“You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3
People of faith are as susceptible to idolatry as anyone. The bottom line is that God is God and we are not. We are not called to worship the Bible (the Bible is not God), the Church (the Church is not God), the Pastor (the Pastor is not God) or our nation.
We live in a nation of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Bahai, Hindus, and Zororastrians. According to this Pew study, the breakdown of religions in the United States looked something like this in 2017: Christian (70.6%), Jewish (1.9%), Muslim (.9%), Buddhist (.7%), Hindu (.7%) and unaffiliated (22.8%). Again, that was 2017. Pew now reports that only 65% of Americans self-identify as Christian. The numbers of self-professing Christians decreases every year.
Is this why Christian nationalism seems to be on the rise – because there is that whole fear of being replaced by non-Christians, not to mention people of faith – or no faith – who are not white?
You can’t be a serious Christian and a Christian Nationalist. They are incompatible.
By definition “Christian nationalism is the belief that the American nation is defined by Christianity, and that the government should take active steps to keep it that way. Popularly, Christian nationalists assert that America is and must remain a Christian nation—not merely as an observation about American history, but as a prescriptive program for what America must continue to be in the future.” (Christianity Today)
Scholars Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry summarize Christian nationalism beliefs with the following statements:
- The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation.
- The federal government should advocate Christian values.
- The federal government should not enforce the strict separation of church and state.
- The federal government should allow religious symbols in public spaces.
- The success of the United States is part of God’s plan.
- The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.
The belief that the Founding Fathers intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation is a lie.
Christian Nationalists seem to believe that “everyone needs to know their place” and there is – in fact – no place for immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQA+ people, and non-White people. Policies on gun control, police shootings, gender roles, and abortion are based on their own non-negotiable understanding of “Christian values.”
Compare these ideas with what we know about Jesus. Jesus lifted up foreigners as heroes. He healed people of physical and mental brokenness. He engaged in theological conversations with women. And his own band of disciples who were not exactly rabbi material. Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. Jesus challenged those who would conflate Roman rule with the reign of God. Jesus didn’t own a weapon.
There are many reports about the fact that today’s White Christian Nationalists – many of whom are supporters of the former President – have no church affiliation. (Are they Chinos? Christians In Name Only? Actually a lot of us fall into that category.)
We can’t know the teachings of Jesus if we don’t study the teachings of Jesus. There was nothing resembling the message of Jesus among those who broke into the Capitol on January 6, 2021. And I suspect that the killer of four Muslim men in Albuquerque last week had Christian nationalist inclinations just like the killer of nine Black Church people in Charleston and the killer of seven Sikh worshippers in Milwaukee and the killer of 23 Latinos in El Paso and the killer of eleven people in a Pittsburgh synagogue and the killer of ten Black people in Buffalo. White nationalism kills.
We in the Church are called to gird ourselves against those who confuse the message of Jesus and the fear of White Nationalists. We are called to acknowledge and dismantle White Supremacy. We are called to speak the Truth in love.
And if we really want to follow Jesus, we must participate in government (i.e. vote) according to what Jesus actually teaches about money, foreigners, greed, women (Jesus trusted them), lepers, children, healing, and love. The pastoral is political, folks. Jesus was killed for sedition.
And also, there is nothing Christian about Christian Nationalism.