The Global Holy War: Katherine Stewart on the Rise of Christian Nationalism

Photo courtesy of

Author and investigative journalist Katherine Stewart spoke to Moravian staff and students on Wednesday, Feb. 24 via a Zoom meeting about the dangers and implications of Christian nationalism in the political landscape of the United States. 

Stewart, whose works include “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children” and “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism”, began investigating Christian nationalism in 2009 after her children were exposed to its “disturbing efforts to insert reactionary religion in the public schools in Southern California.” 

In her 45-minute talk, Stewart explained that Christian nationalism is not a religion; rather it is an anti-democratic political ideology used to mobilize and manipulate large segments of the population. In doing so, Christian nationalists could essentially establish themselves as the ruling elite. 

“There are those who seek to use the power of the state to impose the supposedly correct viewpoints on everyone else,” Stewart said. “I think of [these people] as advocates of Christian nationalism. [They make] use of theological frameworks in order to justify political power over other people and groups.” 

Additionally, this issue is not strictly bound to the United States, but rather it is a global concern about “taking down modern democracy and replacing it with authoritarian, fate-based, ethno-states… a global holy war,” according to Stewart.

This is not a new development either; the leaders of the movement have spent copious amounts of money over the past few decades in order to establish the infrastructure of the movement. Steward goes into more expansive detail on this topic in “The Power Worshippers”

The strategies of spreading this ideology usually involves Christian nationalists’ targeting pastors, who can then further spread the extremist ideals to their faithful. 

One such event was a networking event hosted by Watchmen on the Wall, in which pastors discussed methods to share the “biblically correct” way to vote in elections to their congregations. They emphasized siding with pro-life ideology, and further recommended that pastors teach their congregations to side with them. 

Christian nationalists preach voting for a candidate based solely on their thoughts on one or two topics – in this instance, abortion. While they emphasize abortion in their stragegy of gaining polical support, their true motives revolve heavily around money. They argue that the Bible favors little or no taxes, minimal taxes for the rich, minimal government regulations of business, while also being against environmental regulations and government funding of the social safety net. They say how God doesn’t want the government directly funding any initiatives that help the working or lower class. 

“They claim to stand for family values, but they are embracing economic and social policies that make it harder for American families to succeed,” Steward said. “I think to a very underappreciated degree they are allied with libertarian economic groups that had led to the intensification of economic inequalities… destruction of the middle class, and the degradation of life for large portions of the workforce.” 

For her research, Stewart attended an event in San Joaquin Valley, California, which celebrated Ralph Drollinger, the founder of Capitol Ministries, a Bible study group whose members included twelve members of Donald Trump’s cabinet as well as members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Through these Bible student events, Drollinger could gain influence over high-ranking politicians by using scripture as a means of pushing a political agenda. 

To further prove her point, Stewart highlighted a Bible study guide written by Drollinger titled “Solomon’s Advice on How to Eliminate a 20.5 Trillion Dollar Debt,” from which she quoted the following line: “Solomon would say that government leaders must incentivize individuals and industries (which includes unencumbered them from the unnecessary burdens of governmental regulations) in order to create a vastly larger economy.” Additionally, Drollinger reinforced the idea of the government not getting involved in supporting the needs of destitute individuals as a decree of God. 

Christian nationalism still exists and is still at large; Stewart said the movement depends on “race-based gerrymandering and voter suppression to win elections.” Additionally, many of the extremist groups who infamously attacked Washington D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, were Christian nationalists themselves or supported much of the same extremist ideology. 

“The rise of religious nationalist has to be approached at multiple levels,” Stewart said. “It should alarm all of us who care about the future of democracy in America, but it should not be the cause of despair. Overcoming this reactionary and authoritarian movement isn’t just something that Americans can do, it has made us what we are… Religious nationalists are using the tools of democratic culture to destroy democracy, and I continue to feel that those same resources can be used to restore it.” 

Alyssa Dlutz, Poli-Science and History major, agreed with Stewart on Christian nationalism being a serious threat to democracy, saying that the attacks on the Capitol served as an example of Christian nationalist beliefs at work.