Scholar Samuel Perry says the myth of a “Christian nation” has distorted American history from 1690 to Trump
If the New York Times’ “1619 Project” and Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission mark two defining moments in American history, as well as opposite sides of an ideological chasm, a new book by sociologists Philip Gorski and Samuel Perry identifies a third defining moment. It’s not a new proposed founding, but rather an “inflection point,” the moment when the nation’s history could have gone in another direction.
In “The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy,” Gorski and Perry argue that in the years around 1690 — when Puritan colonists began envisioning their battles against Native Americans as an apocalyptic holy war to secure a new Promised Land, when Southern Christians began to formulate a theological justification for chattel slavery — a new national mythology was born. That mythology is the “deep story” of white Christian nationalism: the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation, blessed by God and imbued with divine purpose, but also under continual threat from un-American and ungodly forces, often in the form of immigrants or racial minorities.
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