“Fascism is a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.” (Merriam-Webster)
Christians may believe that Christian Nationalism would create a culture where people would treat one another as Jesus did. Instead, a government of this type would force people to live under select moral principles that may or may not be found in the Bible. Forcing people to believe “or else” is neither Christian nor American.
Fascism differs significantly from the unity that Jesus, the apostles, and the founders of this country envisioned.
The Christian Understanding of Unity
In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of unity with his disciples that resembles a grapevine and branches. Prior to his agony in the garden, he prays that his followers be one with him in a way that parallels his own relationship with the Father. St. Paul discusses how Jesus’ followers form the body of Christ.
Unity in Jesus and His Father
In the Gospel of John, chapter 15, Jesus teaches, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (15:5) The vine and its branches illustrate the way Jesus’ followers should seek unity and spiritual nourishment from and through him.
The grapevine is central to the productivity of the branches in a vineyard. Likewise, intimacy with Jesus allows his followers to best live their faith. Jesus further expands his description of the optimal relationship between himself and his disciples. Jesus calls for his disciples to be unified. “ . . .that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, So that the world may believe you have sent me.” (John 15:21) Disciples are to become one with each other or unified in Jesus and the Father’s unity.
Christian nationalists do not advocate that everyone learn about Jesus and have a relationship with him. They would like, instead, for passages selected from the Old Testament and the New Testament-with which many Christians disagree-to become laws in the United States. The government’s goal would be that people no longer engage in practices it deems sinful because they fear prosecution. This is not Jesus’ image of his community. Jesus never forced anyone to follow him. He never sought political power. He simply invited people to be in relationship with him.
St. Paul and Body of Christ
St. Paul discusses the nature of the Christian community as the body of Christ: in several New Testament letters. “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.” (1 Corinthians 12:14) Today, the body of Christ is comprised of many Christian denominations, nationally and internationally. While Christians share many beliefs and teachings in common, there has been no discernment among the various denominations that making Christian teachings the law of the land is a good idea.
In the United States, are Christian nationalists communicating to the other Christian denominations that they are not needed? In Pauline language, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1 Corinthians 12:21)
Christian Nationalists have a vision that is not universally shared by American Christians.This movement does not consider other Christian churches as well as our brothers and sisters who have non-Christian beliefs or no beliefs. The body of Christ is to be interconnected, but Christian Nationalsim departs from this.
Those who want Christianity to be a national religion or to have laws that are biblically based are not acting as the body of Christ. Nor are they inviting people to come to know Jesus and unite themselves with him. They have chosen laws that they believe to be right and will use their interpretation of the the Bible to justify them.
Morality does not define Christianity; it is Christians’ relationship with Jesus.
The United States and E Pluribus Unum
“E Pluribus Unum” means “Out of many, one.” This is the motto of the United States since 1776 and on the country’s seal.
The unity that this motto suggests is not a unity of similar groups. The “many” to which it originally referred were the 13 colonies that would become one country. One might think that this was an easy alliance. After all, were not most settlers from Europe? Were they not primarily Protestant? They were, in fact, quite different.
In New England, there were different types of Christianity. Most New England colonists were Puritans but they divided into different colonies based on the conservative or liberal nature of their beliefs.. In In 1632, Britain gave 12 million acres of land called Maryland to the second Lord Baltimore who made fellow Catholics welcome but had tolerance for all religions. The English king gave William Penn, a Quaker, much of the land that is now Pennsylvania.
Independence and the Seal
When “E Pluribus Unum” was adopted as the motto for the United States of America, the 13 colonies were unified in their dislike of British rule but were otherwise very different. The colonists had varied trades, and separate histories.
The “many,” referenced in the motto does not refer to a group in which everyone thought the same way. Out of this heterogeneous group, a nation emerged. Taking an interpretation of one religion’s sacred texts and making it the law of the land could not be less American. Early Americans thought that God was blessing them in a special way because of the many natural resources they found and due to their ability to fight off the French and British. This perception does not mean that God actually did so. The idea that we must reinstate an imagined Christian nation is un-American and un-Christian.
Christian Nationalism and Diversity
The United States has benefitted throughout its history from the different groups that have made it: persons with different ethnic backgrounds, religions, languages, and traditions.
When Christian Nationalists want to make Christian beliefs the law of the land, they do not refer to Jesus’ love of God and neighbor, his love for the poor, nor his preference for the outcast.
While people who support Christian Nationalism may not realize this, the movement is an effort to impose a version of morality (and other values) on citizens and punish Americans who not only violate these laws but who disagree.
Christian Nationalists seek a forced unity that is neither Christian nor American. The laws would make the country appear to be united while people who dissent would be put in prison. Jesus himself never forced his beliefs on anyone. Christianity has been an obligation only when a fascist government included it in its requirements. The people who founded our country did not require that colonists all have similar beliefs or share any particular philosophy. (Note that the American treatment of Native Americans and African slaves depart from this way of thinking.)
We read about people in China such as Ughuyrs, who are primarily Muslim, who are sent to camps for “re-education” We see people arrested and tortured or killed in Iran for protesting against decisions their government makes. These things could happen in the United States. We must fight against any coordinated efforts to force people to have certain beliefs or suppress their freedom of expression or protest.