As John Fanestil expertly demonstrates in American Heresy, the idea that the United States occupies a special place in the divine economy extends back to the colonial era, and the nation's founders drew on English Protestant notions of divine protection and providence. White Christian nationalism, he argues, traffics in "violence, nostalgia, racism, propaganda, conspiratorial thinking, and nationalism," and we ignore the religious reverberations of America's past at our peril. Self-examination and repentance are in order, even for those who identify as Christian progressives. This is a thoughtful, provocative, and well-argued book.
American Heresy uncovers the complex legacy of America's founding principles, demonstrating how the very same values have produced both good fruit and the bitter harvest of white Christian nationalism. Fanestil adeptly traces an early American story that reaches into our present with alarming immediacy.
Using cogent examples from the earliest days of colonial settlement through the Revolutionary War era, Fanestil helps us understand how many of the principles we view as paradigmatic expressions of American identity have had contested histories from the start. Virtue has brought both self-sacrifice and extremism; progress, both cultural pride and white racism. The very same principles that underpin the United States' proudest moments also forged the white Christian nationalism that fruited so dangerously in the Capitol insurrection of January 6, 2021.
The implications of Fanestil's complex history are highly pertinent--and alarming. Far from a fringe movement embraced by a violent few, white Christian nationalism is a spiritual inheritance shared by all white American Christians. Grappling with this history is vital if the United States is ever to move beyond its tragic legacy as a white settler society.
- Publisher Fortress Press
- Format Paperback
- ISBN 9781506489230
- eBook ISBN 9781506489247
- Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
- Pages 215
- Publication Date September 26, 2023
Dr. Randall Balmer, John Phillips Chair in Religion at Dartmouth College and author of Saving Faith: How American Christianity Can Reclaim Its Prophetic Voice
This book deserves a place on the shelf among the expanding set of works exploring the origins and dangers of white Christian nationalism. Conservatives and progressives alike would benefit from the book--and find it challenging some of their presuppositions about politics today and the founding of the United States. We need authors like John Fanestil who help us see beyond the near-sightedness of our present moment.
Rev. Dr. Brian Kaylor, president and editor-in-chief of Word & Way and author of Presidential Campaign Rhetoric in an Age of Confessional Politics
This is a book that will make those of us who are white, Christian, and American uncomfortable, but it's a necessary discomfort that comes from examining the complexity of the past. John Fanestil has marshaled impressive historical evidence to show that Christian heresy and Christian truth were more deeply intertwined in the thinking of the American founders than we might have assumed, and that American Christians today--whether conservative or progressive--are more strongly affected by this legacy than most of us realize.
Dr. Daniel K. Williams, professor of history at the University of West Georgia and author of The Politics of the Cross: A Christian Alternative to Partisanship