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Chapter 4 examines how American religious exceptionalism shapes citizens’ hostile views toward immigrants, and their restrictive immigrant admission and immigration policy preferences. It provides a brief history of American immigration policy and how religion and nationalism have influenced national narratives about who is worthy of becoming an American. The chapter also highlights how cultural concerns have dominated the immigration debate and the policies associated with it, with economic factors playing a secondary role in explaining Americans’ attitudes toward the nation’s newcomers. Ultimately, the nation’s disciples express a uniquely expensive set of hostile attitudes toward the possibility of increasing or keeping immigration at its current levels, narrow conceptions of who should be allowed entry into the nation, and uniformly restrictive immigration policy preferences. American religious exceptionalism largely determines whether or not Americans express the harshest policy preferences, and, in particular, amounts to supportive views of the most restrictive policies suggested by politicians who espouse White supremacist views toward America’s immigrants.
Chapter 1 frames the main empirical question of The Everyday Crusade. By explaining the importance of myth in nation-making and the role of these myths in establishing American nationalism, this chapter explores how the religiously nationalistic ideology of American religious exceptionalism developed and embedded itself in American political and social culture. The authors delineate the ideology’s rich history and its link to restrictive and illiberal attitudes. This chapter reveals the power and persistence of national origin myths, their linkage to ideas about the specialness of America, and how over time they become a banal part of everyday American society.
Is America a chosen city on a hill? What does that commonly used phrase even mean and how does it shape Americans’ understandings of themselves, their neighbors, and their nation’s role in the world? The Everyday Crusade argues that Americans’ answers to these questions are rooted in a national myth that the authors call American religious exceptionalism. This chapter introduces the core questions of this book and provides a preview of the argument and research methodology employed.
Chapter 5 moves the focus from comparing American religious exceptionalism’s disciples and dissidents on their views of who and what the nation should be defined as, to how the nation should engage the world. The chapter begins with a discussion of the role of American religious exceptionalism in American grand strategy and how this myth influenced the nation’s foreign policy over time. The authors provide an in-depth discussion of the historical development of not precisely a hawkish but more accurately a collectively narcissistic foreign policy strategy that has led to the widespread criticism of America “dragging it coattails” throughout the world in the pursuit of global domination. Moving from the discussion of elites to the masses, the chapter bases itself in the foreign policy attitudes literature and examines the relationship between adherence to American religious exceptionalism and the three principal dimensions of foreign policy attitudes: military action, trade, and foreign aid. Importantly, this chapter dispels the myth that disciples favor isolationism; if anything, disciples welcome engagement as long as there are resources to be gained for God’s Chosen People.
The Conclusion chapter concludes the book by situating its argument and findings in a broader context of comparative politics. It poses big questions raised by the analysis reported throughout the book about the future of America’s domestic politics, the likelihood of continued high levels of polarization, and considers the implications of the book’s findings for our understanding of state- and nation-building elsewhere.
Chapter 7 brings religious and racial minorities to the forefront by investigating the relationship between adherence to American religious exceptionalism and the attitudes of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOCs) and non-Christians. The premise of this chapter is that racial and religious minorities have been the victims of those championing religious exceptionalism, thus it is imperative to establish if religious and racial minorities’ adherence to American religious exceptionalism leads to outcomes that align with those in the racially and religiously dominant group. The authors establish throughout this chapter how racial and religious minorities have used the language of American religious exceptionalism to frame challenges to the status quo. Then, statistical tests are provided to examine whether and in what ways racial and religious disciples of American religious exceptionalism apply this ideology to their political attitudes and behaviors. Is it the same way as their White Christian counterparts? This chapter suggests that it is certainly not the same for those who sit at the periphery of the hypothetical church of American religious exceptionalism.
Chapter 6 indexes the influence of American religious exceptionalism on domestic matters. The authors speak of the vast attention paid to the role of Christian nationalists in the 2016 election and the policies of the Trump administration, by investigating how adherence to American religious exceptionalism explains the willingness to entertain illiberal policies and even undemocratic governance such as autocracy and military rule. The context of the pandemic is also addressed. Specifically, this chapter provides evidence of disciples’ doubling down on support for their savior Donald Trump, regardless of their proximity to the virus’s effect on their personal networks. The authors demonstrate the remarkable connection disciples share to their most unexpected and less-than-religious yet beloved crusading leader. The authors further provide strong statistical evidence that disciples’ vote choice, partisanship, domestic policy attitudes, and political activities are motivated by the need to promote the divine purpose of the nation amidst the internalized threats posed to a culturally homogeneous image of God’s country.