May 9, 2023 | GNET

ISD’s Jakob Guhl for GNET: White Christian extremism on Telegram, ‘Christgram’

ISD Senior Manager for Policy & Research, Jakob Guhl, contributes to the Global Network on Extremism and Technology‘s (GNET) mini series on Christian Nationalism. In his guest feature, he focuses on the main religious narratives and discussions taking place among Christian extremist groups online, specifically on Telegram, concluding that the role of religion in general, but Christianity in particular, deserves greater attention from researchers.

Renewed interest in Christian Nationalism and Catholic Integralism has been seen in multiple contexts in recent years: among far-right groups like the Groypers, politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene, and a growth of white Christian extremist communities online as seen on Telegram. The encrypted messaging app has long been a staple among extremist communities going back to the late 2010’s. Today, there are hundreds of channels— often referred to as ‘Terrorgram’— that use the app to “openly celebrate and encourage violence, share guides for committing attacks and collate fascist literature, art and music.” Within the Terrorgram community, there has been a growing subsection of self identifying white Christians known as ‘Christgram’.

While Christgram splinters under denominational lines, a steady growth has been observed on the platform with the biggest channel today reaching 19,749 users.

Jakob writes that “within Christgram communities, white Christian identity, interpretations of history and aesthetics centred around faith are used to construct an identity and clearly distinguish between in-group and out-group. At the same time, these communities use religious language and references to justify violence. While many extreme right groups remain secular, there appears to be a renewed interest by some groups in Christianity, though it is difficult to assess if this interest will be a temporary or long-term trend.”

He further explains that “in either case, it appears that the role of religion in general and Christianity in particular within extreme right communities deserves greater attention from the research community. Governments often draw a distinction between religious or faith-based extremism and ideological extremism, with the aim of describing and countering Islamist extremism. It would therefore be pertinent to explore, from a policy perspective, if Christgram and Christian extremism more broadly should fall under the former or the latter category.”