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Lesson Plan

White Christian Nationalism—Connecting the Past to the Present


This lesson has students consider the definition of nationalism and different types of nationalism. It focuses on religious nationalism and highlights its historical and current place in the United States. 

Learning Objective

Consider how religious nationalist movements were formed and have a lasting impact.

Lesson Details

  • Contributor: Kenya Beard
  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • Subject: U.S. History
  • Topics: Current Events, Nationalism

Essential Question

How does identity turn into a movement?

Warm Up and Review


How would you describe yourself to a complete stranger? What sort of words or labels might you use?




  • Characteristics: Unified people with a distinctive language, ethnicity, or culture
  • People’s loyalty shifts from their king to their nation. 
  • Historical Origins: originates from the French Revolution, and the idea that each nationality should have its own government; Enlightenment ideals – A change in IDENTITY – how they viewed themselves

Ask students “What is nationalism” and create a list of what it is and isn’t. 

  • Discuss the critical attributes of nationalism. 
  • Valuing a collective identity based on history, language, and/or ethnicity
  • Believing that a certain group of people is bonded together by that shared identity
  • Placing loyalty to a defined nation above loyalty to other groups or individual interests
  • Making political demands, especially for an independent state, for the nation.

Teacher identifies the forms of nationalism – Cultural, Political, Religious

  • A cultural nationalist movement is an effort to rediscover, preserve, or reinvigorate the traditions of a nation (i.e., Marcus Garvey and the Pan-Africanism Movement)
  • A political nationalist movement is a political struggle by a national group for statehood or autonomy within a larger political group (i.e., Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza)
  • A religious nationalist movement associates religion with POLITICS, often POLITICIZING religion (i.e., white Christian nationalists) 



Students will complete a Visual Discovery to think about RELIGIOUS nationalist movements in the current age by exploring white Christian nationalism using #capitolseigereligion.

  • Using any of the popular social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) search the hashtag, #capitolseigereligion.  Identify some of the imagery that is displayed and jot down some recurring themes you observe.
  • Share out: What were some recurring themes you noted among the images you found? How do they connect to religious nationalism?

Read Peter Manseau’s column in the Washington Post on #capitolseigereligion. 

White Christian Nationalism: Connecting the Past to the Present 

  • Evangelical Christian patriots defending the country’s Christian identity.
  • Attack on religion – which they believe is the foundation of the country
  • Believes the government should acknowledge and revere Christian, cultural heritage and do everything it can to keep it intact.
  • The threat of political power being removed by varying catalysts (i.e., civil rights legislation, immigration policy, etc.)
  • Some of their ideology is steeped in conspiracy theories.



Place the class in two groups. Both groups should watch/read the assigned text and answer the question: What happens when white Christian dominance feels threatened?

After 12-15 minutes, bring the groups back together to share with full group and discuss. 


Return to the essential question: How does identity turn into a movement?

Ask students to consider where else they see this happening. 


Contributor Bio

Kenya Beard teaches history at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and was a 2020-21 ICJS Teacher Fellow. She describes herself as “a 45-year-old Black, Christian woman who has overcome numerous obstacles in my short life  to build a pillar of humility, strength, and determination to be better each and every day.”