Matthew Sutton

Throughout U.S. history, a combination of Christianity and patriotism often served as a rallying cry against a common enemy. Following the Second World War, many Christians came to believe that the battle against communism was a religious struggle, in part as a result of the Soviet Union’s massacres of clergy members. President Dwight Eisenhower encouraged the pastor Billy Graham to stoke this fervor. Matthew Avery Sutton, a professor of history at Washington State University, said, “From President Truman to Ronald Reagan, American Presidents allied with the Vatican and orthodox Christian leaders to frame the crusade against communism and atheism in hyper-religious terms.”

By the nineties and two-thousands, many white evangelicals had come to understand Islam to be the primary threat to America. “White evangelicals were already worried about the growth of Islam, especially beginning in the seventies with the Arab-Israeli war and the rise of oil,” Sutton sadi. “What 9/11 shifts is that Muslims are no longer just a threat to Israel but a direct threat to the United States.” This hostility also turned on Muslim communities in America. At megachurches, pastors preached about the spread of “sharia law.” Secular liberalism and movements for social justice were also seen as threatening.

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