Amanda Tyler, the executive director of BJC (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty) and the lead organizer of the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign, writes at CNN, Marjorie Taylor Greene’s words on Christian nationalism are a wake-up call:
Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene explicitly labeled herself a Christian nationalist on Saturday. This shocking statement by a sitting member of Congress should serve as a wake-up call to everyone, and particularly, I believe, to Christians.
“We need to be the party of nationalism and I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists,” Greene said in an interview while attending the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Florida on Saturday. Her self-avowal of Christian nationalism follows her claim last month that Christian nationalism is “nothing to be afraid of,” and that the “movement” will solve school shootings and “sexual immorality” in America.
For years, I have been closely tracking Christian nationalism and sounding the alarm about it. Greene’s recent comments mark an alarming shift in the public conversation about Christian nationalism.
Until recently, the public figures who most embrace Christian nationalism in their rhetoric and policies have either denied its existence or claimed that those of us who are calling it out are engaging in name-calling. But Greene is evidently reading from a different script now — explicitly embracing the identity as her own and urging others to join her.
She is not alone in doing so. Greene’s embrace of Christian nationalism follows closely after troubling remarks from Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert: “The church is supposed to direct the government, the government is not supposed to direct the church,” she said at a church two days before her primary election (and victory) in late June. “I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk.” And as CNN has reported, public opinion polling shows that support for Christian nationalism is growing among Christians.
Lauren Boebert said she wants a biblical citizenship test in the US. I'd say knowledge of the United States Constitution should be required before running as a candidate for any position in the United States Government.
— David Weissman (@davidmweissman) August 4, 2022
Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that merges Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s promise of religious freedom. It relies heavily on a false narrative of America as a “Christian nation,” founded by Christians in order to privilege Christianity. This mythical history betrays the work of the framers to create a federal government that would remain neutral when it comes to religion, neither promoting nor denigrating it — a deliberate break with the state-established religions of the colonies.
Though not new, Christian nationalism has been exploited in recent years by politicians like former President Donald Trump to further an “us vs. them” mentality and send a message that only Christians can be “real” Americans.
Growing support for Christian nationalism comes at a time when the political ideology behind it poses increasingly urgent threats to American democracy and to religious freedom. Perhaps the most chilling example of Christian nationalism came on the most public of world stages, from some Trump supporters during the January 6 insurrection.
Earlier this year, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), the organization I lead, co-published the only comprehensive report documenting the role of Christian nationalism in coalescing and intensifying support for those who violently attacked the Capitol.
I care about dismantling Christian nationalism both because I’m a practicing Christian and because I’m a patriotic American — and no, those identities are not the same. As Christians, we can’t allow Greene, Boebert or Trump to distort our faith without a fight.
We must speak loudly when our faith is used as a political tool, we must uproot it from our own churches and communities and we must form alliances with religious minorities and the nonreligious — who suffer the impact of Christian nationalism the most.
Religion, and Christianity in particular, has flourished in America not because of government aid or favoritism, but for the opposite reason: religion’s freedom from government control. Government involvement in religious affairs doesn’t aid the free exercise of religion. And as Christians, we are called to love our neighbors rather than make them feel unwelcome in their own country.
As historian Jemar Tisby has written, “[to] follow Christ is to reject the Christian Nationalist ideology. Marjorie Taylor Greene and her allies can follow Jesus’s teachings or the teachings of Christian Nationalism, but they cannot do both.”
Christian nationalism, while pervasive and long-standing, cannot be normalized. I think Christians, who continue to make up a majority of Americans, have a special responsibility to step up at this critical moment to reject Christian nationalism.
Christian lawmakers should choose a different path from Greene and Boebert by calling out Christian nationalism without ignoring their own faith and the religious pluralism that is a significant part of our country’s identity. Christian nationalism runs wild in a society where its peddlers are the only ones talking about the role of Christianity in public life.
Worse yet is a situation when the only detractors from Christian nationalism are the nonreligious, which furthers the false narrative that the only choices for our country are Christian nationalism or no religious expression at all. Religious expression in the United States, from the founding era to the present, has been remarkably diverse, with a growing number of Americans who are not religiously affiliated.
It shouldn’t be difficult for Christian lawmakers who hold very different policy views to reject Christian nationalism. Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger responded to Boebert’s comments by calling them out and clarifying that “I say this as a Christian.”
Yet the Republican Party is increasingly accepting of Christian nationalist appeals, such as Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano. The party of former President George W. Bush — who rightly affirmed during the immediate aftermath of 9/11 that “We do not fight Islam” — has given way to a party dominated by Trump.
“As long as we are confident and united, the tyrants we are fighting do not stand a chance. Because we are Americans and Americans kneel to God, and God alone,” Trump said on Saturday at the same Turning Point USA Student Action Summit where Greene also appeared.
Christian lawmakers don’t need to erase their faith from politics. My fellow Baptist, Georgia Democrat Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock, has modeled what it looks like for a pastor to serve in Congress without insisting on a privileged place for Christianity in law and society. Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford, a former Baptist youth pastor, and Delaware Democrat Sen. Chris Coons, who was an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), have found ways to work together out of their common Christian concerns.
It’s not just Christian political leaders that need to do better, it’s all of us. In 2019, I joined a group of prominent Christian leaders in launching the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign. More than 25,000 Christians have joined the campaign as we seek to elevate an alternative Christian public witness.
We all have work to do because it’s not just the relatively few self-proclaimed Christian nationalists we have to worry about; it’s the way the ideology infects so much of American politics and American Christianity often without us even realizing it.
American Christians can and should be self-critical about the ways our faith and our country have been influenced by Christian nationalism, and we need to come together to loudly reject those who would embrace it as their identity and as a policy direction for the country.
Rev. Nathan Empsall, Executive Director of Faithful America, writes at The Daily Beast, Rejecting Christian Nationalism Is What Jesus Would Do:
In 1915, the Ku Klux Klan found revival at Stone Mountain in Georgia in a ceremony that included a U.S. flag and a Holy Bible placed on an altar before a burning cross.
More than a century later, today’s generation of white supremacists are following in their political ancestors’ footsteps, explicitly and proudly embracing the label of “Christian nationalist.” Some are even going so far as to sell merch, with Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) hawking “exclusive” shirts emblazoned with “Proud Christian Nationalist.”
Even before she began advertising the shirts on Instagram with the call to stand against the “Godless Left,” Greene told an interviewer that the Republican Party needs “ to be the party of nationalism and I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists.”
It’s not the first time she has embraced the label. And it’s a dangerous turn of events that requires active, loud opposition from all of us, especially from American Christians, for whom Greene and her allies claim to speak.
As a pastor, if there’s one thing I understand, it’s that Christian nationalism is unchristian and unpatriotic. Academic researchers define the authoritarian ideology as a political worldview—not a religion—that unconstitutionally and unbiblically merges Christian and American identities, declaring that democracy does not matter because America is a “Christian nation” where only conservative Christians count as true Americans.
If there’s any doubt that this is the heart of Christian nationalism, consider these two examples. First, last fall former Trump aide Michael Flynn stood in a Texas megachurch known for its antisemitic pastor and told a crowd chanting “Let’s Go Brandon” that America should have only “one religion.” Then only last month, America First Legal—whose board includes top Trump allies Stephen Miller and Mark Meadows—issued a statement asking the Supreme Court to let the 50 states create official state churches and “establish religion within their borders,” claiming that the First Amendment only applies to the federal government.
The clear goal of Christian nationalism is to seize power only for its mostly white evangelical and conservative Catholic followers, no matter who else gets hurt or how many elections have to be overturned. This is the unholy force that incited the failed coup of Jan. 6, 2021, brought us the recent spate of theocratic Supreme Court opinions, and has inspired multiple wave upon wave of dangerous misinformation about elections, climate change, and COVID-19—all in direct contrast to Jesus’ teachings of love, truth, and the common good.
Whether they speak from the halls of power or the front of a sanctuary, Rep. Greene and her ilk know exactly what they are doing when they so proudly embrace the label of Christian nationalist. Each explicit declaration of Christian nationalism is a blatant attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes and make the anti-democracy extremist ideology seem safe and more palatable, distracting us from the right’s project of seizing power to remake America into a theocracy in their image—a nation where the LGBTQ community, people of color, and non-Christians all lose rights while evangelicals and conservative Catholics are put permanently in charge.
They are America’s false prophets. And Jesus warned us about them.
Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’sclothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
Wrapping their hateful heresy in a T-shirt, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They try to appear righteous, carrying a cross and wrapping themselves in the flag, but instead are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. They cross the land to convert Americans to their hate-filled ideology with the promise of salvation but instead lead their converts astray, dividing families and undermining our democracy at every turn.
Greene would have you believe that all of her critics “hate America [and] hate God,” but this ignores the fact that most Christians are appalled at the way she hijacks the Gospel to justify attending white nationalist rallies and spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories. Yet she’s not alone: evangelical businessman and QAnon believer Clay Clark tells his right-wing political rallies that they’re “Team Jesus” battling the Catholic Joe Biden and the Jewish Anthony Fauci on “Team Satan.”
For all their cries of a “Godless left,” conservative, white evangelicals are only a fraction of American Christianity and an even smaller fraction of America. According to the nonpartisan PRRI, white evangelical Protestants only make up 14.6 percent of the population, but are among the most likely to believe that the election was stolen from Trump and other QAnon lies, and that “American patriots might have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”
They don’t speak for American Christians. And it’s up to us to finally deflate their claims of a monopoly and thus their hold on power, reclaim our religion and its prophetic voice for the Gospel’s true values of love, dignity, equality, and social justice.
Across the country, Christians—clergy and lay folk alike—are speaking out. The Christian organization I lead, Faithful America, has amassed more than 112,000 signatures in the past year alone on actions condemning Greene’s unabashed Christian nationalism and calling for consequences when she and her allies, including political candidates like Doug Mastriano and incumbent Reps. Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert, and Madison Cawthorn, spread violent and hateful Christian nationalist lies. We’re also taking a Christian stand against the ministers and religious leaders who sell out their churches for a taste of power like Franklin Graham, Proud Boy allies Sean Feucht and Greg Locke, and Bishop Joseph Strickland.
A faith-based organization has amassed more than 12,000 [112,000?] signatures rejecting Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s embrace of Christian nationalism, calling the idea “unchristian and unpatriotic.”
Faithful America, an online Christian community that works towards promoting progressive ideas and social justice, launched an online petition on Thursday condemning Greene’s perspective of faith and politics.
“Christian nationalism is unchristian and unpatriotic,” the petition, which had reached 12,00 signatures as of Sunday, says. “It is defined not as a religion but as a political ideology that unconstitutionally and unbiblically merges Christian and American identities, declaring that democracy does not matter because only conservative Christians are true Americans.”
The petition by Faithful America charged Greene and Christian nationalist leaders with worshiping “the false idol of power with the ultimate goal of seizing all authority for themselves and those like them.”
“Time and time again, Rep. Greene has shown herself to be an antisemitic white supremacist who opposes religious freedom for everyone but herself and her fellow right-wing Christians,” Faithful America said in a statement.
I’m particularly inspired by clergy from California to Ohio who have spoken out in opposition to Christian nationalism as the ReAwaken America Tour has rolled into their communities, bringing Greene, Clark, disgraced General Michael Flynn, Roger Stone and dozens of others connected to the Jan. 6 insurrection, QAnon, and the spread of COVID-19 misinformation to local megachurches. Never underestimate the power of speaking out together: When local faith and community leaders petitioned government officials and mobilized against the tour stop in Rochester, New York, they successfully pressured the venue to cancel the event and forced tour organizers to scramble to find a new venue.
Everything Green and her ilk says is a bastardization of the Christian faith, and it is harmful not just to the church but to all Americans. Christians will not ignore this hateful hijacking of Jesus’s name. And we will stand against America’s false prophets in this fall’s midterm season and beyond.
Amen to that, Sister!