What words would you use?

We all have our “guilty pleasures,” don’t we? I find using “stupid” and “nonsense,” for instance, quite satisfying at times. For instance, I recently called a Daily Wire show host “a stupid man” for saying that “white people are the least racist people on earth.” Michael Knowles said this:

 “White people generally are the least racist people on earth. I mean that in a very technical way. There have been studies of racial consciousness. White people have the lowest racial consciousness by a country mile.”

At the Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC) conference in March, he also said:

“If [transgenderism] is false, then for the good of society, transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely – the whole preposterous ideology,” he said.

A Facebook friend posted that my comment was “unjustified slander” and “has no place in civil discourse.” I did acknowledge that perhaps I should have used “stupid” to refer to the comment and not the man. However, when I listened to the video clip from his show, I do not think he engages in “civil discourse.” And I do consider his comment historical “nonsense” and verifiably “stupid.”

I went on to post this response on Facebook:

Language is always a challenge. One word by itself will almost surely be understood by others in ways we did not mean it. There are dozens and dozens of synonyms for “stupid” – many of them not at all what I meant, but some of them conveying my meaning well. And some antonyms make even more clear what I mean. My use of the word, in my mind, is descriptive and not pejorative. But I understand other people would not see it that way.

His comments at CPAC about transgenderism provoked comments that went far beyond calling him stupid:

John Knefel of Media Matters called it “eliminationist, genocidal rhetoric”.

Christopher Mathias of HuffPost said it was “a straight-up eliminationist anti-trans tirade”.

Adam Vary of Variety urged people to “pay attention. This is genocidal. That is not hyperbole or alarmist; this rhetoric is calling for the eradication of a group of people for who they are”.

These two “guilty pleasure” words are actually fairly benign. Not slanderous. Not outside “civil discourse.” If anything I should have chosen words more clearly descriptive of someone who denies centuries of history as white men committed genocide, enslaved people of color, denied women basic human rights, and wrote laws to deny the reality of who some people are, enforcing those laws by imprisonment or death. Words like stupid and nonsense have little meaning in the face of such history.

I had intended this post to be about how we need to listen to people whose values and politics are so different from ours – how we need to listen in order to understand them. As I wrote this post, I realized even more that we can listen and understand – and be appalled and horrified by the inhumanity of some people, no matter how sensible they pretend to be. At that point, it’s time to be bold, blatant even, and call out their rhetoric and ideas as a danger to us all.

A Biblical Worldview

“America’s remnant: Only 4% now hold biblical worldview” – That’s the headline. What’s the story behind it? Based on a study by well-known evangelical researcher, George Barna, conservative opinion columnists trumpet a call to arms (taken too literally at times) for Christians who hold what they call a “biblical worldview.” One writer urges Christians who hold to his idea of such a worldview to have courage to “fight the culture war.” He quotes a character from Lord of the Rings to tell his readers: “Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.”

This story of “open culture wars” being forced upon this “remnant” of Christians motivates the movement now called Christian nationalism. Barna’s research contributes to it. George Barna is the Director of Research and cofounder of the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University. An editor at The Christian Post wrote about this study and said:

“The data found, among other things, that while 51% of American adults said they have a ‘biblical worldview,’ only 6% of American adults actually hold this worldview.

Barna drew the conclusion of inconsistency among the 51% reporting a biblical worldview by noting that many of the questions to determine worldview found this group technically outside of what the pollster defined as a ‘biblical worldview.’”

“Technically outside of what the pollster defined as a ‘biblical worldview.’” That’s how narrow all of this really is. One example is whether you agree that “human beings are born with a sinful nature.” I don’t. Neither have a great many Christians down through the centuries, let alone today. In the article calling for courage, the writer said that “it’s important to preach what Jesus preached.” As a Christian, I agree with the words, but I do not agree with what he means by them. For instance:

“As Christians, we believe that the ‘common good’ must be based upon ‘Creation order’— that is, it acknowledges the existence of God, the reality of men and women, and the importance of Christian values as the foundation of a moral society.”

Reading between the lines, I hear him say that this nation must be governed by laws and legislators who believe in God (as he does), who hold a narrow view of gender identity, and who define “Christian values” the same way he does. He goes on to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as saying that “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” I might agree with that, but then he goes on to say:

“Fighting to save our children from radical gender ideology and the horrors of abortion won’t be pretty. Fighting against Marxists who are working diligently to separate children from their parents will be costly. And it will look and sound like a war — because it is.”

One report George Barna released is titled, “A National Moment of Truth: Whose Vision and Values Will Prevail?” I do think he’s correct to name that as a central challenge of our day. I agree that it’s at the core of the division created by Christian nationalism and this narrow definition of a “biblical worldview.”

Our worldview is about how we see the world – how we think the world “should” be. It’s about the core values of life. I think a truly “biblical worldview” would emphasize compassion and love, as Jesus did –  as does the best in every religion. It would call for justice for the poor, healing for the sick, freedom for the oppressed – and would call out the greed and selfishness of too many leaders of this movement. (Again, as the best in all religions would.) It would seek not an authoritarian power (a power over people), but a power of love (a power shared with people). It would value relationships more than rules and people more than empty principles. The worldview of Christian nationalism is not, I believe, a truly biblical worldview.

A Danger to Democracy

In her daily posts, Heather Cox Richardson gives us an historian’s view of daily events. In her March 10 post, she tells us that “at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) the previous weekend, Daily Wire host Michael Knowles said that ‘for the good of society…transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.’” Richardson goes on to tell us how his extreme – and dangerous – words represent the movement’s opposition to equality for all, which is the basis for democracy.

This is not new. As the opening speaker at CPAC in Texas last August, she reminds us, “Hungarian president Victor Orbán called for the establishment of a global right wing to continue to work together to destroy liberal democracy and establish Christian democracy.” During the preceding decade, movement leaders built direct ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin and praised him as a leader in this “global right wing.”

Professor Richardson, is an American historian and professor of history at Boston College, where she teaches courses on the American Civil War, the Reconstruction Era, the American West. In her book, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America, she traces the history of this idea of equality for all at the core of American democracy from the 1600s in Europe through the founding of this nation to today’s conservative movement. Today’s news of the impact of this movement is definitely not new. (The quotes below are from How the South Won the Civil War, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition.)

In her telling of the early history of Virginia, what she describes sounds familiar when we compare it to the influence of this new conservative movement:

“The very men who adhered most vigorously to the Enlightenment concept that all men were created equal held slaves. Indeed, their new, radical concept of freedom depended on slavery, for slavery permanently removed the underclass from any hope of influencing government. Virginia leaders had gotten rid of the problem of the poor in society: they had enslaved them. And, of course, they had gotten rid of the problem of women by reading them out of personhood altogether. What was left—ideologically, anyway—was a minority of people running the government, a body politic dedicated to the needs of men of property.”  (p. 53)

Richardson details the history of this nation as the cultural and political influence of the South before the Civil War spread West. She describes the developments of a new conservative movement in the 1950s and 1960s. This is a good summary of this movement that has taken power in the 21st century:

“Movement Conservatives continued to blame everything on the growing liberal government …  They had a simple solution: the government must get out of the way of individualism. It must slash taxes and regulation, restore traditional values, and build up the military.” (p.229)

For “movement conservatives,” as Richardson refers to them, individualism is sacred. They deny the truth of anything systemic – racism, poverty, patriarchy – because in their view everything is about individual choice and responsibility. This is where we are today. “By 2016, Republican leaders sounded eerily like antebellum slaveholders in their defense of a system in which wealthy elites ruled over the masses.” (p.253)

“Republicans wrapped their actions in a cloak of paternalism, but in 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump… revealed the core of their ideology. He played to the fears Republicans had stoked for a generation, declared that he alone could save America from the dangerous forces arrayed against it, and actively cultivated the support of white supremacist groups. … Trump warned supporters that he alone stood between them and a dystopian nightmare.” (p.254)

If you have not read this book, I urge you to do so. You will be able to understand the deep historical roots of this conservative movement which threatens our democracy. Here is her closing summary:

“The conflict between a hierarchical society and one based on equality is rooted deeply in European-American society, and it is a battle America has fought since its founding. When a group of slaveholders embraced the idea that they, and they alone, should control the nation’s political and economic system, thus threatening democracy in the 1860s, Americans fought back and rededicated the country to equality. A quirk of geography and timing meant they failed to make their principles stick. The idea of the American paradox moved west, where its adherents over time reasserted control over American culture. From Reconstruction through World War II, Americans recreated a hierarchical society. The fight against fascism—the modern form of hierarchical society—once again challenged that paradox. The ensuing drive for universal equality, though, enabled oligarchs to mobilize their corollary to the American paradox, gaining power by convincing voters that equality for people of color and women destroyed liberty. Now, for the second time, we are called to defend the principle of democracy.” (p.260)

It’s not really Pentecostal Christianity

In the early ‘70s I spent a few years in Pentecostal circles, using their language of spiritual warfare, of demons and the devil. We experienced it as spiritual, believing that the battles we fought were between the divine and demonic, light and darkness, righteousness and sin. That was our language and our understanding of it all. Many Pentecostal Christians still experience it that way, but a newer, darker version is taking over.

Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshipers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, published a recent article in The New Republic called The Rise of Spirit Warriors on the Christian Right. She describes a powerful religious and political movement with Pentecostal roots, using that earlier language of spiritual warfare and the demonic, a battle between good and evil, but what she describes no longer fights just in “spiritual realms.” They have merged political power with their specific religious faith and seek what they call “dominion” over all areas of our lives.

In the article, Ms. Stewart writes about the Reawaken America Tour and how this new political/religious/cultural movement is on full display at their events. I attended their event in Batavia, NY in August of last year and wrote about my experience of it. (You can read what I wrote here.)  I agree with her assessment of the movement’s dangers. She says that it is a “reactionary style of religion surging in America…[that] represents a significant threat to American democracy.”

The article’s ending statement seems shocking to people who do not yet know about the power of this movement:

“Religion in America is starting to look more like religion in Brazil and Guatemala because America, in some aspects, is starting to resemble Brazil and Guatemala: increasingly unequal, bitterly divided, corrupt, rife with disinformation, and unstable.”

Margaret Mead famously said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” The group does not have to be “thoughtful,” as I understand that word, just “committed.” One current theory says that social movements with only 3.5% of the population can change the world, whether for better or worse. Pentecostal Christians make up about 3.5% of the U.S. population, especially if we include people who have adopted the ideas, goals, and language of this new movement.

Katherine Stewart does not suggest that every Christian in the Pentecostal tradition claims to be part of this new movement, nor even approve of it. Her article and this post are not anti-Pentecostal.  She clearly describes the diversity of race, education, and cultural backgrounds within Pentecostal denominations. People of Latino origin, for instance, form a large and growing group within Pentecostal churches. They are also a growing part of this movement gaining political power in the United States – as well as Brazil and Guatemala, as she documents. Here’s how she describes the movement that poses a danger to democracy:

“This idea that the American political realm is a place of ‘spiritual warfare’—in a literal, not metaphorical, sense—is one of the defining elements of the new forms of highly politicized religion that are surging across the country…. [And] some of the same patterns of thought and expression popular among Christian apostolic and prophetic movements are gaining traction among those who identify with other religious movements and denominations. … [And] the concept of spiritual warfare is gaining in popularity among all ethnic groups, including among white nationalist extremist groups such as the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.”

Please read the full article because she details important history, leaders, and recent developments of this movement which may look like Pentecostal Christianity but has become a reactionary political-religious-cultural force seeking power over the nation.

“It promises its followers will become heroes in an epic struggle between good and evil, to be played out very much in the here and now. Demons are real, ‘spiritual warfare’ is the way to contain them, and adherents are called to serve in the battle …fought not in the individual conscience but on the public stage. The political headlines, according to this way of thinking, are a clue to the desires of God and the plots of His enemies.

“The demons that merit the emphasis of [this movement] often have to do with the belief that the secular liberal world is infested with ‘the LGBT agenda’ and, in particular, ‘transgender ideology.’ Whatever one makes of the policy details, considered abstractly, the relentless focus on this single issue is an expression of hostility toward a perceived liberal establishment. If evil has a face, it is that of the ‘expert,’ the professor, and perhaps above all the liberal nonbeliever who urges everybody to pursue their own ideas of good and base their moral code on the principles of empathy and rationalism, rather than biblical truth.”

This article documents public statements of people seeking election to state and national office that come directly from the language and ideas of the movement. Each one openly campaigned – and some, like Florida Ron DeSantis, still govern – from its authoritarian goals. Not limited to U.S. politicians, the leaders include people like “Michael Flynn and former president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro [who] identify as Catholic, and yet outdo many Pentecostals in their commitment to spiritual warfare, their professed belief in the reality of demons, and the way they fuse national identity with a reactionary idea of religious righteousness….Although Spirit Warrior Christianity” she says, “can be found at all points on the political spectrum, this style of religion appears to fit most easily with political ideologies centered on religious authoritarianism.” And that’s the fundamental danger to democracy.


You can watch my recent 20-minute interview with Katherine Stewart here.

What in the world is going on?

Those words come from a 2006 seminar I developed about the threat to our nation coming from the Religious Right. That was 17 years ago. Few people listened because many thought the movement was coming to an end. And here we are.

Time published an article today with this headline: “Christian Nationalism’s Popularity Should Be a Wake Up Call.” This excerpt from The Midnight Kingdom: A History of Power, Paranoia, and the Coming Crisis by Jared Yates Sexton draws from his personal story and the history of similar religiously-based movements through the centuries. While he acknowledges that the current state of today’s movement is not yet there, he describes where it could go:

“The ‘solutions’ are appalling and unsurprisingly they echo the extreme measures necessitated by a looming apocalypse. The evil traitors must be stopped at all costs. Some want them in prison, others need to see them swinging from every light pole. Virtually everything, including our government, elections, economy, and popular culture, are controlled by a sinister conspiracy that is, depending on the day, either explicitly the domain of Jewish puppet masters or simply the Devil himself at the controls, and so seizing power and using cleansing violence and the muscle of the state are the only means of deliverance.”

You can pre-order the book at his website and watch this video interview with Jared Yates Sexton where he talks about part of what’s in the book.

Every day now, we learn of widespread efforts by governors and legislators, and many in the U.S. Congress, to enforce their religious and political beliefs on the nation. That was not true 17 years ago. The movement grew in power in the intervening years and now Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, and the Florida legislature, for instance, are forcing teachers and librarians to remove books and stop teaching what they consider to be wrong, including almost anything about racism and white supremacy, the rights of women for reproductive freedom, and LGBTQ rights.

“There is a small group of Christian fundamentalist leaders whose influence and power have grown over the past 30 years to the point that they play a key role in determining the laws and policies of our government.”

I wrote those words in 2006 as part of my seminar. This movement has now seized power from local school boards to many states to the federal government. Not all conservative Christians, of course, are part of the movement. I also wrote this in 2006:

“The Christian fundamentalism of the religious Right is what evangelical Christian activist, Jim Wallis (of Sojourners) calls “bad theology” and “bad religion” (in God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get it). What we are describing is not the Christian religion, not even Christian conservatives and evangelicals as a group.”

You may have seen by now a term I didn’t even know before I did that seminar – Dominionism. “The term may be unfamiliar even to many who support the values,” I wrote,
“but the ideas are widespread. D. James Kennedy, pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida (in 2006) heads a movement to Reclaim America for Christ.” Dr. Kennedy died a year later, but other leaders came to power and are far more zealous and unbending, and hungry for even more power.

Even though many who now claim with pride to be Christian nationalists may not be familiar with dominionism, their goals are similar. Some in public view (see my posts on the Reawaken America Tour) echo these words written in 1986:

“Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ — to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.

But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice. – It is dominion we are after. Not just influence. – It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.

It is dominion we are after. World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less… Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land — of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ.”

George Grant, The Changing of the Guard, Biblical Principles for Political Action: Biblical Blueprint Series, 1987, pp. 50-51.

Jared Yates Sexton, in this excerpt, issues the same “wake up call” I spoke about in 2006. The dangers have increased. The crisis is already here. If Christian nationalism remains a mystery to you, something you wonder about, and you would like to know more, you might want to take this “Introduction to Christian Nationalism” course.

Is Christian nationalism “heresy”?

Rev. William J. Barber III calls it heresy. He tells people he is “a conservative, liberal, evangelical Christian.” I know, I know. Conservatives and liberals alike generally think you can’t be both, but he claims that he is both. You may have seen his 10-minute speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, where people were on their feet in celebration of his call to “national moral revival.”  Or you may be aware of what he calls “Moral Mondays” in North Carolina, which have gone national and merged with a new Poor People’s Campaign.

This excellent CNN report by John Blake on his interview with Rev. Barber highlights Barber’s use of the term “fusion politics,” with historical roots in North Carolina politics and in the new conservative movement. He reclaims it for his own movement, saying it can create “political coalitions that often transcend the conservative vs. progressive binary.”

In his 2016 speech, he claimed that some things are not just being conservative/liberal or left/right, but right or wrong. Rev. Barber sometimes uses similar language to what we hear in the new conservative and Christian nationalism movement – like moral and right – and gives them meaning that creates a foundation for his work. For instance, his fusion politics looks like this:

“A coalition of the ‘rejected stones’ of America—the poor, immigrants, working-class whites, religious minorities, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community can transform the country because they share a common enemy. … There is a sleeping giant in America. Poor and low-wealth folks now make up 30% of the electorate in every state and over 40% of the electorate in every state where the margin of victory for the presidency was less than 3%. If you could just get that many poor and low-wealth people to vote, they could fundamentally shift every election in the country.”

When Barber describes himself as a conservative, liberal, evangelical, biblicist Christian, he undermines the political and religious divide we experience and challenges us all to rethink the meanings of language we use. This may be one reason Yale Divinity School made him the director of their new Center for Public Theology and Public Policy.

In the Christian nationalism movement, people boldly claim they are following their moral and religious values. So does Rev. Barber. In addressing the question of economic inequality in our nation, for instance, he says:

“To have this level of inequality existing is a violation of our deepest moral, constitutional and religious values. It’s morally inconsistent, morally indefensible, and economically insane. Why would you not want to lift 55 to 60 million people out of poverty if you could by paying them a basic living wage? Why would you not want that amount of resources coming to people and then coming back into the economy?”

When discussing Christian nationalism, here’s how he answers this question: “What’s wrong with saying God loves America and that the country should be built on Christian values?”

“God doesn’t say it. That’s what’s wrong with it. The scriptures say God loves all people and that if a nation is going to embrace Christian values, then we got to know what those values are. And those values certainly aren’t anti-gay, against people who may have had an abortion, pro-tax cut, pro one party and pro-gun. There’s nowhere in the scriptures where you see Jesus lifting that up.

Jesus said the Gospel is about good news to the poor, healing to the brokenhearted, welcoming all people, caring for the least of these: the immigrant, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned. Christian nationalism attempts to sanctify oppression and not liberation. It attempts to sanctify lies and not truth. At best, it’s a form of theological malpractice. At worst, it’s a form of heresy.”

In this interview, Rev. Barber indirectly highlights what I consider to be at the heart of challenging this new conservative, Christian nationalism movement. What are our values and where do our values lead us? Do we imagine the world to be about authority and power, rules and laws and enforcing them on everyone, discipline and punishment based on retribution? Or do we imagine the world to be about compassion and empathy, equality and freedom for all, nurture and restorative, healing justice?

We need to name and define what we value, what we believe is most important in this world. For people like Rev. Barber, as a Christian pastor and theologian, as well as a social activist, his values come from what Jesus said about “caring for the least of these: the immigrant, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned.” Whatever our faith – whether religious or secular, perhaps we can agree that we want to live in a world built on values of empathy, compassion, nurture, equality, freedom, and healing justice. Then we can work together to build that kind of world.


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.


Organizing the faithful

I met Nathan Empsall this past summer while working together to oppose the Reawaken America Tour scheduled for Rochester NY. That event was cancelled, but then moved to nearby Batavia – and was in the national news spotlight. I’m delighted to share this interview with him.

The Rev. Nathan Empsall, an Episcopal priest and organizer, leads Faithful America as its executive director. It is the largest online community of Christians putting faith into action for social justice. Their 200,000 members — Catholic, Protestant, and more – refuse to sit quietly while Jesus’ message of good news is hijacked by the religious right to serve a hateful political agenda. They are organizing the faithful to challenge Christian nationalism and white supremacy and to renew the church’s prophetic role in building a more free and just society.

In this interview, Rev. Empsall clarifies the mission of Faithful America at this time. They are calling out Christian nationalism for its “distortion of our faith,” working with interfaith and secular partners as they work from a Christian perspective. They are “not just against something, but for something … lifting up an alternative vision of love and working together as a community.”

Please watch the interview and then read more about their work below:

Nathan defines Christian nationalism as “a political ideology and distortion of religion” because it “merges Christian identity with a civic identity, specifically their form of Christianity with a conservative political identity. Their message is that we can only be good Christians if we share all of that. And he adds that the movement is about “seizing power just for themselves rather than sharing power” to attain justice and equality for all in our nation.

We want to lift up love, hope, grace, compassion, and dignity, he says, but we also need to “name the problem and take it on, just as Jesus did in his day.” It’s important to distinguish between the movement, which is not Christian, he says, and people in the movement who may be Christian as they claim to be. It’s the people we must love even as we challenge and call out the movement and its leaders.

So what can you do? How can you be involved? Nathan invites you to visit their website and go to “Resisting Christian Nationalism” where you will find a wealth of resources to learn about Christian nationalism and get involved. You will find a variety of curriculum resources for small group studies in your church or community. Use them. Learn from them and talk about them.

Show up! A familiar phrase, and always true. Get involved in your local community – school boards and local elections – and don’t leave your faith at home. Speak up in love with an alternative story about who we can be as a nation and community. For those of you who are Christian by faith and commitment, he says, “Jesus is the center of our narrative” – his words and life of love. [I would add that compassion and justice are the core of every religion – or non-religious worldview – at its best.] Christian nationalism gets its power from claiming to have a monopoly on Christianity. They don’t. Trust your sense of what’s right and speak out now in a way that people “feel loved and empowered.”


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.

Making sense of it all

On Christmas morning, the Washington Examiner (a radical right newspaper) ran an unsigned editorial calling for “a return to shared ideals and the possibility of civility in disagreement” in 2023. We all want that, so I read on to hear their ideas for achieving it. What I heard blamed all our national troubles on a decline in church affiliation and attendance – what they termed faith, but which meant traditional Christian religion.

The writer claims that “unbelief…dimming of conscience…toxic ideologies” all come out of “woke ideology, a form of religion itself” which has replaced “traditional religion with a much darker religion — that excludes redemption.” And what are some of the consequences for our nation?

  • Lack of “love, respect, and common ground”
  • A “divisiveness” in our nation
  • Destruction of “a sense of community”
  • “Polarized and caustic national political conversation”

By faith and religion, this writer clearly means Christian faith and religion – and a specific version that comes from a worldview not all Christians share. If that’s not plain early in the editorial, it is clear by the end:

“Christmas is supposed to generate feelings of respect and kindness for others — the impulse to treat others as they would wish to be treated. Indeed, this impulse is one originating in the Golden Rule that Jesus later propounded as an adult. Where the world says to treat friends well and enemies poorly, and to take revenge on those who have wronged you, the child born on this day taught that vengeance belongs only to God. You, on the other hand, are born for something better: to love your enemies, to forgive offenses from the bottom of your heart, to bless those who curse you, and to love others not just as you love yourself but as he loves you.”

The language the writer uses to talk about “the woke” – substituting that for “liberals” which they use in the same way – seems just the opposite of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, which is quoted in this paragraph. The writer even claims that “the woke”:

“Debate whether it is OK to mutilate or sexualize children”
“Exacerbate racial tensions”
“Drive people out of restaurants and give them no peace”

How do we make sense of it all? I grew up learning the teachings of Jesus and have spent more than 50 years as a Christian minister, seeking to follow the teachings and life of Jesus in all I do. My worldview – the way I imagine the world I want to live in – focuses on compassion and justice, empathy and equality, and shared responsibility. Yet this writer, I’m confident, would say that I am “woke” in many ways the editorial condemns.

There is no single definition of the term, but on Facebook today, I found this description of what it means to be “woke”:

“Woke means awakened to the needs of others. To be well informed, thoughtful, compassionate, humble, and kind. Eager to make the world a better place for all people.”

The “shared ideals” this writer refers to seem to come from a different worldview – the one shared by Christian nationalists. They imagine the world as a place where it is good to possess authoritarian power and dominance in family, church, society, and government – where “rugged individualism” (every man for himself) is a core value for the laws and rules in this world. Their “shared ideals” come out of their nostalgic longing for the tradition they inherited – of a white Christian America operating from this worldview.

To make sense of it all, we must acknowledge that the majority of citizens in this nation never enjoyed the privileges and freedoms of that world, nor did the people in power in that world govern it on the basis of the teachings of Jesus. We must understand that authoritarian worldview desires a different world than a compassionate worldview. Therein lies the fundamental differences among us. Can we build bridges between both worlds and be willing to cross over or at least meet in the middle? I don’t know, but I’m willing to try.


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.

Done turning the other cheek

“I’m a Christian, and I’m done turning the other cheek.” So said Jack Posobiec at the Turning Point USA’s Amfest 2022 conference yesterday. With those words, he dismissed one of Jesus’ most well-known teachings about nonviolence and love as something not for him. Yet he claims to be a Christian, speaking to thousands of people who claim freedom, family, and [Christian] faith as fundamental values for this nation.

Like me, his name may be new to you, but he is well-known in radical right circles. He says his  podcast, Human Events Daily with Jack Posobiec, “brings you unfiltered and factual updates on how current events will impact our country today and in the future.” Yet the Politifact Scorecard rates his “factual updates” as 100% false or mostly false. The Southern Poverty Law Center says that “his disinformation typically focuses on making his political opponents seem dangerous or criminal, while ignoring or downplaying the corruption of authoritarians.” He also “collaborates with white supremacists and neo-nazis.”

Why would this man be invited to speak at a national conference of Turning Point USA (TPUSA) whose mission is “to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote freedom”? If you watch some of the highlights from America Fest 2022, it makes sense. The founder and president of TPUSA, Charlie Kirk, has his own show where he says ….

“We are lectured all the time about ‘domestic violent extremism’ as if the right has lots of domestic violent extremists, except that’s just not true. The left is full of people that are willing to use force to intimidate and harm conservatives.”

As Doug Pagitt said in last week’s interview, the Christian right often casts itself in the role of victim in the story they tell of America today. Kirk’s statement alludes to that in saying “the left” wants to “intimidate and harm conservatives.” This is why Posobiec claims it’s time to stop turning the other cheek and fight back. They refuse to be victims of “the left” any longer, as they see it, and they are ready to fight.

Charlie Kirk’s opening speech at Amfest presents a dark narrative of the future for this country. As does this whole movement, he uses fear – the fear of what will happen if they don’t fight back. The speech is 30 minutes, but watch just the first three minutes to experience the dark spectacle of what thousands of people saw and heard at the conference opening.

Watch another 10 minutes or so, and you will hear him describe their opponents as….

“the Marxist, totalitarian left filled with venom, hatred, darkness, resentment, arrogance, and despair … and teaching our children this vile garbage of critical race theory and woke nonsense.” He says “they want power, authority, control, and submission.” And that “their vision is one of despair and confusion, destroying the distinction between good and evil.”

TPUSA describes itself as traditionally conservative, committed to “the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government.” The rhetoric of their conferences, speeches, and podcasts expose them as a radical right group similar to the Reawaken America Tours. In my two days there, I heard the same demonizing of “the left,” with hate-filled language and the call to fight back – with the suggestion that militarized violence is coming.

As I listened to both of these men, I heard them projecting onto their opponents some of what many of us see in this movement – a desire for “power, authority, control, and submission” – and a “vision of hatred and darkness … of despair and confusion.” How is it possible to even talk with each other? I’m not sure it is – not with people who demonize their opponents. What we must do, however, is challenge them. Call out their story of being victims of a power-hungry, hateful, “left” and learn to tell our own alternative story of a better future as we live with empathy, compassion, and justice for all.


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.

Interview with Jennifer Butler

Jennifer Butler founded Faith in Public Life in Washington, D.C. A Presbyterian minister and global justice activist, she leads this national movement of clergy and faith leaders united in the prophetic pursuit of justice, equality and the common good. They are leading the fight to advance just policies at the local, state, and federal levels. They have a network of 50,000 leaders who engage in bold moral action that affirms just values and the human dignity of all.

Jennifer and I met this past August when the Reawaken America Tour came to Batavia, NY. She joined the public opposition to the event, and I attended the 2-day event. We have both since been writing and speaking to challenge the movement and change the conversation around Christian Nationalism. You can read her article in The Philadelphia Inquirer here.

Jennifer Butler, Founder of Faith in Public Life

Rev. Butler also wrote Who Stole My Bible? Reclaiming Scripture as a Handbook for Resisting Tyranny. I hope you will read it. In the introduction, she wrote:

The usurping of moral norms, like human dignity and loving your neighbor, is at the root of so much chaos. These beliefs are being undermined in favor of unbridled greed, ethnic nationalism, and xenophobia. A large percentage of white Christians is marching to the drumbeat of white nationalism and leading the way in the corruption of our values. Given all of this, nothing could be more important than reclaiming this radical book called the Bible and acting to make its vision for radical justice, equality, and liberation a reality.

After today you will find this interview – along with interviews of other people challenging this movement and changing the conversation – at Imagine, a learning community working for a better world. Sign up for free (for 30 days). Then for $10/month, you will have access to resources, interviews, and updates – and an Introduction to Christian Nationalism – all of which can help you learn and work for the kind of world you want to live in.

I don’t want to live in the authoritarian, power and fear-driven world this movement works to build. Rather, I want to live in a compassionate, just world, filled with hope. I can imagine it, and I am learning and working for that better world. Will you join me?