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The Flag and the Cross  By  cover art

The Flag and the Cross

By: Samuel L. Perry,Philip S. Gorski,Jemar Tisby - foreword
Narrated by: Keith Sellon-Wright
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Publisher's Summary

Most Americans were shocked by the violence they witnessed at the nation's Capital on January 6th, 2021. And many were bewildered by the images displayed by the insurrectionists: a wooden cross and wooden gallows; "Jesus saves" and "Don't Tread on Me;" Christian flags and Confederate Flags; even a prayer in Jesus's name after storming the Senate chamber. Where some saw a confusing jumble, Philip S. Gorski and Samuel L. Perry saw a familiar ideology: white Christian nationalism.

Gorski and Perry explain what white Christian nationalism is; when it first emerged and how it has changed; where it's headed and why it threatens democracy. Tracing the development of this ideology over the course of three centuries-and especially its influence over the last three decades-they show how, throughout American history, white Christian nationalism has animated the oppression, exclusion, and even extermination of minority groups while securing privilege for white Protestants. It enables white Christian Americans to demand "sacrifice" from others in the name of religion and nation, while defending their "rights" in the names of "liberty" and "property."

The future of American democracy will depend on whether a broad spectrum of Americans can unite in a popular front to combat the threat to liberal democracy posed by white Christian nationalism.

©2022 Oxford University Press (P)2022 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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Advocacy piece masquerading as intellectual

While there are interesting ideas presented, this is far from a scholarly work. It relies too heavily on the same sensationalism we see on Fox and MSNBC. If you are looking for something aligned with your current beliefs, you will like it. if you are seeking a more intellectual approach, look elsewhere.

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could use an accompanying pdf

This book references figures that are not included with the audio version. It would be greatly improved with added figures.

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The sociology and history of Christian Nationalism

Perry and Whitehead’s Taking America Back for God was the first book I read that was explicitly about Christian Nationalism. Samuel Perry is back with Philip Gorski with a short book that updates and takes a different approach to look at Christian Nationalism. While I think Taking America Back for God is a more comprehensive sociological look at CN, The Flag and the Cross, does a better job of giving historical context to Christian Nationalism.

This is a brief book, with only four chapters covering bout 130 pages of the main content (less than five hours of audio). The book ends with a more practical chapter on avoiding a future January 6th type of event and is more practical. But just as important are the three chapters that give context. The first chapter is about why this is “our nation, not theirs”. And then the third chapter is about how “Freedom, Violence, Order” is central to how Christian Nationalism thinks politically.

But I think my favorite was the second chapter on the history of Christian Nationalism’s influences. This chapter has two important frames for the telling of that history. One, it focuses on the early history of the US as contextual within the European centuries-long conflict, of which the American Revolution was one small part. And second, it reminds the reader that the story of Christian Nationalism today has to account for the switch from the civil religion impulse of the mainline liberal Christian tradition to the conservative Evangelical tradition. (This is not unlike the political party realignment that was happening concurrently.) The first part of the framing reminds us that we are not the central player at all points in time in global history. The second part is a reminder to those who are currently opposing Christian Nationalism from a more progressive political position that it was, in fact, the progressives or earlier generations that were more likely historically to align with Christian National rhetoric today.

I finished this audiobook in a single day of chores and exercise. I am not new to the conversation on Christian Nationalism or how Christians use and abuse history for their own purposes. But as brief as this book was, there are essential refinements from the earlier Taking America Back for God and more nuanced views of what Christian Nationalism is. There is a helpful podcast with Paul Miller interviewing Samuel Perry on the Faith Angle Podcast. Miller is writing a critique of Christian Nationalism from a conservative political and theological perspective and as a political scientist. He is trying to frame his discussion of Christian Nationalism in ways that at least some people that Perry and Gorski will recognize themselves and agree with Miller’s framing. While I think a legitimate critique of Perry’s sociological work is that he is writing a descriptive sociological account that is more interested in raising awareness of the problem of Christian Nationalism and less interested in getting Christian Nationalists to self-identify with the framing. Part of this is that sociology and political science are different fields, as sociologists Gorski and Perry work in descriptive categories and tendencies toward belief and action. While Miller is working as a political scientist that wants to deal with specific ideas and individuals. These two things fit together and sharpen one another (as do bringing in historians like Randall Balmer (Bad Faith) or Anthea Butler (White Evangelical Racism) among many others.

There has also been a shift in the rhetoric around Christian Nationalism. With Marjorie Taylor Green, Al Mohler, and the Family Research Council, among many others embracing the term Christian Nationalism as an accurate, descriptive term, there is less discussion about whether this is a real category. But I also think that Miller’s definition, which people like William Wolfe have said accurately describes how they see themselves, matters to limiting what is meant by the term. Perry and Whitehead, and Gorski are all talking about the racial component of Christian Nationalism, and six months ago, the common complaint was that using Christian Nationalist was just a way to say “racist” with different words. But Miller’s shift of using “Anglo-Protestantism” as part of his definition keeps the reality of this being a white cultural phenomenon while lowering the temperature of the discussion in ways that I think continue to be accurate, but less combative. I have not read Miller’s book yet, and I think that I will disagree with parts of it because Miller is coming from a more conservative political and theological position than I do. But I think the combination is likely helpful to bring about more accuracy to the broader discussion.

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Important Information

Recognition of the threat that adherents of White Christian Dominionism pose to America is critical but this book is too superficial to make the case. I was hoping for a more complete history of the roots of the Movement and a more thorough treatment of what can be done to thwart it. A good start but a lot of preaching to the Choir. Three Stars ***

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do you give it 5 stars because the info is good?

Well written, carefully researched, and an excellent narrator. However, I would give a lot not to have to learn this information about fellow white American Christians. some people need to a whole lot better in terms of both their religious education and their civics education, but then I already knew that. If you claim to follow a Brown Middle Eastern Jew executed for sedition, who hung out with women, sexual and racial minorities and praised gay men as being the most faithful example of loving devotion, you might want to get over your sexism racism, nativism, and imperialism.... but then welcome to America. Shame on us.

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Every Christian should listen to this!

Every Christian should listen to this book, especially those following the former president. The authors are very thorough and non-bias...they are just reporting the facts.

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Wow

History with context is in short supply, but not here. It is likewise bracing to hear that a very loud minority of Americans are expressly uninterested in precepts held so dearly by so many…equality of opportunity, acknowledgement of the privilege that far too many consider natural and, most importantly, civic fairness.

There is small minority to whom a large minority have abandoned even the pretense that a republican (clearly distinct from “Republican”) form of government is desirable and worthy of support. Many so adore being told that “we are better than them” that they willingly sacrifice their humanity and sovereignty to anyone that says what they want to hear.

America as a civic experiment is at existential risk. This small book clearly explains why this time is dangerously different. Greedy, lazy and stupid must not be allowed to prevail, or the American experiment will end in abject failure, on our watch.

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  • Ken
  • 08-16-22

No thanks.

Written by a cafeteria christian with a healthy dose of identity politics and critical theory, this book is painful from the get go.
There will be many a twitter warrior who would greatly enjoy this though, so don't let my review turn you off.