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.

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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.

https://mailchi.mp/c0ceca0553ef/reawaken-america

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.

Faith-based bullying and bigotry

In today’s interview, Katherine Stewart uses a striking phrase about the Christian nationalist movement – “faith-based bullying and bigotry.” Her journey of researching it began in 2009 when her children encountered the “Good News Club” organization which she describes as “confusing little kids into believing clubs endorsed by the school.” As a journalist, she dug deep into the broader movement which she sees as “an attack on modern constitutional democracy.”

Her latest book, The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, documents this global movement which she says is “not Christianity and not religion, but an exploitation of religion for political purposes” seeking political and legal power to decide “who gets to belong as an American and who does not.”

Meet Katherine Stewart in my interview with her, listen to all that she says, and then continue below the video for more highlights.

Many people see Christian nationalism only through the lens of individuals they know, or events they hear about like the Reawaken America Tour, or sound bites on the news. As Katherine says here, it is driven not just by individual leaders but through multiple organizations. The movement has “deep roots in our history,” as she points out, but “the new right in the 1970s gave it new impetus, creating organizations still active today” – like the Heritage Foundation and the Council for National Policy.

What can we do? That’s the question most people ask. This is a huge network of churches and organizations with 50 years of experience in educating, training, and crafting their narrative of what it means to be an American and a Christian. Katherine acknowledges that people concerned about its growing power are only now organizing to address the dangers, but we have to engage now.  “Vote,” she says, and “hold elected officials accountable.” Get involved in local and state elections where this movement has been organizing even for who gets elected to school boards. Find the groups engaged in challenging the movement, and get involved. She returned in the interview several times to says that “political engagement is essential.”

I love what she said toward the end about challenging the narrative of the movement. She said, “great and better stories which have the virtue of being true are out there, published over time.”  She urges us to “extend our vision back a few centuries,” listen to the stories, and “recognize the progress over time, not without struggle” but true progress. Let us be “humbled and inspired” by that” and go out and repeat it in our time.  

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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.

Why Antisemitism Should be Everyone’s Concern

Joyce Herman and I met in Washington, D.C. in 2005 at a national conference for religious progressives, but we live in the same town. Over the years, we would connect at some public gathering. In recent months, however, we began active conversation about the rise of antisemitism in the U.S. Joyce wrote a recent blog post that deserves a wider audience than I could give it, but please take time to read her entire post. It’s worth the time.

As a young Jewish child in the 1940’s learning about the horrors happening in Germany, I would lie awake at night and ask myself over and over, “How can they (those who are in charge of the world) be letting these horrendous things happen??”

Now, when autocratic, anti-democratic forces are burgeoning all over the world, including the U.S, that little child’s question is unfortunately still in play. My hope is that a brief exploration of antisemitism and why it should matter to everyone will shed some light on the bigger question of what role individuals can take in not letting bad things happen.

Antisemitism is complicated. I’ve used the acronym H.A.T.E. (It’s HERE, it’s ANCIENT, it’s a TOOL FOR TYRANTS, it affects EVERYONE) to help explain what it is and how it works.

H. It’s HERE and it’s real.

Simply stated, antisemitism is prejudice or hatred of Jews. A detailed history can be found in Holocaust Encyclopedia. Antisemitism occurs in cycles, surfacing when the society is stressed. Until recently antisemitism was in a less visible phase. However, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported over 2700 incidents of antisemitism in 2021, the largest increase since they began reporting them 70 years ago. Antisemitism on the Right, led by a strong and organized White Nationalist Supremacy movement has instigated and inspired murderous attacks on synagogues, grocery stores, schools, and malls.

The last few years have seen:

A. IT’S ANCIENT:

It didn’t start in Nazi Germany. Antisemitism has been called “the oldest hate.” A Jewish Black woman recently lamented that the Jews’ 6000 year history is characterized by a global search for safety.

Antisemitism began well before Christianity when the Israelites refused to bow down to Greek and Roman emperors. Over the millenia, Jews’ commitment to their interpretation of God and God’s commandments kept them separate and made them subject to torture, forced conversions (“you can’t live among us as Jews”) expulsions, (“you can’t live among us”) and periodic pogroms and genocide (“you can’t live”).

For centuries, state and church laws disallowed Jews from owning land, holding public office, or pursuing most occupations. Jews were living as a minority without a homeland and had to rely on the good will of rulers in the country where they were allowed to settle. In exchange for a promise of protection for the Jewish community, a few Jews would serve as money lenders (usury was deemed a sin for Christians), tax collectors, or other public officials. The majority of Jews there remained as impoverished as the general population.

T. IT’S A TOOL FOR TYRANTS

When those being taxed would resist the oppressive conditions of their lives, ruling royalty directed the people’s hatred and resentment to the Jewish community. Jews were used by those with the real power as “middle agents” to absorb the hatred and resentment and keep the real oppressors from coming to account. Blame and scapegoating became a regular device to divert oppressed people’s animosity and gather people to the rulers’ agenda. Dog whistles and veiled or open use of antisemitic tropes often preceded outright attacks and ultimately pogroms. In the digital age, antisemitism takes different forms but with the same destructive effect.

In a related pattern autocratic rulers developed a “divide and conquer” strategy—keeping the oppressed groups in conflict with each other. We see that operating again today in the U.S.

E. IT’S EVERYONE’S CONCERN

The recent dramatic and visible rise of antisemitism — a poison that runs in cycles and has resurfaced at many points in history — is but one example of how our world gets divided. Moreover, antisemitism plays a pivotal role in disrupting the entire society and in particular any progressive trends that have the potential to bring about longed for justice and wholeness.

Eric Ward, Executive Vice-President of Race Forward, and Senior Advisor to the Western States Center and former senior consultant to the Southern Poverty Law Center, has made a powerful case that antisemitism fuels White nationalism. Amazingly, he briefly infiltrated the Oath Keepers (of January 6 infamy), and learned that antisemitism formed the core credo of these White Christian Nationalists. They teach that Jews form “a monstrous, all-powerful cabal,” a concept that comes from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forged document that a group of Russian police fabricated in the 19th century. They further spuriously claim that Jews use what the Oath Keepers call “subhuman others,” including Blacks and immigrants, as pawns in the Jews’ plan to destroy White nationhood. This is known as The Great Replacement Theory. See also, The “Great Replacement Theory”, Explained by the National Immigration Forum. Be sure to check the end of the document for a list of effective forms of allyship.

Ward believes fighting antisemitism cuts off that fuel for the sake of all marginalized communities under siege and that racism will not be eliminated until antisemitism is addressed. For more information see Ward’s Congressional testimony 12/13/22.

It’s often said that “Jews are the canaries in the coal mine.” It may start relatively innocuously, and people feel “it’s not a big deal, and it doesn’t affect me.”

Pastor Martin Niemoller, a German Lutheran Pastor,  was a Nazi sympathizer and an anti-semite but dramatically changed when he was targeted and imprisoned by the Nazis. When he was liberated from prison after the war, he famously said:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

ISRAEL

Although many American Jews want a homeland for Jews — and a homeland for Palestinians — the majority oppose the Israeli government’s repressive policies, a fact which is not widely known. A survey “found that Jewish Americans – much like the U.S. public overallhold widely differing views on Israel and its political leadership. It’s worth noting that Christian Zionists have been a major factor in supporting U.S. policies vis a vis Palestinians. They have also backed the settlement movement. Progressive Movements Cannot Afford to Ignore the Role of Christian Zionism in the Dispossession of Palestinians

Progressive causes have suffered when groups have singled out Israel, and by extension Jews, for attack or exclusion. This is part of the old pattern of scapegoating. The World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa in 2001 got sidetracked from considering reparations for slavery in the U.S. because of polarization around the slogan “Zionism is racism” which caused the U.S and Israel to pull out of the conference. Likewise the Women’s March in 2017 began with great energy and high hopes for inclusivity and supporting women of color in leadership, but Jewish women’s groups who had been very active in Civil Rights and feminist causes for decades were excluded because they supported the existence of the State of Israel.

Moreover, just as it is not un-American to criticize U.S. policies and behaviors, it is not antisemitism to call out egregious policies by the State of Israel. In other words, one can support the right of the State of Israel to exist while condemning governmental policies. However, when supporters of Palestine fail to distinguish between the policies of Israel, the State of Israel, and Jews, criticism of Israel can turn to hatred for Israel, and from there to attacks on Jews and Jewish groups. It is counterproductive to attack or exclude Jews in order to lift up Palestinians.

FROM ALLYSHIP TO SOLIDARITY

The Pachamama Alliance is committed to bringing about a very different world than the separation our current economic/political/social systems have brought us. In community, we can grieve the disconnections, the insidious splits of humans from one another, from other living beings, from the earth, and even from oneself. Together we can find the way back to wholeness.

Becoming allies to any targeted group is an empowering way to make rewarding connections. Jews’ history of not being supported when conditions become threatening means they don’t always trust that people care. (My Jewish friends’ faces light up when I tell them about the many ways allies from the Pachamama Alliance and elsewhere have supported me.)

The 2022 Chanukah celebration in the White House was a powerful and thoughtful response to the upsurge in antisemitism . While mixing church and state can be problematic, President Biden’s speech and the whole tenor of the event provided much needed healing.

Another compelling statement came from Imam Abdullah Antepli, formerly from Turkey, who gave the Shabbat sermon at Central Synagogue in Manhattan on December 16. Having been taught that Jews and Judaism were irredeemably evil, he grew up a rabid antisemite, burning Israeli flags. Now, despite death threats, he spends his life not only in prayer, but in calling on people of all faiths to take action.

Imam Abdullah Antepli believes the reason hate and antisemitism are on the rise is lack of action, quoting, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Amplifying what kind of action he believed was necessary, he cautioned against being “anti” something, rather than “pro,” and asked, “What ethical light do we want to show? A rightful response to the darkness will take grace, educational opportunities, and sometimes giving people a second, third, and fourth chance.”

Imam Antepli’s other plea, one that resonates deeply with the Pachamama vision, is if we respond from our silos, each group addressing only their own pain, the problems will not be solved.

Paying attention to acts of antisemitism and speaking out about them are antidotes to the isolation that is part of anti-semitism and all oppressions.When people find the courage to stand up and speak out in ways that others can hear, an important piece of healing happens in our world.

Beyond that, learning about the meaning and rich practices of Judaism, including Shabbat and the holidays, especially the High Holidays in the fall, can lead to deep connections between Jews and non-Jews.

A team of Jews of Color who lead the progressive Jewish organization Bend the Arc, recently offered this wisdom: We must take steps beyond allyship to build a movement based on solidarity.

I think that is the answer I’ve been waiting for.

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.

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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.

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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.

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.”

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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.

How do we engage with Christian nationalists?

How do we engage with people who part of this movement we call Christian nationalism? In this interview, Doug Pagitt helps us understand engagement and empathy, which he urges as our response to the people.

Doug Pagitt is the Executive Director and co-founder of Vote Common Good – an author, pastor, and social activist. A leading voice for progressive Christianity, Doug makes frequent national media and speaking appearances. He has a new book, Outdoing Jesus. Visit his website to learn more –DougPagitt.com.

Doug calls himself a possibility enthusiast. For two decades, he has been leading the conversation on progressive faith and politics. Through creative, entrepreneurial and generative efforts, he works to enlist people to join in the hopes, dreams, and desires God has for a more beautiful world. 

“The threat to democracy,” Doug says, “comes when government begins to do its work in order to fulfill its purposes by Christian means,” but not everyone in the movement is in agreement about how to do that. “There’s a continuum of where people are and the kinds of ideas they hold. There’s not a unified view in the movement, and people are not motivated by the same thing. They fight with one another.”

Watch this interview with Doug, then read more below the video about the kind of response he recommends.

How do we engage with empathy in our personal relationships? Political or governmental engagement is important, but personal engagement remains critical to making a difference. Convinced that people cannot be persuaded to change their minds or their beliefs, most of us do not even try. Here’s what Doug said: “Many people are ready to swap one belief for another, but we all need a meaningful alternative belief before we let go of a harmful belief.” So personal, empathetic engagement may be saying to someone: “I have a different way to look at this. Would you mind looking at it with me?”

Empathy includes understanding why people believe what they do. We need to put ourselves in their place as much as possible to have a sense of why they say or believe what they do. One question to ask, Doug says, is this: “What function does that belief have in your life?” It does something for them. It provides something important in their lives. What is that and why? Once we have a good idea about the answer, we can talk with them about it.

Another fascinating idea in the interview is that most stories have heroes, villains, and victims. None of us sees ourselves as the villains, of course – just a hero or a victim. We sometimes do, however, see other people as villains, which is never helpful.  “We must engage people as heroes or victims,” Doug says, “in whatever role they see themselves. Replace the hero narrative with another hero narrative, not make them villains in a story.”

Toward the end of our interview, Doug focused on what he calls “a sojourner narrative,” – a narrative of shared experience. Rather than heroes, villains, or victims, can we see ourselves as sojourners on a common journey? He suggested looking to migrants for help in this. What is their story as they learn “to live in a new land”?” What could we learn from that story about being sojourners together on a path to a better life, a better future?

If you find this interview helpful for considering an appropriate response to people involved in Christian nationalism, you might want to visit the Vote Common Good website. They offer a free course on “Confronting Christian Nationalism” that you might also benefit from. Thank you for watching this interview.

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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.

You are invited to join our new Imagine Learning Community where you will find interviews and resources from a variety of leaders and groups engaging with people in this movement. Click here to learn more.