The Roots Of Our Polarization

There is an analytical rule–really, a problem-solving principle– called Occam’s Razor. It is sometimes called the principle of parsimony, and is basically a reminder that the simplest explanation is usually the best explanation.

A recent poll has confirmed my belief that there is a simple, albeit terrifying, explanation for America’s current deep polarization: White Christian Nationalism.

Although I have long believed that worldview to be the source of a lot of our current unrest, before this particular poll, I really had no clue just how deeply entrenched and widespread that worldview is.

A new survey finds that fewer than a third of Americans, or 29%, qualify as Christian nationalists, and of those, two-thirds define themselves as white evangelicals.

The survey of 6,212 Americans by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution is the largest yet to gauge the size and scope of Christian nationalist beliefs.

The study found–unsurprisingly–that Christian nationalists tend to be older (some two-thirds are over the age of 50). They are also far less educated than other Americans. At most,  20% of Christian nationalism supporters have a four-year college degree, far fewer than the 79% of respondents who were labeled “skeptics” because they rejected the principles of Christian nationalism.

Christian nationalism as a worldview is not new but the term is. Indeed, a third of respondents said they had not heard of the term. For that reason, it’s impossible to say whether the ranks of Christian nationalists have grown over time.

In their book “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States,” sociologists Andrew Whitehead and Sam Perry found that about 20% of Americans strongly embrace Christian nationalist ideas. The PRRI survey is more in line with a 2021 Pew Research survey that found that 10% of Americans are what Pew identified as hard-core “faith and flag” conservatives.

The survey did confirm that Americans overall reject a Christian nationalist worldview by a ratio of 2 to 1.

In an essay for the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin considered the implications of the survey. As she noted, most of us have only a vague understanding of the term.

When you hear the phrase “Christian nationalists,” you might think of antiabortion conservatives who are upset about the phrase “Happy Holidays” and embrace a vaguely “America First” way of thinking. But according to a Public Religion Research Institute-Brookings Institution poll released Wednesday, Christian nationalists in fact harbor a set of extreme beliefs at odds with pluralistic democracy. The findings will alarm you.

Rubin enumerated the beliefs held by these adherents:

“The U.S. government should declare America a Christian nation.”
“U.S. laws should be based on Christian values.”
“If the U.S. moves away from our Christian foundations, we will not have a country anymore.”
“Being Christian is an important part of being truly American.”
“God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society.”

PRRI found that 10 percent (“adherents”) of American adults believe in these ideas overwhelmingly or completely; 19 percent agree but not completely (“sympathizers”); 39 percent disagree (“skeptics”) but not completely; and 29 percent disagree completely (“rejecters”).

Nearly two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants are Christian Nationalists–either sympathizers (35%) or adherents (29%).” More troubling, the poll found that thirty-five percent of all Whites are adherents. 

Those percentages mean that tens of millions of Americans hold these views. And as the poll confirmed, those Americans are overwhelmingly Republican.  Republicans (21%) were found to be about four times as likely as Democrats (5%) or independents (6%) to be Christian nationalists.

Fortunately, the news isn’t all bad.

 There are fewer adherents and sympathizers among younger Americans. “More than seven in ten Americans ages 18-29 (37% skeptics, 42% rejecters) and ages 30-49 (37% skeptics, 35% rejecters) lean toward opposing Christian nationalism.” Support is also inversely related to educational attainment.

You will not be surprised to discover the depths of racism and racial grievance among these adherents. A stunning 83 percent of them think Whites are being discriminated against, and that “God intended America to be a new promised land where European Christians could create a society that could be an example to the rest of the world.”

More than 70 percent embrace replacement theory, and nearly one-quarter say that Jews hold too many positions of power; 44 percent believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than America. More than 65 percent agree that Muslims from some countries should be banned. Almost 70 percent believe “the husband is the head of the household in ‘a truly Christian family’ and his wife submits to his leadership.”

If you think this sounds like MAGA tripe, you’re right. This is the hardcore MAGA base. More alarming: “Nearly six in ten QAnon believers are also either Christian nationalism sympathizers (29%) or adherents (29%).”

Rubin says that believers in American values have our work cut out for us.

No kidding.


  1. So I guess the KKK folks just traded in their white pointy hats for Red MAGA hats.
    Same stuff – different day. They must be defeated at the ballot box. And at the school board.

  2. Once again, Charles Koch recently said he regrets funding the Tea Party. LOL

    The Tea Party, once it started getting pegged for racism, rebranded into MAGA. Charles said he is moving dollars away from the extreme right-wing.

    Does anybody believe that? LOL

    Charles network, including Indiana Policy Review, has been grooming Mike Pence’s career by using the evangelical crowd.

    Also, I had to laugh at this survey outcome – “Christian values.” Really?

    I bet we could do another survey for just Christians, and they would disagree on what “Christian values” really mean. Try pegging the number of denominations in the USA…good luck nailing down that number.

    If all the “Christians” cannot agree with each other, how could they impose “values” and “laws” on US citizens?

    If white Christians from Europe thought this was a landing place for white Europeans, why did they import so many Africans? 😉

    Now we know why DeSantis and other GOP fascists want to eliminate an accurate historical perspective. Knowledge is power. They DO NOT want the people to be knowledgeable. The good news, as mentioned above, is that younger Americans have access to the internet, so they can verify what they’re being told. Sadly, as we confirm, the intelligentsia is censoring the internet.

  3. “A new survey finds that fewer than a third of Americans, or 29%, qualify as Christian nationalists, and of those, two-thirds define themselves as white evangelicals.”

    “…a third of Americans, or 29%,…” I’m an American, I wasn’t asked to participate in this new survey of “Americans”, which reads as if the entire nation participated in this survey…and others. A truer statement would be “…fewer than a third of Americans surveyed…” We rely on too many polls reaching decisions and making claims of facts which we may or may not agree with but; our opinions were never asked.

    “Those percentages mean that tens of millions of Americans hold these views.”

    A few years ago I began questioning some of the “facts” being reached by surveys didn’t appear to be what was being reported by the majority of journalist so I began looking at the source of the surveys and those chosen to be surveyed and their numbers. I ignore polls and their results and just try to keep up with what is going on.

  4. Hopefully this signifies a serious split within the GOP/MAGA Party. If I were in a position of influence, I would begin campaigning for the orange one to create a third party and take his MAGA Party with him.

    A Tr*mp Whisperer could try something like this: “Hey, you should form your own party. It’s never been done successfully before. You are the ONLY one who could pull it off! Your daddy would be so proud! Come on, if you don’t your are a P*ssy A** Wimp!” Etc…

    If that happens and the D’s continue to be relatively united the MAGA Party may finally be put to rest and joint the Whigs as a dead party.

  5. Just guessing, but Bad Bunny is likely grounds for real concern in the Christian National movement.

    Hablas Espanol?

  6. The surveys mentioned are about white christian nationalists and I wonder what the results would be if catholics were included. (lower case c used intentionally)

  7. Religious Nationalism is equivalent to Religious Ideology, which leads to a Religious Political Party, which seems to be happening. That is ominous. Another source, in addition to the survey mentioned above, is the book by Katherine Stewart. “The Power Worshippers; inside the dangerous rise of religious nationalists. Published in 2019, it is scary. She also wrote the book, “The Good News Club,” which I have not yet read, but am going to order, which goes into the religious right and public education. Another scary thought.

  8. Todd summarizes this topic perfectly. The tyranny of the minority wants to rule, not govern.

    Koch money drips with the blood of illogical, hate and fear.

    As has been stated so many times on this blog, so-called Christian nationalists wallow in the swamp of hypocrisy with their convenient set of values. Next thing you know idiots like DeSantis will be taking the books of Matthew and Luke out of the Bible for daring to present Christ’s egalitarian views and values.

    Once again, weaponized religion comes to the rescue of humans’ ability to govern themselves.

  9. Joann, By the time an in-depth survey has been done with some 6,000+ respondents from PRRI and Brookings Institute, you can bet the results are pretty accurate. I suspect if you read the actual survey there is a disclaimer of accuracy of something like a +/- 3% level of error. This would be based on rigorous statistical analysis. In addition, if they reached a broad range of some 6,000+ people for an in-depth interview (not doing a web survey on social media), they spent some serious money to do this.

    In the last election there was a pair of high school kids trying to embellish their college resumes doing web based surveys on social media. They they were low budget and unscientific, relying on on-line surveys. The right wing echo sphere picked up and reported on these results because they predicted a Red Wave in the 2022 election. Other late in the game, less rigorous surveys also got a lot of Right Wing, and eventually main stream media press. Because accurate surveys are hard to do in this day and age and they are expensive, the few earlier more rigorous and accurate surveys that said otherwise were ignored or cast into doubt. So in the last election cycle there were accurate surveys done, they just got censored by the flood of unverified mis-information propagated by the right wing media. Does this sound familiar? Even now your opinion of surveys has been altered because of right wing media, so they might have just claimed one more victim.

    So my point is, it is still possible to do credible surveys. It’s hard and cost a lot of money. PRRI and Brookings Institute have deep pockets and credibility and a depth of rigor. I suspect their surveys can be believed.

  10. Todd, it’s possible that Charlie is removing dollars from the far right. He’s probably replacing them with gold. It is better suited to their philosophical views.

    And once again, may I lead the congregation in a short prayer? Jesus, save us from your followers!

  11. Sheila, you once wrote about the difficulties of governing for such a diverse population. It is my belief working toward a more perfect union, which offers a seat at the table to all, is just too difficult for some. It is much easier, some think, to have just one ethnicity and one religion.

  12. “Rubin says that believers in American values have our work cut out for us.” Values must come from somewhere, most often from parents, friends and society.

    More and more parents aren’t married or there is only one. Millennial parents are very busy “amusing themselves to death”.

    Society – movies, TV, ads, social media is all about violence, sexual freedom, getting “high” on whatever.

    White Christian nationalism, while not our values, are “values” to turn to that give people something to guide them. What else is there? AOC? Chuck Schumer?

  13. Religious fundamentalists of all stripes reject all evidence, ideas and actions that do not support their ideology. This is why Christian fundamentalists, Jewish fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists are so intent on eradicating each other and trying to force the rest of us to conform to their rules. It is why “People of the Book” have been waging wars for centuries. All of them are, at heart, opposed to the American ideals of freedom and equality under the law.

  14. Per Sharon and Vernon – “Religious fundamentalists of all stripes reject all evidence, ideas and actions that do not support their ideology.”

    Areligious fundamentalists of all stripes reject all evidence, ideas and actions that are not part of their personal/tribal brand(s)” . There goes democracy….

  15. There are many flattering and unflattering ways to categorize religion but one unflattering to many is as a business. I would posit, a threatened business. The unsurprising reaction of those who make a living off of it, in some cases a living marked by extreme wealth, is to go extremist on all of the selling points that have worked in the past, updated.

    Note that this behavior, observed from lifelong customers of the business, will be viewed as doubling down on the pulpit passion to save the world. This is by some of the most skilled and practiced salesmen in the world.

    One of the new sales wrinkles is to team up with politicians (despite the opposition by the Constitution) and align with political preachers promising power, think Conservatives, who, by the way, are another threatened species.

    A match made in heaven or hell.

  16. Well, I, for one, would certainly side with AOC over ANY form of fundamentalism, or
    bible based outlook. Schumer, I’m not so sure of, but he’d be a hell of a lot better than
    the Scotts, Johnsons, Jordans, Cruzes ,or anyone that Charlie would fund! Charlie has
    been working on his program of Christian, elitist, white power since the ’70’s and has
    come much too close to success.
    Dan, your comments are spot-on!

  17. It all starts in childhood indoctrination. You teach a child there is a god and they remember it forever. It’s like teaching a child a language. They will remember those words as long as they practice. As an aging adult, I questioned there being a god when my own father died of heart failure in 1975. How could a good god take my father? I questioned everything after that and now I’m a proud atheist. The indoctrination didn’t last for me. In 10 years, you are going to have teens going out into the real world outside of their parent’s’ indoctrination wondering WTF? Everyone isn’t a Christian? Well, damn. I think those liberal and religious worlds will collide and hopefully, sanity will prevail. I’m sick of the religious hypocrisy and wars. I’m looking at you Israel.

  18. Lester, Vernon, Todd, Sharon, yes!

    Some individuals that I shared an article with this morning on this blog, disconcerting does not come close to describing it!

    Benjamin Netanyahu, is presently dismantling or attempting to dismantle Israeli democracy. The headline in the Jerusalem Times, information in the AP and Reuters, show the fear of those in government. They fear that society will collapse! These are not white Christian nationalists, but they are nationalists in their own particular religious realm or beliefs. The Russians have the same issues, the Chinese have the same issues, but it doesn’t matter if they claim they’er Socialist or communist or capitalist or Democratic, they’re all headed towards that great commode of History.

    The Greeks, the Romans, Really some of the first democracies, or Democratic hybrids, all went the same route, they split apart in civil battles, their society became more and more debauched, and, the citizenry even more blood craven and divisive.

    We can talk about the book, but in essence, even before the book, it was the same ol same ol! Since humanity has an innate calling for worship, they use their own religious beliefs to eviscerate society.

    The Greeks turned on their own, the Romans turned on their own, the Jews even turned on their own! Look at Jerusalem, and how factions formed and slaughtered each other while the Romans basically just watched and laughed! Prophesized in Ezekiel 4:7, Jeremiah 6:6, Lamentations 4:10, Baruch by the instruction of Jeremiah, Jeremiah 36:1 – 32, and Luke 21:20 – 24, all warned of the coming disaster for the Jews, and they did not listen. Important dates concerning Jerusalem, 609 BCE and 70 CE! It didn’t matter, they thought it was all a joke, they didn’t believe, and they paid the penalty! Lamentations discusses how women boiled their own children during the siege. And how women traded their children with their neighbors because they couldn’t eat their own!

    Actual history? Well, a lot of it was documented, including Anti-Scriptural or Anti-Canonical writings of biblical archetype!

    The warnings have been there, whether biblical, whether philosophical, whether historical! No one really seems to care, and no one will believe it until it’s happening! And then, folks will have to dance with the one they brought, because there’s no changing partners in the middle of the ditty. It has never worked out well, not once!

    Just watch! Examples are everywhere, either currently, or historically! And nobody really believes or pays attention until they end up in the middle of it all. That will be a fearful day.

    We’ll just keep being entertained by the bread and circuses, until the inevitable.

  19. Lester,

    Thank you for that link! Very interesting and I definitely think you are “spot on” so to speak, to borrow a phrase from one of the other commenters.

    I’ve always liked Jennifer Rubin even though I don’t always agree with her. She makes a lot of sense which is something that most don’t. That other link to the opinion, quite thought-provoking, but, when you have religious leaders that lie at the drop of a hat, what good is following a liar?

    People are afraid and confused, they don’t know what to do or where to turn.!?.?!

    Scripture tells us that people will be so angry or afraid they’ll ask the mountains to fall over them. To hide them! Now these are not literal mountains, but the mountains refer to governments and superior authorities! Except those governments and superior authorities don’t have the will or the wherewithal to protect their adherents!

    It is not enough in this day and age to allow people to live their lives the way they choose, but they have to push it! They push it on everyone else. Everyone has the right to live their life. But we don’t have to live that life with those individuals if, we don’t prefer that particular way or practice. But you have folks who want to force you into their bedroom, and that creates blowback. It really doesn’t matter whose bedroom, or what a person practices there! It’s just, don’t force it on me if it’s Not in my realm of desire or belief. Do your thing in the privacy of your home. After all, isn’t that what democracy is? Isn’t that with the original founders discussed? Separation of church and state, how about separation of bedroom and the general public? Keep keep your private life private, I don’t want to know what someone indulges in or not with their crotch or other parts of their body or with whom! Then, everyone can get on with governing. Unfortunately, people want to force their own desires on everyone else in a public way, that won’t work, it can’t work, and it never has worked!

    There is more that unites us as humanity/human beings, but, we choose to pick on those things that we don’t agree with. If you don’t like to eat mushrooms, or sauteed onions on your steak, is that a deal breaker for a friendship? Is that a deal breaker for compassion? Is this a deal breaker for empathy? The steak with the mushrooms and onions is a metaphor, but you get the point. Don’t eat your steaks together, and you won’t have a problem. Keep your bedroom to yourself!

    William Pitt, a British politician, made this statement “The poorest man may, in his own cottage, bid defiance to all the force of the crown.”

    Thousands of years earlier, King Solomon made this emphatic statement at Proverbs 25: 17 which states; “Make your foot rare at the house of your fellow man that he may not have his sufficiency of you and certainly hate you.”

    Is that profound? Actually, when you think about it, it’s common sense!

  20. Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

    Those who preach that the church should have dominion over society are directly opposed to the teaching of Jesus.

  21. This discussion underscores why framers of our Constitution inserted separation of church and state. Faith and belief is very personal … never political. All I want and expect from government under the US Constitution is the freedom to choose or not to choose a place of worship. I reject anyone’s point of view who is motivated to hijack the personal freedom of choice and/or no choice of a place of worship.

  22. The most interesting book I read on this subject is “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation” by Kristin Kobe’s Du Mez who grew up in and left that church

  23. James: The Republican Party has already joined its predecessor Whigs, though not on the issue of slavery, as then. It is the Captors of that once proud party who are in charge of such defunct dis-organization that we are confronted with, not conservative Republicans back in my day who had platforms and sets of guiding principles. Their captors have neither; their rationale for existence consists of (1) tax cuts for their rich contributors, and (2) acquisition of all power (even if by fascist means – see Herr DeFascist).

  24. If ever coughs on the field of battle with Lucifer on one side one and the Christian Nationalist on the other.
    To save your soul you must attack in both directions.
    For the both want your soul for no good .

  25. The problem with all of this is the lack of knowledge of the Scriptures AND history… both biblical and secular. If someone is going to declare their “Christianity,” they should at least know the meaning of the term and have more than a cursory knowledge of Jesus’ teachings.

    A hallmark of the ‘uninformed’ is to jump on the soapbox before they know what they’re talking about, and to shout out unsubstantiated rumors or outright lies while ‘standing their ground’ on a baseless premise. This type of person “is puffed up with pride and does not understand anything. He is obsessed with arguments and debates about words. These things give rise to envy, strife, slander, wicked suspicions, constant disputes about minor matters by men who are corrupted in mind and deprived of the truth, thinking that godly devotion is a means to financial gain.” 1 Timothy 6:3-5

    Apostate Christianity IS culpable for not dispensing the ‘accurate knowledge’ of truth, which is borne out by the prophet Hosea: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (4:6)

    Solomon penned many Proverbs which could apply. Here are a few:
    Those who are wise treasure up knowledge,
    But the mouth of the fool invites ruin.

    What good is it that the stupid one has the means to acquire wisdom
    When he has no heart for acquiring it?

    Wisdom is directly in front of the discerning person,
    But the eyes of the stupid wander to the ends of the earth.

    When anyone replies to a matter before he hears the facts,
    It is foolish and humiliating.

    All humans choose what they will or will not do, say, or espouse, and what they love or hate.
    Long before the U.S. Constitution was framed, God granted humans the freedom of choice. “Now if it seems bad to you to serve Jehovah, CHOOSE FOR YOURSELVES whom you will serve… But as for ME and MY household, WE will serve Jehovah.” Joshua 24:15

  26. In the 1930’s, fascist antisemite and Catholic Priest, Father Charles Coughlin, called it the “Christian Front,” but rest assured, it was Christian Nationalism. Fr. Coughlin hated Communists and Jews, and spent every Sunday evening on his Detroit-based national radio broadcast telling a vast American audience that all Jews are Communists, and all Communists are Jews. He encouraged President Roosevelt, who he derisively called the “Secret Jew Rosenfelt,” to throw in with Hitler. It took far too long for the church to rein him in. By the time they did, the Christian Front was armed with stolen weapons from National Guard bases, and had plans to kill and maim anyone who didn’t agree with their organizing principal that America is a Christian country, and that the government should be a theocracy, not a democracy. Sound familiar?

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