Preparing for War: The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism–And What Comes Next by Dr. Bradley Onishi
Broadleaf Books, 2023
Review written April 16, 2023
At a recent conference in Phoenix, I had the pleasure of hearing a talk by Dr. Bradley Onishi titled “Christian Nationalists’ 60 Year War on Democracy.” A religious studies teacher, Onishi gave a compelling discussion, sweeping in scope, yet with enough detail in 45 minutes I was compelled to purchase his recently released book Preparing for War: The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism–And What Comes Next. I eagerly began reading my autographed copy on the flight home, finishing the next day.
He begins by giving the background to his own life, growing up in Orange County, CA, and was for many years part of the Christian Evangelism movement. While explaining how the OC gained an outsized role in the politics leading to modern ideas of Christian Nationalism, he examines wide political movements and still presents clear elaborations on individual examples. Balancing depth and width is perhaps this book’s greatest strength, with an admirable fluidity of writing and ease of understanding. His research and the clear explanations put this book in the range of my highest recommendation.
He utilizes a referencing style I have not seen since Robin Lane Fox’s The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible, where in place of having superscript numbers for references listed in the back of the book, there is a chapter-by-chapter listing of major resources, 186 in total. To give one example, on pages 139-142, he discusses how we know truth from fiction, and defines conspiracy theories. If you would like to know more, you go the section in the references for Chapter 8, and find “what makes a theory:”where he gives details. Many of the references are checkable online, with few referenced titles difficult to consult.
This leads me to my first recommendation for the next printing or edition. When a reader is in a chapter, the name of the chapter is always at the top of the page, yet when flipping to the Notes, the listing is only by chapter, without conferring the chapter name. This can make quick referencing frustrating. My second, and an irritating problem, is the lack of an index. Should I decide in the future to see what Dr. Onishi had to say about the John Birch Society, or maybe the many references to Marjorie Taylor Greene, I am pretty much out of luck. This book is so packed with good and even valuable information on the development and ideas of White Christian Nationalism, an index would make it easy to utilize in future research.