The first-ever field organizer for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty has been charged with organizing opposition to Christian nationalism in Texas.
A native of Dallas-Fort Worth where she is now based, Lisa Jacob said she was drawn to the position after seeing the effects of white supremacy on parents and other loved ones who emigrated to the U.S. from India.
“It stems from being the daughter of immigrants and seeing much of my family and community being part of this struggle and experiencing the weight of discrimination,” she said. “As a second-generation immigrant, I’ve always seen the fight for justice as part of the vision of my life.”
Jacob’s organizing work as a BJC staff member will be conducted in the context of Christians Against Christian Nationalism, a project of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.
“We’re expanding our work in North Texas with our first-ever field organizer now on the ground. We’re also planning to recruit volunteers across the country to lead local projects in their communities,” BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler said in a recent video update on Christians Against Christian Nationalism, which she serves as lead organizer.
BJC had been laying the groundwork for the North Texas pilot project for some time before Jacob’s arrival, said Tyler, a Texan who recently relocated to Dallas. (BJC’s offices remain on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.)
“We successfully mobilized Texans to oppose legislation to put posters of the Ten Commandments in every public-school classroom and worked with Texas chaplains to oppose a new effort to replace counselors with chaplains” in public schools, she said.
Once the North Texas pilot project is fully up and running, other communities across the country will be considered for Christians Against Christian Nationalism efforts, Tyler said in her year-end column. “Join our movement in fighting Christian nationalism. Together, I believe we will finally achieve religious freedom — not just for some, but for all.”
Jacob said she is working under the assumption that Christian nationalism can be eradicated. In her video, Tyler echoed that sentiment by announcing the title of her forthcoming book: How to End Christian Nationalism.
Jacob said she is working under the assumption that Christian nationalism can be eradicated.
The first step in the process is to accept that victory will not be achieved overnight, Jacob said. “I do believe we can see an end to Christian nationalism, but we have to recognize that it is a part of the history of our nation. So, we have to be committed to the long-haul work if we want to see that happen.”
But that achievement may not be too far off, she added. “I feel very hopeful about the next generation, which is more willing to engage in the hard conversations. My hope is in their lifetime we could see an end to this.”
Jacob said her social work and justice ministry experiences helped prepare her for the long-term battle against Christian nationalism. She has served as a clinical therapist and as a pastor of community mobilizing, missions and spiritual formation in nondenominational churches. She earned a degree in counseling from Dallas Theological Seminary after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin.
That service has led to this moment, she said. “God has opened my mind and heart to the brokenness of our world and to where God is working in the margins of our society.”
Jacob admitted she has her work cut out for her. Her responsibilities include continuing the partnerships BJC has established with groups like Faith Commons, Texas Impact, the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas, Fellowship Southwest and numerous local churches. The goal is to grow that base and to connect with individuals who have signed on to the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign.
“My part on the chaplaincy bill includes working with our partners to ask every school board to vote no before March 1 and asking people to show up at school board meetings to testify.”
She already is engaged in the effort to thwart a new Texas law designed to replace mental health professionals with unlicensed chaplains in public schools. School districts have until March 1 to vote on whether it will adopt the policy.
“My part on the chaplaincy bill includes working with our partners to ask every school board to vote no before March 1 and asking people to show up at school board meetings to testify,” she said.
That effort has produced evidence that BJC’s Christians Against Christian Nationalism program is working, she added. “A small victory is that quite a few school boards have voted to reject the policy and not adopt. I was able to comment in one school district that voted not to change what they already do, so they are not adopting.”
Jacob said she’s also providing connections and resources to school boards and parents concerned about outside conservative groups trying to influence school district polices.
This work is personal to her, she said. “One of the quotes I live by is from Fannie Lou Hamer: ‘Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.’ That is what I want my life to be about. It’s about bringing to fruition this concept of beloved community and dreaming about the day we actually see that come to pass.”