Patriotism Black and White
The Color of American Exceptionalism
388 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 2 charts
- Published: December 2018
American civil religion unifies the nation’s culture, regulates national emotions, and fosters a storied national identity. American civil religion celebrates the nation’s founding documents, holidays, presidents, martyrs and, above all, those who died in its wars.
Patriotism Black and White investigates the relationship between patriotism and civil religion in a politically populist community comprised of black and white evangelicals in rural Tennessee. By measuring the effort to remember national sacrifice, Patriotism Black and White probes deeply into how patriotism funds civil religion in light of two changes to America—the election of its first Black president and the initiation of a modern, religiously inspired war.
Based on her four years of ethnographic research, Nichole Phillips discovers that both black and white evangelicals feel marginalized and isolated from the rest of the country. Bound by regional identity, both groups respond similarly to these drastic changes. Black and white constituents continue to express patriotism and embrace a robust national identity. Despite the commonality of being rural and southern, Phillips’ study reveals that racial experiences are markers for distinguishable responses to radical social change. As Phillips shows, racial identity led to differing responses to the War on Terror and the Obama administration, and thus to a crisis in American national identity, opening the door to new nativistic and triumphalist interpretations of American exceptionalism. It is through this door that Phillips takes readers in Patriotism Black and White.
At a time when black and white Christians seem inherently divided on matters of faith, race, and nation, Nichole Phillips’ ethnography helps us to understand not only the ties that bind a small rural community, like military sacrifice and economic disenchantment, but also how social fissures experienced along racial fault lines consistently challenge the notion of a shared civil religion and national identity.~Marla Frederick, Professor of African and African American Studies and of the Study of Religion, Harvard University
An intriguing study of religion, race, and nationalism within rural America, especially at a time when these matters are on such broad display.~R. Drew Smith, Professor of Urban Ministry, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Phillips deserves much credit for forcing a sociological reckoning with race and American civil religion. Patriotism Black and White demonstrates the racial shortcomings of our previous scholarship and provides a roadmap for further study of evangelicals and their interpretations of what it means to be an ‘American.’~Mary Beth S. Matthew, Journal of Church and State
Patriotism Black and White is an interesting ethnographic study of a community in rural Tennessee. It compares rural black and white evangelicals and feelings about faith and patriotism in the United States using 9/11 and the election of Barack Obama as backdrops. Standing on four years of research, this book makes the case that America’s national identity crisis relies on a ‘nativistic and triumphalistic’ American exceptionalism.~Tamelyn N. Tucker-Worgs, Associate Professor of Political Science and African American Studies, Hood College
Nichole Phillips provides a wonderfully nuanced understanding of the contemporary dynamics of public theology, civil religion, and national identities among rural evangelicals in the United States. Taking seriously the shared and diverging perspectives of black and white Americans, Nichole Phillips thoughtfully mines what notions of service to country, sacrifice, and nationalism mean to diverse rural dwellers. In the process, she uncovers how a ‘politics of death’ shapes the triumphalism and nativism so characteristic of current forms of nationalism while offering important insight into a corrective for an American exceptionalism too long used to sacralize domination and exclusion. The book will surely generate robust conversation about the content, let alone the viability, of exceptionalism as a category to describe national identity in contemporary public discourse.~Jeffrey Williams, Associate Professor of American Religious History, Brite Divinity School