Christian faith or political ideology?

Amanda Tyler names Christian nationalism as “a political ideology and cultural framework that merges our identity as Americans and Christians … and relies on a false narrative of our founding as a Christian nation.” Whether that challenges you or sounds right to you, I hope you will watch this interview today and hear more of her thoughts.

Amanda Tyler is executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, widely known as BJC.  For 87 years, this organization has been upholding the historic Baptist principle of religious liberty: defending the free exercise of religion and protecting against its establishment by government. She is also the lead organizer of BJC’s Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign and recently spoke at a congressional hearing about the threat of Christian Nationalism.

“We’ve known about the dangers of Christian nationalism for many years even if we didn’t call it by that name,” Amanda said. A common theme of the story they tell is that “one must be a Christian to be an American.” – Starting three years ago, many leaders saw the growing influence and threat to democracy of the movement and started the Christians Against Christian Nationalism (CACN) project. Please listen to the interview, and then read on to the end.

Amanda Tyler grew up in Texas Baptist churches, back when Baptists still agreed on her statement that they have “for centuries found a theological calling to stand up for religious freedom for all.” As a Baptist minister for 50 years, I learned it early and stood firm on our commitment to the separation of church and state, guaranteeing religious freedom for all. The Baptist Joint Committee, which Amanda leads, has worked for almost 90 years to keep this commitment strong in this country. And now Christian nationalism denies that history and claims the founders never said that.

What can you do? Amanda recommends starting with the CACN statement of principles, which says in part:

“Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation. We reject this damaging political ideology.”

The eight principles in their statement can give you the language and ideas essential for engaging in conversation and challenging this movement. For example:

“People of all faiths and none have the right and responsibility to engage constructively in the public square.”

“Conflating religious authority with political authority is idolatrous and often leads to oppression of minority and other marginalized groups as well as the spiritual impoverishment of religion.”

This project speaks directly to Christians, often in the specific language of our faith, because it is a call and challenge to other Christians to stand up to this movement. “Our religion,” she says, “has been co-opted by political actors to further their aims.” The movement uses symbols and language of Christianity, and often looks like the same thing, but it is not. It is “political ideology and cultural framework” and not true Christianity. What can we do? Amanda names three things:

  • Name and recognize Christian nationalism for what it is.
  • Take a stand against it.
  • Share what we’ve learned with others.

I found her words at the end of the interview to be encouraging and hope you will too:

There is “no religious test to be an American … The idea of multi-ethnic and multi-racial democracy that we aspire to is made better by our diversity. … Christian nationalism is deeply entrenched in American society, and it may take a generational project to dismantle it….The fight may be hard and long, but we can do it.”

Anyone can view this interview for free at the Imagine Learning Community, where you will find many other resources and interviews as well.

You may have read some of my posts in the fall about the Reawaken America Tour in Batavia, NY last August. You can read all of them now in a free eBook, “Inside the Reawaken America Tour.” Click here and download your copy today.

January 6 and Christian Nationalism

Today is the 2nd anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Many faith leaders have questioned why the report from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has only one direct reference to Christian nationalism. Reports indicate Rep. Liz Cheney influenced the decision. Her official statement was that she “won’t sign onto any ‘narrative’” regarding Jan. 6 that “suggests every American who believes God has blessed America is a white supremacist.”

Even though many journalists and writers documenting this movement do connect it to white supremacy, no one I know of suggests what Liz Cheney says.  Yet far too many researchers and experts have thoroughly documented the connection to January 6 to dismiss it or ignore it.

Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty, organized Christians Against Christian Nationalism to provide resources for anyone who wants to learn more and take action to resist this movement that threatens our democracy and harms Christianity. The full report documenting clear and direct connections between this movement and what happened on January 6, 2021 is available here.

One of the best definitions of what Christian Nationalism is comes from Amanda Tyler’s introduction to that report:

Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism relies on the mythological founding of the United States as a “Christian nation,” singled out for God’s providence in order to fulfill God’s purposes on earth. Christian nationalism demands a privileged place for Christianity in public life, buttressed by the active support of government at all levels.

It is important, she adds, to address not just the actions around January 6 or more “obvious examples” of the movement, but its “more mundane and insidious forms…that often go unnoticed:

This report’s focus on the events leading up to and on January 6 does not suggest that this is the sole example or manifestation of Christian nationalism in the United States today. Concentrating solely on the most violent or obvious examples of Christian nationalism could distract us from addressing the more mundane and yet insidious forms of the ideology that often go unnoticed. The contributors and sponsors of this report are committed to studying and combatting Christian nationalism in its many forms. The scale and severity of the January 6 attack warrant a dedicated report of this kind. Dismantling Christian nationalism will take a broad and diverse response from individuals and organizations committed to effecting change.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

My interview with Amanda Tyler will be available
a week from now on January 13. _____________________________________________________________________________________

Andrew L. Seidel -a constitutional attorney, Director of Strategic Response at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and author of The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American – documents in this report several rallies prior to January 6 which were explicitly Christian nationalist (see sections 5 and 6 of the report):

One of the first post-election rallies in Washington, D.C., took place on November 14 in Freedom Plaza. It was typical of the pre-January 6 rallies, with many of the same players and speakers. It opened with a prayer infused with Christian nationalism that set the tone for everything that happened later…. They marched with crosses, Images of the Virgin Mary,“Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President” flags,” “An Appeal to Heaven” flags, and a red flag that proclaimed “JESUS IS LORD.” An RV bedecked in Trump paraphernalia declared, “PRAY FOR 45.” At the Supreme Court, they erected a massive white Christian cross.

On December 12, the Jericho March was held in D.C. with Christian images and themes. And on January 6, “Crosses were everywhere that day in D.C., on flags and flagpoles, on signs and clothes, around necks, and erected above the crowd,” Andrew Seidel reports.

Please read the full report or watch the webinar releasing the report:

Amanda Tyler’s reaction to the events of January 6 deserve to be heard:

January 6 revealed on a national stage just how dire the threat of Christian nationalism is to our constitutional republic. As I wrote in the aftermath of that day, my horror about the violent attack only increased when I saw photos of the rioters holding up signs like “Jesus Saves” and heard reports that the first invaders to enter the Senate chamber carried a Christian flag. As a Christian, seeing signs of my faith on display during such a violent event filled me with anger and frustration. It was a display of textbook Christian nationalism, an ideology that merges American and Christian symbols, narratives and identities.

Whether it was the Reawaken America Tour I reported on here last fall or this detailed report on its influence the events of January 6, Christian nationalism must be resisted and its power stopped. Join us in this continuing work.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Another resource you may want to explore is a free eBook called “One thing YOU can do,” available for download here. Learn the 2 ways to do that one thing and when and how to do it. … Once you’ve downloaded it, please visit Imagine and learn how you can be part of a growing community committed to opposing religious nationalism and building a better world. … Join us today and get a 30-day free trial subscription.

This is why

Why did members of Congress get “a Sunday School lesson … on the history of Baptists and religious freedom” this week? Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), spoke at a congressional hearing on the rise of anti-democratic extremism. When the chairman, Jamie Raskin, asked Tyler why BJC decided to actively oppose white Christian nationalism, she said:

“The problem of white Christian nationalism exactly fits with our mission of defending and extending religious freedom for all people. That’s because Christian nationalism strikes at the heart of the foundational ideas of what religious freedom means and how it’s protected in this country, and that is with the institution of separation of church and state.”

Later in the hearing, she added:

“Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to fuse American and Christian identities. It suggests that ‘real’ Americans are Christians and that ‘true’ Christians hold a particular set of political beliefs, but the Christianity presented by the movement is more of an ‘ethno-identity’ than a religion. Opposition to Christian nationalism is not opposition to Christianity, and a growing number of Christians feel a religious imperative to stand against Christian nationalism. Christian nationalism uses the language, symbols and imagery of Christianity — in fact, it may look and sound like Christianity to the casual observer. However, closer examination reveals that it uses the veneer of Christianity to point not to Jesus the Christ but to a political figure, party or ideology.”

This is why we need to pay attention to another story from Texas. A state representative, Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, hired as his legislative director a man named Jake Neidert who advocates extremist, violent views and calls himself a Christian nationalist. In a Facebook post earlier this year, he wrote:

“Please understand that we’re not TRYING to turn America into a Christian theocracy. We’re going to do it.” (emphasis mine)

State Rep. Tinderholt has pushed for legislation that proposed the death penalty for Texans who get and perform abortions and supports dozens of bills against any form of LGBTQ gender identity and sexual expression. Neidert, however, is publicly far more extreme and is now the man to develop legislation for Tinderholt.

In a June 2022 tweet, he wrote: “You want to force kids to see drag shows, I want to ‘drag’ you to the town square to be publicly executed for grooming kids. We are not the same.” As a Baylor University student leading the chapter of Young Conservatives for Texas, “Neidert compared LGBTQ allies to child rapists and serial killers, saying that homosexuality was equally sinful,” then “defended the post by saying he was a Southern Baptist, and that ‘many congregations and denominations of Christianity still believe that homosexuality is a sin. I would not say [the tweet] is a stretch.’”

People often react to such stories by labeling them “extreme” and saying these views represent only a small minority. Yet Texas Gov. Greg Abbott “directed Child Protective Services agents to investigate families who provide gender-affirming care to transgender children.” And “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office sought information on Texans who requested gender changes on their driver’s licenses — raising concerns among transgender Texans that they were being monitored. Meanwhile, ahead of Texas’ next legislative session that begins early next year, lawmakers have already filed dozens of bills targeting LGTBQ rights, including bills that would criminalize gender-affirming care for minors.”

The laws of the United States, or any of the individual states, must not be written based on the moral views of a specific version of any religion, including Christianity. As Amanda Tyler affirmed at this congressional hearing, many Christians oppose Christian nationalist views because we disagree that their views represent our faith and all it teaches about such concerns as abortion and LGBTQ rights.

When people like Neider and powerful groups like the Texas legislature, as well as the state’s governor and attorney general, want to criminalize human behavior that many of us support, this is why we speak up and take action. What many people still see as extreme views held only by a small group are being written into state laws governing the lives and restricting human freedoms of millions of citizens. This cannot continue.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Another resource you may want to explore is a free eBook called “One thing YOU can do,” available for download here. Learn the 2 ways to do that one thing and when and how to do it. … Once you’ve downloaded it, please visit Imagine and learn how you can be part of a growing community committed to opposing religious nationalism and building a better world.