In a major roundtable with the Christians Against Christian Nationalism initiative and Jim Wallis last week, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, underscored an important fact: Christian nationalism* is not the Christianity.
“If you take the complex of white Christian nationalism as an ideology,” Curry warned, “you put it next to Jesus of Nazareth and we’re not even talking about the same thing.”
Curry, like so many other prophetic Christian leaders, is right. Where Jesus taught love, peace and truth, Christian nationalism preaches division, violence and misinformation. Yet with hundreds of right-wing political candidates using the name of Christ to deny election results, demonize their opponents and spread discrimination – all with the blessing of too many pastors and evangelical activists – Christian nationalism is the greatest threat to both democracy and the church today.
Christian nationalism is defined by several academic researchers and sociologists as a theocratic political ideology that says America was founded to be a Christian nation, asserts that the only true Americans are the country’s Christians, and frequently overlaps with white supremacy. It erroneously teaches that there is no separation of church and state – and urges conservative Christians to seize and retain power by any means necessary.
It’s the ideology that inspired the January 6 insurgency, stages countless attacks on equal rights for Americans, and may soon inspire a new wave of midterm political violence with rhetoric about “holy war.” » and « the armor of God » if the elections do not pass their way.
In his panel at Georgetown University, Presiding Bishop Curry urged Christians to speak out about this misappropriation of our faith: “Silence is complicity… Lift the text of the New Testament, especially the four Gospels… and let the Jesus. Anything that claims to be Christian, if it don’t fit, then we say, “Well, that’s not Christianity.”
This is precisely the aim of the new campaign of the organization that I lead, Faithful America, called “False prophets do not speak for me”. To help Christians recognize and respond to Christian nationalism when they see it – in the public square as well as in our churches – we have identified a list of 20 top Christian nationalist leaders who, as Jesus warned, come to we in sheep’s clothing but inside are ravenous wolves who devour the oppressed, the marginalized and the least of them.
Our list includes three categories of false prophets. The first category consists of political leaders who claim to speak in the name of Jesus, using rhetoric and religious symbols to build their careers only to turn around and endanger the public with election denial, homophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, patriarchy and other attacks on the common good. .
This category includes Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, who says there is no such thing as separation of church and state, Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who built her campaign on Donald Trump’s big lie with the slogan “God, guns and glory”. and Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, who led the charge to overturn the election to Congress on January 6, 2021.
The second category of false prophets are other political leaders who may not use as much overt religious rhetoric as their peers named above, but who nevertheless endorse the same theocratic political agenda, help build the power of their fellow Christian nationalists and attack equality. rights despite personally identifying as a Christian. Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters and Ohio Senate candidate JD Vance both fit that description. This category reminds us that many leaders and teachers realize that the First Amendment is actually still quite popular, and thus attempt to hide the theocratic nature of their agenda.
The final category of false prophets names some of the pastors, televangelists, and other movement leaders who build the long-term infrastructure that the religious right uses to thrive in church and society. It is the religious leaders who provide church cover for legislators who twist the name of Jesus for power and who manipulate their followers as a political base rather than souls seeking spiritual education and pastoral care. .
Some examples of the latter category are Franklin Graham, who gets away with saying that election denial and MAGA conspiracy theories are “what God says in the Bible” hiding behind the legacy of his father, Michael Flynn , which is bringing dozens of QAnon-gushing pastors to churches. across the country on the ReAwaken America tour, and David Barton, the evangelical pseudo-historian partly responsible for manipulating voters into believing that well-funded national attacks on school boards are grassroots “parents’ rights” movements. “.
That is why it behooves those of us who identify as Red Letter Christians not to remain silent. We need to recognize the evil being done in our name and speak out against the gross abuse of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Much of the False Prophets campaign is raising the prophetic voices of religious leaders across the country who are resisting Christian nationalism in their communities. As one of our volunteers, Ohio Lutheran pastor Beth Westphal, told us: “JD Vance’s embrace of Christian nationalism inspires discrimination, division and discord masked by the language of faith. . As a clergyman, I cannot sit quietly while such evil is done in the name of Christianity.
Here are three things we can all do right now to push back against Christian nationalism: First, make a plan to vote your red letter values, if you haven’t already. Are you still registered to vote? When will you vote and how will you get to your polling place or drop box? Are there voter ID requirements in your state? Learn the answer to these questions and more at Voting 411 from the League of Women Voters now.
Next, learn about Christian nationalism. One place to start is to watch Faithful America’s new “The Threat of Christian Nationalism” webinar with myself, historian Dr. Jemar Tisby, Reverend Jen Butler of Faith in Public Life, and Reverend Adam Russell Taylor of Sojourners. (Stick around for the Q&A—Prof Tisby’s list of three ways to talk to the Christian nationalists in your life is especially helpful!) Then share what you learn with friends, family, and members of the community. church, sign and share the “False Prophets Don’t Speak for Me,” and find a local organizing group where you can put your newfound knowledge to good use.
Finally, pray. Pray for justice, mercy and humility. Pray for peace, hope and courage. Pray for our nationalist Christian brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for the country and pray as the Spirit may lead you. We know from the “thoughts and prayers” talk around guns that prayer alone is not enough, but as Christians we also know that when prayer is paired with action, it becomes a powerful tool for hope, connection and a better future.
Nathan Empsall is the executive director of Faithful America. He is an Episcopal priest and an experienced organizer who holds both a master’s degree in theology and a master’s degree in environmental management, as well as a bachelor’s degree in government and Native American studies. He has worked for numerous dioceses and organizations of the Episcopal Church, including the United Nations, is a volunteer member of his denomination’s task force on creation protection and environmental racism, founded the independent Episcopal Climate News and is a part-time pastor. Follow him on Twitter @NathanEmpsall.
*Our style at word and manner is to capitalize the “N” to begin nationalism, even though many other journalists and scholars do not. Why? Because we capitalize the names of religions. And that’s why we spend time confronting this heretical co-option of our faith. Christian nationalism is not Christian.