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The lethal dogmatism of Christian nationalism

(RNS) — Because the nation remembered the Capitol riots on Jan. 6 earlier this month, a deluge of articles highlighted the role of white Christian nationalism and its ongoing risk to democracy. This was completely crucial. But, white Christian nationalism has been tied to a fair better disaster over the previous yr, particularly, the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread reluctance to get vaccinated.

Research present that Individuals who espouse Christian nationalist ideology usually tend to refuse vaccination, regardless of intensive proof that the vaccines are secure and efficient. 

Why is Christian nationalism linked with each the Capitol riots and vaccine refusal?

One purpose is that Christian nationalism is powerfully linked with white Individuals affirming baseless conspiracies, together with QAnon myths, antisemitic tropes, rampant voter fraud, Trump’s “Big Lie” and normal vaccine misinformation. One other, little question, is that such Individuals belief right-wing television, websites and radio for his or her information.


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However there’s something extra elementary occurring — one thing that makes these Individuals weak to conspiracy theories and unhealthy data. A number of information factors present such Individuals have a better tendency towards dogmatism — the tendency to insist one’s beliefs are true with out regard for counter-evidence.

In a current study, my co-authors and I examined how Individuals who affirm Christian nationalist ideology scored on a quiz of scientific info. Individuals scoring greater on Christian nationalism didn’t rating decrease on science questions that requested about issues like lasers, genes, molecules or viruses. However Christian nationalism was the strongest predictor that they might rating decrease on questions on religiously contested scientific info such because the Large Bang or pure choice.

Christian nationalism, in different phrases, didn’t essentially coincide with ignorance. Quite, it mirrored a strong dogmatism that rejected any info that have been inconsistent with cherished narratives.

In one other co-authored study, we examined whether or not Christian nationalism predicted how Individuals scored on a quiz about faith in American political historical past. Unsurprisingly, we discovered white Individuals who scored greater on Christian nationalism standards additionally held incorrect views about issues like whether or not the Supreme Courtroom truly banned individuals from praying in faculties (no) or whether or not the First Modification permits Congress to privilege Christianity (no).

However once more, the scoring patterns have been revealing. Not solely have been white Christian nationalists extra more likely to decide incorrect solutions that burdened the supremacy and victimization of Christianity, they have been additionally much less more likely to decide “don’t know” responses.

Not solely have been they flawed; they have been confidently flawed — dogmatically flawed.

We noticed this dogmatic tendency in a extra direct approach in a February 2021 survey wherein psychologist Josh Grubbs and I requested Individuals how a lot they agreed with six statements affirming that they might be flawed and could be keen to vary their minds when confronted with new proof.

  1. I query my very own opinions, positions, and viewpoints as a result of they might be flawed.
  2. I rethink my opinions when introduced with new proof.
  3. I acknowledge the worth in opinions which can be completely different from my very own.
  4. I settle for that my beliefs and attitudes could also be flawed.
  5. Within the face of conflicting proof, I’m open to altering my opinions.
  6. I like discovering out new data that differs from what I already suppose is true.

Individuals who disagreed with these statements could be thought of extra dogmatic. We added up the inquiries to create a scale from 1 to 24, with greater scores indicating better dogmatism. 

Even after we account for political conservatism, non secular dedication and different social traits, we discover Christian nationalism is the main predictor that white Individuals are extra dogmatic. That’s to say, embracing the view that America has been and will all the time be distinctly “Christian” is the main indicator that white Individuals are unwilling to think about the chance that they might be flawed, that they’re unwilling to vary their views even within the face of conflicting proof (see Determine).

Courtesy graphic

Christian nationalism, then, correlates with dogmatism. However does one trigger the opposite? And if that’s the case, which causes which?

Maybe a few of each. In reality, each nationalist feeling and dogmatic perception are doubtless influenced by a mixture of persona and a cultural context that stresses holding onto sure beliefs “by religion” no matter proof. Our present ranges of polarization are solely worsening the issue. Each white Christian nationalism and the extreme dogmatism that accompanies it are amplified by in-group and out-group dynamics.

White Christian nationalism ebbs and flows all through American historical past as dominant majorities understand threats to their cultural and political standing. Experimental research affirms that white Christians who’re uncovered to messages about their impending minority standing reply with better Christian nationalism and xenophobia. And perceptions of previous, current and future victimization already dominate white Christian nationalist narratives.

The identical appears to be true of dogmatic dedication to misinformation. Dedicated partisans are guided by “motivated reasoning” to hunt out and imagine factually incorrect details about their political opponents, even when they’re offered financial incentives for gathering right data. The psychic rewards of tribal psychology and affirmation bias supersede monetary achieve.

That is clearly an amazing problem. However we’re not powerless. All of us can take private duty for firming down rhetoric, paying for accountable journalism, reposting solely correct data and reporting faux information.


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However past this, a number of research now confirm that deplatforming unhealthy actors is definitely efficient. When politicians or provocateurs who repeatedly sow hatred and misinformation on-line are banned from mainstream social media platforms, their attain isn’t fully eliminated. However it’s constrained.

A large minority of white Individuals embrace the view that America has been and will all the time be for “Christians like us.” At the same time as their numbers diminish within the general population, unhealthy actors are working to isolate and radicalize these Individuals towards political objectives. Together with striving to influence our fellow residents who’re being manipulated, sidelining these unhealthy actors wherever potential needs to be our high precedence.

(Samuel L. Perry is an affiliate professor of sociology on the College of Oklahoma. He’s the creator of two books on Christian nationalism, together with the award-winning “Taking America Again for God: Christian Nationalism in the USA” (with Andrew L. Whitehead) and the forthcoming “The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Risk to American Democracy,” with Philip Gorski. The views expressed on this commentary don’t essentially replicate these of Faith Information Service.)

Forward of the Pattern is a collaborative effort between Faith Information Service and the Affiliation of Faith Information Archives made potential by the assist of the John Templeton Basis. See different Forward of the Pattern articles right here.

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