After Doug Mastriano was elected Republican governor of Pennsylvania, the victory party had an evangelical feel. Some raised their arms in praise as a Christian singer led them in song.
Mastriano began his remarks by citing Scripture: "God uses foolish people to confuse the wise." He then cast the election in strongly religious terms, with another biblical reference: “Let's choose today to serve the Lord."
Mastriano, a former state senator and Army colonel has made faith central in his life and has integrated conservative Christian beliefs and symbols into his campaign. He is the most prominent example of what observers have called a surge in Christian nationalism among Republican candidates.
Mastriano, who has repeatedly refused to comment on requests from The Associated Press, even through his campaign last Wednesday -- has previously rejected the "Christian nationist" label. Few, if any, prominent candidates even use this label. Some people believe it is a slur and others insist that everyone has the right to use their faith and values in order to influence public policy.
However, scholars tend to define Christian nationalism as a combination of American and Christian values and symbols.
They claim that Christian nationalism is often accompanied with the belief that God has predestined America for a special role, similar to biblical Israel, and that God will either bless or punish it depending on its obedience.
This often coincides with the conservative Christian political agenda. It includes opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, as well as transgender rights. Research shows that Christian nationalism is frequently associated with mistrust of Muslims and immigrants. Many Christian nationalists view former President Donald Trump, despite his crude sexual claims and lack of public piety, as a champion.
This year's Republican primaries saw mixed results for candidates viewed as Christian nationalists. These primaries typically pit staunch conservatives against those who are more to the right.
Some high-profile candidates suffered losses, including Madison Cawthorn, U.S. Rep., and Lt. Governor, an Idaho gubernatorial hopeful. Janice McGeachin. Janice McGeachin.
Some Idaho's Republican primaries were won by candidates who shared Christian values or prioritized Christian nationalists. U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who used biblical phrasing to "bea watchman at the wall" against those trying to "destroy faith," won her primary easily.