SSometimes, America’s call to God is expressed in consolation. Particularly after a mass shooting. U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (a Republican from Colorado) was among the victims of Tuesday’s massacre at Uvalde Elementary School in Texas. tweeted that “It is in times like these that we should, as individuals, communities, and as a nation, turn to God for comfort and healing.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia followed deflection — “Our nation needs to take a serious look at the state of mental health today” – with denial: “We don’t need more gun control We need to return to God.”
There’s a reason we always hear calls for Christian nationalism rather than for common sense gun legislation from the right. Our research has shown that guns have become a part of the worship of white Christian nationalism. Therefore, gun rights must not be taken lightly.
Along with “thoughts and prayers”—a response so hollow it has become a meme for contempt — Christian nationalist calls like Greene’s are often accompanied by warnings not to “politicize the deaths,” as worship leader and MAGA advocate Sean Feucht put it in his own tweet: “We need to call on God. We need him back in schools. He is our only hope to save the country. He is our only hope.” Evangelical Christian and Lieutenant Gov. of Texas Dan Patrick went on the Tucker Carlson show hours after the massacre to say “We gotta unify in prayer. We have to unify in faith…This was a country founded on faith, Tucker. And that’s why together we have to come together as a people. Don’t politicize it. Don’t point fingers.”
It’s a Christian nationalist mantra because political action after a mass shooting might well imperil unlimited access to guns. A representative survey was conducted by me and my colleague in February 2020 among more than 1,600 Americans. We found that among white Americans who strongly agreed that “The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation,” over two-thirds rejected the idea that “The federal government should enact stricter gun laws.” Those laws had the support of over 55% of Americans in general.
Why does Christian nationalism oppose stricter gun laws Religious beliefs generally consider sacred objects untouchable. Guns are a fundamental part of the identity of white Christian nationalism. Wednesday morning, Rep. Brian Babin, a Texas Republican, told a Newsmax interviewer “The United States of America has always had guns. It’s our history. We were built on the Judeo-Christian foundation and with guns.”
And because guns are essential to America’s core identity for the right, gun rights are held sacred above every other right. That’s not hyperbole. We conducted another representative survey of over 1,000 Americans in August 2021, giving respondents a list of rights provided in the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution – the Bill of Rights. Over 4 out of 10 whites surveyed believed America should be a Christian state. They cited the right to bear and keep arms as their most valuable right. It is not freedom of speech. No freedom of religion. Gun rights.
Some Christians Right members would rather have gun rights than the right to vote. Christian right provocateur Matt Walsh tweeted just after a mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado that killed 10 people in March of last year, “Gun ownership is a more important right than voting. While voting isn’t a right of the human person, it should still be considered a privilege and something that should only be granted to those qualified. It should be easier to buy a gun than vote.”
This logic is at work. We have demonstrated this in our new book. The Cross and the flagWhite Christian nationalism, which is fundamentally antidemocratic, is about controlling access to political and cultural power. The right to have guns means that white conservatives can suppress disorder. This is why, among white Americans who believe the United States should be a Christian nation, 82% believe “The best way to stop bad guys with guns is to have good guys with guns.” The goal isn’t to rid the world of gun violence. The goal is to suppress “bad guy violence” with righteous violence—Our violence. Guns are required for this.
Researchers have found that the politicians are only given three days to make a decision in light of recent school shootings, such as Uvalde. The efforts of President Biden and Congressional Democrats to pass common sense gun legislation—which is supported by the majority of Americans—will face dogged opposition not only in the form of Republican obstinacy. Beneath that, opposition will come from the religious zeal of the right that hallows guns and holds as sacred white Americans’ unfettered access to them.
What’s needed is a coalition of American politicians and citizens—secular and religious—who value the protection of innocent human life above power. This will ensure that the current ritual continues: The death of horrendous people, followed by prayers and thoughts.
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