The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy


By Philip S. Gorski and Samuel L. Perry

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By Philip S. Gorski and Samuel L. Perry

*Samuel was a speaker at FFRF’s 2023 convention in Madison

Bracing primer on a force that imperils American democracy. Examines its ideology and three centuries of its history through today.

Most Americans were shocked by the violence they witnessed at the nation’s capital on January 6, 2021. And bewildered by the images displayed by the insurrectionists: a wooden cross and wooden gallows; “Jesus Saves” and “Don’t Tread on Me”; Christian flags and Confederate Flags; even a prayer in Jesus’s name after storming the Senate chamber. Where some saw a confusing jumble, Gorski and Perry saw a familiar ideology: white Christian nationalism. In this short primer, Gorski and Perry explain what white Christian nationalism is and is not; when it first emerged and how it has changed; and where it’s headed and why it threatens democracy. They explain what makes white Christian nationalism “white.” They show how it took shape over three centuries ago. And how it has influenced American politics over the last three decades. Throughout American history, white Christian nationalism has animated the oppression, exclusion, and even extermination of minority groups while securing privilege for white Protestants. It enables white Christian Americans to demand “sacrifice” from others in the name of religion and nation, while defending their “rights” in the names of “liberty” and “property.” The future of American democracy, they argue, will depend on whether a broad spectrum of Americans—stretching from democratic socialists to classical liberals—can unite in a popular front to combat the threat to liberal democracy posed by white Christian nationalism.

Hardcover, 176 pages.

Freedom From Religion Foundation