Tobias Cremer, a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, speaks with Mark Melton about the role religion plays in populist movements in Europe and the United States.
They discuss how populists on the streets of Dresden carried oversized crosses, but when asked the vast majority of protestors self-identified as irreligious or atheist. Instead of believing in the basic Christian tenets as American evangelicals would understand them, most European populists cling to a cultural Christian identity without believing the theology. According to Cremer’s research based on numerous interviews, the populists claim they and their society are Christian because they have a church in their town instead of a mosque, not because they attend church; they are Christian because they are not Muslim.
In contrast, he found most Christians in Germany and France who practice the faith regularly shun the populist parties, and attending church was a strong indicator against supporting parties like the Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany, or AFD) or Rassemblement national (National Rally, formally known as the National Front).
Cremer and Melton further discuss how evangelicals’ support for Donald Trump is different, how the two-party system in the United States creates a different outcome when religion and populism mix, what happens to believing Christians in European populist movements, why and how those European movements support Israel and left-wing causes, how the movements react to Islam, and why American and European churches are different.