In This Review

The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism
The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism
By Katherine Stewart
352 pp, Bloomsbury, 2020
Purchase

Based on more than a decade of investigative reporting, Stewart conducts a chilling exploration of an American political movement that she dubs “Christian nationalism” because of its claim of returning to the founders’ core belief—a false claim, of course—that the United States was a Christian nation. The movement began in the late 1970s, latching on to abortion as a useful hot-button issue. But contrary to its conventional portrayal as a social or cultural phenomenon, Stewart insists that the movement is an ambitious political effort to take over every element of government with the aim of elevating the Bible (in cherry-picked form) over the Constitution as the chief source of governmental legitimacy. Christian nationalism represents a radical rejection of the founders’ core belief in the separation of church and state. Made up of a coalition of pastoral, advocacy, and activist groups, the movement also has international ambitions. Its adherents are particularly fond of autocrats, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, who are able to fuse church and state. Much of what Stewart recounts would seem incredible were it not presented through extensive quotations from speeches by, documents of, and conversations with movement leaders.