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Christ, Country, and Conspiracies? Christian Nationalism and Belief in Conspiracy Theories
With Abigail Vegter
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 2023

When misinformation is rampant, “fake news” is rising, and conspiracy theories are widespread, social scientists have a vested interest in understanding who is most susceptible to these false narratives and attempting to figure out why. Recent research suggests Christians are especially susceptible to belief in conspiracy theories (Cox 2021), but scholars have yet to ascertain how a certain subset of Christians – Christian nationalists – respond to common conspiracy theories. Using the Chapman Fear Survey, we attempt to fill this gap in the literature. After generating a distinct scale measuring belief in common conspiracy theories in the United States, we make use of Whitehead and Perry’s (2020b) measurement of Christian nationalism to determine if this brand of religion impacts the likelihood that one will believe in common conspiracy theories. We find that Christian nationalism significantly predicts belief in common conspiracy theories, especially when combined with literalist views of the Bible.

Read more at Religion in PublicThe Civilian, and PsyPost.
Fear, Loathing and Anger: Emotion and Demographic Change and Support for Christian Nationalism
With Donald Haider-Markel
Public Opinion Quarterly, 2024

Christian nationalism, the fusion of religious and national identities, has emerged as an important factor shaping public opinion on a range of issues. However, debates in the existing literature on the motivations behind support for Christian nationalism remain unresolved: is Christian nationalism a response to secularization or a cover for discomfort with racial diversity and equality? Is Christian nationalism rooted in fear of social change, anger about social change, or something else? We use a survey experiment to isolate the effects of knowledge of religious vs. racial demographic change among White Christians and find that it is religious demographic change, not racial demographic change that shift support for Christian nationalism and perceptions of discrimination against Whites and Christians. This effect is mediated by emotion—religious demographic change increases fear and disgust, when then influence support for Christian nationalism and perceptions of discrimination against Whites and Christians.

Read more at Religion in Public
Religious Liberties or Reading Rainbows? The partisan implications of religious liberties frames in education attitudes
With Donald P. Haider-Markel
Social Science Quarterly, 2023

Objective: Many state legislatures have moved to restrict LGBT students’ rights, and the Supreme Court has veered toward greater protection of religious free exercise protection over LGBT nondiscrimination policies. Some studies have found that rights framings are associated with heightened affective and attitudinal polarization, while others have argued that rights framings lead to greater tolerance. Do religious liberties frames affect policy attitudes or group affect? And are some groups’ use of religious liberties frames more persuasive?
Methods: We utilize data from a survey that experimentally varies candidate statements on inclusion of LGBT issues in schools using a religious liberties frame and by the group asserting religious liberties. We use the experiment to document the extent to which religious liberties framings shift support for restriction of LGBT rights in schools and affect toward religious and LGBT Americans.
Results: Our analysis suggests there are few direct effects, but that responses to religious liberties frames reflect debates within the parties about morality, social group conflict, and civic nationalism.
Conclusion: Our results add to the growing literature on religious liberty, and we argue that there is a need to understand why religious liberties frames produce effects in some circumstances but not in others.
Holy Nations: How White Racism Boosts Black Support for Christian Nationalism 
Political Behavior, 2024

Current work on Christian nationalism emphasizes its strong correlation with exclusion of racial minorities and support for racialized policy, but Christian nationalism support is highest among Black Americans. If Christian nationalism is tightly bound to racism, why do Black Americans express such high levels of support for it? I argue that Black support for Christian nationalism is a response to White ethnonationalism. As Black Americans are denied their equal status as Americans, they increasingly assert their prototypicality as Americans by emphasizing their Christian identity. I employ an original survey experiment, finding that exposure to nationalist messaging in both its civic and ethnonationalist forms is related to higher levels of support for Christian nationalism among Black Christians, suggesting that the sense of national exclusion evokes Black Christians to emphasize their prototypicality as Americans. Moreover, by comparing the role of values underlying Christian nationalism support, I demonstrate that these results are not due to alternative understandings of the meaning of Christian nationalism for Black respondents. These findings shed light on Christian nationalism support as a racialized process.
A colorblind Christian country? How racial attitudes affect support for Christian nationalism and civil religion 
With Donald Haider-Markel
Politics and Religion, 2024

Can racial primes influence support for public expressions of religion? While a growing body of research demonstrates correlations between racial attitudes and support for public religion among White Americans, experimental tests of subconscious connections between the two concepts have been lacking. We utilize a novel survey experiment to prime racial considerations, and we find that Black racial primes raise support for Christian nationalism and civil religion among White Americans, compared to White racial primes. Moreover, our analysis indicates that these effects are attributable to racial animus, namely the evaluation that Black Americans are not prototypical members of the national community. The findings suggest that the preference for a Christian/religious America and a White America are subconsciously interwoven for many White Americans, providing the first experimental evidence, to our knowledge, of this relationship.

Working Papers

Jesus and John Wayne Wannabees: How Christian Nationalism and Femininity Shape Extreme Politics Among Men in the US (under R&R)

With Paul Djupe

Christian nationalism, the well-known conflation of Christianity with the state, has been linked with a wide range of conservative, exclusionary, patriarchal, and anti-democratic attitudes and actions. Little work has sought to explain Christian nationalism itself and posit dispositional factors that may work to shape both the worldview as well as its outcomes. Inspired by the book Jesus and John Wayne, we explore the role of gender identity as one possible source of both Christian nationalism and extreme politics. However, instead of finding a link with (toxic) masculinity, we find that men identifying as more feminine are more Christian nationalist, adopt more sexist attitudes, support more group extremism, and are more likely to endorse violence. Following wellestablished theory, we argue that this pattern suggests extreme politics acts as compensatory mechanisms to project masculinity when it is lacking otherwise. Moreover, we find that these dynamics are not isolated to white Christian nationalism.

Words and Attitudes of the Heart: The Emotional Content of Christian Nationalist Communications (under review)

Christian nationalism has emerged as an important component of the relationship between religious identities and political attitudes.  While several studies have analyzed the constellation of Christian nationalist elites and the effects of Christian nationalist orientations on public opinion, to date no study has explored how Christian nationalist elites message to the public or what effect these messages have.  Moreover, the current literature lacks comparisons of Christian nationalism to other similar orientations.  This study uses content analysis to compare the content and use of emotion language of Facebook messages of Christian nationalist, Christian non-nationalist, and patriotic groups.  I find that these groups focus posts on issues that are stereotypical to the group identity, and that the use of emotion language differs by topic and group type.  Additionally, groups’ use of emotion language shifts the emotional responses of readers, especially in Christian nationalist groups.  This study adds to our understanding of the role of emotion in social media communications and the effects of social media communications on readers. 

Religion is Sometimes Raced: Christian Nationalism is Ingroup Protection (under review)

With Paul A. Djupe, Brian R. Calfano, Andrew R. Lewis, and Anand Edward Sokhey

Popular narratives suggest that the effects of Christian nationalism should be more heavily concentrated among white Americans. The academic literature on Christian nationalism largely reflects this take, often asserting that it is effectively White Christian nationalism. We question such pronouncements, as they have come without systematic analysis across the broad range of issue areas needed to justify subgroup segmentations. Utilizing national over-samples of Black and Latino Christians (alongside White Christians), we assess the relationship between standard measures of Christian nationalism and attitudes towards policies that vary in their degree of racialization. Our findings qualify typical narratives: consistent with a theory of Christian nationalism as sacralized ingroup protection, we find effects that diverge by racial groups on racialized issues but otherwise converge. We close by discussing the implications of these findings and offering suggestions for future work linking race with Christian nationalism.

An Army for God: Gun Ownership, Christian Nationalism, and Support for Political Violence

With Donald Haider-Markel and Abigail Vegter

Political violence in the U.S. is rare, but recent rises in political extremist motivated violence suggest we could be in the early years of a new wave of right-wing violence. This rise in violence coincides with increases in Christian nationalist preachers and adherents as well as an increased linkage between protecting religious freedom and gun rights. We engage the growing literature on gun politics and Christian Nationalism to explore whether gun owning Christian Nationalists are more likely to believe that using force against the government can be justified. We know that new political identities are being formed around gun ownership and Christian Nationalism. These identities have implications for political behavior including voting turnout and vote choice. Less is known about how these identities shape policy preferences and political attitudes. Christian Nationalists believe that their identity is under threat making it more likely that they might be willing to pursue drastic measures in pursuit of self-protection. For gun owners, we extend the logic of existing studies and hypothesize that gun ownership is associated with a greater propensity towards violence and the belief that use of violence is an effective means to solving (political) problems. We further argue that gun advocates have intermixed with Christian Nationalists, increasing the likelihood that both might be likely to support the use of violence against the government. We test these hypotheses making use of data from a nationally representative survey of American adults. Our results support our arguments, with a few important caveats.

Christian Nationalism is Unbounded by LGB Status (under review)

With Paul Djupe

In the exponential  spread of research on Christian nationalism, much of it presumes supporters are heterosexuals. After all, those who hold Christian nationalist worldviews hew strongly toward anti-gay rights policy, among other hierarchical, discriminatory policies. This work most often presumes that the targets of those policy attitudes line up naturally opposed to Christian nationalists without evidence. Here we take up the question of whether there are LGB (there was no T item in our survey) Christian nationalists and whether they take the same positions on a wide range of issues as non-LGB Christian nationalists. Drawing on multiple datasets with appropriate questions from 2020 through 2023, we document that there are, in fact, LGB Americans with Christian nationalist views. And then we assess whether Christian nationalism has the same relationships with policy attitudes for LGB as it does for non-LGB Americans. We find small gaps and many similar slopes. Moreover, the similarities do not stop at the ingroup door  –  we find Christian nationalist LGB Americans taking positions against anti-LGB-discrimination efforts and against same-sex marriage. We conclude that religion plays an especially strong role in leading LGB Americans to advocate for a Christian America. 


Old Glory as Jesus: The Relevance of Christian Nationalism in U.S. Politics

Why, despite significant trends towards secularization, has Christian nationalism continued to influence political attitudes and communication?  This dissertation investigates the construction of and continued identification with Christian nationalism among Americans.  First, I explore the construction of Christian nationalism through social media. Using content, I find that Christian nationalism offers a distinct topic profile, pattern of emotion language use that emphasizes fear, and reader response, compared to other religious and patriotic accounts.  Second, I employ a survey experiment to test the effect of racial and religious demographic change on support for Christian nationalism among White Christians.  Knowledge of the decline of Christianity in the United States (but not of White Americans) amplifies support for Christian nationalism and perceptions of discrimination against Christians, mediated by feelings of fear and disgust.  Finally, using survey analysis and in-depth interviews, I find that, for Black Americans, widespread support for Christian nationalism broadens the boundaries around American identity.  I conclude by discussing the implications and limitations of my findings. 
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