The term “Christian nationalism” was invented by the country’s liberal “occupiers” as part of a “Maoist insurgency” to deny religious freedom and democratic rights to evangelicals, according to a recent town hall hosted by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.

Perkins and Hamrick

The conservative church “is surrounded by this huge army ‘determined’ to discourage us and call us to stand back,” Perkins said Oct. 12 during “The Rise of the Term Christian Nationalism: Where Did It Come From and why is it used?” a hybrid rally featuring former US congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and other conservative voices.

But their claims were met with immediate opposition in a follow-up webinar by Christian leaders arguing that Christian nationalism is the political and religious ideology driving efforts to limit voting rights, threaten democracy and end democracy. separation of church and state.

“Perkins and his guests pretended that Christian nationalism was just a label given to ‘followers of Jesus Christ'” in an attempt to brand critics as fanatics, said Nathan Empsall, Episcopal priest and executive director of Faithful America, a basic Christian. social justice organization and host of a webinar convened immediately after the conservative town hall.

“In making this claim, it is in fact Perkins and his panel who have marginalized tens of millions of Christians by confusing all Christianity with conservative, white evangelical Christianity, ignoring that ours is a diverse, beautiful, global religion and that many, if not most, critics of Christian nationalism are Christians,” Empsall said.

Christianity under attack?

But attendees at the “Pray Vote Stand” event organized by FRC and Regent University, where Bachmann is dean of affairs, were adamant that they and other conservative Christians are under attack.

Those who warn of the rise of Christian nationalism are “intentionally trying to intimidate the church, yes, to intimidate Christians, to make us think that we are the haters and the bigots,” said Gary Hamrick, pastor of Cornerstone Chapel, in Leesburg, Virginia, church that housed the town hall. “It’s just an attempt to marginalize us. They want you to sit down. They don’t want you engaged.

Marc David Hall

President Mark David Hall, a professor of politics at George Fox University, described the term “Christian nationalism” as a concoction of those “who wanted to confuse God and country” with racism, sexism and militarism.

The role of ideology in the January 6 uprising has been exaggerated, and popular research claiming its widespread support has been “fundamentally flawed” and designed to communicate that “if you try to advocate for a more robust understanding of religious freedom , you are a fanatic”. he told the conservative group.

Stephen Coughlin

Stephen Coughlin, a lawyer and former military intelligence officer, said the term is a weapon of ‘political warfare’ based on ‘the Maoist insurgency model’, which is ‘the dominant form of the left occupying the United States right now”.

The LGBTQ and Black Lives Matter movements are expressions of this insurgency, Coughlin added. “It denies your right to say you’re American, you’re Christian.”

Defend “biblical values”

Bachmann told conservative audiences to take heart because the left’s need to use the term “Christian nationalism” shows that Christians uphold biblical values.

Michele Bachmann

“We are here today because some of us noticed that there was something going on in the culture, and that was for all of you. He was aiming for the church. …And it was aimed at the church because the church did something good and the believers did something good.

These biblical values ​​got Donald Trump elected president in 2016, leading to the appointment of values-driven Supreme Court justices who, in turn, ended Roe vs. Wade, she says. “And this is how a nation can be a nation that serves the Lord, because it understands the Lord.”

A rebuttal

Empsall countered that this fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity and the nation proves that Christian nationalism exists.

Empsall book with Butler

“This is how they justify the adoption of public policies based on a conservative form of religion, such as the denial of LGBTQ rights, access to abortion and attacks on school curricula,” a- he declared. “Without the affirmation that America is a Christian nation where conservative Christians should have more rights than non-Christians, there is no legal justification to support these theocratic attacks on equal rights.”

Hence the urgent need for an impromptu webinar to push back against the claims of Perkins and his colleagues, he said. “Tonight we are talking about Christian nationalism, which is perhaps the greatest threat to democracy and the Church today. And that is why more and more Christians across the country are speaking out against this political hijacking of our faith, why it contradicts the gospel, and why so many Christians oppose Christian nationalism.

A “danger to the church”

Besides being a threat to democracy, Christian nationalism is also a danger to the church itself, said Jemar Tisby, professor of history at Simmons College in Kentucky and author of How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey to Racial Justice.

Jemar Tisby

“When people say they are leaving Christianity or want nothing to do with it, what reasons do they give? Is it because Christians are too inclusive, too loving? No, it’s because they look at white Christian nationalists who say the nation should prioritize Christians who have some understanding of religion over everyone else.

Tisby, some of whose tweets denouncing Christian nationalism were criticized during the Perkins town hall, added that the black church is being ignored by those who think the United States should be tied to only one form of Christianity.

“The black church and black people have been patriots from the beginning, fighting in every war this nation has had despite not having the same rights as anyone else.”

“That’s one of the things that weighs on me the most: the complete denial of the existence and legitimacy of the historic black Christian tradition,” he said. “There is no analysis or room for the idea that people can practice Christianity in any other way than they are proposing. The reality is that black Christians have put forward a very different model of how faith and politics interact. … The black church and black people have been patriots from the beginning, fighting in every war this nation has had despite not having the same rights as anyone else.

Tisby noted that Perkins and his followers offered “no acknowledgment that people can deeply, deeply believe in Jesus and try to follow Jesus, but do it in such a different way. Just understand what is being put forward because Christianity by white Christian nationalists is not the only witness.

In ‘conflict with Scripture’

The hierarchy of values ​​that Christian nationalism places on human beings based on skin color and religion is in direct conflict with Scripture, said Jennifer Butler, Presbyterian minister, founder-in-residence of Faith in Public Life and author of Who stole my Bible? : Retrieving the Scriptures as a Manual for Resisting Tyranny.

Jennifer Butler

Understanding that the God of the Bible is a liberator, she said, will help push “for multiracial, multifaith democracy and to reclaim our faith for what it is: a truly radical call to honor the dignity of every to be human on this planet regardless of race, nationality, religion, sexuality and gender, and to understand that God is the God who frees the slaves and frees those who have been oppressed.

Butler urged an examination of biblical accounts such as the liberation of the ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt to better understand God’s role in the type of subjugation envisioned by Christian nationalists.

“Christian nationalism is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

“I think a lot of white Christians in America today have been misled. Christian nationalism is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s not Christianity, but it uses the symbols and images of Christianity to cover up the violence, hierarchy and oppression, and he uses language that seems acceptable to people.

Opposition to Christian nationalism must be rooted in Holy Scripture, she said. “Our text is truly a manual for resisting tyranny and authoritarianism” because “our entire Bible helps ground us in spiritual practices that can help us get through this present moment.”

Believers must also join coalitions to oppose Christian nationalism and white supremacy, Butler added. “It is important now that we really speak out and help people understand the values ​​we bring, in terms of human dignity and liberation, to the public square. There have been times when we have been reluctant to do this, but we can do this in a way that elevates an inclusive vision for the whole nation.

Connection on January 6

Sojourners Chairman Adam Russell Taylor has cited the January 6, 2021, uprising and Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen election as examples of Christian nationalism gone mad. “This marriage between white Christian nationalism and the MAGA movement poses a grave threat to our democracy.”

Adam Russell Taylor

This fact was noticeable even at the Family Research Council event which “severely misrepresented and underestimated the extent to which Christian symbols were misused and abused on January 6,” Taylor said. “They never mentioned the Oathkeepers by name. They never mentioned the Proud Boys and other extremist groups, many of whose members prayed not only at the Capitol, but before entering the Capitol and engaging in a violent insurrection.

The consequences of Christian nationalism were also evident in other ways, Taylor said. “Former President Trump doubled down on the big lie…as a pretext to justify a series of efforts across the country to make it harder for communities of color, especially black and brown communities, to exercise their sacred right to vote.”

The fruits of this deception can be seen in the race-based electoral barriers erected in Southern and Midwestern states, he claimed. “There is this strong connection between the white Christian nationalist movement and a strong adherence to an anti-democratic movement in this country. They must both resist to rehabilitate the witness of the Church and to protect what has become a very fragile democracy.

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