahoma. Perry is the author of over 70 peer-reviewed journal articles and two books, “Addicted to Lust” and “Growing God’s Family.”