(This webpage was positively featured by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of three top resources for countering white Christian nationalism in the center's annual report, "The Year in Hate & Extremism 2022.")
With hundreds of far-right politicians using Christ's name to deny election results, demonize their opponents, enact a theocratic agenda, and spread dangerous conspiracy theories -- all with the blessing of pastors and televangelists -- Christian nationalism is the single biggest threat to both democracy and the church today.
To assist Christians in recognizing and responding to Christian nationalism when we see it, Faithful America has put together this short FAQ and the following list of helpful resources, including study guides, webinars, sermon prep, and books.
What is Christian nationalism, and why is it a threat?
As defined by multiple sociologists and academic researchers, Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that claims America was founded to be a "Christian nation" where Christians should receive special legal treatment not available to non-Christians. This merges the previously separate Christian and American identities, proclaiming that the only true Americans are the country's Christians (and a specific subset of conservative Christians, at that). This means that Christian nationalism is antisemitic and Islamophobic, and poses a threat to the religious freedom of America's Jews, Muslims, Indigenous peoples, mainline Protestant Christians, and more.
As the "Christians Against Christian Nationalism" coalition notes, "It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation," which is why you will also often hear the related and important term "white Christian nationalism." Christian nationalism also falsely teaches that there is no separation of church and state -- and that conservative Christians should seize complete power by any means necessary.
Driven by that lust for power, Christian nationalism is the ideology that inspired and guided the deadly January 6 insurrection; organizes countless attacks on the equal rights and religious freedom of non-Christians, immigrants, women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, and other Americans; and now threatens to incite a new wave of political violence with never-ending rhetoric about "holy war," the "armor of God," and "the angel of death" coming for the movement's political opponents.
How common is Christian nationalism?
By the most oversimplified measure, one could point to an October 2022 poll from Pew Research that found 45% of Americans believe the country should be a so-called "Christian nation."
However, as a political ideology, Christian nationalism is a spectrum of beliefs. Some individuals hold more of these beliefs -- or feel them more intensely -- than others. Even within the above-mentioned Pew poll, respondents meant different things by the phrase "Christian nation."
Most sociologists and pollsters who have surveyed Christian nationalism ask a series of questions about multiple beliefs, then divide adherents (and opponents) into categories based on how many of the beliefs they affirm holding. In 2023, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Brookings Institute jointly found that just 10% of Americans are Christian-nationalist "adherents," while an additional 19% are "sympathizers." A plurality of 39% are skeptics, while only 29% are outright rejecters. Sociologists Dr. Samuel Perry and Dr. Andrew Whitehead used a similar methodology in 2020, with slightly different questions and categories. They found that 19.9% are "ambassadors" for Christian nationalism, while 32.1% are "accommodators," 26.6% are "resisters," and 21.5% are "rejecters."
Is Christian nationalism Christian?
No, Christian nationalism is a political ideology and a form of nationalism, not a religion or a form of Christianity. It directly contradicts the Gospel in multiple ways, and is therefore considered by many Christian leaders to be a heresy. While Jesus taught love, peace, and truth, Christian nationalism leads to hatred, political violence, and QAnon misinformation. While Jesus resisted the devil's temptations of authority in the wilderness, Christian nationalism seeks to seize power for its followers at all costs. And while Christianity is a 2,000-year-old global tradition that transcends all borders, Christian nationalism seeks to merge faith with a single, 247-year-old, pluralistic nation.
If Christian nationalism is a political ideology, not a religion, why call it "Christian?"
We still say "Christian nationalism" because, just as white nationalism seeks to define national citizenship by a particular race, Christian nationalism seeks to define national citizenship by a particular religion. We need to note which faith is being hijacked -- our faith -- in order to highlight the danger to the church as well as to explain why we are the ones speaking out.
Equally importantly, while the ideology of Christian nationalism isn't Christian, individual Christian nationalists are. We should not question anyone else's stated faith or relationship with God the way that some of our own critics have questioned us. Instead, it is precisely because we are their fellow Christians that we can say to the pastors and politicians who abuse their power, "This is not what our shared faith is supposed to look like. This hunger for power and this mistreatment of others is not the love that Jesus wants from us."
Why should Christians oppose Christian nationalism?
Pro-democracy, pro-love Christians must speak out together to show the country that Christian nationalism does not represent Jesus or our faith. When we do this, we prove that the biggest critics of the Christian-nationalist ideology are in fact Christians, and thus disprove the source of its biggest power: the false perception that the religious-right speaks for all American Christians.
Scared of losing this power, Christian-nationalist leaders like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Michael Flynn, and Tony Perkins have worked very hard to convince their followers of the lie that all critics of Christian nationalist are "atheistic globalists" from "the godless left" who want to "marginalize" Christians. Others, like Franklin Graham, warn that "progressive Christianity will lead you to hell." They are desperate to sideline or silence our voices, but their backlash simply shows that speaking out for the Gospel's message of love works.
In reality, it is Christian nationalism that marginalizes the Black Church tradition, mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, progressive evangelicals, and millions of other members of the Body of Christ by trying to erase our faith and our relationship to the public square. To assist such Christians and churches in recognizing and responding to Christian nationalism when we see it, Faithful America has compiled the following list of helpful resources.
Resources to resist Christian nationalism
This toolkit from Faithful America includes general background information on Christian nationalism, specific talking points that preachers might wish to include to educate their congregation, an emphasis on the values that we're for as well as the injustice that we're against (including Scripture references), sermon illustrations including examples of Christian nationalism and stories from those it harms the most, and a dose of hope: Examples of what Christians are already doing to resist Christian nationalism, and what your congregation can do too.
You'll also find a few sample sermons to watch for inspiration, plus a few sample prayers you may choose to use or modify.
Videos and webinars
We may expand this section soon. For now, we strongly recommend the podcast "Straight White American Jesus." Two starting points are its December 2022 subseries on the New Apostolic Reformation and the January 6 insurrection, titled "Charismatic Revival Fury," or its September 2023 interview with Faithful America's executive director about Michael Flynn's ReAwaken America Tour.
Other podcasts that frequently discuss Christian nationalism, alongside other topics relate to both the religious right and progressive Christianity, include Dangerous Dogma from Word & Way, Footnotes with Jemar Tisby, State of Belief from the Interfaith Alliance, and American Idols from Andrew Whitehead.
Discussion guides and trainings
Websites and evergreen articles
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