This week marks the first anniversary of the insurgency attacks on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. These attacks were nothing less than an attempted coup d’etat by around 1,000 loyalists to former President Donald Trump as they besieged the seat of US government over a routine, and uneventful in previous years, certification of the results of a free and fair presidential election.
The findings and analysis of new collaborative research on the role religion played on this day offers interesting insights and insights. The University of Alabama’s Department of Religious Studies and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History have teamed up to provide detailed insight into religious involvement in the attack. The project is called “Uncivil religion” and can be found at uncivilreligion.org.
To quote from the home page of the site, “Religious symbols, rituals, identities, banners, signs and sounds permeated the events surrounding the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. This project begins to trace the thread of religion that has coiled throughout that day through pieces of digital media. It does this in two ways. First, there is a collection of essays that analyze individual media from January 6 in order to explain the role religion played on that day. Second, there is a series of galleries that contain media that represent the variety of ways that religion “manifested” on January 6th. This project is illustrative and not exhaustive. There is so much more to find, say and document about the role of religion on January 6 and this project will continue to grow.
Projects like this are of the utmost importance. Religion, especially evangelical Christianity, was a central motivator and theme of these events. Christian symbolism, quotes, Bible verses and more were ubiquitous in the pictures and images taken during the attacks. At the heart of this Christian extremism is what is called Christian nationalism. Christian Nationalism is a theocratic movement defining the United States, in this case, as a Christian nation and adhering in many cases to the pillars of what is known as Dominionism. Dominionism is a theological worldview that proposes that there are seven “Mountains” that Christians must control in order to prepare the world for Christ’s return. Those “Mountains” are government, education, media, arts and entertainment, religion, family and business.
Christian nationalism is a serious threat to democracy and to the freedoms of religion and religion guaranteed by the Constitution. This overlaps well with the authoritarian worldview of those who support Donald Trump and his dictatorial tendencies. Trump not only provoked the events of January 6 with his big lie that he lost the 2020 election, but he continues to show contempt for democracy, recently declaring his support for Hungarian dictator Viktor Orb’n.
American Atheists, a national organization for which I represent in West Virginia, recently released its 2021 State of Secular States report. This report, which is in its fourth annual edition, “Provides the most comprehensive review ever of statewide laws and policies affecting church-state separation and religious equality in all 50 states, Washington DC and Porto Rico. “ The report can be viewed at States.atheists.org. The fight against Christian nationalism and the accompanying threats to our Republic begins at home and this report explains how this effort is progressing, or not, state by state.
At every turn, Christian nationalism must be challenged, both big and small. When the West Virginia Family Policy Council set up a nursery inside the rotunda of the WV Capitol Building, American atheists and the ACLU in West Virginia responded by setting up exhibits in the same area of the city. rotunda. The American atheist display was a banner that said, “This season, no matter what or why you celebrate, happy holidays from your atheist neighbors” and included the name and logo of American Atheists. The other screen was a Festivus post with signage explaining the vacation and quoting Jerry Stiller, who portrayed the character of Seinfeld who created the vacation.
The United States is and always has been a secular constitutional democratic republic, not a Christian nation. Religious affiliation is not a requirement for citizenship or for public office, and our government does not recognize any official religion. For freedom to truly sound on this earth, this is how it must remain. Especially if you are a Christian, speaking out and speaking out against Christian nationalism has never been more important to you than it is today.
Eric Engle is Deputy Director of State at Parkersburg with American Atheists.