On this blog and in the pages of Church & State, Americans United has explored the role Christian nationalism played in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. It was significant. Yet more than a year after the assault on the U.S. Capitol, Christian nationalists continue to either shift the blame for what they did or downplay the seriousness of the event.
Americans United and other groups are determined not to let them get away with that. Last week, three organizations – the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and Christians Against Christian Nationalism – released a new report that provides an in-depth look at how Christian nationalism drove the events of that fateful day.
In the report’s Introduction, Amanda Tyler, executive director of BJC, provides a succinct definition of Christian nationalism.
Christian nationalism,” she writes, “is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism relies on the mythological founding of the United States as a ‘Christian nation,’ singled out for God’s providence in order to fulfill God’s purposes on earth. Christian nationalism demands a privileged place for Christianity in public life, buttressed by the active support of government at all levels.”
But Tyler is quick to note that Christian nationalism is not synonymous with Christianity, pointing out that the ideology “has been rebuked by a wide variety of individuals and organizations, including Christian groups and individuals, both clergy and laity. In other words, to oppose and work against Christian nationalism is not to oppose Christianity; in fact, many Christians see opposing Christian nationalism as key to preserving the faith.”
The report is broken into several sections, authored by prominent scholars, writers and activists. They include Tyler; Andrew Seidel, FFRF’s director of strategic response; Samuel L. Perry, associate professor of sociology and religious studies at the University of Oklahoma; Andrew L. Whitehead, associate professor of sociology and director of the Association of Religion Data Archives at the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Anthea Butler, Geraldine R. Segal professor of American social thought at the University of Pennsylvania; Jemar Tisby, author, national speaker and public historian; and Katherine Stewart, writer and researcher on Christian nationalism.
The report should dispel any claims that Christian nationalism is not a serious threat to American values. Indeed, it is fundamentally anti-democratic. Remember, the goal of the insurrectionists was to overturn the results of an election because they didn’t like the outcome. They sought to use violence and force to award the presidency to Donald Trump, even though he was not the legitimate winner in 2020.
As Seidel noted during the report’s release, Christian nationalism is “an existential threat to the American republic.”
This richly detailed report makes that clear. Read it and be enlightened. But don’t stop there. Resolve to protect our Constitution from those who, while waving banners of faith and family, yearn to trash our nation’s core values.