*Editor’s Note: This is a contribution from Dillon Naber Cruz, author of the forthcoming book Theological Musings, from Quoir Publishing, August 27, 2023.
Christian nationalists are making a lot of noise these days on social media and elsewhere about wanting to set up a Christian theocracy in the United States because they don’t like things such as “wokism” or “gender ideology” which in turn is because they’re pro-bigotry. Take William E. Wolfe who served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of Defense in the Trump administration for example. His Twitter feed is replete with tweets espousing Christian nationalism as the way forward for America, despite the First Amendment of the Constitution being written specifically to prevent such a thing happening in the U.S. On May 13, 2023, Wolfe tweeted the following, “Christian nationalists: We want the State to honor God and rule justly. Anti-Christian nationalists: You are literally doing the work of the Devil.” He at least got the second part right. In Pennsylvania, failed gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano ran for governor on an openly Christian nationalist platform and mercifully was soundly beaten by Josh Shapiro. Mastriano continues to spout the vile rhetoric of Christian nationalism around the state.
To highlight what Christian nationalists believe one need only to read the tweet by Joshua Abbotoy from May 23, 2023, in which he stated that, “Basically, America is going to need a Protestant Franco.” Abbotoy, the managing director of an organization called New Founding.Org, and self-professed nationalist literally tweeted that America needs a brutal dictatorship akin to that of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. He came to power with the help of fascist governments in Germany and Italy, and his fascist regime led to the Spanish Civil War in which five hundred thousand – one million people were killed, and tens of thousands of people were imprisoned. According to Abbotoy, it must be a protestant and preferably a Baptist who becomes America’s Christofascist dictator. He made it clear with one tweet that what he wants to see is a Christofascist theocracy in which there is no freedom of, or freedom from religion, with all the horrors that such a nation would entail for BIPOC and LGBTQIA people, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and any proponents of democracy. Christian nationalism, similar to Christian dominionism, is about power and control through government means. It is simply a form of fascism that is decorated with a cross draped with an American flag and uses Orwellian level propaganda.
Leaving aside the First Amendment, which is unequivocal about the separation of church and state, I want to briefly explore some of the Biblical passages that I believe completely undermine the arguments made by Christian nationalists for forming a Christian government. In the gospels of Matthew and Luke (Mt 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-12) there is a story of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness prior to beginning his ministry. Satan takes Jesus to a high vantage point and shows him all of the kingdoms of the world and offers him complete authority and control over them all. What a temptation for an impoverished Galilean peasant to face! Jesus then rejected the offer of power and control over the Earth’s kingdoms immediately when he said, “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” Instead of focusing on power and authority, Jesus said to focus on worshiping and serving God. Why then do Christian nationalists choose to grasp for power by trying to circumvent the established rules, or lying about elections, and intentionally misleading people when it comes to LGBTQIA people for example by inappropriately calling them “groomers”? Because unlike Jesus they seek power and authority, topics which the Apostle Paul spoke of directly in his letter to Roman Christians.
This Pauline passage is an interesting one because conservative Christians often completely ignore it when someone they deem too liberal or progressive is in office, or when a government mandate is not to their liking. Paul tells the Roman church in Romans chapter 13 to “be subject to the authorities,” despite the fact that those authorities were hostile to Christians, because God lets those authorities remain in power. Paul goes on to say that those who resist the ruling authorities are resisting God and will incur judgement. In our case, the ruling authority is the Constitution and specifically the First Amendment’s establishment clause. Conservative Christians, including Christian nationalists, love to pretend they are being religiously persecuted when they are not allowed to religiously persecute others. Paul essentially said not to worry about the authorities and the persecution (be it real as in Paul’s day or imagined as by conservative Christians today) coming from the powerful. Fortunately, our government cannot mandate a state religion, which is exactly what Christian nationalists are trying to do as they pervert the Constitution’s meaning – but that is for another essay.
Christian nationalism is about using the power of the state to force people into abiding laws that Christian nationalists impose on themselves in their cultural war to maintain a white supremacist, patriarchal, hetero-normative, misogynistic world. It is about taking away human rights and dehumanizing people who are not straight, white, cis, or conservative Christians. Yet, Jesus outright refused to take on that sort of state power when tempted by Satan despite his lowly status in society. When asked by Pilate if he was the King of the Jews, Jesus replied that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36.) Rather than coercing people to believe and behave as he did, Jesus told his disciples that if they entered a town and the people there didn’t act hospitably or refused to hear their message, then the disciples should shake the dust of their feet and leave the town (Matthew 10:14). Well, the majority of people in America do not want a Christofascist state, so Christian nationalists should heed the words and deeds of Jesus – stop trying to exert power and control over others and shake the dust off their feet when people reject their bigotry, hatred, misogyny, racism, and violence. They should also try paying their taxes (Romans 13:6), feeding and clothing the poor, visiting prisoners, helping the sick and afflicted, and loving their neighbors as themselves as Jesus actually instructed. If only…