Every week the headlines get more troubling. In the quest to make America great again, many seem to have forgotten what made America great to begin with (if we were ever great at all).
Long before the United States was conceived as a nation, a movement was afoot across Europe challenging the notion that governments can speak for God and embracing the belief that matters related to human conscience and religion are between the Creator and the created.
Presently, there is another movement afoot that could conceivably set us back centuries in terms of human flourishing and religious liberty. I am not an alarmist by nature; at the same time, I believe serious trends call for serious thinking and serious warnings.
Christian nationalism – including the tendency of many evangelicals to seek power for themselves (and their version of Christianity) – is a threat to the true liberty of all.
According to the Christian Nationalist Alliance, Christian nationalism “upholds the belief that politics is just as capable of saving souls as other forms of Evangelical outreach.” Let that soteriological statement sink in – the saving of souls through politics. At least the CNA says plainly what many evangelicals are still reluctant to admit.
“Christian nationalism – including the tendency of many evangelicals to seek power for themselves (and their version of Christianity) – is a threat to the true liberty of all.”
Although Christian nationalists claim support for the reign of God throughout the land, it seems they are happy to use ungodly methods to achieve it. Many evangelical churches and pastors persistently face manipulation and even legal bribery by Christian nationalists. Here are several ways Christian nationalists try to increase their influence and dominion.
- Influence peddling. Across the country over the last 20 years, pastors and their spouses have frequently been offered all-inclusive weekend getaways to rub shoulders with powerful politicians, underling political operatives and lobbyists. Through using free gifts to butter up clergy and peddle influence, many pastors (and therefore many churches) are bought and paid for each election season. Last year I was invited to a pastors breakfast hosted by our local congressman at a church in the region. Initially, I accepted the invitation, but then quickly withdrew upon learning that the sponsoring organization was a Christian nationalist group.
- Race as a weapon. Christian nationalism is decidedly white. Christian nationalists often use racist scare tactics and warped theology to drum up support. This is nothing new. Consider the book The Yellow Peril (Japan) and Bible Prophecy (Zondervan, 1943), which viewed Japan as the evil empire of the biblical book of Revelation. Christian nationalism makes these kinds of claims because the United States is central to the Christian nationalists’ reading and interpretation of Scripture. Race is still weaponized in a number of ways, from border policy to mass incarceration.
- Theocratic violence. Christian nationalists often use militaristic and violent language. Some even call for physical violence against those who differ from them politically, with ominous warnings of “car bombs in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Des Moines, Iowa” as potential judgement from God upon America. Isn’t it possible to call for or warn of God’s judgment without defending or even inciting violence? Whenever Christian nationalist leaders (elected officials and pastors) claim natural disasters, mass shootings and terrorist attacks as divine judgment, they are blessing theocratic violence.
- Revisionist history. For decades Christian nationalists have been hawking the idea that America is founded as a Christian nation and that we should somehow get back to our theological roots, even though the only time faith or religion is mentioned in the Constitution it is preceded by the word “no.” George Grant wrote in his 1987 book, The Changing of the Guard: A Blueprint for Christian Political Action (Dominion Press), that “Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ – to have dominion in the civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness. But it is dominion that we are after. Not just a voice. It is dominion we are after. Not just influence. It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time. It is dominion we are after.”
How any of this squares with the person and teachings of Christ is beyond me. August 12 marked one year since the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Thankfully, in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, thousands of counter-protestors stood up against bigotry and racism and drowned out the anemic gathering of Unite the Right II protestors. White-nationalism and Christian-nationalism are bedfellows of the lowest order.
We must resist the ungodly and un-Christlike movement of Christian nationalism with all our might. We must decry it in our pulpits. We must soundly reject it with our votes. The future of religious liberty for all depends on it, as does the future of our nation.