I have read a number of recent articles about the danger to democracy that Christian Nationalism (CN) poses to our country, and I agree – it is a perversion of my faith and a danger to the church and, to some extent, our country. It is not, however, something new. The simplest definition of CN comes from Dr. David Scott. “Christian nationalism identifies the nation with God’s will and action in the world; conflates national and Christian identity; and identifies service of the nation with service of God, gives moral cover for actions, even unseemly ones, taken in pursuit of national or political goals.” The Christian Nationalist Alliance believes otherwise; their work revolves around the belief that America is Christianity’s last hope, so Christians should do anything they can to make America a Christian nation, even if it means trying to take over the government by insurrection.
Ever since 1630 when Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop preached that this new land was “a city on a hill” (taken from Matthew 5), many Americans have believed that this land was tamed by, and then founded on, the Christian faith. This doesn’t mean that other faiths were never welcomed – George Washington famously said that he didn’t care what faith someone practiced, as long as they were good citizens. Good for you George – but many of our founders disagreed. Thankfully, our foundational documents are very clear; while there are religious values embedded in them, the fact that the Declaration of Independence says we are endowed by our Creator is not a Christian term – it is a Deist idea. The fact that religion only appears twice in the Constitution – once in the original about not prohibiting someone from holding office based on religion, and the other in the Bill of Rights defending the right to practice – or not – one’s own religion – bears this out. Still, the desire to be a Christian nation has always – and still thrives – in many American’s hopes and dreams.
Mainline Protestants worked hard to make this happen. When the first Catholic president was elected, Protestants went crazy, saying that JFK would do the pope’s bidding, rather than follow the Constitution. His predecessor (Eisenhower) wasn’t even been baptized until 12 days before his inauguration in 1953! “In God We Trust” wasn’t on our paper money until 1956! “One Nation Under God” was added to the pledge of allegiance in in 1954! All of these things were not spurred on by Christian fervor, but by fear of communism. The desire to force an unsuspecting Jesus on all Americans is a fairly new practice, and Mainline Protestants from the middle of the 20th century are as guilty of Christian Nationalism as any fringe faith groups today.
The difference, however, is that these fringe groups are mixing Nazi and White Supremacist rhetoric in with their perverted version of Christianity in the same way that the KKK did since its beginning. The danger is that they are mixing their heresies with hopes for the end of the world, believing that Jesus is coming and we need to be ready to fight on His side. They are dreaming of Armageddon while the rest of us are blissfully unaware of the danger they pose.
So yes – Christian Nationalism poses a grave danger to America (and any country it infects) when it is embraced and used by people in political power. These people should never be elected, because they are the real danger. If they are, we are all to blame.
Prayer – Dear God, save us from ourselves. Help us to see through the rhetoric and to the truth. Amen.