Resisting Christian Nationalism: FAQ + Resources

[June 11 Sermon Drive: Sign up to Preach or Pray Against Christian Nationalism here]

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.

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. 

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

Videos and webinars

  • "The Threat of Christian Nationalism: Where it's coming from and how it is being used": Organized in response to lies from Tony Perkins and Michele Bachmann, this Faithful America webinar from October 12 features our executive director, the Rev. Nathan Empsall, with guests Jemar Tisby, PhD; New York Times bestselling author and historian; the Rev. Jen Butler, Faith in Public Life founder-in-residence; and the Rev. Adam Russell Taylor, president of Sojourners. Dr. Tisby's list of three ways to talk to Christian nationalists is particularly helpful.
  • Christians Against Christian Nationalism webinars: This page features several embedded videos on topics like Christian nationalism's ties to white supremacy and confronting Christian Nationalism in your own congregation. Some of the speakers include the presiding bishops of both the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
  • "Christian Nationalism is on the Ballot in 2022": On September 28, our friends at the Interfaith Alliance held a briefing on Capitol Hill featuring the Rev. Dr. Richard Cizik from Evangelicals for Democracy, Rep. Jamie Raskin from the January 6th Committee, New York Times contributor Wajahat Ali, and more.
  • "Countering Christian Nationalism: What Comes After the Ballots are Cast": This post-election Faithful America webinar from November 2022 features nine faith leaders, scholars, and issue experts in conversation with Faithful America members, including the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, the general minister and president of the United Church of Christ; Rev. Jennifer Butler of Faith in Public Life; Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis of Middle Church; Joan Neal of NETWORK; Pastor Doug Pagitt from Vote Common Good; journalist Katherine Stewart; Rev. Adam Russell Taylor from Sojourners; sociologist Dr. Andrew Whitehead; and the webinar host, Faithful America's executive director, Rev. Nathan Empsall.

Discussion guides and trainings

  • Responding to Christian Nationalism: A 3-lesson curriculum from Christians Against Christian Nationalism that corresponds with the "Democracy and Faith Under Siege: Responding to Christian Nationalism" webinar at the CACN link above.
  • Confronting Christian Nationalism: A free, three-session training from Vote Common Good with videos and discussion curriculum for faith communities, leaders, and individuals.
  • Jesus and Justice in Public: A study-action guide by the Wisconsin Council of Churches to help the church respond to the rising threats of White Christian Nationalism that have become increasingly violent and include attacks on our democracy. The guide includes sermon ideas in the appendix and offers hands-on ways that the church has historically engaged in civic life and what these practices can look like in our modern context.

Websites and articles

  • False Prophets Don't Speak for Me: This new initiative from Faithful America identifies 20 of the top Christian-nationalist leaders in both church and the public square -- politicians and pastors alike who hijack our faith for the pursuit of power. We can think of few better examples of a ravenous wolf in sheep's clothing than a leader who uses Jesus's name to attack equal rights and overturn elections.
  • Christians Against Christian Nationalism: Read the statement organized from the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty and endorsed by dozens of Protestant denomination leaders, Catholic activists, and evangelical authors, then add your name along with nearly 30,000 others!
  • "Christian Nationalism 101": A slightly deeper dive than one page, from Brian Kaylor and Beau Underwood at the faithful Baptist publication Word & Way. It's behind a paywall, but you can get a seven-day free trial.
  • "Preachers United Against Christian Nationalism": On World Communion Sunday this year, preachers across the country spoke against the heresy of Christian nationalism. Read about their efforts -- and take inspiration from their examples -- in this piece from Word & Way. Same as above: It's behind Substack's paywall, but you can get a seven-day free trial.