White Christian nationalism’s heritage of extremism

Bradley Onishi brings his scholarship and his personal experience together to analyze where the church went wrong.

Like many Americans around the country on January 6, 2021, Bradley Onishi was horrified by the news of the insurrection at the Capitol building. But of particular interest to Onishi were the Christian flags and signs spread throughout the mob, which brought into plain view an expression of White Christian nationalism that was deeply familiar to him. As a former zealot of White Christian nationalism, Onishi was left wondering, “Would I have been there if I had not left the movement?”

The result of Onishi’s self-questioning is this book. In an engrossing 220 pages, Onishi delivers a history of the formation of the White Christian nationalism that led up to January 6, told through his own history of over a decade in the movement. Now a scholar of religion who no longer identifies as a Christian, Onishi brings his academic pursuits and personal reflections together in a mix that is both informative and accessible. Covering the mid-20th century to the insurrection, Onishi concludes that January 6 was not an aberration but the inevitable result of a movement a half century in the making.

Onishi begins by distinguishing Christianity from White Christian nationalism, framing the latter as a specific identity rooted in the myth of America as a Christian nation. In each chapter, Onishi unpacks one key step in this “marriage of cross and flag,” revealing its connections to current social and political issues.