Christian nationalism is ahistorical and un-American. To many believers of that faith, it’s also un-Christian. Among them is the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and columnist for Religion News Service. Reese makes the case for the un-Christian nature of Christian nationalism in a recent piece appropriately titled “Why Christian nationalism Is un-Christian.”
Christian nationalism, Reese observes, is inherently divisive. It’s all about “us vs. them,” and it simplistically seeks to divide Americans into warring camps: the good guys (those who agree with the Christian nationalist interpretation of faith) and the bad guys (everyone else).
Reese rejects this view, writing, “The Gospels ask us to look beyond the borders of our community, beyond the borders of our neighborhoods and beyond the borders of our nation. A Christian must see all people as brothers and sisters capable of hearing God’s Spirit. We can learn to hear the Lord better by listening to and respecting one another. This is what ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is all about.”
Reese also affirms the non-religious nature of the U.S. government. “Today, many Americans embrace Christian nationalism, arguing that the founders of our republic were Christians and they meant us to be a Christian nation,” he writes. “While it is historically true that most of our founding fathers were Christians, it is also true that they wanted a secular government, free of religion. They had seen how uniting politics and religion in Europe led to religious persecutions and wars. These wars and persecutions led many to flee Europe for America. The founders wanted a government that would treat people of all faiths equally.”
The column provides a necessary reminder that when Christian nationalist candidates call for a government based on “Christian” principles, they mean Christianity as they define it – a toxic blend of ultraconservative politics and fundamentalism that would exclude not just non-Christians and non-believers but millions of Christians as well.
Christians, especially those who may be tempted by the lies of Christian nationalism, should read and meditate on Reese’s column. They need to be reminded that there is another path, one that millions of their co-religionists believe is truer to the spirit of the founder of their faith.