In the last several decades, Christian Nationalism has seen a rise in influence and support for a Christian nation in the United States has seen record highs. Christian Nationalism is the idea of creating Christian policies for an entire nation, regardless of the true religious demographic. In a country like the United States where over a quarter of its residents aren’t Christian, it becomes an issue when religion is brought into politics as over 100 million Americans may not feel represented by the ideas and beliefs of Christianity. This goes against the very principle upon which the United States was founded: religious freedom. The Puritans, who were among the first to arrive in the US during the colonial era, were coming to escape persecution by the Anglican Church, which was led by the King, the head of the state. So while the United States was founded by a variety of Christian groups utilizing Christian values, not only was that over two centuries ago, during which time both Christianity and the religious demographic of the United States have changed dramatically, but grievances against state-sponsored religion is what led to the founding of our nation in the first place. Christian Nationalism not only fails to represent the nation but is often used as a way to legislate discrimination in the name of Christ. One of the most common examples of this is book bans.

Book bans have been around since the colonial days of America, starting with New England Canaan, a book written about Native American history and culture. It was banned for its critical views of the Puritans as the author outlined how the Natives and the environment were suffering in their hands. Since then, there have been a plethora of book bans proposed with the list of “banned” books growing faster than ever. In the past decade, a vast majority of the books set to be banned included issues of race and LGBTQ inclusivity. For example, in Washington state, one school district removed To Kill A Mockingbird from its required readings list because of its racial themes and depiction of violence. Despite these claims being true, books like this are critical to developing an understanding of the wrongs of the past and how to correct them in the future because without learning history, history is bound to repeat itself. I remember reading this book when I was in 9th grade and, while it was hard to read at times, it was necessary to shape my understanding of our nation’s history, particularly in the South where I live. Another banned book I read (despite not knowing it at the time) was Drama. This book, along with many others written by Raina Telgemeier, was wildly popular when I was in middle school and rightfully so. These books captured the middle school mindset of the world and personified many of the struggles we faced as middle schoolers. However, not everyone agrees with this outlook. Many parents challenged the inclusion of Drama in libraries due to its “confusing” nature, sexual content (which, to my memory, was limited to kissing), and its inclusion of LGBTQ characters. Limiting access to books that discuss gender identity can be dangerous as kids need something like this to show that they aren’t alone and to make them feel accepted during the confusing early teenage years. Without books to explain and justify our feelings, we often fail to recognize that our feelings are normal. Books serve as a liaison between our perception of reality and the underlying truths and cautions that we often overlook in the blur of everyday living.

Many books, especially the controversial ones, serve not only as a story of an imagined world but, at a deeper level, as a cautionary tale for our own society. In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a highly controversial book since its publishing in 1985, a group of conservative Christians rise to power and suppress the rights and freedoms of everyone, but particularly women. Women are essentially reduced to reproductive vessels under their leadership. While this may seem like a far out, dystopian scenario that could never happen, we have to remember that books like these are meant to bring the issues in society to the forefront of our minds, even if it means employing the use of satire, and that, for much of history, the role of women in society wasn’t all that different from that of women in Atwood’s imagined world. Since as early as 2003, the College Board has been using The Handmaid’s Tale in its ‘AP Literature and Composition’ course and since then, the novel has garnered significant criticism from parents with many calling it “anti-Christian” and “sexist”. While the book does vilify a group of Christians, that was just the context at the time of writing the book and by no means implies that the group in power is bad because of their faith. In fact, Margaret Atwood is Christian herself. However, when Christians take something like this, something that speaks ill of them (even inadvertently or as a foil) or something that goes against their values, and try to censor it for its message, that’s where the real problems begin. 

Many banned books discuss topics that Christian Nationalists strongly oppose and therefore want to hide in order to align society with their values. Currently, the LGBTQ community, women, people of color, and those of different faith backgrounds are the main targets. When it comes to censorship, not only is knowledge being lost, but different perspectives are being lost as well. Without diverse perspectives and ideas, our society will stall, failing to progress and often regressing on social issues. It’s like how in biology, when the gene pool gets too small, a species can be at higher risk to diseases and less adaptable to the environment, causing an increased risk of extinction. Similarly, when ideas and intellectual freedom are suppressed, equality and widespread inclusion are at risk of extinction. When there is one dominant idea being forced upon the public, that gives the sense that any other views are wrong and, when coupled with any form of government, dissent just isn’t worth it because speaking out often has serious repercussions.

Throughout history, the most successful way to make a change has been through the refusal to submit. Through standing up in the face of power. Through speaking out, even when you feel small. Through advocacy. Every voice matters when it comes to toppling these institutions of repression. Organizations like the American Library Association and PEN America host events like “Banned Book Week,” where people of all ages are encouraged to read books that have been, or are currently being, challenged. On the more legal side of things, groups like Christians Against Christian Nationalism and Baptist Joint Committee are lobbying the Supreme Court and other places of power to side with justice, not politics, in their many divisive cases. 

Personally, I want everyone to be able to choose what they believe and to be able to explore different beliefs freely because ultimately, learning more about others, especially in the context of faith, is strengthening not only as an individual, but as a community.


Religious Landscape Study
Pew Research Center / 2014 

What is a Banned Book?
Harvard Gutman Library / September 18, 2023,Puritan%20customs%20and%20power%20structures 

New English Canaan
Joshua J. Mark / December 11, 2020 

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in the hot seat at WA school district
Venice Buhain / January 24, 2022 

Top 10 Most Challenged Books Lists
American Library Association / 2021 

AP English Literature and Composition Past Exam Questions
College Board / 2023 

Atwood novel too brutal, sexist for school: Parent
Kristin Rushowy / January 16, 2009 

Banned Books Week (October 1 – 7, 2023)
American Library Association / 2023 

Banned Books Week 2023
PEN American / 2023 

Make a Difference
Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty / 2024


By Sam Sproles, submitted to Baptist Joint Committee Scholarship Essay Competition

Sam Sproles is a junior at eStem High School. Son of Robert & Kathy Sproles, Sam is an active member of the Second Baptist Church youth group and serves on the Youth Leadership Team. Sam is a Life Scout in Scouting America and is a member of the Order of the Arrow. He runs cross country and is a member of the Quiz Bowl team, National Honor Society, and Mu Alpha Theta at eStem High School. In his spare time, Sam loves to travel and build with legos.

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