March 15, 2024 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

The anti-Catholic hatred hidden inside ‘Christian nationalism’

Speak up before it’s too late.

Fox's Laura Ingraham, left, is a Roman Catholic. Courtesy of Fox, via screenshot.
Fox's Laura Ingraham, left, is a Roman Catholic. Courtesy of Fox, via screenshot.

Share this article

You have probably heard a lot of scary things in the news lately about something called “Christian nationalism.” Without going into the weeds about what these people want in terms of government policy, it’s important to understand who they are, and who they are is pretty simple: people who believe America was founded as a Christian nation for Christians.

That’s where the simplicity ends, but you might not know that if your understanding of “Christian” comes primarily from the political press. In that case, your understanding is that “Christians” are aligned with the Republican Party, support Donald Trump unequivocally and seek to restore America to a kind of pre-Eden era in our history – before science, technology and liberalism triggered a fall from God’s grace.

Of course, there are many other Christianities, seemingly too many to count, and that’s what makes the “Christian nationalist” objective of restoring America to its “Christian roots” more complex than it seems. They say, as the country gets more diverse and more secular, that their faith is increasingly under assault. They say that whatever they do, it’s in the name of religious freedom. It isn’t, though. It’s in the name of religious suppression. That includes suppressing other Christianities. 

“Christian nationalism” claims to speak for all Christians but its vision of America excludes, or has the promise to exclude, a vast majority of Christianities.

Recently, I was watching a video clip of Fox host Laura Ingraham interviewing Steven Miller. He’s the architect of a plan, pending Donald Trump’s election, to deport 10 million “illegals.” It requires massive staging areas and as many as 200,000 law enforcement officers. As I watched, it occurred to me that these two people – a Roman Catholic (Ingraham) and a Jew (Miller) – were oblivious to the danger. They seemed to believe the urge to purge America wouldn’t ensnare them.

Most of us seem to understand antisemitism well enough, but few of us seem to understand anti-Catholic hatred among white conservative Protestants, who make up the core of “Christian nationalism.” Most of us don’t understand, because social and political forces, including white solidarity and the anti-abortion movement, have since the 19th century assimilated Roman Catholics to the point where they seem like any other Christian. To the mainstream American, that’s true. White conservative Protestants, however, are not mainstream Americans. 

I say this from personal experience. I was born into and raised up in a white conservative Protestant sect whose identity as the true religion worshiping the true God was predicated on not being a false religion worshiping false gods. Jews always got a pass, because they would have a chance to convert after the Apocalypse and Christ’s millennial reign. But Roman Catholics never did. They were idolaters, pagans and heretics, perhaps even unknowing minions of the Antichrist. The Roman Catholic God was not ours. It was something closer to Satan. 

Anti-Catholic hatred among white conservative Protestants hasn’t gone away. It’s rooted in one of the greatest theoretical disagreements ever. It only seems to have gone away, because political interests are working to make it look that way. These interests are seen in the fact that “Christian nationalism” wouldn’t be as successful as it has been, to the point where it really does pose a threat to democracy, the Constitution and religious freedom, were Roman Catholic participants like Laura Ingraham to understand, or stop denying, how hated they are.

They won’t understand, or won’t stop denying, how much they are hated, because in their minds, they are immune to the outcomes of their own hatred. They can rah rah rah for the restoration of America’s “blood” to a time before its “poisoning” by 10 million migrants. They can rah rah rah safe in the knowledge that their apparent whiteness will protect them. And for a time, they’d be right. But only for a time. 

Leave a tip here ($10?). Thanks!

Eventually – if Trump is elected and if 10 million immigrants are deported – the urge to purge wouldn’t stop. It can’t. It’s too totalizing. “Christian nationalists” say America was founded as a Christian nation for Christians. But seeking even greater purity, they would say America was founded as a “real Christian” nation for “real Christians” – a term that would exclude Christians seen after the Reformation by many conservative Protestants as idolaters, pagans and heretics.

We might see happen to Christians what’s currently happening to Republicans, as calls for group purity (namely, calls against the influence of RINOs, Republicans in Name Only) have gutted the GOP organizationally to the point of chaos. The ranks of “real Christians” would shrink, as the ranks of “real Republicans” has been shrinking. Roman Catholics, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, United Church of Christ, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Unitarians – any denomination recognized as insufficiently “Christian” would be purged until God’s chosen people are an island surrounded by an ocean of heresy.

The outcome of the presidential election does not depend on making conservative Roman Catholics like Laura Ingraham (or for that matter, conservative Jews like Steven Miller) see the dangers they are in. As Rev. Dan Schultz wrote recently, “Christian nationalists” are a marginal bunch. There’s just not enough of them. Their views are unpopular. 

But as long as she and others won’t understand, or won’t stop denying, how much they are hated by their allies, they will continue to give “Christian nationalism” a dangerous credibility it doesn’t deserve and will only abuse. It claims to speak for all Christians but its vision of America excludes, or has the promise to exclude, a vast majority of Christianities. Maybe it’s too late for Laura Ingraham. But Roman Catholics who cherish religious freedom should speak for themselves. 

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

Leave a Comment

Want to comment on this post?
Click here to upgrade to a premium membership.