Christian nationalism – the belief that a narrow version of right-wing, fundamentalist Christianity should merge with the state, direct public policy and control the lives of others – is a noxious, ahistorical view that stands in opposition to religious freedom and the separation of church and state.
Americans United has battled Christian nationalism for decades. By debunking the false “Christian nation” history proffered by the extremists of the Religious Right and advocating for the right of all Americans – religious and non-religious – to worship (or not) as they see fit, AU has stood up for the vision of our Founders of a multi-faith, multi-philosophy society where a variety of religions exist but none receives government support.
Despite its clear fallacious nature, Christian nationalism has proven hard to overcome. Most recently, it has gained new life thanks to the Trump-Pence administration’s unholy alliance with the Religious Right, a partnership that has spawned policies undermining church-state separation. Christian nationalism has also reared its head through Project Blitz, a coordinated effort led by religious extremists to push dangerous bills through the state legislatures.
The good news is that Christian nationalism has a formidable new foe: a coalition of religious leaders and laypeople who best know why it’s false – because they’re Christians themselves.
The new effort, Christians Against Christian Nationalism, is sponsored by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), a long-time ally of Americans United. The BJC, which hews to the traditional Baptist view that church-state separation is the best protector of freedom of conscience, is pulling together Christians of all denominations to sign a powerful statement that debunks Christian nationalism and reminds all Americans of the importance of religious freedom.
“Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy,” observes the statement. “Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation. We reject this damaging political ideology and invite our Christian brothers and sisters to join us in opposing this threat to our faith and to our nation.”
Although this statement is geared toward Christians, non-Christians and non-theists will be heartened to see that it strongly endorses the right of all Americans to adopt non-Christian faiths or reject religion entirely. The statement asserts, “One’s religious affiliation, or lack thereof, should be irrelevant to one’s standing in the civic community” and adds, “Government should not prefer one religion over another or religion over nonreligion.”
Christians can sign the statement here. If you’re not Christian, you can still help out by sharing the statement with your family and friends who are.
For too long, Religious Right groups have obnoxiously laid claim to the word “Christian” and sought to twist it for their own (often political) ends. But make no mistake, the “Christian nation” they seek to create reflects only a narrow slice of American Christianity – it’s a far-right, narrow, fundamentalist vision that would exclude not just non-Christians and non-theists but millions of other Christians as well.
Christians Against Christian Nationalism is a welcome, necessary rebuke of that disturbing vision. Soaring above crabbed and dark ideas of theocracy, the effort challenges us to embrace the principles of our Founders: a nation where all are free to believe and worship – or not – as each sees fit and no American need fear being treated like a second-class citizen based on what he or she believes about God.
(Photo: Roy Moore addresses the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit)