Christian Nationalism and the Birth of the War on Drugs
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Christian Nationalism and the Birth of the War on Drugs argues that this early drug war was deeply rooted in Christian impulses. While many scholars understand Prohibition to have been a Protestant undertaking, it is considerably less common to consider the War on Drugs this way, in part because racism has understandably been the focal point of discussions of the drug war. Antidrug activists expressed—and still do express–blatant white supremacist and nativist motives. Yet this book argues that that racism was intertwined with religious impulses. Reformers pursued the “civilizing mission,” a wide-ranging project that sought to protect “child races” from harmful influences while remodeling their cultures to look like Europe and the United States. Most reformers saw Christianity as essential to civilization and missionaries felt that banning drugs would encourage religious conversion and progress.
This compelling work of scholarship radically reshapes our understanding of one of the longest and most damaging conflicts in modern American history, making the case that we cannot understand the War on Drugs unless we understand its religious origins.
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July 18, 2023