Preserving Our Religious Freedom in America

Preserving Our Religious Freedom in America December 30, 2023

Christian nationalism wake-up call
(Courtesy Pixaby / prettysleepy)


Christian nationalists gained access to Americans’ bedrooms when the Supreme Court reversed Roe vs. Wade in 2023. Flushed with victory, some far-right conservatives are now attempting to gain power over something that’s even more private – our religious beliefs and relationships with God. I’m thoroughly Christian, but I reject twisted Christian nationalists’ views about God and the Bible. And as I thought about religion in America in preparation for this post, I wondered what ordinary Americans like you and me can do about preserving our religious freedom.

Christian Nationalists’ Agenda

People who support militant Christian nationalism have the “dangerous belief that America is – and must remain – a Christian nation founded for its white Christian inhabitants and that our laws and policies must reflect this,” according to Americans United Against Separation of Church and State. In other words, everyone else be damned.

Unfortunately for Christian nationalists, the U.S. is quite diverse. We’re a nation of immigrants, which many hard-core conservatives try to forget. They are committed to a nation that’s….

  • Christian, based on their narrow definition of “Christian”
  • White
  • Patriarchal
  • Heterosexual
  • American-born
  • Extremely conservative
  • Authoritarian

By aligning themselves with the Republican party in the late 1970s, conservative Christians who spawned Christian nationalism slowly but surely used the ballot box to elect like-minded people to offices at all levels of government.

I am convinced that the election of Barack Obama in 2008 was the final straw for many of them, and the movement erupted like a simmering volcano in the 2016 election.

A False Narrative

“The Nation,” a progressive American magazine, has pointed out that Christian nationalists….

  • Insist their extreme form of Christianity is the only true religion
  • Favor using public policy to uphold patriarchy and white supremacy
  • Believe they have a God-given right to dominate other nations through military action
  • See no problem controlling more than their share of earth’s available resources
  • Blame immigrants and other minorities for social problems, violence and loss of “American” jobs
  • Use the Bible to justify extremist actions including violence.

“Such ideas, by the way, didn’t just spring up overnight,” the publication said. “This false narrative has been playing a significant, if not dominant, role in our politics and economics for decades.”

Anti-democratic Notions

The Center for American Progress (CAP), a policy and research organization, has described Christian nationalism as an “anti-democratic notion that America is by and for Christians alone.”

It isn’t, of course, but Christian nationalists are terrified by the decline of Christianity in the U.S. and the rise of other religions, agnosticism and atheism. This trend means they will lose their political power unless they establish minority rule while they can. It also means they or their descendants may experience a fierce backlash from non-Christians who object to centuries-old white Christian rule in the U.S.

Symptoms of Fear

“We’re seeing symptoms of the fears among leaders of the Christian right-wing and their followers as they sense that they’re losing the power they’ve craved since the beginnings of the Christian Coalition in the 1960s,” said Dr. Robert N. Minor, an author and professor emeritus of religious studies at the University of Kansas.

In his post “No Surprise at All: It’s Religious People Fearing They’re Losing Power They’ve Savored,” Minor noted, “A series of U.S. presidents played to the religious right-wing’s favorite causes to gain their support and vowed to enforce these causes on the rest of the country.

“Republicans knew how to play to the core values that motivated so many of these religious folks whom many politicians didn’t respect at all,” he said. But the lack of respect didn’t matter to many right-wing radical voters. Neither they nor their leaders were interested in preserving religious freedom in the U.S. (Read the entire post by clicking here.)

In fact, some conservatives thought their elected officials didn’t go far enough. The more militant ones – e.g. Christian nationalists and others – wanted to silence the voices of people who opposed their agenda, and if it meant violence, as we saw during the Jan. 6 insurrection, so be it.

Squelch the Opposition

The violent acts on that terrible day shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s paying attention. As Minor pointed out, powerful religions have sometimes used deadly force when threatened.

To them, “It was important to thoroughly squelch anyone and anything that they felt were a challenge to their relationship of the religious to power, and to make them examples of what would happen to political/religious dissidents.”

He added that right-wing Christians have acted no differently in their rise to power in the U.S. than their religious predecessors. They have no interest in preserving our religious freedom, but they do like to peddle the myth that America was founded on Christianity rather than freedom of religion.

A Serious Threat

The Center for American Progress also weighed in on Christian nationalism. In undermining separation of church and state, as well as the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the center said that Christian nationalists will create greater discrimination against religious minorities and nonreligious people.

The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from passing laws regarding establishment of religion and prevents the government from favoring one religion over  another. Thus, the founding fathers codified their ideas about preserving our religious freedom in the U.S. Constitution.

Several of my posts on Patheos focus on Christian nationalism and include links to authoritative articles.

  • For more on the Establishment Clause, click here to read “Are Americans Rejecting Separation of Church and State?”
  • Learn more about the U.S. Constitution by clicking here to read “July 4th: Religious Pilgrims, Religious Freedom & Christian Nationalism.”
  • Find out more about the founding fathers and separation of church and state by clicking here to read “Did Our Earliest Presidents Let Personal Religious Beliefs Influence Their Decisions?”

Religious Liberty

“Christian nationalism is also a contributing ideology in the religious right’s misuse of religious liberty as a rationale for circumventing laws and regulations aimed at promoting a pluralistic democracy, such as nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQI+, women and religious minorities,” CAP noted.

Unfortunately, the staunchly conservative justices who dominate the U.S. Supreme Court are eager to support Christian nationalists’ political and religious goals. I find it ironic that Americans who shout the loudest and wave American flags most fervently are the very ones who want to take away basic religious freedom. It’s un-American, to say the least.

All that said, Americans who oppose Christian nationalism are left with keeping the truth alive and preserving our religious freedom. Americans United for Separation of Church and State has pointed out, for example, that Christian nationalists have been rewriting the history of Jan. 6 since day one.

“While their lies may resonate with many Americans who have chosen to live in the post-truth zone, millions of others know that facts still matter,” the organization has said.

Several Truths to Consider

Following are some truths that I see:

Truth #1

Moderate and politically left-of-center Christians need to come together and support one another’s efforts to regain some control over the nation’s political and religious narrative and protect our religious freedom. Infighting will get us nowhere.

Truth #2

“Christian nationalism is less about faith or religion and more about a social conservatism revolving around race, identity politics, immigration and revisionist teachings of American history,” according to “The Hill,” an American newspaper and digital media organization that opposes Christian nationalism.

Truth #3

Christian nationalism is driving people away from Christianity. Extremism isn’t the only reason Christianity is declining, but it’s certainly a contributing factor. Non-Christians who are looking for spiritual nourishment are finding empty, secular politics in many church pulpits. And they are finding hypocrisy and judgmental attitudes in the pews. The fact that they turn away should surprise no one.

Truth #4

When those of us who oppose Christian nationalism straddle the center or sit quietly on the sideline, we allow Christian nationalists to literally arm themselves against us. We also allow armed militias to grow and become more active, and we give right-wing politicians the go-ahead to restrict voting rights to the benefit Republicans candidates.

Truth #5

Christian nationalists are similar to the ancient Israelites in some ways. The Israelites erected a gold=plated calf to worship while wandering in the desert, while some modern-day conservatives commissioned a tacky gold-colored statue of Trump to idolize at their beloved leader at an annual conservative convention several years ago.

The Mouse & the Elephant

Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

And “The Nation” pointed out after the Jan. 6 insurrection, “This attack on democracy, if unmet, could alter the nature of American elections for a least a generation to come.” Christian nationalists are counting on the opposition’s indifference.

So, how do the rest of us get the elephant’s foot off the mouse’s tail?

  • Educate yourself about the dangers of Christian nationalism.
  • Start within your own church (if you attend church) by encouraging your pastor and other leaders to speak out against Christian nationalism.
  • Contact state and federal political leaders to express your beliefs and outrage.
  • Find a different church if your present church’s teachings are unchristian.
  • Vote, vote, vote!

  • Educate your children on the dangers of Christian nationalism.

If you’re only now beginning to see the dangers of Christian nationalism, check out “Christianity = Love; Christian Nationalism = Power and Hate” on Patheos. This article, written by contributor Julie Nichols, recalls the day Trump mocked a disabled reporter in 2016. She said the incident was life-altering in that she began opening her eyes to the dangers of Christian nationalism. You may read it here.

And if you do nothing else, help like-minded Christians preserve religious freedom in the U.S. by VOTING in every election for which you’re eligible to vote.

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