Christian Nationalism and the Birth of the War on Drugs

NYU Jul. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9781479817924. pap. $30. REL
There is a long history to the war on drugs that began in the Nixon administration, and it is one closely tied to Protestant Christianity, argues Monteith (religious studies, Elon Univ.). The antidrug movement began as an element of the temperance movements, which later developed into Prohibition. Monteith finds that several cultural and religious factors were involved in driving the movement for social change, including racism, colonialism, and postmillennial theology. The latter involved a view where Christians could help bring about the kingdom of God through moral action. Missionaries, primarily Protestant, understood their work, in part, as bringing cultural change to those they deemed primitive. One aspect of this was working to rid the world of “abusive substances,” particularly peyote, which was believed to be a barrier to missionaries’ goal to convert people to Christianity. Racism was expressed in an especially damaging way through race science and the eugenics movement that later developed partly from Christian nationalism, Monteith argues.
VERDICT This groundbreaking work will be appreciated particularly by scholars, but those with an interest in history or Christian history will likely find it engaging as well.
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