Josh Hawley’s Strange New Twist on Christian Nationalism – Word&Way

“Some will say now that I am calling America a Christian nation. And so I am. And some will say I am advocating Christian Nationalism. And so I do.”

Sen. Josh Hawley made that declaration to applause at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday (July 8). For those who have followed the Republican senator from Missouri, the idea that he espouses Christian Nationalism wasn’t surprising. He’s written clearly about his belief the U.S. was founded as a “Christian nation.” His campaign is even invoking such ideas in his reelection bid this year. But in the past, he had avoided embracing the “Christian Nationalism” label, even attempting to differentiate his vision from those who have adopted the term. Now, like some other conservative figures, he has embraced Christian Nationalism as a badge of honor.

Best known for his fist pump to the pro-Trump mob outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (before later running away from the crowd as they stormed the building), Hawley is an embodiment of the dangers Christian Nationalism poses to U.S. democracy. So while it’s not surprising to see Hawley again espouse Christian Nationalistic ideas, it is significant he has become only the second member of Congress — after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia — to embrace the label.

In addition to helping normalize Christian Nationalism with a senatorial endorsement, Monday’s speech and Hawley’s promotion of it on social media also seems to mark a new tone for him as he prepares to evangelize even more forcefully for transforming the character of the nation. Fist-pumping for Christian Nationalism isn’t just something Hawley does on insurrection mornings.

Hawley’s speech also did something else worth noting: He reframed the debate in economic, class terms. His populist vision of Christian Nationalism might be novel, but also demonstrates a definitional flaw of those pushing the ideology. So this issue of A Public Witness listens to Hawley’s speech to consider how he attempts to rewrite history and redefine Christianity to support his partisan gospel.

Screengrab as Sen. Josh Hawley speaks during the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C., on July 8, 2024.

As Hawley attempted to build a vision of Christian Nationalism, he started with the fall of the Roman Empire. He mentioned that moment led Augustine of Hippo to pen a book reflecting on what happened and defending Christians against the accusation the Empire fell because of the adoption of that faith. Augustine’s famous work, The City of God, detailed a vision of the “City of Man” and the “City of God” to consider how the people of God should engage in earthly kingdoms. But while Augustine insisted Christians as members of God’s city should still engage in their earthly societies and governments, he didn’t cast the eternal “City of God” as synonymous with a “City of Man.” Hawley must’ve missed that point in CliffsNotes.

The rest of this piece is only available to paid subscribers of the Word&Way e-newsletter A Public WitnessSubscribe today to read this essay and all previous issues, and receive future ones in your inbox.

Previous ArticleNext Article