Katherine Stewart has been writing for years about Christian nationalism and its pernicious influence on American society, especially public schools. Her latest book is The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous World of Religious Nationalists.

She wrote this article about the January 6 insurrection for The New York Times:

The most serious attempt to overthrow the American constitutional system since the Civil War would not have been feasible without the influence of America’s Christian nationalist movement. One year later, the movement seems to have learned a lesson: If it tries harder next time, it may well succeed in making the promise of American democracy a relic of the past.

Christian nationalist symbolism was all over the events of Jan. 6, as observers have pointed out. But the movement’s contribution to the effort to overturn the 2020 election and install an unelected president goes much deeper than the activities of a few of its representatives on the day that marks the unsuccessful end (or at least a temporary setback) of an attempted coup.

A critical precondition for Donald Trump’s attempt to retain the presidency against the will of the people was the cultivation of a substantial population of voters prepared to believe his fraudulent claim that the election was stolen — a line of argument Mr. Trump began preparing well before the election, at the first presidential debate.

The role of social and right-wing media in priming the base for the claim that the election was fraudulent is by now well understood. The role of the faith-based messaging sphere is less well appreciated. Pastors, congregations and the religious media are among the most trusted sources of information for many voters. Christian nationalist leaders have established richly funded national organizations and initiatives to exploit this fact. The repeated message that they sought to deliver through these channels is that outside sources of information are simply not credible. The creation of an information bubble, impervious to correction, was the first prerequisite of Mr. Trump’s claim.

The coup attempt also would not have been possible without the unshakable sense of persecution that movement leaders have cultivated among the same base of voters. Christian nationalism today begins with the conviction that conservative Christians are the most oppressed group in American society. Among leaders of the movement, it is a matter of routine to hear talk that they are engaged in a “battle against tyranny,” and that the Bible may soon be outlawed.

A final precondition for the coup attempt was the belief, among the target population, that the legitimacy of the United States government derives from its commitment to a particular religious and cultural heritage, and not from its democratic form. It is astonishing to many that the leaders of the Jan. 6 attack on the constitutional electoral process styled themselves as “patriots.” But it makes a glimmer of sense once you understand that their allegiance is to a belief in blood, earth and religion, rather than to the mere idea of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Given the movement’s role in laying the groundwork for the coup attempt, its leaders faced a quandary when Mr. Trump began to push his repeatedly disproven claims — and that quandary turned into a test of character on Jan. 6. Would they go along with an attempt to overthrow America’s democratic system?

Some attempted to rewrite the facts about Jan. 6. The former Republican Representative Michele Bachmann suggested the riot was the work of “paid rabble rousers,” while the activist and author Lance Wallnau, who has praised Mr. Trump as “God’s chaos candidate,” blamed “the local antifa mob.” Many leaders, like Charlie Kirk, appeared to endorse Mr. Trump’s claims about a fraudulent election. Others, like Michael Farris, president and chief executive of the religious right legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, provided indirect but no less valuable support by concern-trolling about supposed “constitutional irregularities” in battleground states.

None appeared willing to condemn Mr. Trump for organizing an attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden. On the contrary, the Rev. Franklin Graham, writing on Facebook, condemned “these ten” from Mr. Trump’s “own party” who voted to impeach him and mused, “It makes you wonder what the thirty pieces of silver were that Speaker Pelosi promised for this betrayal.”

At Christian nationalist conferences I have been reporting on, I have heard speakers go out of their way to defend and even lionize the Jan. 6 insurrectionists. At the Road to Majority conference, which was held in Central Florida in June 2021, the author and radio host Eric Metaxas said, “The reason I think we are being so persecuted, why the Jan. 6 folks are being persecuted, when you’re over the target like that, oh my.” At that same conference, the political commentator Dinesh D’Souza, in conversation with the religious right strategist Ralph Reed, said, “The people who are really getting shafted right now are the Jan. 6 protesters,” before adding, “We won’t defend our guys even when they’re good guys.” Mr. Reed nodded in response and replied, “I think Donald Trump taught our movement a lot.”

Movement leaders now appear to be working to prime the base for the next attempt to subvert the electoral process. At dozens of conservative churches in swing states this past year, groups of pastors were treated to presentations by an initiative called Faith Wins. Featuring speakers like David Barton, a key figure in the fabrication of Christian nationalist myths about history, and led by Chad Connelly, a Republican political veteran, Faith Wins serves up elections skepticism while demanding that pastors mobilize their flocks to vote “biblical” values. “Every pastor you know needs to make sure 100 percent of the people in their pews are voting, and voting biblical values,” Mr. Connelly told the assembled pastors at a Faith Wins event in Chantilly, Va. in September.

“The church is not a cruise ship, the church is a battleship,” added Byron Foxx, an evangelist touring with Faith Wins. The Faith Wins team also had at its side Hogan Gidley, a deputy press secretary in the Trump White House, who now runs the Center for Election Integrity, an initiative of the America First Policy Institute, a group led in part by former members of the Trump administration. Mr. Gidley informed the gathering that his group is “nonpartisan” — and then went on to mention that in the last election cycle there were “A lot of rogue secretaries of state, a lot of rogue governors.”

He was presumably referring to Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia who earned the ire of Trumpists by rebuffing the former president’s request to find him an additional 11,780 votes. “You saw the stuff in Arizona, you’re going to see more stuff in Wisconsin, these are significant issues, and we can’t be dismissed out of hand anymore, the facts are too glaring,” Mr. Gidley said. In fact, the Republican-backed audit of votes in Arizona’s largest county confirmed that President Biden won Arizona by more votes than previously thought. But the persecution narrative is too politically useful to discard simply because it’s not true.

Even as movement leaders are preparing for a possible restoration of a Trumpist regime — a period they continue to regard as a golden age in retrospect — they are advancing in parallel on closely related fronts. Among the most important of these has to do with public education.

In the panic arising out of the claim that America’s schools are indoctrinating young children in critical race theory, or C.R.T., it isn’t hard to detect the ritualized workings of the same information bubble, persecution complex and sense of entitlement that powered the coup attempt. Whatever you make of the new efforts in state legislatures to impose new “anti-C.R.T.” restrictions on speech and teaching in public schools, the more important consequence is to extend the religious right’s longstanding program to undermine confidence in public education, an effort that religious right leaders see as essential both for the movement’s long-term funding prospects and for its antidemocratic agenda.

Opposition to public education is part of the DNA of America’s religious right. The movement came together in the 1970s not solely around abortion politics, as later mythmakers would have it, but around the outrage of the I.R.S. threatening to take away the tax-exempt status of church-led “segregation academies.” In 1979, Jerry Falwell said he hoped to see the day when there wouldn’t be “any public schools — the churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them.”

Today, movement leaders have their eye on the approximately $700 billion that federal, state, and local governments spend yearly on education. The case of Carson v. Makin, which is before the Supreme Court this term and involves a challenge, in Maine, to prohibitions on using state tuition aid to attend religious schools, could force taxpayers to fund sectarian schools no matter how discriminatory their policies or fanatical their teachings. The endgame is to get a chunk of this money with the help either of state legislatures or the Supreme Court, which in its current configuration might well be convinced that religious schools have a right to taxpayer funds.

This longstanding anti-public school agenda is the driving force behind the movement’s effort to orchestrate the anti-C.R.T. campaign. The small explosions of hate detonating in public school boards across the nation are not entirely coming from the grass roots up. The Family Research Council, a Washington, D.C.-based Christian right policy group, recently held an online School Board Boot Camp, a four-hour training session providing instruction on how to run for school boards and against C.R.T. and to recruit others to do so. The Bradley Foundation, Heritage Action for America, and The Manhattan Institute are among those providing support for groups on the forefront of the latest public school culture wars.

A decade ago, the radical aims at the ideological core of the Christian nationalist movement were there to see for anybody who looked. Not many bothered to look, and those who did were often dismissed as alarmist. More important, most Republican Party leaders at the time distanced themselves from theocratic extremists. They avoided the rhetoric of Seven Mountains dominionism, an ideology that calls explicitly for the domination of the seven “peaks” of modern civilization (including government and education) by Christians of the correct, supposedly biblical variety.

What a difference a decade makes. National organizations like the Faith & Freedom Coalition and the Ziklag Group, which bring together prominent Republican leaders with donors and religious right activists, feature “Seven Mountains” workshops and panels at their gatherings. Nationalist leaders and their political dependents in the Republican Party now state quite openly what before they whispered to one another over their prayer breakfasts. Whether the public will take notice remains to be seen.