Christian Nationalism & Its Threats to Religious Freedom

Christian Nationalism & Its Threats to Religious Freedom December 20, 2023

Insurrectionists — including Christian nationalists — storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Their violence should be a clear signal that they oppose religious freedom. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)


White European settlers came to North America for several reasons, one of which was religious freedom. These Europeans opposed government-supported state churches because such an arrangement… 

  • Came between them and their Maker 
  • Dictated how they worshipped 
  • Used their tax money. 

They wanted religious freedom to worship as they pleased or reject religion altogether without government interference. The desire was so strong in their descendants that America’s founding fathers included religious freedom in the Bill of Rights.  

And those Americans who believe the U.S. was founded on Christianity need to study their U.S. history. Nowhere does the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights or Declaration of Independence say that the U.S. is a Christian nation. Nowhere.

In fact, Thomas Jefferson’s philosophic views bordered on atheism rather than Christianity. Despite or maybe because of his views, he created his own New Testament by cutting and pasting one together. He rearranged the Gospels and removed all references to the supernatural or miracles. If have any doubts, click here to read “The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” and scroll down to “Begin Reading. 

You might also look up the religious views of people like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and others. Then, consider checking out my post, “July 4th: Religious Pilgrims, Religious Freedom & Christian Nationalism” on Patheos here. I also encourage every American to learn about his or her rights. To read the Bill of Rights and a short commentary, click here. 

Today’s Dangers

The greatest danger Americans face in 2023 comes from within. It comes from Christian nationalists who want to… 

  • Invade Americans’ lives in the most intimate ways possible 
  • Take away our religious freedom 
  • Force their dangerous brand of Christianity on all of us 
  • And replace our government with undemocratic authoritarianism. 

They are radical, dangerous and determined. They have grown stronger over the past few decades because they have identified a common enemy. It’s you and me.  

Christian nationalists have been patient, well-organized and determined to end religious freedom and the social progress that moderates and liberals have made over the last 50-60 years. They have done a better job of getting out the vote to elect like-minded people to local, state and federal offices. As a result, they have elected people who will fill judicial openings with radical Republican judges.  

And sadly in 2016, they found a political leader who is as dangerous to democracy and religious freedom as they are. That person, of course, is Donald Trump. It’s terrifying, and if we don’t stop them now, we may not be able to do it later.  

Thankfully, several organizations are fighting back. Who are they and what are they doing? 

Christians Against Christian Nationalism

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) founded an organization called Christians Against Christian Nationalism in July 2019. 

Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, was horrified by the sight of insurrectionists carrying numerous flags emblazoned with crosses during the Jan. 6 insurrection. She also saw Bibles in rioters’ hands, as well as banners with slogans that said “In God We Trust” and “Jesus is my savior, Trump is my President.” In linking the Lord with a disgraced heathen, the latter slogan borders on blasphemy in my opinion. 

In her testimony before the House Oversight subcommittee, Tyler noted that Christian nationalists view the U.S. as a Christian nation populated primarily by whites. They are the people who “helped fuel the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, uniting disparate actors and infusing their political cause with religious fervor,” she said. 

She explained that Christian nationalism and white supremacy overlap, with some supporters of extreme right-wing politics using the former to “justify their violence as being done in God’s name.” 

They believe America will no longer be America if it loses its white Christian core and its role as a “Christian” country. They don’t acknowledge the fact that the U.S. has been in almost constant flux from its beginning, as Irish, Asian, Hispanic and other groups from around the world immigrated to our shores. 

Their refusal to acknowledge the obvious is unfortunate because there is beauty in diversity. Christian nationalism, on the other hand, is a perversion of the Christian faith. 

Tyler was alarmed by the Jan. 6 uprising and the myth that “real” Americans are white Christians who “hold a particular set of right-wing political beliefs.” I’m equally appalled and have slowly realized that my interest in writing a Christian blog was, in part, the result of my desire to help publicize the dangers of Christian nationalism. 

“I think that there is a large segment of this population who are Christian who horrified by the use of Christian nationalism to galvanize and justify violence,” Tyler said, adding, “To dismantle an ideology that’s so deeply seated will be a generational project. But it’s one that’s urgent for our democracy and for the safety of the country.” 

 Christians Against Christian Nationalism believes that all people are created in God’s image and that we are commanded to love one another. Those teachings come straight from the Bible.  The group also believes that Christian nationalism is a “damaging political ideology” that distorts Christianity and America’s constitutional democracy. “Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American one must be Christian…. As Christians, we are bound to Christ, not by citizenship, but by faith.” 

 Learn more about Christians Against Christian Nationalism” by clicking here.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

This organization has picked up where the Poor People’s Campaign lead by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the 1960s ended. Dr. King focused on three evils in our society: racism, poverty and war. Current campaign leaders have added two more: ecological devastation and the “distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism.” 

Their goals include ending Christian nationalism, helping shape policies and elections at every level of government, and building “lasting power for poor and impacted people.” The organization is now located in 40 states. 

I’m praying they succeed. 

Faithful America

This advocacy group has brought together clergy and other faith leaders to oppose Christian nationalism. Its website notes that the Southern Poverty Law Center has featured Faithful America’s webpage “as one of the three top resources for countering white Christian nationalism in the center’s annual report.” 

That’s good to know. 

The organization has said, “Christian nationalism is the single biggest threat to both democracy and the church today.” And its website, which you can see here, offers study guides, webinars, sermon prep, books and other resources to help people better understand the dangers.  

These materials define Christian nationalism, explain reasons that Christians should oppose it, and suggest ways to resist it. 

Faith America explains that Christian nationalism is not a religion or form of Christianity. In fact, it “directly contradicts the Gospel in multiple ways, and is therefore considered by many Christian leaders to be heresy.… while Christianity is a 2,000-year-old global tradition that transcends all borders, Christian nationalism seeks to merge faith with a single 247-year-old pluralistic nation.” 

Let me repeat that. Christian nationalism is not a religion or form of Christianity. It’s heresy. People who support Christian nationalism need to repeat those words to themselves over and over again until they understand them.

 Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU)

AU describes itself as an organization that brings religious, civil rights and secular groups together to “unite against (the) national effort to enshrine Christian nationalism in state laws.”  It opposes legislation that uses religion for the purpose of discrimination and has warned legislators about an “alarming” effort to transform religious freedom into a weapon that’s used against women, the LGBTQ community, religious minorities and non-religious people. 

The organization is tracking and fighting “Project Blitz,” which is a new wave of bills supported by Christian nationalists and other right-wing fanatics. The blitz is “a three-tiered framework of state bills meant to incrementally redefine religious freedom and tear down the separation of church and state, with each tier laying the groundwork for the next.”  

Its authors intend to initially push through less controversial legislation, such as displaying “In God We Trust” and establishing Bible classes, in public schools. Once Christian nationalists gain a foothold in a state, they will push legislation that allows agencies funded by taxpayers to discriminate against people because of their lifestyle or religion. And that’s only the beginning. 

Leaders Speak Out 

Several leaders from various Christian organizations have had this to say: 

R. Mitch Randall, D.Min., executive director of Good Faith Media: “Christian nationalism perverts and distorts the foundational tenets of the Gospel. When Christianity combines with political ideologies, the Gospel will always take a back seat to the political pragmatism of power and wealth.”  

It certainly does, and the truth of Randall’s statement is evident every time we read or watch the national news. 

Randall argued, “When Jesus walked the earth, he challenged his disciples to love the marginalized, oppressed, and disenfranchised. Christian nationalism establishes religious superiority over others, which in turn hinders the missional mandate of the Gospel. Jesus said to humble oneself, not rise above others.” 

Melissa Rogers, visiting professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity: “Christian nationalism perverts the gospel and the Constitution. As Christians, we pledge to confront this false teaching within our communities. As Americans, we pledge to insist on equal justice and liberty for all.” 

Rev. Rob Schenck, D.Min., president of The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute:  Schenck is “deeply distressed” by Christian nationalism and said it is causing significant injury to the church, the spiritual condition of Christians and the integrity of the gospel. “The history of Christian Nationalism is a very bad one with enormous suffering in its wake,” he noted. 

Jim Winkler, president and general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ: “’Christians Against Christian Nationalism’ reminds us of the importance of teaching and practicing both sound patriotism and sound theology. “When we place our nation and our faith over against others we have distorted the Gospel of Jesus Christ and laid the basis for war, violence, racism and extremism. Let us remember who we are and whose we are.” 

Read more about the threat of Christian nationalism in a post on “Christians Against Christian Nationalism” here.

More to Come on Religious Freedom 

My next post will look at some of the ways Christians and non-Christians who oppose Christian nationalism can fight back. 

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