The Full Armor of God:
The Mobilization of Christian Nationalism in American Politics


Paul A. Djupe, Andrew R. Lewis, and Anand E. Sokhey

A Review by Dwight A. Moody


I read this book, but it wasn’t easy!

I read it because I know Dr. Djupe and because he and I are both interested in Christian Nationalism. Who isn’t, these days?

Djupe and two of his university friends in the field of the sociology of religion put together this brief, scholarly book. It runs to 68 pages in my digital version with another 30 pages of footnotes and bibliography. And much of it I could not understand. It is published, I surmise, for other scholars in their field and by Cambridge University Press.

But I hung in there, hurrying over the charts and skipping many sentences, like “It is quite plausible, however, that CN is a proxy for other items that are correlated with the index – and/or that loading statistical models with several related items is obscuring forces at play.”

But when they offered six questions commonly used to identify Christian Nationalists (CN), I understood. Here they are:

1) The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation.
2) The federal government should advocate Christian values.
3) The federal government should enforce strict separation of church and state.
4) The federal government should allow the display of religious symbols in public spaces.
5) The success of the United States is part of God’s plan.
6) The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.

People who agree with five of these six and disagree only with number three are deemed to be Christian Nationalists.

And Christian Nationalists have taken over the Republican Party. That is the simple, straightforward conclusion of these scholars. “The Christian Right has succeeded in transforming the Republican Party’s cultural style …. These results join others in suggesting that the Christian Right appears to be the party faction executing the take-over (and not vice-versa). The CN agenda has become the focus of Republican party platforms …, and conservative Christian activists possess “distinctive influence” within the party, with evangelicals being the religious group with the largest presence …. Rather than being captured by the Republican Party, the Christian Right has transformed the Party in important ways. The cultural style of CN is now expressed via a distinctive partisan style that may well be expressed by the label Christian Republicanism” (30).

In this way, these scholars offer the data to demonstrate what most of us have seen with our own eyes and heard with our own ears; now anecdotal evidence is supported by the statistics.

The most interesting portion of these analyses of data has to do with two other factors, what these scholars call SDO and what all of us call “threat.”

SDO is Social Dominance Orientation and is defined in Wikipedia as “a personality trait measuring an individual’s support for social hierarchy and the extent to which they desire their in-group be superior to out-groups.”

This, they demonstrate (and we perceive anecdotally), is connected to the rising tide of Dominion Theology (aka Seven Mountain Mandate), whereby Christians claim the right to control all the levers of cultural and political power. This is largely centered in Pentecostal religion and theology. (This connection is not explicit or prominent in this book.)

Connected to this is the disregard of collaboration with political foes and compromise with political factions.

“Christian nationalist expectations of God-granted rightful dominance in the United States, activated by claims of threatened civil liberties …  have undermined their tolerance for democracy…. Christian nationalist Johnny Rose is not interested in dialogue with non-Christians because “We have Power and Authority through Jesus.” Non-Jesus followers are not just part of the solution, they are not a legitimate party to discussion of solutions” (44).

This resistance to cultural conversation and political cooperation is rooted in the overriding fear Christian Nationalists harbor about the future of the country. They view the past with nostalgic eyes, remembers the “good old days” and fearing any future that does not rest in the hands of white, Christian elites. As mentioned above, this is rooted in Pentecostal and Evangelical worldviews, which is ironic, given that much of their agenda depends now upon the legal work of six Catholic justices on the Supreme Court!

All of which bring these scholars to sobering conclusions: “Christian nationalist expectations of God-granted rightful dominance in the United States, activated by claims of threatened civil liberties … have undermined their tolerance for democracy” (44). In other words, CD prompts the desire for certain cultural outcomes, and any means, democratic or otherwise, is legitimate to pursue those ends. This is genuinely frightful!

One final note: Djupe himself asserts that CN operates by an inverted Golden Rule: “Do unto others what you expect they will do to you” (46). That is, the fear of other political actors (Democrats, mainly) pushes CN to proactive behavior that is counter to the very religious values they claim to embrace.

Lord, help us, we cry; but here is how we can help ourselves: identify and embrace a version of religion (Christianity, if you will, or otherwise) that resists the narrow worldview identified in the five statements above and captures a different set of values, virtues, ideas, practices, and behaviors, a faith that is spiritually and morally vibrant and also virtuous enough to fill the earth with beauty, goodness, kindness, and joy, built not on fear but hope, not on isolation but love.

Published On: June 27th, 2023 / Categories: Book Reviews /

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