Countering the Anti-Semitism of Christian Nationalism: Genesis 12:1-4

Countering the Anti-Semitism of Christian Nationalism: Genesis 12:1-4 February 27, 2023

Christians must speak out against anti-Semitism. A sermon on Genesis 12:1-4a can help counter Christian Nationalist hatred against Jews.

Judaism, Star of David
Christians must speak out against anti-Semitism and stand in solidarity with Jewish neighbors. Image by Freepik,

The reflection below is one I wrote for “Jesus and Justice in Public,” a study-action guide by the Wisconsin Council of Churches. They developed this guide to help the Church respond to the rising threats of White Christian Nationalism that have become increasingly violent and include attacks on our democracy. The guide offers hands-on ways that the Church has historically engaged in civic life and what these practices can look like in our modern context. 

I was invited to write a series of homiletical helps so that preachers can connect these lessons to the the readings in Lent from the Revised Common Lectionary for Year A.  This reflection is for the Second Sunday of Lent. However, these essays can be used at any time of the year.

Christofascism on the rise


In the summer of 2017, hundreds of angry white men carrying torches, most of them likely claiming to be Christians, marched in Charlottesville, Virginia.  They screamed and chanted, “Jews will not replace us.”  As Carter Heyward observes in her book, The 7 Deadly Sins of White Christian Nationalism, this chant “signaled the hateful and Christofascist substance of the anti-Semitism lurking throughout Western Christian history and manifest shamefully in contemporary America,” (12).

7 Deadly Sins of White Christian Nationalism, cover

Anti-Semitism has deep roots going back to biblical times when the Hebrew people were demonized, invaded, conquered, and enslaved in repeating waves of violence and forced migration.  History is replete with Jewish persecution in various forms, whether the pogroms in Europe, or the Shoah in Nazi Germany, or the 2018 murders at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. And just last week on Feb. 25, 2023, Christian Nationalists called for a “Day of Hate” across their networks to target Jews. Fortunately, solidarity and demonstrations of unity with Jewish neighbors marked the day instead.

Even Progressive Christians can be unintentionally anti-Semitic

Even today’s Progressive Christian clergy and congregations sometimes inadvertently reinscribe harmful anti-Semitic stereotypes in their interpretations of the Bible.  This can happen through the perpetuation of supercessionism (also called replacement theology or fulfillment theology). This idea asserts that Jesus has replaced the Jewish covenant and supercedes ancient Israel with the church.  Supercessionism is anti-Semitic because it seeks to subsume and even denigrate the history of Judaism.  In contrast, Christians must respect and honor the validity of the Jewish faith in and of itself without making it serve a Christian agenda.

Pharisees as “the bad guys”

Anti-Semitism can also happen when Christians uncritically reiterate negative characterizations about the Jewish leaders in the Christian scriptures. One example is casting Pharisees as the “bad guys.” Admittedly, the Gospels and some of Paul’s letters sometimes appear to be anti-Jewish in their stories, descriptions, and rhetoric. But we must understand the way these authors used hyperbole and “stock characters” as part of their rhetorical devices of argument and persuasion.  The point was not to single out Jewish leaders as singularly bad people or to paint Judaism as evil.  Rather, the goal was to shine a light on hypocrisy and abuses of power within religious leadership.

Thus, rather than using Pharisees as a trope for bad guys, a better way is to use a more general term such as “religious leaders” and to rightly point out where we see corruption, hypocrisy, and oppression within religion.

Sermon ideas for Genesis 12:1-4a

A sermon in a series on Christian Nationalism can lift up Genesis 12:1-4a as a counter to the inaccurate, misguided, and harmful characterizations of the Jewish people.

Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

In this sacred story, God calls Abram to a new land, promising to “bless those who bless you,” (v. 3a).  Note the theological intention here is not to “replace” anyone, but to offer ever-expanding blessings to those who treat the Jewish people with respect and honor.  At the same time, there are consequences for those who curse this group of beleaguered people.  However, the overarching theme of this passage is one of  increasing blessedness.

Speak out against anti-Semitism during Holy Week

Hand on Torah
The Torah. Photo by Cottonbro Studio.

Especially as the Christian church moves toward Holy Week when stories of Jesus’s crucifixion can be used to rationalize the caricature of Jews as “Christ killers,” it is important that preachers explicitly speak out against this false and demonizing language.  Jews are not the “enemies” of the Church, nor of God, for that matter.  Jesus was himself a Jew, after all.

In fact, it is Christian Nationalism which opposes the God of the Jews, who is also the God of Jesus. Christian Nationalists oppose the God who wants to bless the whole world with peace.  So, we must break the cycle of violence and become peacemakers, as Jesus instructed us.  Then we will come to know the promise of blessedness made to Abram, his descendants, and all who bless them.

The Central Question, Central Claim, and Central Purpose

(The Central Question, Central Claim, and Central Purpose statements are a way to organize and provide direction for a sermon. I developed this process in the book Introduction to Preaching: Scripture, Theology, and Sermon Preparation (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013). Here are possible Central Statements for a sermon countering Christian Nationalism based on Genesis 12:1-4a.)

Central Question. In what ways do we in the Christian church perpetuate anti-Semitism, and how can we affirm the blessedness of the Jewish people in the face of Christian Nationalism?

Central Claim. God’s blessing of Abram offers ever-expanding blessings to those who treat the Jewish people with respect and honor.

Central Purpose. This sermon calls out the false narratives about Jews perpetuated by Christian Nationalism while calling for the church to help break the anti-Semitic cycles of violence and become peacemakers.

To see the full series of sermon helps, download “Jesus and Justice” here.

Read also:

More than Eco-Palms: Ecojustice and Palm Sunday

Those Who Wash: The Divine Disorientation of Maundy Thursday

Competing Fractals: Good Friday and Saturday Vigil

The Proximity of Hope: An Easter Sermon

Pentecost & the Divine Purpose of Diversity: Genesis 11, Acts 2

Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade
Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade

The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade is the Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky and ordained in the ELCA. Dr. Schade does not speak for LTS or the ELCA; her opinions are her own.  She is the author of Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019) and Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015). She is the co-editor of Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019). Her newest book is Introduction to Preaching: Scripture, Theology, and Sermon Preparation, co-authored with Jerry L. Sumney and Emily Askew (Rowman & Littlefield, 2023).

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