At one time the Nazi symbol was code for good, code for well-being, a well-regarded code, then it became tarnished by one of the most horrible human beings on Earth, Adolf Hitler. Today, Christianity faces the same existential possibility, a tarnishing of their name, of their symbols, and a resulting pervasive loss of membership, because of one small group of loud and rude Americans: Christian nationalists.
Although they come from the same roots, there is a difference between Christians and Christian nationalists. First, though, nationalism on its face on is not bad, because national loyalty is not bad. However, mix it with gun-toting, Bible-thumping, anti-abortion folks high on Trump, and you get a toxic brew. Nationalists are right-wing extremists bent on imposing Christianity, that is, their own interpretations of the Bible, on the rest of us. They’re proud of their extremism as it descends down their rabbit hole of fever-pitch insanity, and they threaten to take Christians down with them.
That’s the worst-case scenario. With nationalist churches starting to pop up around the country, what we now have is a burgeoning cultish movement.
Why should Christians fear nationalists?
While Time magazine reports that “study after study shows Christian nationalism is strongly associated with attitudes concerning proper social hierarchies by religion, race, and nativity,” nationalists are not an organized movement. Their “organization” is race-based for we know that “Christian nationalism is an ideology held overwhelmingly by white Americans,” whereas Christianity in general has a bigger tent and, thus, a much larger and more diverse membership.
Nationalists make up about 20-30% of the population but account for much of the fake news that’s been around since even before the former POTUS, but their numbers are growing and they appear on the cusp of getting organized … through churches. That is why Christians need to fear nationalists.
“Protestant,” conservative evangelical, and nondenominational churches, such as Patriot Church in Lenoir City, Tennessee, are espousing nationalism and possibly getting the movement organized in drips and drabs. (And, while they’re getting organized, we should question if they should be taxed too, since nationalism is essentially political in nature.)
What About Florida?
On the state level, here in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, appears to be driving the nationalist force movement right into government offices. He appears intent on systematically imposing Christian nationalism on all of us woke folks, a dangerous authoritarian trend.
Fortunately people and organizations are fighting back. Take Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which launched an investigation into DeSantis’ new $106 million “Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative,” a Florida endorsement program for teachers who complete the state’s civic training. Not in and of itself bad but bad when you add DeSantis’ other authoritarian measures, like the “Stop WOKE Act,” which restricts how race is discussed in schools, colleges and workplaces, and you once again have a toxic brew that is Christian nationalist in nature.
What You Can Do
According to Christians Against Christian Nationalism (CACN), an off-shoot of the Baptist Joint Committee, their movement is about speaking out “against Christian nationalism, especially when it inspires acts of violence and intimidation—including vandalism, bomb threats, arson, hate crimes, and attacks on houses of worship,” because when we’re talking about nationalists, we’re talking about a group that tends towards violence. Just note January 6, 2021, where Christian nationalists were insurrecting in abundance.
As CACN noted, Christians of all denominations need to take the first step, since nationalists have taken possession of their name. Actions you can take is to gently confront nationalists, speak-out against those who claim they are Christians but are really just Christian nationalists. Sign the CACN statement. Or, write a letter to the editor decrying the existence of this group of loud, rude Americans.
God wants his good name back! It’s now up to Christians to take the lead.