Over the years, I’ve heard, more times than I can count, Christian Nationalists prattle on how important it is for people and even governments to adopt “biblical Christianity.” I heard it constantly during the meetings of Religious Right groups I’ve attended in the past.
The phrase surfaced again a few days ago in a press release from pollster Geroge Barna. Barna, who runs the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, was bemoaning that America’s preteens are, as he put it, “on track to abandon biblical Christianity in record numbers.”
So, what exactly is “biblical Christianity”? How is it different from just plain old Christianity?
A dangerous euphemism
Having heard this term bandied about for decades, I’ve noticed something: The only people using it regularly tend to be Christian Nationalists. It is a euphemism. If they called their beliefs what they really are – “Hate-filled religious extremism wedded to far-right politics that seeks to deny huge swaths of the population all their rights and that rejects modernity, science and, increasingly, reality” – there would likely be a backlash.
The term is also inherently divisive: It posits that there are the real, authentic Christians who espouse biblical Christianity (i.e. fundamentalists who hew to ultraconservative political views) and other Christians who may adopt liberal or moderate views. The implication is that the latter camp is somehow fake; after all, they’re not “biblical.”
But who says they’re not? A liberal Christian can read the Bible and conclude, based on Jesus’ frequent admonitions to help the poor, that fighting poverty is true biblical Christianity. This same liberal Christian might point out that fundamentalists’ obsessions over abortion and LGBTQ+ rights are misguided, given that Jesus never said a word about these issues. Fundamentalists, in turn, might point to some passages from the Hebrew Bible that they believe buttresses their view.
At the end of the day, we are too often left with a proof-texting contest – a poor basis for governing indeed.
Christian Nationalist code language
Too often, phrases like “biblical Christianity” are just Christian Nationalist code language for, “My version of Christianity is superior to everyone else’s. The government should embrace it.”
That’s a dangerous attitude. Its prevalence among some members of the population is a reminder of why we need to keep advocating for the one thing that stands in its way: a high and firm wall of separation between church and state.