Rev. Jennifer Butler, founder in residence at Faith in Public Life, wrote about her experience at the ReAwaken America Tour in Batavia, NY, in a recent article published in The Philadelphia Inquirer. The tour is in Mannheim, PA, for two days this weekend, and her words are a call to action for Christians to stand against Christian Nationalism.
“The ReAwaken America speeches touted antisemitic, racist, sexist, and homophobic beliefs in the name of Christianity. Speeches were rife with apocalyptic and polarizing predictions of God’s vengeance befalling a wide range of opponents, including the founder of the World Economic Forum, President Joe Biden, and New York Attorney General Leticia James, who had written a letter to the tour’s local host, Pastor Paul Doyle, voicing concern that this event could spur violence. In the parking lot, I spotted a bus painted with the words “Patriot Street Fighter,” along with an image of a man in body armor with a bludgeon in his hand and the words “Get in the Fight” written in the red font of horror movies.
“Booths outside the tent played to peoples’ appetite for conspiracy. As a mother, I was disturbed by a display selling a children’s book called The Plot Against the King — named “King Donald,” who is trying to “Make the Kingdom Great Again.”
Tour organizers and speakers deny charges of racism and violence. A third of the speakers in Batavia were African-American, and they point to that as they scoff at the idea. Yet the nation they imagine as a Christian nation was always governed by white men who made the laws to hold their privilege and power over anyone who was not white and male. And they resorted to violence if the laws failed them. That’s the reality of our history as a nation. There was no actual violence connected to the event, and I think that has been true everywhere it has gone. However, as Jennifer points out, the “apocalyptic and polarizing” language of all the speakers and their demonizing of people they call “enemies” and blatant warnings of warfare kept a threat of violence at the core of the event. And as she writes in her article:
“Its recycled conspiracy theories have motivated recent deadly domestic terrorist attacks that targeted Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue, African Americans at a bible study in Charleston, S.C., and a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., Latinos shopping in El Paso, Texas, and Sikhs at worship in Oak Creek, Wisc.”
Rev. Butler acknowledges the appeal of this movement to “people in real pain,” but I agree with her that Christian Nationalism offers “a false sense of solution.” As she says, “politicians and pastors under the ReAwaken America tent are touring the country, preying on the fear and anger of people — often white — who feel like today’s country is leaving them behind.” What they offer is a mix of religion and politics once touted as a movement of “values voters” and the “Moral Majority” which now lacks any coherent view of moral values supported by the Christian scriptures and the Gospel they claim to believe in.
For people who reject the “biblical worldview” of this movement and wonder if the Bible can be taken seriously, Jennifer Butler has written a book called Who Stole My Bible: Reclaiming Scripture as a Handbook for Resisting Tyranny. One summary of the book says:
“Scripture is replete with stories of those who followed God’s call to resist oppression and fearlessly pursue compassion, justice, and human dignity. Chapters focus on the liberating God of the Hebrews, the authoritarianism of King Solomon, the dream team of women in the Bible, and how Jesus came to bring truth and expose the lies of rulers. Each chapter illustrates the lessons of scripture with true stories of courageous religious communities countering authoritarianism and white supremacy in America today.”
Here is Rev. Butler’s call to people who call themselves Christians:
“As the Christian nationalist movement continues to expand, it is critical for Christians to speak out against this misrepresentation of faith, perhaps by joining the Christians Against Christian Nationalism movement. But we can’t do this work in isolation. We must demonstrate commitment to pluralism by building strong alliances across faith communities. …. Communities are being intentionally manipulated, divided, and conquered along lines of race, religion, and inequality in Christ’s name. This is not what Jesus stood for.”