D R A F T
How can we respond when we see our faith and democracy under siege? On January 27, 2021, the Christians Against Christian Nationalism movement presented this webinar to explore how Christians are identifying and responding to the dangers of Christian nationalism in the wake of the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Hear from The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church; The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Dr. Andrew L. Whitehead, Associate Professor of Sociology at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis; and moderator Amanda Tyler, executive director of BJC (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty). They also share thoughts on practical ways we can combat Christian nationalism. Visit https://www.christiansagainstchristia… to read the statement signed by thousands of Christians taking a stand against this threat to the faith and our country. The website also has additional resources for starting conversations in your church or community.
Jeff Brumley, “Interdenominational panel warns of extreme danger of Christian nationalism,” Baptist News Global, Jan. 29, 2021 https://baptistnews.com/article/interdenominational-panel-warns-of-extreme-danger-of-christian-nationalism/#.YB4c7elKiUm.
Tyler asked the panelists to describe basic theological flaws of Christian nationalism.
The movement is broken at its core because it co-mingles faith and government, which is precisely the opposite of early Christians who “faced persecution because they gave their allegiance to the Lord, not to the state,” Eaton said. She added that it was a basic teaching of Martin Luther that Christians are citizens of the kingdom of God, not of temporal powers.
Curry said there is no room for Christian nationalism or other aberrant theologies for those who seek to follow the Jesus who preached the Sermon on the Mount and told the parable of the Good Samaritan. […]
Another flaw of Christian nationalism is its overlap with white supremacy, Curry said. “I have known since I was a child that the Klan professes to be Christian. We grew up knowing that it was an unholy conflation of Christianity and white supremacy.”
But this flaw also was evident in the nation’s founding, Eaton said. Religion was used to justify the racism and economic greed of white settlers as they took land from Native Americans. “White supremacy has been part of what this country is before it was a country.”
How to counter Christian nationalism
To counter these “perversions of Christianity,” Christians must lead lives inspired by the Gospels, Curry said.
“Christianity must recenter itself on the teachings, the spirit and the example of Jesus of Nazareth. I mean the New Testament Jesus, the one in the book. Not the cultural one.”
Believers also must practice an “affirmative evangelism” that promotes a common humanity, he said. And they must reach out to people across race and religion to build relationships.
Whitehead said it’s also important to be educated about Christian nationalism. With more knowledge, Christians can advocate for minority groups and support legislation protective of Constitutional rights. “Christian nationalism, at its roots, is interested in power.”
Countering the movement also depends on knowing what a patriot is, Eaton said. “Christian nationalism is different from being a patriot. God knows I love my country, but my primary allegiance as a Christian is not to my country, but to my God.”
Philip Gorski, “White Christian Nationalism: The deep story behind the Capitol insurrection,” ABC Religion & Ethics, Australian Broadcasting Corp., Jan. 13, 2021 https://www.abc.net.au/religion/philip-gorski-white-christian-nationalism/13055050.
[…] Christians waved Trump flags. The neo-fascist militia group known as the “Proud Boys” kneeled and prayed before plunging into the breach. Nor were such mixtures of Christian, nationalist, and white supremacist symbols unusual. One man, decked out as a cosplay crusader, clutched a large leather Bible to his chest with skeleton gloves. What looked like apples and oranges turned out to be a fruit cocktail: White Christian Nationalism.
To understand how American Christianity became entangled with racism and violence, we first have to trace it back to its Scriptural roots. Those roots are dual. It turns out that WCN is not just one story, but a combination of two. The first is a Promised Land story based on the Old Testament. The New England Puritans saw themselves as the heirs of the Biblical Israelites. They imagined themselves as a “chosen people, and they came to see the “new world” as their “Promised Land.” For a while, they thought the native peoples might be one of the “lost tribes” of Israel. But as their relationship with the natives shifted from curiosity to hostility, the Puritan settlers recast the Indians as “Canaanites” or “Amalekites”, who were occupying “their” Promised Land.
The second story is an End Times story based on the Book of Revelation. For most of Western history, most Christian theologians read that book in allegorical terms. The violent struggles it depicted between the forces of good and evil, they reasoned, actually represented the moral struggles that took place within the believer’s heart. But there were always some Christians who interpreted the text more literally, as a description of future events. Many Puritan radicals embraced such readings, and took them along to New England.
The two stories gradually fused together during the Puritans’ wars with the natives during the late-seventeenth century. Puritan theologians such as Cotton Mather came to believe that the New World might be the central battlefield in the final struggle between good and evil foretold in Revelation. Needless to say, Mather placed himself and his Puritan brethren on the side of the good, and the Catholic French and their native allies on the side of evil. He and other Puritans likened the Indians to demons and depicted the Indian wars as blood sacrifices to an angry God. It was war — the violent struggle between the English and the French and the Indians which some historians now refer to as the “Second Hundred Years War” — that welded Protestantism and Englishness together in the New World.
Trumpism is, among other things, the latest version of the WCN frame. Echoing the Promised Land story, Trump says he will “take back the country” from the outsiders and invaders who have taken control — immigrants and secularists, Muslims and Mexicans — and then restore it to its rightful owners: “real” (that is, white, Christian) Americans. Echoing the End Times story, Trump paints the world in terms of us and them, good and evil, and hints at violent struggles to come. The first such struggle took place on 6 January. It will not, I fear, be the last.
Philip Gorski is Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Yale University. He is Co-Director (with Julia Adams) of Yale’s Center for Comparative Research, and co-runs the Religion and Politics Colloquium at the Yale MacMillan Center.
Gorski also has a piece “Revisited: Why do evangelicals vote for Trump” in The Imminent Frame, Social Science Research Council, Dec. 15, 2020 https://tif.ssrc.org/2020/12/15/revisited-why-do-evangelicals-vote-for-trump/