A group of left-wing Christian officials and pastors has published a declaration against what it calls “Christian nationalism” and also includes statements made by some of the signatories.
“Christians Against Christian Nationalism” Specifically references the confluence of American and Christian identities that the authors believe has long existed on the right. This statement has been endorsed by Rev. Dr. Paul Baxley, Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, and Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ.
“Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy,” The statement reads, giving an impression that Christian nationalism is a clear danger to the political system of the United States.
According to the statement, Christian nationalism endangers democracy because, “Christian nationalism demands that Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian.” Furthermore, the authors of the report accuse Christian nationalism of providing, “cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation.” The authors of this statement go on to specifically condemn Christian nationalism as a “damaging political ideology” and urge all Christians to join them in fighting this enemy of both Christianity and democracy.
The statement goes on to list and endorse several statements of faith targeted at the specter of Christian nationalism that the authors have created. However, most of these statements are ones that few people disagree with. Statements such as, “People of all faiths and none have the right and responsibility to engage constructively in the public square” and “Patriotism does not require us to minimize our religious convictions” are agreed upon by the vast majority of Americans and are only contentious in fringe circles on both the Left or the Right. The statement continues, “Patriotism does not require us to minimize our religious convictions. One’s religious affiliation, or lack thereof, should be irrelevant to one’s standing in the civic community. Government should not prefer one religion over another or religion over nonreligion.” The statements of belief targeting Christian nationalism continue to be nonissue softballs designed to be palatable to all but the most radical Christians. The rest of the statements follows this pattern.
The final point on this list is one of the most interesting: “We must stand up to and speak out against Christian nationalism, especially when it inspires acts of violence and intimidation—including vandalism, bomb threats, arson, hate crimes, and attacks on houses of worship.” While all acts of hate are to be explicitly condemned and disavowed, domestic terrorists who identify as Christian are few and far between. The core doctrines of Christianity forbid terrorist violence, and Christians know this.
A list of endorsers is included alongside the statement. Each figure listed also included a short comment on the problems with Christian nationalism, and many of these statements serve to expand on the original declaration somewhat. The point that conflating political ideology and religion is fundamentally idolatrous is made repeatedly.
“The merging of faith and politics into a single ideology is idolatrous and dangerous,” writes Jimmy Hawkins, director of the Office of Public Witness for the Presbyterian Church (USA). While this is certainly something to be avoided, I doubt it is a major issue among the evangelicals despite the insistence of left-wing Christians.
David Closson, Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview for the Family Research Council, recently published an article on the Statement Against Christian Nationalism. In this article he takes a less than charitable view of both the article and the authors saying, “No one is seriously arguing that “to be a good American, one must be a Christian.” This points to the insincere motives of this movement…” Closson argues that the idea of Christian nationalism, in the way it is defined by the religious left, does not represent an honest critique of evangelicalism in the United States, but instead, “theologically liberal Christians are fearful of the gains social conservatives have made in the last few years, and they are attempting to sideline faithful Christians by creating… a “radioactive term” to sully their reputation.”
The current uproar over Christian nationalism has not been brought on by a massive rise in this ideology on the Religious Right, but instead has been manufactured by the Religious Left as a strawman argument with which to tar conservative and traditionalist Christians as part of an ongoing campaign to silence those who disagree with them.