A brand new activist Christian organization (it launched this week on the internet) promises to be an impactful counterpoint against evangelical Protestant, Christian Right nationalism currently bedeviling America, which has been turbo-charged by the racist sludge slung by President Donald Trump.
Founded by a group of Christian leaders of various churches and organizations, according to the group’s website, Christians Against Christian Nationalism (CACN) is warning that “the merging of Christian and American identities poses a threat to U.S. democracy and religious communities,” according to a July 31 article in The Hill.
CACN leaders charge that “Christian nationalism” seeks to dangerously conflate Christianity and U.S. citizenship in a manner that “provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation,” the news site reports.
“Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy,” the new group warned in a debut online statement Monday. “It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation. We reject this damaging political ideology and invite our Christian brothers and sisters to join us in opposing this threat to our faith and to our nation.”
The group’s statement added:
“Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. … Whether we worship at a church, mosque, synagogue, or temple, America has no second-class faiths. All are equal under the U.S. Constitution. As Christians, we must speak in one voice condemning Christian nationalism as a distortion of the gospel of Jesus ad a threat to American democracy.”
An article in the online news site Vice reported this week that Christian nationalism is on the rise, as is white nationalism, along with a concurrent surge of violence worldwide.
“Christians Against Christian Nationalism points to hate crimes against non-Christian houses of worship by white nationalists in the past few years as proof of this ideology permeating,” CACN said in its statement. “In the last year alone, terrorist attacks at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Christchurch mosque in New Zealand, the Poway synagogue, and others have been committed by religiously motivated white nationalists.”
Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), which is the primary organization behind CACN’s formation, told Vice:
“Christian nationalism also reveals itself in less dramatic, but still harmful was that can marginalize Americans who aren’t Christian and send the un-American message that there are second-class faiths.”
The Rev. Michael B. Curry, a CACN endorser and the bishop who officiated the wedding of the United Kingdom’s Prince Harry and Meghan Meghan Markle, added,
“The violence, intimidation and distortion of scripture associated with ‘Christian nationalism’ does not reflect the person and teachings of Jesus Christ.”
CACN is not alone in condemning the Christian nationalist-nativist trend in the nation. On July 30, Catholic leaders also started speaking out against it. Leaders of the venerable and historical Washington National Cathedral in the nation’s capital are directly attacking the president’s “cruel” and “racist” policies and behavior.
“As faith leaders who serve at Washington National Cathedral—the sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance—we feel compelled to ask: After two years of President Trump’s words and actions, when will Americans have enough?” the leaders said in a statement.
The letter invoked the famous reprimand by U.S. Army attorney Joseph Welch on June 9, 1954, of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his assault on the nation with his House Un-American Activities Committee hearings ostensibly to root out Communism in the government.
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. … You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?” Welch asked McCarthy.
“Until then, under the guise of ridding the country of Communist infiltration, McCarthy had free rein to say and do whatever he wished,” the cathedral letter states, pointedly lamenting that the nation is now in a similar position. “With unbridled speech, he stoked the fears of an anxious nation with lies; destroyed the careers of countless Americans; and bullied into submissive silence anyone who dared criticize him.”
The nation has experienced such similarly “dark” periods before, the statement says, when Americans have chosen to act rather than allow injustice and inhumanity to continue.
“We have come to accept a level of insult and abuse in political discourse that violates each person’s sacred identity as a child of God,” the letter continues. “We have come to accept as normal a steady stream of language and accusations coming from the highest office in the land that plays to racist elements in society. … When does silence become complicity? What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough? The question is less about the president’s sense of decency, but of ours.”
It’s only a rhetorical question. It’s clear that, to the cathedral leaders, the time is now.
“As leaders of faith who believe in the sacredness of every single human being, the time for silence is over. We must boldly stand witness against the bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and xenophobia that is hurled at us, especially when it comes from the highest offices of this nation. We must say that this will not be tolerated. To stay silent in the face of such rhetoric is for us to tacitly condone the violence of these words. We are compelled to take every opportunity to oppose the indecency and dehumanization that is racism, whether it comes to us through words or actions.”
If only the blown-dry televangelists, mega-church charlatans, child-deluding Good News club hacks, Blitz “In God We Trust” purveyors and evangelical presidential boot-lickers would also get on board.
But it’s a start.