I’ve been hearing a phrase in the last few years called “Christian Nationalism” and the more I hear the more I’m concerned. Don’t get me wrong: I’m proud to be both American and Christian but along with our Founders I believe that both institutions function best when they are separate.
Christian Nationalists believe that the United States was founded on specific Christian values, that we have drifted away from these values, and the only hope for our future is to reclaim and recapture them. Problem is, they tend to be pretty selective in which Christian values they embrace. So, in no particular order, here are my objections to this movement:
- Several of our Founders practiced a Christianity we would barely recognize. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and our 3rd President. He was a Deist in the sense that he believed in God but he didn’t believe parts of the Bible that spoke of Jesus’ miracles or Jesus’ resurrection. He took a razor and edited out those parts of the Gospels he believed and pasted them together in a book called The Jefferson Bible. It ends with the crucifixion of Jesus but stops there.
- The Founders did hold strong beliefs that a person need not be a believer. The 1st Amendment of the Constitution not only allows Americans to believe what they wanted, that included having no beliefs at all. I used to work with someone who grew up in Germany. When she started working she was told that part of her salary would be paid to either the Lutheran or Catholic Church and she was asked to choose one. She didn’t want her government to give anything to support religion but was told that wasn’t an option. As an American I recoiled at this. Because of our 1st Amendment nobody is required to support any faith. Christian Nationalists would make it more and more difficult not to hold Christian beliefs.
- They are selective in which Christian beliefs they support. They are strong in their opposition to marriage equality or other LGBT rights but they say little or nothing about Christian values about welcoming the stranger or feeding the hungry. They clearly use the Bible to back up their beliefs that exclude others.
- They don’t know as much as they claim to know. There was movement to place the 10 Commandments in public places, arguing that this should be the basis of American values. But ask one of them to recite the 10 Commandments. In 2006 Stephen Colbert hosted a show on Comedy Central and he would interview politicians. You can read about this here and it’s good for a laugh. Stephen was interviewing Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland who proposed that the 10 Commandments be displayed in Congress. Mr. Westmoreland argued that this was something we all needed to know. But when asked to recite them, he could only name 3 of them.
At the end of the day my problem with Christian Nationalism is this: it’s not about Christianity or Nationalism. It’s about fascism. A small group of entitled people who want to ensure that their feelings aren’t hurt, who don’t want their prejudices challenged, and want to make sure “those people” know their place. I don’t believe Jesus would have any place for Christian Nationalism.