Video: Peril to Democracy: Racism and Nationalism in America

February 28, 2022
Peril to Democracy
A conversation with Anthea Butler took place on Feb. 10.

The after effects of the 1/6 Insurrection continue to reverberate across America. Since that fateful and disturbing day, pushbacks against the teaching of race in America, abortion rollbacks, and Covid denialism have swept across the country. What has been the role of evangelical Christianity in fueling these issues? Professor Butler’s lecture will explore the historical antecedents of Evangelical beliefs and political action leading up to today’s troubling times, and the prospects for the future of religion, peace, and political action in America.

Annual Greeley Lecture for Peace and Social Justice

Anthea Butler is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor in American Social thought and Chair of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Butler’s recent book is White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America. She is currently President Elect of the American Society of Church History, and is an op-ed contributor to MSNBC Daily. Professor Butler is also a co-director of the Crossroads Project, funded by the Luce Foundation, for the creation of a digital archive for Black Religious life in the United States.



SPEAKER 1: Harvard Divinity School.

SPEAKER 2: Annual Greeley Lecture for Peace and Social Justice-- Peril to Democracy, Racism and Nationalism in America, February 10th, 2022.

CHARLES STANG: Good evening, everyone. My name is Charles Stang, and I'm the director of the Center for the Study of World Religions here at Harvard Divinity School. And Welcome to the center's Annual Greeley Lecture for Peace and Social Justice. This year, we are privileged to host Professor Anthea Butler, whose lecture Peril to Democracy-- Racism and Nationalism in America is certain to stimulate and challenge us.

And please let me take this opportunity to offer a word of sincerest thanks to the Greeley Foundation for the gift that established this annual lecture series. This lecture was rescheduled from the fall semester, so I'm especially grateful to Professor Butler for her flexibility and patience through the process of finding a new date.

Before I introduce Professor Butler, I'd like to let you know about two upcoming events, the details of which will soon be posted in the chat function. On Wednesday, February 16 from 1:00 to 2:00 PM, my colleague, Giovanna Parmigiani, will be hosting Professor Diana Espirito Santo from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile as part of our [? gnoseology ?] series.

Professor Espirito Santo will be speaking on negation, not knowing, and the dark in Brazilian and Creole forms of religion. And on the following day, Thursday, February 17 from 12:00 to 1:00, I'll be hosting HDS alumna, Anna Della Subin, to discuss her new book, Accidental Gods: On Men Unwittingly Turned Divine. So please check those out. And as always, the best way to stay abreast of what we're doing here at the center is to sign up for our weekly newsletter.

This is the fifth year in which we have devoted the Annual Greeley Lecture to the center's programming priority around race, religion, and nationalism. Five years ago, Kelly Brown Douglas, Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, helped us inaugurate the series with a lecture entitled, Claiming God's Peace When Whiteness Stands Its Ground.

The series is a response to the fact that across the world today, we witness an alarming rise in old nationalisms, each of which deploys, openly or covertly, the rhetoric of race and racial hierarchy and of religion and religious hierarchy. We see this happening, for example, across Europe, in the Middle East, in India, and of course, most acutely, right here in the United States, where white, Christian nationalism had a significant foothold in the federal government during the Trump administration.

This series at the center seeks to examine this phenomenon critically, at home and abroad. We want to ask such questions as, to what degree does religion fuel this racialized nationalism? In an American context, for example, how does Christianity support White nationalism? To what degree is white nationalism a sort of religion itself with its own myths, rituals, and ways of life? To what degree are different racialized nationalisms affiliating with one another to form potent international networks?

A number of prominent, Black intellectuals have already spoken in this series. As I said, Kelly Brown Douglas, but also Harvard's own Cornell Brooks, and just last year, Fred Moten. This year it's a great honor to add to that distinguished list, Anthea Butler, the Geraldine R. Segal Professor in American Social Thought and chair of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

An historian of African-American and American religion, Professor Butler's research and writing spans African-American religion and history, race, politics, evangelicalism, gender and sexuality, media, and popular culture. Her most recent book is, White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America, published by the University of North Carolina Press.

One reviewer said of it, quote, "Amid all the efforts to make sense of evangelicals political identity, I know of no one besides Anthea Butler who does so with such a disciplined and historically-grounded approach combined with a fluid, direct, and personal style. While focusing on evangelicals history, Butler shows how we've all been shaped and indicted by racism. And she doesn't let us off the hook."

Professor Butler's awards include a Luce/ACLS Fellowship in religion, journalism, and international affairs to investigate prosperity gospel and politics in the American and Nigerian contexts. She was a Presidential Fellow at Yale Divinity School in 2019 and 2020. She's currently a co-director of The Crossroads Project for Black Religious Histories, Communities, and Cultures, funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. And she also currently serves as president of the American Society for Church History.

Not unsurprisingly, she's a sought-after commentator and op-ed contributor for MSNBC. Her articles have been featured in the New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, NBC, and The Guardian. And she's also served as a consultant to PBS series, including Billy Graham, The Black Church, God in America, and Aimee Semple McPherson.

As I said, we have an hour and a half together. I'll soon disappear from the screen and Professor Butler will appear. I'll come back to moderate the Q&A. Professor Butler, thanks once again for joining us. The floor is yours.


ANTHEA BUTLER: Thank you, Charles. Thank you so much for this invitation. First of all, for the Greeley Lecture-- I'm thanking all of you for being here. I realize that on a Thursday afternoon at 5 o'clock before Super Bowl weekend, you could be doing anything but. You might want to be out shopping for food, but you're listening to me. And you're listening to me probably because you're as worried as I am about the state of democracy in America. Moreover, you're probably thinking about the ways in which democracy is being shaped by certain religious groups right now.

And so today, what I want to do in this talk is to really draw out something that's a little bit different but fits right into the lane of how we've been thinking about the role of race in terms of nationalism, and also in the ways in which belief is playing a very big role. [INAUDIBLE] PowerPoint, but I want you to listen carefully to the words, and what you hear, and what you see.

Because part of what has happened here in America is twofold. One is we've taken for granted the things that religious people have said. We've taken for granted the kinds of ways in which they frame their beliefs, their actions, the kinds of things that they invest in, and the kinds of things that they don't invest in. And so I think we're at a moment that is an important one, one that is, I think, crucial to the future of democracy.

And so I want to start with something that perhaps many of you have seen. And I want to apologize for the way the picture looks because this was a screen grab. And this is back in September of 2015. This is when a group of-- I'm going to put in quotation marks here, "evangelicals,"-- because I'm going to say a lot about what that term means-- are praying for Donald Trump three months after he has said that he is going to be running for the President of the United States.

The woman that is standing on his right is Paula White. You see a man in a kippah. The person on his left-- and this is important-- is Robert Jeffers, who is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. This was a very big thing at the time. You had never seen something like this for a presidential candidate.

Before we saw presidential candidates run for President of the United States, they did a couple of things. They went to Iowa. They talked to people who were involved in the evangelical movement. They talked to people who were the big leaders, and shapers, and all of that. Donald Trump took a different path.

And so now in retrospect, one of the things that I think about this picture is that this was a defining moment, not just for Donald Trump and the presidential campaign, but it was a defining moment for evangelicals. Because it was the moment in which evangelicalism got captured by Pentecostals and charismatics. Let me say that again. It was the moment that evangelicalism got captured by Pentecostals and charismatics.

Now what do I mean by that? What I mean by that is this. The regular evangelical political machine that operated for years, and years, and years that went so smoothly to get behind a Republican candidate did not work in Donald Trump's case. Donald Trump went to what I laughingly referred top-- but not laughing anymore-- back then as the D-list. He went to prosperity gospel people. He went to lower-named Pentecostal preachers. He went to charismatics who were outside of any denominational construct. And he brought all of those people together.

What that did was upend the normal flow of evangelical political action. What it did was change the whole landscape. And this change actually had begun a lot earlier. And I'll talk a little bit about that. But while we were used to talking about evangelicalism in a certain kind of way, these Pentecostals and charismatics supercharged everything.

They supercharged it, in part, because of their beliefs about the nation, which aligned very much with regular, mainline evangelicals. But it had a different kind of flavor to it. It had a more militant flavor to it. It had a more power-infused flavor to it. And as a result, this made everything change. And so when we get to this moment, a Jericho March in Washington DC on December 12th, 2020-- you're probably wondering, what does this have to do with nationalism? Everything. Let me explain.

Because Donald Trump embraced these kinds of actors in religion who we could very well call evangelicals too, but a different kind of evangelicalism. These Pentecostals and charismatics believe that they need to take physical dominion over spaces in order to make sure that God's presence is known. And so after the election that happened, which, of course, Donald Trump and other followers of his contested, this Jericho March occurred.

And you'll see the part that says, let the church roar. There's a picture of a lion there to represent Jesus. There's all these flags that are out in front of the Capitol. And you see at the bottom-- it's called the March for Trump, to demand transparency and protect election integrity. These two marches came together. These are not two dissimilar things but one and the same thing.

And this actually was the precursor to January 6th. And this got missed by a lot of people because everybody just thought, it's a bunch of religious people here that are protesting the election because they still think Donald Trump won. No, no, no, it was the opening salvo to 1/6 and the insurrection. It was also a nationalistic salvo, a salvo that infused a power way of thinking about Jesus Christ, his work in the world, and the work that they were going to do to bring their anointed leader, Donald Trump, back into power.

And so the intersection of this Jericho March, which is just like you're thinking. A Jericho March is like when they marched around Jericho in the Bible-- is a part where people take control, and march around, and put God's spirit into the midst of things, God's spirit into the midst of the mall and Washington DC. And this was the way in which people prepared for what happened on 1/6.

If you put this together with the March for Trump, what you begin to have is a powerful religious nationalism that has racial elements at its core. Those racial elements are about certain kinds of things. And it's more about not just race, but about a way in which Americanism is part of the racial construct. Here's a bigger picture of this crowd.

And I want to show you this, in part, because although it looks like there's lots of white faces here, there are all different kinds of people. And I want to point out the sign here in the corner, Latinas for Trump. This is a Texas group of Latina women who have been supporting Donald Trump throughout his presidency, and after, and also supporting part of the campaign to put him back into office.

Now all of these people have a certain kind of belief system that they're operating with. One thing that they're operating with and that they're coming together-- is that even though they may not have regular evangelical belief systems, they may not believe everything that Pentecostals and charismatics do, they do have a common, shared love for Donald Trump. And that is the thing that bound them together in this kind of nationalistic crusade. And I'm going to talk a little bit about what I think that looks like to you.

But I want to go here, just to show you the picture of-- which is a ubiquitous one-- of the shaman of 1/6-- who says, hold the line Patriots, God wins. While many people thought of this as an insurrection that was about white nationalists and everything else. It was about a certain kind of white nationalism and a certain kind of white, American nationalism that was infused by the power of God and invoking God in the midst of this.

This particular shaman was also seen if you go back and look at the very long video clip that was made within the Senate chambers. He was the one that invoked Jesus Christ. He said, I invoke Jesus Christ in this room, as he began to pray. And so this invocation of prayer that happened when the insurrectionists came on the Capitol is very important for how we have to look at this movement that is very much taken over, in some ways, the way that we think normal evangelicalism is supposed to work. And I'm going to talk about that in a minute.

It's also about a marriage of two things. And I thought this is a great picture to show the American flag, the Trump 2020 hat and cowboy hat, Jesus is my Savior but Trump is my president. These are the two things that get married together. But what holds them together and what binds them together is a certain kind of belief. And that certain kind of belief is that the dominionism. The way in which God is going to take over and run this earth, and especially run America, is a different kind of thing altogether.

So here's where this gets a difficult for those of you who study evangelicalism and are thinking, where is she going with this? I have three very big things to say. First of all, evangelicalism is a religious, political movement. It is no longer the movement that you thought it was about religion solely. In the American context, we are now talking about something that has been used not only to say that evangelicals are white Christians, but also a part of the Republican Party.

And so this is where I would differ from a lot of scholars and historians and move more towards a sociological and a cultural definition of evangelicalism in the present space that we are in. I think that we can no longer think about Bebbington Quadrilateral or all the normal things you think about when you talk about evangelical theology. Because it is very clear for the people who are embracing an evangelical label now-- and I'll show this in a chart later-- that they are not thinking about the same things that we are when we talk about evangelicalism, a la Mark Noll, or George Marsden, or anything else. They are thinking very differently. That's number one.

Second, the stream of Pentecostalism, and charismatic movements, and "prosperity gospel"-- and I'll put that in quotation marks-- have overtaken evangelicalism. And Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, to a lesser extent, have kind of helped that happen in the American context. What I mean by that is that their embrace of certain kinds of actors and figures, instead of going after the normal people that you would think about-- focus on the family, Family Research Council, and others-- these are not the main actors anymore in evangelicalism. And you'll see this when I begin to show you some of the meetings and things that are happening. It's a weird thing to say, but the way that we used to know evangelicalism, a la Billy Graham, is not the same thing anymore.

The third thing-- and this is the most important thing-- nationalism now is not just a thing that we talk about for white nationalists who are living in Idaho someplace, and Christian identity movement, and all of this other kind of thing. What we're talking about now is a white, Christian nationalism that is embraced by other people of ethnic groups because this is where the power base is in America right now. This religious milieu that comes out of believing that America is still a God-ordained country, the country that is the City on the Hill, just as Winthrop said it was-- it's become so much more.

And what Donald Trump was able to do was to be able to articulate something very different. What he articulated was that the MAGA, the Make America Great Again, meant that America was losing something and that he could bring it back. But not only he could bring it back but everyone else could bring it back too, if they followed after him. And so this becomes key.

And this is why you see the very heavy-- I would say-- more than hero worship of Donald Trump. If we talk about the ways in which some evangelicals called Donald Trump King Cyrus and other things that came out while he was president, this becomes a very important thing in terms of thinking about a different kind of eschatological vision for what these people are thinking or going to happen in the world.

These are not the pre-millennials who thought they were going to go up in the rapture. These people are post-millennial. And they believe that they are bringing the Kingdom of God into America. And not only into America, but they're bringing it in a certain kind of way that marries very many different things alongside of it. But what is at the core is a very racialized idea about who Americans are and what other ethnicities, who are part of America, need to embrace in order to do that.

And so what I want to do today is kind of walk you through all of this, from a piece of history to talk about this. And I talk a lot about this in my book in one way where I'm dealing with racism within the history of evangelicalism. For a lot of people, I know that this is a really tough conversation to have, in part, because we talk about evangelicals in a lot of different ways.

And evangelicals have narrated themselves in a different way too. And so I'm not going to play Billy Graham yet. I want to talk about this before I play him. Evangelicals have narrated a story about themselves. That story goes like, we were abolitionists, we were missionaries, we went into the world, we preach the gospel, we did a lot of different things that were able to help people during this time period.

And so when we write those stories and when evangelical historians wrote these stories, it was a narrative about doing two things. One is to set down a history that hadn't been written before. But the second part of that history was about to insert evangelicalism into a broader stream of American religious history. Think about it. It's hard when you have Perry Millers, and everybody else writing about Puritans and all of this, and you don't see yourself in the narrative of what evangelical history is.

And so in order to do this-- when you start to talk about people who have written evangelical history-- you have to think about what are the ways in which they wrote that history. That history focused in mostly on male actors. It focused in on theology. It focused in on certain kinds of groups and certain kinds of people, where they were in the country. And that was a way in which to make the narrative seem cohesive.

But something happened. When the word began to be used in a different kind of way, in the late 70s and early 80s, when we had the rise of the Moral Majority, and Ronald Reagan's embrace of evangelicalism, and all of these other kinds of political activities that went along with pro-life and all of these others, that began to become a media-used term. And I think it's really important for evangelicals to understand that this media use of evangelicalism began to make evangelicalism a white, Christian religious movement that had moral issues attached to it but that also was politically active.

Of course, there were Black evangelicals. There was a National Association of Black Evangelicals. There were people like Tom Skinner, and William Parnell, and others who considered themselves to be Black evangelicals. You had Latino evangelicals, you have Asian evangelicals. But there was something about the way in which the media and politicians talked about evangelicalism that oriented the movement's name towards white people. And so this is part of it.

But the other part was a way to which [INAUDIBLE] about colorblindness and how colorblindness infused the way that evangelicals had to make the leap from the 1950s to the 1980s and beyond. And so I want to play a little clip here from Billy Graham. And I'm going to step back and talk about Graham's own complications with race and also the reasons why he is part of where we are today with nationalism. And hopefully be able to hear this.

BILLY GRAHAM (ON VIDEO): What's wrong with the world? I think every one of us tonight agrees that something is terribly wrong with the world in which we live. This program is being seen tonight live in Little Rock. And today, in Little Rock, Arkansas, they had a [INAUDIBLE], which illustrates racial tension is sweeping the nation, not only in the South but other parts of the nation as well.

Why do we have these tensions in life? Why do we have these explosive problems in every generation? We also recognize that we may be on the verge of war in the Far East, a nuclear weapons that could destroy even civilization itself.

What's wrong? What's happened? What's wrong with man? What's wrong with the world in which we live? The race problem is a symptom. War is a symptom. Crime is a symptom. Sociological problems are symptoms. There is something deeper wrong. All of these things are a symptoms. What is the cause? Well, the Bible says that man has a disease. And that disease is called S- I- N, sin.

ANTHEA BUTLER: Now for those of you who've been to an evangelical revival, you know when they say, S- I- N, sin, you're supposed to feel very convicted. This piece is cut up, but it's cut up for a reason. And the reason why is because I want you to hear what he talks about. He talks about race. He talks about the situation in the world, the kinds of ills that are facing everyone. And so this whole thing is about reducing this to one very important thing, sin. But the sin is individual. It's not structural. It's not corporate.

And so this is where I think Billy Graham is an important person to look at in terms of the way he thinks about race. And so I'm going to just go through this really quickly. But I want you to think about this in terms of where we're going next. Because it's really important to think about how this issue of sin influences what happens with race and what happens with nationalism.

What Billy Graham is appealing to is a couple of things. One is, if we have a race problem, it's because of something internal. It is not about the external situation. It is not about what is going on in the country, or the laws, or everything that it has. That's number one. Number two-- there is an issue of communism. Those of you who know this history about communism and how it's seen in America, it gets lumped into things, like how are people trying to fight against Jim Crow and fighting for equal rights for the Civil Rights movement.

This is a very big conversation that begins to happen during this time with other people who are involved with this kind of communism talk, like Billy Ray Hargis and others. But for Graham, he sees these as all a part of sin. Now that may seem very simple to you, but it's actually very complex. Because in focusing on individual sin, this elides any kind of racial activity that he might be asked to appropriate.

So on the one hand, he can have Martin Luther King at his rally in New York at Madison Square Garden in 1956. And have him open with prayer. At the same time, Billy Graham is the man who joined W.A. Criswell church, which was W.A. Criswell's Southern Baptist, very racist, very much into Jim Crow. In 1953, that's his home church. That church is in Dallas, Texas. Why join Criswell's church when you don't even live there? That's a very good question.

Graham is always very slippery on race on the one hand he'll say, this is something I think is important. But as I go on in my book, I talk about the ways in which he repels Martin Luther King the following year when King asked him not to stand on the stage with the governor of Texas, who he is there to support for his campaign, who also is an avowed racial segregationist.

Graham also has a problem with the ways in which people are marching. He doesn't think that you should go against the government that way. And after the March on 1963, the March on Washington, he says, I don't think that this is going to happen until heaven, when little Black boys and little white girls will be able to walk hand in hand together.

This focus on sin and his eschatological belief about what happens with race and the racial problem is part of what is happening within evangelicalism. But there's a third piece of this I think is really important. There's a sense in which you have to receive this kind of evangelicalism before you have any hope of becoming part of this movement of God in the country.

You have to be able to say that you are part of America. And part of America is embracing God, embracing the ways in which God is appearing in the space of this political figure, who else is a religious figure. And you can argue with me about whether you think he's political or not in the 50s. I think he's very political. But you also have to realize that people are being asked to step out of one space, to not think about where they might be if they are African-American and experiencing Jim Crow, and to say that you must trust God to make your situation right instead of the political situation.

And I think this is where things get a little messy. Because it gets messy for Graham after we see what happens in '68 and Graham has to re-tack and does something different. And he begins to go into this kind of colorblind talk and has a different people to appear on stage with him, which include Andrae Crouch and others. And I talk about this in my book. But he tries to tack and rechange on race. But the nationalism is still there. OK, so let's get out of this for a minute.

Now I want to bring you up to the 1990s and beyond. And this is where I get to talk a little bit about myself and this guy, who you see here with this funny looking little beard here. And his name-- sorry, oops. [INAUDIBLE] go back-- C. Peter Wagner. C. Peter Wagner was a Fuller Seminary professor who was responsible for really putting forth two things into the world that were both racial. One was Donald McGavran's belief about homogeneous churches.

Wagner had been a missionary in Latin America when he came to Fuller and started teaching in the School of World Mission. He began to push forward Donald McGavran's teaching about homogeneous churches and what was more commonly called the Church Growth Movement. This was a big thing in the 1980s. It was a way-- right in the middle of the Reagan era-- in which, basically, church leaders and pastors especially were told that you should think about how you can make your church bigger by having homogeneous groups.

That meant you should have a white church if you live in a predominantly white area of town. If you're trying to grow your church and you're Black, you should have predominantly Black people there, same thing for everybody else. In other words, we're not going to bring everybody together, but if you have a homogeneous group, you can have a bigger church. And so this was a movement that started in the 1980s during the Reagan era. It's also the era of televangelism and everything else.

When I became a student at Fuller, I got two kinds of phone calls when I worked on the switchboard. One call was, can I have C. Peter Wagner's church growth thing? And I'd say, it's another number. You're going to need to call this number. And then the other thing that started happening a little bit later, about a year later, was they started asking for C. Peter Wagner's Spiritual Warfare.

And I was puzzled. I didn't know what spiritual warfare was, at least in that context. But spiritual warfare was something that all Pentecostals knew about, and prayed for, and everything else. And C. Peter Wagner left Fuller around 1993, 1994, moved to Colorado Springs, and started what we call the New Apostolic Reformation.

This movement believes in there are apostles right now, here on earth. And you're probably going, how are we getting here? I'm going to get you back to the first picture so quick you won't even know it. What you want to see here is this, Reclaiming Seven Mountains. Part of this Apostolic Movement and part of what other people call dominionism is this. These people believe that they can take possession of the land the Lord, your God, is giving you for your own. And that's Joshua 1:1.

Remember also what was it Joshua, Jericho March, OK? Business, government, family, religion, media, education, and entertainment-- these were the seven mountains that they believe that Christians should be in, that they should be a part of. And so this movement begins in the 1990s and really swells to a big number of people in the 2000s.

And this little picture down here below-- for those of you who can remember back to 2008-- is a picture of one of C. Peter Wagner's apostles, Bishop [INAUDIBLE], laying hands on no other than Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin was a part of this movement while she was living in Alaska as a governor and embraced all of these things. She was also part of some of these kinds of constitutional ideas about the government and how you should think about that in terms of God, but that's a whole nother kind of conversation.

This is important for a couple of reasons. One is this kind of belief system has begun to infuse the kinds of things that we see from people who were involved in the white, Christian Nationalist Movement and also people who were there at the 1/6 insurrection. And so hold that thought. Here we go. The one on the left you see is the Reawakening America Tour. I'm not going to talk about that just yet. Let me talk about The Response.

Move forward to 2011 and August 6th. I happened to be at this particular meeting. The Response, A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis. What has happened since then is that you had the presidency and Barack Obama. This is right before the election cycle of 2012. And the mood in the country with evangelicals, and especially lots of Pentecostals, was that the country was failing, and that this nation was in crisis, and that everyone needed to pray.

And so this movement called The Response, which was a movement of, again, Pentecostals, and charismatics, and other kinds of prosperity gospel groups-- came together to pray in the Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. These meetings were held all around the country. And so part of what has happened is that you have something that's parachurch.

You have these movements that are happening that come out of things like C. Peter Wagner that are not just church-based but a way in which church-based people are becoming part of these other bigger groups, that bring them together with different kinds of beliefs that are not simply evangelical beliefs. They're not held together in the same way.

And so this Response was a movement in which they were praying for the nation. When I got there that day, people were blowing shofars. They had on prayer cloths. There were all kinds of things happening. You had speakers like Sam Brownback, who at that time was a senator. You had John Hagee who was over Christians United for Israel, who has a large church that you're going to see in a minute in San Antonio, Texas.

And these kinds of meetings bring together a disparate group of people who are not just Christian believers, but they're also political actors. Right here, you see the former governor of Texas, Rick Perry, in front of the American flag, and the Texas flag, and ready to talk about prayer. If you were holding a notion that we have any kind of separation between church and state in this country, you would be wrong. We don't have one. As a matter of fact, there is no wall of separation. It's just a mess.

Let me move over to the other side where you see the Reawakening America Tour, Clay Clark. This is the now iteration in 2021 and 2022 of what happens. You'll notice at the top it has The Health and Freedom Conference. This has a lot to do with coronavirus, but it's also the same kind of meaning.

You have a smattering of religious figures, plus political figures. And in the front, you have General Flynn-- who you're going to hear from in a minute-- who is going to expound on this in a completely different way. And you'll see how this comes together in a certain kind of framework in order to form this religious nationalism that's also a white nationalism.

All right. But before we get there, let me talk to you about this guy, who is John Hagee, who I just mentioned. Coronavirus, Dress Rehearsal for the New World Order. This is part of the talk that we had at the beginning of the pandemic about religious freedom. Religious freedom was redefined by all of these people in these groups, in part, because they wanted to make sure that-- when everything got shut down-- that they would still be able to meet.

And if you kind of remember back to March, April, and May of 2020, we had a lot of pastors who were being arrested for doing this. And this thing from John Hagee, I think, puts it all together in a certain kind of way. This New World Order is also part of these beliefs that these groups have that there's a conspiracy. There's a conspiracy about what the virus does, what they are putting into your body, how this is going to open up and usher in something different, and how they need to pray and be in leadership to fight it.

Now you're wondering, why do we care about this? Well, we care about this for a couple of reasons. White evangelical Protestants are less likely to have been vaccinated for COVID-19 than other religious groups. You can just see this-- 40% of white evangelicals have not been vaccinated. This is much higher than the normal number of white non-evangelicals who have been not vaccinated. And this is a little bit more for Black Protestants.

You can see the numbers are very low for Catholics. And many Catholics have been vaccinated. Those who go atheist, agnostic, and nothing in particular-- high levels of vaccination. But as a group, white evangelicals are the ones who have less likely been vaccinated than other religious groups. This is, in part, because of this belief system. It used to be that the mark of the beast was going to be a chip or something like that. But now the mark of the beast is the vaccine.

Now all of these things are moving together in kind of a morass. But I want to help you untangle the morass and understand what is happening here. For some white evangelicals right now who are not taking the COVID-19 vaccine, they see it as being not only part of something that their belief system is-- i.e. I think, wrongly, that there are fetal tissue cells within the vaccine-- they think about it as a patriotic duty not to take it, that they are the ones that are going to be able to keep their children and the nation pure.

And so that's another way in which this is happening. And that's also why many white evangelicals are slipping into QAnon beliefs, because of the way in which they think about their eschatology has been formed, the way they think about issues like the Seven Mountains of Power, and other things that have gone on. I'm going to try to get us down here so you can start asking questions.

But what was more important also-- and this is where the nationalism comes in-- is to listen to what General Flynn said back in November. And I want to play you this clip--


BILLY GRAHAM (ON VIDEO): From different people today--

ANTHEA BUTLER: --help you.

BILLY GRAHAM (ON VIDEO): --we talk about faith. There's something shaking. The ground underneath us is shaking. And it's shaking because-- I mean, there is a time-- and you have to believe this-- that God Almighty is involved in this country because this is it. This is it. This is the last place on Earth.

This is the shining City on the Hill. This is the City on the Hill, the City on the Hill. The City on the Hill was mentioned in Matthew. OK, it was mentioned in Matthew. And then a guy by the name of Winthrop mentioned it again in 1630. In 1630, before the country was formed-- and he also coined the term New England. We're going to go to this New England, this new world he was talking about.

And he talked to the people there about this thing called the City on the Hill. And then Ronald Reagan, a couple of hundred years later, again, talked about it as the shining City on the Hill. And they're talking about the United States of America, talking about the United States of America. Because when Matthew mentioned it in the Bible, he wasn't talking about the physical ground that he was on. He was talking about something in the distance.

So we are going to have one nation under God, which we must. We have to have one religion, one nation under God and one religion under God, right? All of us together, working together-- I don't care what your ecumenical service is or what you are. We have to believe that this is a moment in time where this is good versus evil. So ladies and gentlemen--

ANTHEA BUTLER: OK, so you're probably going, I didn't know America was in Matthew, in the Gospels. But you know, let's leave that aside for a minute. Flynn's statement is really important because what he's doing is he's lining this up.

Can you see America in scripture? Can you see America in what John Winthrop says? Can you see America and what Reagan says about the City on the Hill? Can you see where America is right now? And that if we're going to be the country that we need to be, we need to be one nation under God and one religion under God.

That is a very big move. And that move-- and the move that we've been hearing since 1/6 and even before 1/6-- has been towards this kind of thing, where America is at the center of the biblical narrative, in the center of the ways in which you have to think about Christianity in America and a certain kind of Christianity. So all along this Awakened America Tour, these are the kinds of things that General Flynn and everybody else has said.

This church-- where he's at-- is also John Hagee's church. And, of course, Hagee's son, who is now the pastor of it, disavowed the statement. But I promise you, this is what they really do believe. And this is how they've talked all of this time.

Now the other thing that's really interesting about all of this is that what we have is a conflagration. And I don't want to use that word because there's fire here and there's a reason. What we now see is a tightening. And that tightening is about how can these groups of people begin to have the kind of power and the kind of theocracy that they really believe God is bringing.

And that theocracy has to do with how do you measure morality, how do you put back the things that you don't want to put. So when you hear these arguments about CRT, and books, and LGBTQ things-- all of this is a piece. And all of these things are being said in the kinds of ways in which Greg Locke talks about them right here. And I'm going to point out a couple of his words. And I'll just play this very quickly.

GREG LOCKE (ON VIDEO): Devil [INAUDIBLE] We got everything kind of witchcraft, spell books, everything you can imagine. And this thing is full. So we got clothes, a lot of things. If you need to get rid of it, [INAUDIBLE] you can get, just start throwing it in there. Start throwing it in there. Start throwing it in there. Start throwing it in there. Burn it. Burn it





ANTHEA BUTLER: Now I'm going to freeze it right here just to say a couple of things. One is you notice that you heard the sound in the background. That was the shofar being blown at this book burning that happened a couple of weeks ago in Tennessee. Greg Locke is a pastor who has been talking about a lot of these things. And so where do you see books being banned, where you think about the ways in which people are talking about this, or how you can turn in the teacher and all this stuff, all of this is a piece. The piece is about morality, but it's also a piece about fear.

How do we keep the narrative of the story that we want to have over America vis-a-vis other narratives happening. And so I put this little quote here, "Between September and November of last year, the American Library Association received reports of more than 330 unique book banning cases in the US. Challenge totals in 2021 more than doubled from the number from 2020."

In other words, what we're seeing is a hardening and retrenching. And if you think about the ways in which fascism and other things have happened around the world, what do you start to do first? You start to undermine the kinds of educational materials that are available. You undermine other kinds of things that might give people a different message.

So it's no surprise then that 1/6 torched off a lot of things to happen in this country that have antecedents in things that have been happening for the last 30 to 50 years that nobody's paid attention to. Nobody was looking at these actors like C. Peter Wagner and others because they seemed to be the fringe. But the fringe has taken over the evangelical movement. And the fringe is what is now defining what this is instead of everybody else.

So let me just move this here. Now let's get to the last couple of things. This is an interesting chart. Between 2016 and 2020, more white Americans began identifying as evangelical Protestants then stopped doing so. I need to tell you, this is not about any quadrilateral. This is not about belief. This is about identification with whiteness.

Protestants who identified the group in 2016, 45%. Those who entered between 2016 and 2020, 4%-- left the group. We're back with 45% in 2020. Born again, not evangelical-- you can see the ways in which people are doing this. Now what is this telling us really? This is telling us a couple of things. One is evangelicalism as seen as a way to categorize yourself as a white Christian and a white, American Christian, which I think is the most important thing of all. It brings back a sort of a nationalistic flavor that, I believe-- that is really important.

When I was working on Sarah Palin, I came up with the term that I called NASCAR Christians. And this was to take into account those people who had Christian beliefs, but they didn't go to church every Sunday. They didn't have the normal kinds of things that they read.

They watched televangelists on TV. They liked NASCAR. They like football. They like these different kinds of things. And they would identify as Christian, but they were not churchgoers. My sense is that these are the people who are identifying as evangelical Protestants now because they see something that marries both their religious beliefs, and their political beliefs, and their nationalistic beliefs that Donald Trump identify with.

Now here we are at 1/6 again. I want to show a couple of things just very quickly. You notice here on my side where I've got the cursor-- this is an African-American man holding a Jesus Saves sign. If you think that it was all just white people at 1/6, I am here to disabuse you of this notion, that is not the case at all. There were lots more people who were at 1/6 that came from lots of different ethnic groups.

What is it that caught them up? What caught them up is the power of this bigger frame of Christian, American nationalism, that they saw themselves being able to transcend their racial boundaries and be able to come into that space to be actors and to have the same kind of power that white Christians have in this country. They saw that.

Similarly, you can look at the person who has the Lady of Guadalupe over here on this side. And think about Catholics doing the same thing. If I were doing another talk today, I would talk about how Catholics have become evangelicals in their voting habits and everything else. And do we have a real Catholicism in America anymore or do we have Catholic evangelicals?

I point these out to you because race in this framework of nationalism and Americanism is very complicated, and no more so complicated than the last slide I want to show you, which is from today. Monique Miglia was part of the Attorney General's office in Virginia. And this was discovered today. And she has resigned her position because she said that it was great that the Patriots stormed the Capitol, no surprise. The deep state has awoken the sleeping giant. Patriots are not taking this lying down. We are awake, ready, and we'll fight for our rights by any means necessary.

Now what does all this mean? What does it mean that a Black woman is saying, I'm for the guys at 1/6? What does it mean? It means a lot of things. It means that we cannot just cut this and say these are only white people, first of all. There are people who are looking at this power of white, Christian nationalism and racism and saying, I want to take myself out of this frame.

And I want to be over here because this is my Christian belief, first of all. But secondarily, I don't want to be a part of those people who are going to be left out of this narrative. I am a conservative. I vote like this. I think like this. I go to a church like this. Why do I want to separate myself from these people? That's number one.

Second-- the power of this narrative. The power of this narrative gives people something that I think is very different. It gives them pride in their nation, it gives some pride in themselves. And it also harnesses these kinds of beliefs that make them think that they are part of history, that history is happening, that history is a way in which they can shape and form it by the actions that they take through prayer, through investigation, through marching, all of these kinds of things.

We have not paid attention to this as much as we need to pay attention to. Do I leave you here? No. I think that this is going to be the issue that we think about. Obviously, this is supposed to be about peace and social justice.

We can see that the ways in which social justice has been vilified by some religious leaders-- and I'm going to include the Archbishop Gomez, who's in Los Angeles-- who basically said going after Black Lives Matter was something that-- how shall we say. I want to paraphrase what he said here-- that was making a religious, political movement that shouldn't happen. When, in fact, he cannot see the ways in which Catholics and others have become involved with religion and politics in much the same way.

What do we do? How do we talk about this? First, I think there are several things we can do. And I just want to make this very quick. One is to become more aware of the religious groups around us instead of flattening everything. When we use the word evangelical, we tend to say evangelicals are this particular group. But I don't think we can use this as a way in which to just codify a certain kind of evangelicalism.

What I find very interesting now is evangelicals who want to elide the racial tensions that are happening by saying, we're not these kind of evangelicals or we didn't believe this way. You have to deal with what the history is. That's first of all.

Second, we need to really talk about-- and I say this with an academic sense, in a media sense, and in a political sense-- about who the actors really are. Many of these people who were surrounding Trump and continue to surround Trump were labeled evangelicals that kind of weren't really evangelicals.

But we need to figure out what that word evangelicalism is doing when we apply it to them, first of all, and secondarily, what that means racially. And third-- and this is a more dangerous question-- how do we use the word evangelicalism anymore? Do we use that word in terms of how we think about a belief system? Do we use that in terms of denominational groups?

Is the word evangelicalism tainted now because of what happened on 1/6 and because of evangelicals' embrace of Donald Trump? I have some answers to that question. But I'm going to leave that and I want to try to have a conversation with you this evening about what you're thinking and what you'd like to ask me. Thank you so much.

CHARLES STANG: Thank you, Professor Butler. And I've been monitoring. The Q&A questions are coming in. Let me give you a moment to gather yourself. And I'll try and find us some good questions. Let me begin with this one.

Tom Johnson asks, heaven forbid we should have another Civil War. They're usually the worst wars. But at least the old Confederacy was far away, across rivers and mountains. Now the new Confederacy lives around the corner, even down the hall in our building. So a second Civil War may not be a regional conflict. Can you please comment? Thank you.

ANTHEA BUTLER: I'm going to say it like-- I was interviewed for a Washington Post piece a couple of weeks ago. And I said the insurrectionists might be sitting next to you in the pew. And I think that's really true. What we cannot count on anymore is the proximity to be away from someone. These are people we work with. There are people we see every day. They're people that you might not even have these beliefs but really listen to different kinds of things and are ingesting this.

If there were going to be another way that I had another hour to talk, I would talk about the role of media in all of this and how media has permeated every boundary. It's not simply a pastor anymore saying things in front of you. It is the kind of media that you can get 24/7 on your TV set, on your Facebook, your Twitter, your Instagram, TikTok. TikTok has a lot of stuff.

I mean, there's so much that you can consume that will change your thinking. And this is part of the reason why lots of evangelicals have gotten involved with QAnon. And you just wouldn't believe how it happens. Sometimes it's been Instagram influencers that get mommy-- people who are thinking, I to take care of my kids. What do I look like? And you look at a nice little Instagram thing. And the next thing you know, you're an anti-vaxxer. And you're going to the Capitol. And there you are.

And so this is something that I hope-- I mean, I pray we don't get into a Civil War. I just need to say this up front. I worry about our democracy. Because we're not very Democratic anymore. And this theocratic way in which all of these people are positioning themselves makes us more susceptible to this way in which democracy is belittled in order to be able to get more religion in the public sphere.

CHARLES STANG: This is a question from me so you can hold me accountable for it. I'm wondering, Professor Butler-- you want us to understand that this movement is not just white evangelicals. It's a diverse cast of characters who-- if I understood you correctly-- have an interest in the dominionism, finding a place-- and perhaps, a kind of a place of some power and participation in this dominionism.

Do you think that's just wishful thinking and that folks who aren't white are just being used? Or do you think that there is a kind of role for non-white actors, that there is some sort of hope for power, privilege, and participation?

ANTHEA BUTLER: Yeah, I mean, both, and. It's used. I mean, obviously, Trump used people like Darren Scott and others to be around him-- Mark Burns. We could think back to 2016 and how that worked out. But there's also a hope in which-- for many of these people, their racial ideas have been formed by evangelicalism. And so part of the racial idea is that evangelicalism says is that racism is personal. It's not corporate. [INAUDIBLE] God has eliminated the color line.

And so you embrace that. And the way in which you stay in your church is to embrace these kind of ideals so that you don't rock the boat. And when you do rock the boat and ask questions about race, your question, oh, this is not our God. This is not the way we should think about things. And this you can see this play out over and over again. I mean, it's a way in which-- how I say this-- that access to power can also transcend race. And I think that's a really important part to say this.

Now does everybody believe this? No, you have a lot of ex-Black evangelicals who are leaving the movement because they don't want to deal with the racism anymore. Black Lives Matter and other kinds of events have made them leave. But for other people, it's very much a part and parcel of, I think I should have this access to power. So I'll talk about the people-- one of the things the Democratic Party had a problem with were how many Latinos actually did vote for Trump in 2020, OK?

This is where you can see the movement. I'm very interested to see what's going to happen in November of 2020. Because if they don't figure out how to start talking about this stuff in a different kind of way, you're going to see even more attrition from Latinos from the Democratic to the Republican Party. And a lot of that is going to have to do with these kinds of religious beliefs.

CHARLES STANG: I'm going to combine two questions here. There's considerable interest in the international analogs. And I know you're an Americanist. That's your specialty. Would you be willing to speculate on the way in which this is sort of echoing around the globe? So people are talking about South America-- let me see. Well, anyway, you can supply the example.

ANTHEA BUTLER: I got it for you. Bolsonaro, folks-- I mean, Bolsonaro evangelico-- he is definitely in tight with all of these people in Brazil. And the kinds of things that he was doing with the coronavirus are very clear-- you know, I'm taking the page from Trump about coronavirus. And I'm also thinking about my evangelical leaders in terms of shoring me up in the country. Now he's had his own problems. But the prosperity gospel there is a very big.

The other thing that has been happening there-- and this is a sidebar kind of story-- is the kind of persecution of people who are Afro-Brazilian, who are not Christian, who are doing Condomble and other things, and how evangelicals have been burning out their places, burning the spaces that they have been in. So this is kind of a battle that's in Brazil.

But the place where I really saw it and where I can speak to it very clearly is Nigeria. I was in Nigeria because I wanted to look at prosperity gospel and the connections to how Nigerians really love Donald Trump and also were very conservative. And so when I was there-- I will tell this very quick story-- I interviewed a pastor who was very much prosperity God.

We're in his office and unsolicited he says to me, you know, I'm so glad you didn't elect that woman, Hillary Clinton. She's horrible. You would have had so many more abortions. And I'm like, I don't even get to this question yet? I said, excuse me why are you asking me this about Hillary? He said, oh, because Donald Trump is God's man. Donald Trump is the president that we should want.

And I said, but he called Nigeria s-hole country, right? I was trying to be polite. And he's like, oh, no. We are a s-hole country, but he's right. And we should be more like Donald Trump. And I was like, OK, what can I say? So this is this embrace of this kind of thing. And we can think about this in all sorts of ways.

Why do you have so many evangelicals going to other places in the Eastern block, and thinking about Russia, and all of these places that used to be the places that people went because they wanted to go and evangelize. No, they like strong men. And this is something I think is really important. These kinds of groups like strong men.

And in these places, whether it's Nigeria, Brazil, Russia-- all of these places-- I'm just forgetting the big one that has gone out of my head that just had another big giant meeting in it. They all like strong men. They like strong leaders who appeal to religion. And Putin is doing the same thing with the Orthodox Church, which is a whole other story altogether.

CHARLES STANG: OK, thank you so much. Here's a question from [INAUDIBLE] Would you agree with Kristin Kobes Du Mez in her Jesus and John Wayne, that evangelicalism is now properly perceived as a sociological reality with a patriarchal, white nationalism taking front and center rather than being defined by theology?

ANTHEA BUTLER: Yes, did you not hear me at the beginning?


She and I are friends. So I'll put that out there. But, yeah, I think this is where I can talk a little historiography for a minute. What is happening now is a redefining of what the boundaries of evangelicalism are. And I think it's a good move because everything in evangelicalism has been defined by theology.

But let me just be blunt here. Most people don't understand theology that are sitting in a pew, OK? They don't know the quadrilateral from the Atonement from predestination or lapsarianism. They don't know any of this stuff, OK? And they don't care. What they care about is what they see, and what they hear, and who they are supposed to be thinking about politically.

So, yes. So I think it's not just Du Mez, but it's other people who are writing about this in different ways. And if we want to talk about that, we can think about it in terms of the racial kinds of structures where we think about evangelicalism and all of that. I think historians have a really good critique to the people who are trained, like historical theologians who want to talk about evangelicalism and only that way.

If you talk about evangelicalism as merely a theological movement, you missed the point. It is not that anymore. And that is the thing that I think I will hang my hat on. And anybody can be mad at me about it. We can't take this-- and I'm sorry if David Hempton is on here. I'm sorry. I'm going to upset you right now. [INAUDIBLE]


ANTHEA BUTLER: --this British guy and make this an American thing. This is what happened-- is everybody tried to force the Bebbington Quadrilateral into what was happening in America. And American religious history does not fit that, nor does this moment fit that. And that's what I'm saying that is a very different thing because now it's all a mix. Most evangelicals don't know that they're embracing dominionist kind of Pentecostal beliefs. They just do it because everybody else is saying it.

And this is where I find this is really interesting. And that's why I bought in Wagner to be a juxtaposition to Billy Graham. Because Billy Graham is thinking in this one way-- but even the things that Billy Graham says about communism and everything else opens up the door for another kind of understanding of evangelicalism that brings in a different kind of worldview that is very different than a very theological worldview about evangelicalism.

CHARLES STANG: So first of all, forgive me for mispronouncing Du Mez last name. Thank you for the correction, gently. Speaking of colleagues, this is a question from my colleague [? Katherine ?] [INAUDIBLE]. She says, wonderful talk. You've implied tonight that evangelicalism is now as much or more about politics than beliefs. The Bebbington Quadrilateral no longer works. I guess you just said it never did. Are the ways in which evangelical beliefs-- say about redemption, or sin, or the nature of Jesus-- do you think they've been warped by nationalism?

ANTHEA BUTLER: Yeah, I do. I taught today in my class about pre-millennialism, and post-millennialism, and amillennialism, right? I tried to talk about in 19th century and people believing in Jesus coming back. I don't know that these people care that Jesus comes back. And that's a very interesting sort of thing. It used to be that when you thought about this, people would build churches. And they'd be thinking, I don't know if I'm going to build a church because I don't want to do anything, because we need to get souls saved so that they won't die. And they'll go be with Jesus, right?

And I'm thinking about this in a very kind of practice way, right? But what ends up happening is that none of these people seem to care about this. But they care more about-- how do we put the moral issues front and center to the political and also to this nationalistic vision about who we think we are as Americans? And what does that mean? And how do we think we're fighting?

And so I'd like to sort bring up something I didn't talk about but I think it's a really good piece. It was by Peter Manso in the Washington Post where he follows a young man who ends up being at 1/6 and gets arrested. And part of it is that he starts to go to church. But he begins to pick up a lot of these different kinds of beliefs about warfare and Pentecostalism. And he has this shirt on when he's there at the Capitol. And he ends up being arrested.

And he has remorse about what has happened, but he also talks about how he got all these beliefs from other places. It wasn't from his church. And so I think this is where we have to-- I may have strayed off a little bit in the corner-- but I think this is where we have to start thinking about-- people get these beliefs from different places. And they're not reading scripture so much as they're reading these other people and listening to these talks that bring them to a certain kind of belief that they think is theological and biblical but really isn't.

CHARLES STANG: Fascinating. You spoke about our neighbor to the South-- not our immediate neighbor-- but Brazil. I'm wondering if you could speak to our immediate neighbor to the North. Kelly Robertson's wondering if you can speak to how white nationalism and evangelical belief systems have been a catalyst for the Canadian trucker convoy movement.

ANTHEA BUTLER: You know, I don't know how much. But I will say this about Canada. I think what's been interesting about Canada is if we go back to the 90s and the Toronto Blessing, all of this has already been in Canada. And that was when if-- you don't know what the Toronto Blessing is-- it was a very big, charismatic movement. But people were doing things like barking, and running around, and all this other kind of stuff, right? Whatever you think about it-- Margaret Poloma wrote a big book about what was happening there.

I think that a lot of the nationalism that's been here has seeped over the border, especially with conservatism in Canada. And so where we see the truckers right now, on the bridge between Detroit and Canada right now, and blocking everything, which is going to mess up stuff in about another week, I promise you.

And what's happening in Ottawa right now is really important because it's the same kind of thing that is happening with these sort of rallies and revivals that have happened here, that have happened on a regular basis. But they've figured out a way how to really make it work. It's not just about, do we want to do something that's going to block everything? It's like, we're going to stop everything. Now how much of that is religious I haven't seen. But I would suspect that some of those truckers who do have this belief about the vaccine are also evangelicals who don't want to take the vaccine.

CHARLES STANG: Here's a question from an anonymous guest. Although you express criticisms of perspectives like Graham's that discuss race in terms of individual sin, do you see any value in correlative perspectives that likewise draw upon the language of sin but do so with clear regard for systemic racism, for example in the work of Jeannine Hill Fletcher, The Sin of White Supremacy? I might just append to that a question. Among non-white evangelicals, how prominent is a sense of systemic or collective sins specifically around race?

ANTHEA BUTLER: That's the big issue. I mean, got a whole book behind me right there to talks about how evangelicals don't look at structural sin of racism, OK? And I don't call it sin. I have a different way of talking about that in the book. But, yes, I mean, that is a huge, important part-- is about the difference about how you look.

But if we're going to talk about Black evangelicals, like the church I worked on, Church of God in Christ, they see the structural sin of racism. They see it in the ways in which things have happened in the communities, the laws, the ways in which things are being rolled back. I mean, any Black evangelicals can see this right now. The question is-- or any other evangelical for that matter-- how does that particular person or community respond?

And that really also depends on where they are in church, where they find themselves worshipping, how open the congregation is to open to these questions or not. I think that is a very big difference. I think, especially-- now I want to bring this up because I think this is a really important point-- I think within the last year, we've seen Asian-American evangelicals think about this in a very big, different way too because of all the abuse and things that have been happening on the street, especially where you had the Southern Baptist guy who went in and killed everybody, and killed the women in Atlanta in the massage parlor.

That was the sort of tip off for-- maybe we got to think about this in a different way, for a lot of people. I saw a lot of soul searching for Asian-American evangelicals after that. And I think that was a good thing. Because it's a question of how are you really sitting in that congregation. How do people really see you, first of all. And then secondarily, how do you have to interrogate these messages about individual sin versus structural sin?

And I think that for many evangelicals right now-- let me save this one more way. And I want to say it's very strongly. Structural sin right now for evangelicals and white evangelicals is CRT. Structural sin for them is how do we get rid of abortion. And structural sin is always applied to people who are more on the liberal side of Christianity than those who are on the conservative side of Christianity. In other words, what I'm saying is the only structural sin that they see are the sins that they think the society is trying to make them do that are not in correlation to what they believe.

CHARLES STANG: OK. This a question from Tamara Beth Stevens who writes, a clear path can be traced from conspiracy theories and actions that fueled incidents like Oklahoma City bombing to 1/6. What does that mean for evangelicalism and its future that they've now embraced and welcomed more conspiracy thought into their churches and beliefs? Will we see an evangelical Timothy McVeigh? And even more importantly, what can we do to avoid it?

ANTHEA BUTLER: I think the question is -- you already had them. And they were at the Capitol. I mean, it might not have been Timothy McVeigh blowing anything up. But there were certainly people who were ready to do violence, and who were there at the Capitol and did violence, and would consider themselves to be Christians, especially a lot of those guys that prayed in the Senate chamber.

They saw themselves as being-- the Lord, Jesus Christ, being over everything that they were doing. Except what Jesus? Which one did you think? Are we going to see more of this? Yes. I mean, when it's babies, guns, and Jesus-- as a shirt that I saw that was for sale that I wish I had bought back in 2012 at a Palin rally-- when it's all babies, guns, and Jesus, you're going to have some violence.

And so what they mean by babies, guns, and Jesus is basically-- I need to have my Second Amendment right to carry a gun. I'm a believer in Jesus. And I'm anti-abortion. So when you bring those three things together-- I mean, I think one of the reasons why we haven't seen-- the last time I think there was serious clinic violence was the man who shot up the clinic in Colorado Springs, which is, of course, a very Christian, evangelical bastion.

We we're not seeing that so much because the laws are being pushed back. What I do think we're going to see is political violence. And that is where I really worry. Because between what is happening in Canada with the Trump rally, what happened on 1/6, I think that this summer, and especially the fall with the election cycle, and with voting-- and we didn't even talk about that-- is going to be a major problem for religious actors who believe that they are there to do God's will. And that sometimes God's will is at the point of a gun.

CHARLES STANG: Maybe we can end with a question that I'm going to try to draw out of several of the questions that are in the Q&A queue. And not surprisingly, after a diagnosis and analysis of the sort you've given, people often want to know what to do. What can we do?

And so I want to invite you to take up that question in whatever direction you wish. But I just want to flag that some people are wondering whether the point of intervention and influence is within evangelical communities, white or non-white, or whether the point of intervention and influence is about minimizing the impact of evangelicalism, writ large, so kind of secular option. Is there a way of diminishing the influence of this movement?

So one is the kind of conversion option. Is there a way to persuade people in this movement away from this dominionism? And another is can the movement be, in some sense-- I don't want to say defanged-- but demoted in its power and influence?

ANTHEA BUTLER: Well, some of you can start to show up at school board meetings. And I don't know what parts of the country you live in, but the school boards, the kinds of things where you're seeing the book burnings-- somebody like Pastor Greg Locke-- or the kinds of things where they don't want to wear a masks, or all of this kind of stuff. I think the voices that get amplified in America are the voices that are voices of dissent. This is just the way it is.

And the way in which people can position their arguments-- and another kind of conversation I could have is like how all these groups position their arguments very well. I think that on an individual level, you have to think about, do I bring up the bad thing at Thanksgiving when I visit my relatives who think like this and who have these racialized or Americanized ideals? And how do I talk to them? You have to speak to them very carefully.

I have a really good friend right now who lost her sister because they-- evangelicals-- she had cancer. She was told by people don't take the vaccine. Don't take the vaccine. She was on the fence-- died of COVID last month, OK? Just to a tremendous loss. And so this is a moment to talk to them and say, you've got to think about how you're thinking about this, right? And I would love to do that if I could have a chance to be around them and say that.

So that's one way. I think you have to talk to people who are in your purview and to risk something bad. But before you talk, you've also got to learn. For some of you, this is the first time you've ever heard anything like this and put it together in this way. And you're just like, oh, crap. I didn't know it was this bad. And, yeah, you're right. And pick up books that you need to start reading-- about what this world really looks like. For those of you who are not in the Divinity School and learning about this every day, I think that's really important.

Pay attention to what political leaders are saying about religion. I think we pooh-pooh a lot of the statements that end up being made. And this is a moment where you can start to write to your congressmen, or your local person, or whatever who makes these kinds of statements and say, this is not representing me. You are not doing your job. How do you do your job? There are little things that you can do to try to ameliorate some of this when the crazy comes.

And that's what I call it, the crazy, because it is. It's a fever. And it's a fever that's going on around the world. This is not just America right now. I want to make that very clear. I just watch something on BBC yesterday about the Hindus telling young girls that they couldn't wear hijab anymore. And Hindus and Muslims are having a tremendous battle in India right now. And that's a huge thing. So there's ways in which to talk about this within context that you find yourself.

On the structural level, I think what is really, really important-- and I'm going to make an appeal here to anybody who might be out here who's voting Republican-- you need to think about what you're voting for. And I'm not saying you can't vote for people. But you need to think about where your party is right now. Because your party just said-- your party and representative from the RNC just said-- that this was absolutely OK, political discourse that happened on 1/6.

If that is not a red flag about what may be to come, I don't know what it is. And this is the thing, money is being flowed into all of this to [? usurp ?] and to destabilize what we have here right now. And I think that is a really important element to think about this. I know people always want to have hope. But I think in order to have hope, you have to look what is facing you square in the face. And you have to see that this democracy-- on 1/6 it proved to be so fragile.

I am not a thumping, flag-waving person, but I got to tell you, I was so sick on 1/6. It made me sickened to see those men walking into the Capitol that I knew that Black people had put together and that the lawmakers have been in-- whether I agree with them or not-- that is the seat of our democracy. And to watch that thing be taken over and the people who were sworn to protect it being beat up with all kinds of things. It should make us have pause.

I also want to encourage you-- and I can give this to you Charles. And if anybody wants it, you can just DM me on Twitter, or write to me on Twitter, or write to me at my email address-- there's a whole big thing on white, Christian nationalism and Christian nationalism that just came out yesterday by a group of us. I have a piece in there. There are other people like Andrew Whitehead and others who've written about it. That is the most definitive piece about 1/6 and religion that happened. It's about 65 pages. And you can read parts of it and whatever you're interested in. And I think it's a good look to see how religion was really involved in the 1/6 insurrection. And that is the most important thing I can say to you is that we can't have this happen again. We just can't. And we all have to do our part. But part of it is learning about what's really happening and understanding that this is much more serious than it has been made out to be.

CHARLES STANG: Please do send that and we'll see--


--we might be able to include that when we circulate the record of this video. One follow-up question to your response just now about the global fever, the fever that's gripping the globe. Do you feel that is a fever that has spread from the United States to the world or is that just another myth of American exceptionalism?

ANTHEA BUTLER: It's interesting. I think part of it is a myth, but I think some of it has flowed. And the way I think it's flown is a different thing, gone around the world. And I'm going to go back to something that a lot of you won't remember, but I remember very clearly because a group of us dissected it online. Utoya-- when Anders Breivik killed over 70 people in Norway who were political leaders and activists. This was back in the early-- 2010, 2012, something like that.

When you looked at his manifesto, his manifesto had lots of things from religious leaders here that were racialized, that were the language of crusade, and all of this other stuff. So what you have to understand with somebody like Anders Breivik who did what he did wouldn't have called himself an evangelical Christian. But what he resonated with was this language of crusade, and whiteness, and expelling the other, and how those people needed to be punished because of what they did.

Now it's really important to think about that as a way of how people get radicalized. But a lot of his statement had something to do with things that were here. And we haven't even talked about the ways in which people see things on the dark web and everything else that are very important to how kids get radicalized on the internet period.

So I think what we have to pay attention to is to realize that there are many streams. And it's not just a stream when you're thinking about other televangelists, but it's the stream of the everyday that's on Facebook, and all of these spaces in which people find themselves, and the way in which just one little Instagram picture can draw you into a world that you didn't even think you were going to be in.

CHARLES STANG: Mrs. Butler, thank you. This was really engaging. I learned a lot. I'm not a scholar of American religious history or evangelicalism, so forgive my naive questions. But it was very rich and challenging. Thank you. And thank you audience for sticking with us. And I look forward to seeing you all soon or rather having you see me soon, seeing as I can't see you.

In any case, in the meantime, I wish everyone a good night. Once again, Professor Butler, thank you so much. And I hope to see you at some of these upcoming events that we're hosting here at the Center. Good night, everyone.


CHARLES STANG: Good night.


SPEAKER 2: Sponsor-- Center for the Study of World Religions.

SPEAKER 1: Copyright 2022, the President and Fellows of Harvard College.