Trump’s Christian Nationalism

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Donald Trump

You Christians are so cute. So, on the “Progressive Christian” (!) page over at Patheos, Rev. Jen Butler writes that “Trump’s Nationalism is Incompatible with Christianity.” Isn’t that a hoot?

Trump’s nationalism is only possible because of Christianity. Is she joking, or just that historically ignorant? Wow. That Trump’s nationalism is literally only possible because of the Christian invasion of “the Americas” is historically obvious and indisputable.

Here is a map showing the major Native language groups that we know of in North America before Columbus showed up. Note: no Christians.

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Pre Columbian Native Language Groups, North America

Now, of course, there is one predominant, not really official, but functionally major language in all of that space, and few, if any native speakers of any of those Native languages. This is now mostly what we call The United States of America and the most common language, which Trump thinks should be the only language we speak, is English.

Can one get through U.S. history in high school or college without learning that people lived in “‘the Americas” before Christians showed up? Christianity is not indigenous to “the Americas.” There is no reason to think anyone in “the Americas” knew anything about Christianity or had any interest in it before Christian invaders showed up and started raping, pillaging, enslaving, and murdering for Jesus.

We know that good, “progressive Christians” want to pretend that there is some important difference between their religion and the politics of Donald Trump, even though Christians in every group, except African Americans and Hispanic Catholics voted for Trump by majorities of over 55%, and Trump would easily have won the popular vote had only Christians voted. Still, Rev. Butler’s claim is a historical one, whether she realizes it or not.

To state the obvious, Trump is president of the United States, which only exists at all because of the Christian invasion of “North America” by the English, starting at Jamestown in 1607. Modern Christians still like to portray the survival of Jamestown as a colony, which almost did not happen, as a matter of deus ex machina, rather than hard work and the happy discovery of tobacco as a major cash crop they could export to allow the place to pay for itself.

These Christians still use the incredibly patronizing, dismissive language towards the Natives that contains within it seeds of Trump’s mistreatment of the Natives descendants who arrive at the Mexican border, including withholding necessary medical treatment and absurd denunciations as terrorists: according to one modern, Christian source, “propagating the Christian religion to such people, as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of true knowledge and worship of God. A Christian witness to the native Americans was one of the reasons for establishing Jamestown, England’s first permanent American colony.” Never mind that Natives had their own traditions they had been quite happy with for who knows how long — good Christians killed Natives and destroyed their cultures without bothering to find out. We have zero reason to think that anyone who lived in what we now call “Virginia” had ever expressed any interest in Christianity before good Christians showed up and forced it on them. Imagine having Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons show up in your living room, refuse to leave, and kill you if you don’t convert. That’s what happened to Natives in “the Americas.”

Modern Christians identify John Rolfe as the good Christian who saved Jamestown, in part by marrying a Native woman, whether with her consent or not will never be entirely clear. That would be the same James Rolfe who had the bright idea of planting West Indian tobacco at Jamestown to compete more effectively in Europe. This bright idea worked very well, making the English colony finally profitable, its original purpose, deus ex machina notwithstanding.

The success of tobacco, which required ever larger quantities of cleared land, contributed to conflict with the Natives. Being labor intensive, it also was the reason why English settlers relied, first, on indentured servants, and, after 1619, on Africans as slaves. Jamestown can thus serve as a synecdoche for all of U.S. history, racism and violent suppression of minority groups included, all in the name of Jesus.

Whether one wants to portray the first settlers at Jamestown as rapacious, greedy bastards or good Christians (is there a difference?), the simple fact remains that, as the first successful English colony in “North America,” Jamestown was critical in creating the United States. The next major group of English settlers in “North America,” the Puritans, were even more obviously Christian in their mindset and their motives for coming here.

Some 160 years later, descendants of those two groups, with lots more settlers mixed in, nearly all Christian, would start the American Revolution, then go on to write and ratify the very Constitution that defines the office Trump now holds, the operation of which allowed him to gain that office. Trump’s presidency is the result of Christians, in the proximate sense that they voted for him in 2016, and in the approximate sense that they created the nation he is president of.

It it fatuous in the extreme to claim that Trump’s nationalism is inconsistent with Christianity. Trump’s nationalism would be impossible without Christianity.

Give it up.

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Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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