Selfies and photojournalists’ images reveal mostly white men at January 6th’s Trump rally and siege of the Capitol. This is unsurprising; the nexus of whiteness and masculinity features prominently in Trump’s base. The women among Trump’s supporters appear attired in patriotic gear much like the men’s. Their star-spangled baseball caps might be covered in bling, but these women generally don’t perform overtly traditional femininity. However, the God-and-guns Christian right, with its aggressions and resentments, depends not only on symbols of traditional masculinity, but also on those of the traditionally feminine. Motherhood is central to many nationalist ideologies, since the future of the nation depends on a mythical identity that must be passed down through generations. The rhetoric of white Christian nationalism is no different. Mothers raise God’s army. Instagram is their scrapbook.
Instagram lends itself to the self-expression of the artfully unstyled homemaker at work in her kitchen while her barefoot children climb trees or cradle kittens. Millennial Christian housewives, often “mothers of many,” curate charmingly homespun Instagram feeds. In addition to entries about rosy-cheeked babies and sourdough, these influencers also post prayerful exhortations that urge readers to value themselves as wives and mothers who nurture the faith by sustaining the family.
In the wake of January 6th, the Instagrammer @lifewithaprons replaced her usual folksy posts with something more serious.
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…In a time of what “looks” like uncertainty, when a war is waging between good and evil and fear has crept into the hearts of many, our children are watching. The God we serve, the one we declare is the King of kings and Lord of lords, the one who defeated the enemy on the cross and reigns victorious always and forever, will this be what they see? Our children are watching. We must model to them what our lips have professed long before this past year. God is still sitting on His throne and we appeal to heaven, the lion has stood and is roaring. He is looking for those who will stand for Him, who will trust Him even when our earthly eyes see the opposite, His desire is for a Bride that is steadfast and unwavering, confident and bold, that truly believes He is victorious and no weapon against Him will prosper. Our children are watching… #ourGodreigns #blessedarethechildren #gilbertworshiptime #appealtoheaven #thelionhasstood #wehavewon
This text accompanies a jarring image. A child sits at an upright piano, alongside a man (his dad, perhaps) with a guitar, while a towheaded toddler in T-shirt and diaper waves a handmade flag. Not the stars and stripes, however, but a pine tree and the slogan “Appeal to Heaven,” a flag that appeared in D.C. on the 6th as well. The phrase comes from John Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government and was first paired with the pine tree symbol by Washington’s troops in the Revolutionary War. Its use in recent years has been to imbue the religious right with the dignity of a right of revolution analogous to that exercised in 1776.
This post by @lifewithaprons puts the right of revolution in the hands of a toddler who witnesses the confidence with which his parents stand on God’s side in the fight between good and evil. His mother reminds her readers that the times only feel uncertain. In fact, all is in God’s hands. The role of the faithful is that of the Bride, who does not doubt her Spouse’s sovereignty. Much like the helpmeet who submits to her husband’s headship, Christians do not make their own political decisions because God has already done so for them.
The education of the watching children falls to the mother, who as homemaker and homeschool teacher is responsible for inculcating right belief and right practice in the next generation. The future of the church depends on her at the most basic level of reproduction. What future Christians stand for—their identity—is cultivated at home. The mother nurtures and protects the purity of their hearts and minds. Insta-worthy pursuits like backyard chickens and handmade pies aren’t just hobbies, they’re the work of the kingdom. This rhetoric of protectiveness dovetails with the prolife hashtags—#protectchildren #chooselife #savethebabies—these influencers append to their posts.
Two days after the Capitol siege, @kellyhavensohio posted a picture of her baby boy playing on a braided rug in her snug living room. She wrote alongside:
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History isn’t over. It’s easy to think we have arrived. Arrived at a destination that all of time was waiting for and working towards. We think this is the world we wanted, but is it?
The colonial days of America have always drawn me in. It was a time full of adventure and unknown territory. Desperate measures called for deepest faith and ingenuity. Housewives took scraps of fabric and braided and sewed them together to keep their feet warm on the frigid wood floors during the harsh New England winters. They dipped candles so they could see at night.
We think we have outgrown those times and the arts that our ancestors had to live by. We think we have finally arrived. But the truth is we are still in history, and I think we are at a breaking point. I think we’ve found ourselves in a cold world we no longer quite feel at home in. We stand at a new frontier, much like the colonists faced the creation of a new country. We face a task that’s just as dangerous and just as demanding as in colonial days.
What is our battle, what is our plea? It’s not for freedom from England, it’s not for equality as in the Civil War. I believe it’s a fight for character, charm, for life, for home….even for history itself. Historic villages are turning into ghost towns, old houses filled with charm are being left to rot. And yet slowly, as these things die, little shoots are popping up all over. Embroidery, knitting, quilting, woodworking, small family run companies, are cropping up as the stifled creative soul of our country begins to cry out for a renassisave (sic).
The cosplay of practicing colonial handicrafts from times “as dangerous and just as demanding” as our own, coupled with the disingenuous assertion that “equality as in the Civil War” is no longer at stake, braids together whiteness, nationalism, and revolution with nostalgic domesticity.
But don’t be lulled by the coziness. These women know that they’re supplying troops for a battle between good and evil, and they fear for their children. The language of fear dominated the Christian momfluencer posts in the week after January 6th. In response, the mothers copy-pasted the following:
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Don’t feel sorry for or fear for your kids because the world they are going to grow up in is not what it used to be.
God created them and called them for the exact moment in time that they’re in. Their life wasn’t a coincidence or an accident.
Raise them up to know the power they walk in as children of God.
Train them up in the authority of His Word.
Teach them to walk in faith knowing that God is in control.
Empower them to know they can change the world.
Don’t teach them to be fearful and disheartened by the state of the world but hopeful that they can do something about it.
Every person in all of history has been placed in the time that they were in because of God’s sovereign plan.
He knew Daniel could handle the lions den.
He knew David could handle Goliath.
He knew Esther could handle Haman.
He knew Peter could handle persecution.
He knows that your child can handle whatever challenge they face in their life. He created them specifically for it!
Don’t be scared for your children, but be honored that God chose YOU to parent the generation that is facing the biggest challenges of our lifetime.
Rise up to the challenge.
Raise Daniels, Davids, Esthers and Peters!
God isn’t scratching His head wondering what He’s going to do with this mess of a world.
He has an army He’s raising up to drive back the darkness and make Him known all over the earth.
Hidden away in the private sphere of the home, femininity is at the gendered heart of white Christian nationalism. Christian mothers not only “disciple” the spiritual warriors of the future, but also carry and give birth to God’s army, a biological role that reinforces the racial exclusivity of this movement. While many of these women see their faith as opposed to the sin of racism, their insular communities and political commitments cover and enclose them in whiteness. We don’t see modest wives with nursing babies storming the Capitol in prairie skirts, but be assured that they’re at home raising Esthers and Daniels to fight the war for a Christian nation long after Donald Trump is gone.