February 18: We Oppose Christian Nationalism

Wake Up! We Oppose Christian Nationalism

(Many Scriptures Interspersed)  

 February 18, 2024 (HymnThis is My Song and How Beautiful 594

What can we do about Christian nationalism?

That’s the question I’d like for you to be pondering today. At the end of the message, I’ll give you a chance to share any thoughts you might have.

This is the second in a three-part message series during this month of February on Waking Up. As we celebrate Black History Month, we are called as Christians to wake up to the harm we have contributed to people of color in this nation. Our loving God invites us to wake up, to learn, to repent, and to work for the coming of God’s kindom on earth as it is in heaven.

          In last week’s Scripture, Paul said, “These are evil times, so make every minute count.”

I believe we are facing in our day some great evils that need to be confronted by people of faith. We’re going to learn how we can make every minute count in extending God’s love to all and especially to those who have experienced harm in this country.

Today, we are going to deal with the evil of Christian Nationalism.

          Christian nationalism in our country today contends that the United States has been and should always be distinctively Christian from top to bottom. Christian nationalism affirms that because we are a Christian nation, we are God’s chosen nation. The ideology surrounding Christian nationalism says that the true citizens of the United States are the white, native-born, Evangelical Christians.

Christian nationalism is connected with many of the evil “isms” we face in our country today like racism, sexism, nativism, authoritarianism, tribalism and militarism. All of them play a strong role in the Christian nationalism we see around us.

          It all started in 1493 when Columbus returned to Spain bringing with him a dozen captive Indigenous people. It was the beginning of slavery in America. At the same time the church was creating a doctrine that supported it called the Doctrine of Discovery. It claims that European civilization and western Christianity are superior to all other cultures, races and religions. It merged the interests of European imperialism with Christian missionary zeal. It highlighted the divine entitlement of white European Christians who were chosen by God to rule over whatever and whoever they discovered in the New World.

          Modern day Christian nationalism took off with the rise of Evangelicalism in the 1950’s. Three years ago a book came out about this fascinating history. Kristin Kobes Du Mez from Calvin University in Grand Rapids wrote a book entitled: Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. She traced the start of the modern movement to Billy Graham, Jack Hyles, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell. It was a disturbing look at how some people I used to respect drove the evangelical church and the country toward Christian nationalism.

          The pinnacle of Christian nationalism in our day was on January 6, 2021. The insurrection was inspired by the ideology of Christian nationalism. Christian symbols were prominent on that day. In their own words, the insurrectionists explained that this was their country, the Christian God had ordained it, and Trump was chosen by God to lead it.

Let’s look now at the evil “isms” that are connected to Christian nationalism today. And we’ll look at some Scriptures that point to what I would see as God’s perspective.

Let’s start with racism. Christian nationalism has always been intimately tied to race and is often referred to as White Christian nationalism. This started with the Doctrine of Discovery in the 1500’s which privileged white Europeans. The present Christian nationalist movement was invigorated by the fears of racial integration in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. It was a backlash to the progress made by the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, racism has been embraced fully by many in the Christian nationalist movement today.

Liturgist reads the Scripture: Luke 10:25-29

Our second ism that is connected with Christian nationalism is sexism. I’ll be talking more about this next week. Sexism and patriarchy have been present forever. But the Christian nationalist movement and evangelical Christianity have underlined it and emphasized it greatly in the past seventy years. They have pushed back against the feminist movement and called for a return of male driven, father knows best culture. They support masculine authority and the subordination of all women both at home and in the world.  

Liturgist read Genesis 1: 26-27

One of the distinguishing characteristics of Christian nationalism today is the ‘ism’ called nativism. It means that only native-born citizens deserve to be in our country. Immigration, especially from non-European countries, is opposed. Another name to describe this is xenophobia – a fear of and dislike for people from other countries. We see this in spades today as we hear talk about the Southern Border. Christian nationalism highlights their fear of the stranger and foreigner. I remember when we used to celebrate the way that so many people wanted to come to our country for its freedoms and opportunities. Now, they demonize and dehumanize those who are trying to come to our country.

Liturgist: Acts 10: 34-35

          The next ism is authoritarianism. Christian nationalism is associated with a very top-down hierarchical system that empowers those at the top with great authority and power. It’s a power that wants to maintain control over people to solidify and extend the privileges of white, native-born evangelical Christians. This authoritarianism is probably the greatest threat to our present system of government we refer to as democracy.

Liturgist read Mark 10:35-45

          Another ism associated with Christian nationalism is tribalism. It’s about our in group which is better than your out group. Tribalism is exacerbated by fear. It’s a fear of the other. A fear of the outsider. A fear that they are going to come and take what we have.

The fact that our nation is moving toward not having a white majority drives this fear up. The fact that so many people are leaving the Christian faith or bringing other faiths to our country drives this fear up. Christian nationalists are afraid that their tribe of white, native-born Evangelical Christians is shrinking and so therefore they feel threatened. They claim they are under attack, when really, it’s about demographic changes.  

Liturgist reads: Matthew 5:43-48

A final ‘ism’ associated with Christian nationalism is militarism and the support of violence. Du Mez in her book Jesus and John Wayne refers to this as militant masculinity. She shows how this has been baked into the evangelical Christian nationalist culture from its beginning. The belief is that our Christian nation and our Christian faith needs to be defended using righteous violence, either collectively or individually. Christian nationalism sanctifies and legitimates the use of violence whether historically toward indigenous tribes in North America or enslaved persons from Africa or more recently toward congressional representatives on January 6, 2021. This violence is used and deserved when it serves any outcome viewed as “God’s Plan”.

Liturgist read Matthew 26:47-54

Christian nationalism is connected with these six evil isms: racism, sexism, nativism, authoritarianism, tribalism, and militarism. Our Scriptures have highlighted ways these isms are contrary to our deepest beliefs. Most of all they are incompatible with the second great commandment which is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

So, what do we do about Christian nationalism?

I’d like to hear from you now. What do you think we should do about Christian nationalism and these six isms that it’s associated with?

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