Preparing for War

The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism--and What Comes Next

Preparing for War

The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism--and What Comes Next

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"A clear-eyed, compelling study of the road to Jan. 6 and the possible future of the politics-versus-religion battle in the U.S." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Watching the eerie footage of the January 6 insurrection, Bradley Onishi wondered: If I hadn't left evangelicalism, would I have been there?

The insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, was not a blip or an aberration. It was the logical outcome of years of a White evangelical subculture's preparation for war. Religion scholar and former insider Bradley Onishi maps the origins of White Christian nationalism and traces its offshoots in Preparing for War.

Combining his own experiences in the youth groups and prayer meetings of the 1990s with an immersive look at the steady blending of White grievance politics with evangelicalism, Onishi crafts an engrossing account of the years-long campaign of White Christian nationalism that led to January 6. How did the rise of what Onishi calls the New Religious Right, between 1960 and 2015, give birth to violent White Christian nationalism during the Trump presidency and beyond? What propelled some of the most conservative religious communities in the country--communities of which Onishi was once a part--to ignite a cold civil war?

Through chapters on White supremacy and segregationist theologies, conspiracy theories, the Christian-school movement, purity culture, and the right-wing media ecosystem, Onishi pulls back the curtain on a subculture that birthed a movement and has taken a dangerous turn. In taut and unsparing prose, Onishi traces the migration of many White Christians to Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming in what is known as the American Redoubt. Learning the troubling history of the New Religious Right and the longings and logic of White Christian nationalism is deeply alarming. It is also critical for preserving the shape of our democracy for years to come.

Dive deeper with the Preparing for War discussion guide—perfect for church groups, book clubs, or individual study.


"In this compelling and scholarly mix of memoir and cultural and political history, Bradley Onishi brings to bear his experience as a former Christian nationalist movement insider to expose the radicalism behind the January 6th insurrection. Gripping and essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the threat that this movement poses to American democracy."

Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism

"In Preparing for War, Bradley Onishi traces the history of White Christian nationalism from the John Birch Society to the Big Lie and the January 6 terrorist assault on the U.S. Capitol--a narrative enlivened by the author's own intersections with the movement. This is an excellent and important book, both chilling and prophetic."

Randall Balmer, historian author of Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right 

"Hinging on the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021, Preparing for War presents the New Religious Right in light of their aggressive political ambitions. Bradley Onishi is ringing the alarm bells. He believes we are not at the end but rather a beginning of a religiously sanctioned extremism that threatens our American democratic future. Following the best scholarship on the nature of Christian nationalism and the further developments of the Religious Right. Onishi roots his story of historical changes in his life experiences in Southern California. The challenge is for all of us to examine how these momentous shifts have affected our own lives, and then seek ways to counteract the destructive paths being forged in our communities and our nation. This is a book to read with care."

Dr. Gerardo Marti, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology at Davidson College and author of American Blindspot: Race, Class, Religion, and the Trump Presidency

"Bradley Onishi takes us on a sweeping yet personal journey through modern American religious and political history to understand the violent, extremist strains of White Christian America that led to the January 6th insurrection. With insight from countless interviews, deep scholarship, and his own escape from White Christian nationalism, Onishi's Preparing for War is a clear account of what happened and clarion warning about what is coming. Compelling and timely."

Andrew Seidel, attorney and author of The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American

"Preparing for War is Bradley Onishi's exposition of White Christian nationalism from its roots in the antebellum South, to the 'family values' discourses that took control of Republican Party in the 1980s, all the way to the reactionary movement that still puts Donald Trump at the helm of a culture war. That movement wants to turn back time to a point when everyone other than White, Christian men knew their place, and White Christian men had a social order to keep everyone else in their places through violent displays of both public and private force. At this moment, when those reactionary forces threaten to regain control of the American state and impose their theocratic vision on the rest of us, Onishi's thorough and meticulous history is crucial. If you've ever found yourself confused and questioning how a nation supposedly founded for 'religious freedom' could evolve to become a 'Christian nation' bordering on theocracy, Preparing for War is necessary reading."

Tori Williams Douglass, writer, speaker, educator, and creator of White Homework 


"A rigorous and earnest grappling with the intersection between religion and politics."

Publishers Weekly

"A clear-eyed, compelling study of the road to Jan. 6 and the possible future of the politics-versus-religion battle in the U.S."

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"This persuasive account documents the rise of White Christian nationalism and warns of the very real threat it poses to American democracy."


Product Info

  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506482163
  • eBook ISBN 9781506482170
  • Dimensions 6.25 x 9.25
  • Pages 237
  • Publication Date January 3, 2023