School shootings confirm that guns are the religion of the right

Detail of a gun in its holster of Matt Marshall, leader of the Washington 3%

Detail of a holstered gun of Washington’s 3% leader Matt Marshall attends the right-wing ‘Freedom or Death – Rally Against Left Wing Violence’ rally outside Seattle City Hall on August 18, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. Credit – Karen Ducey—Getty Images

Sometimes calls for America to return to God are framed in the language of consolation. Especially after a mass shooting. When 19 children were killed at a school in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, U.S. Representative Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Colorado, tweeted that “it is at times like these that we, as individuals, communities and as a nation, should turn to God for comfort and healing”. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia monitoring diversion – “Our nation needs to take a serious look at the state of mental health today” – with denial: “We don’t need more gun control. We need to get back to God.”

There’s a reason we still hear calls for Christian nationalism rather than common-sense gun legislation from the right. As we have shown in our to research, guns are practically an item of worship in the church of white Christian nationalism. Gun rights must therefore be defended at all costs.

Along with “thoughts and prayers” — a response so hollow it has become a meme of contempt — Christian nationalist appeals like Greene’s are often accompanied by warnings not to “politicize the dead,” like the said Sean Feucht, cult leader and MAGA advocate. his own tweet: “We need to call on God. We need him in the schools. We need him to heal our country. He is our only hope. Evangelical Christian and Lieutenant Governor of Texas Dan Patrick went on the Tucker Carlson show hours after the massacre to say, “We need to join together in prayer. We must come together in faith… It was a faith-based country, Tucker. And that is why, together, we must unite as a people. Don’t politicize it. Do not point fingers.

It’s a Christian nationalist mantra because political action after a mass shooting may well jeopardize unrestricted access to firearms. My colleague and I conducted a representative survey of more than 1,600 Americans in February 2020. We found that among white Americans who strongly agreed that “the federal government should declare the United States a Christian,” more than two-thirds rejected the idea that “the federal government should pass tougher gun laws. These laws had the support of more than 55% of Americans in general.

Why does Christian nationalism oppose tougher gun laws? Religions generally consider sacred objects as untouchable. And within the religion of white Christian nationalism, guns are as much a part of our identity as Christianity. On Wednesday morning, Representative Brian Babin, a Republican from Texas, told Newsmax to interview “The United States of America has always had guns. This is our story. We were built on the Judeo-Christian foundation and with guns.

And because guns are central to America’s core identity for the right, gun rights are held sacred above all other rights. This is not hyperbole. We conducted another representative survey of more than 1,000 Americans in August 2021, giving respondents a list of the rights provided for in the first ten amendments to the US Constitution – the Bill of Rights. Among white people who said America should be a Christian nation, more than 4 in 10 cited the right to own and bear arms as the most important right. Not freedom of speech. Not even freedom of religion. Gun rights.

In fact, some on the Christian right would enthusiastically put gun rights above the right to vote itself. Christian right provocateur Matt Walsh tweeted hot on the heels of a mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado that killed 10 people in March last year, “owning a gun is a greater right than voting. Voting is not a human right at all, but a privilege that should be reserved for those who are qualified to do it properly. It should be easier to buy a gun than to vote.

There is logic at work here. As we show in our recent book The flag and the crosswhite Christian nationalism is ultimately about controlling who has access to cultural and political power, and is therefore fundamentally undemocratic. Access to guns is about protecting the freedoms of white conservatives to quell disorder. That’s why, among white Americans who think the United States should be a Christian nation, 82% believe that “the best way to stop bad guys with guns is to have good guys with guns.” The goal is not to rid the world of gun violence. The goal is to suppress the “violence of the wicked” with righteous violence –our violence. And that requires weapons.

In the wake of devastating school shootings like Uvalde, to research shows that politicians have a window of about three days to act. Efforts by President Biden and congressional Democrats to pass common-sense gun legislation, which is backed by the majority of Americans – will face bitter opposition not just in the form of Republican stubbornness. Beneath that, the opposition will come from the religious zeal of the right that sanctifies guns and holds white Americans’ unfettered access to them sacred.

What is needed is a coalition of American politicians and citizens – secular and religious – who value the protection of innocent human life above power. Without it, the ritual will continue: Horrible deaths, followed by thoughts and prayers, calls to return to God, and no change.

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