A Preacher's Toolkit for Confronting Christian Nationalism

"White Christian Nationalism is the most urgent threat to democracy and the witness of the Church in the United States today."
 - Dr. Jemar Tisby, public historian, best-selling author, and cofounder of The Witness: A Black Christian Collective

Table of Contents

This toolkit was created in June 2023. The materials will be revised and updated for July 4, 2024, as necessary -- including adding more recent examples of Christian nationalism, Revised Common Lectionary reflections, and suggestions on how to legally talk about Donald Trump's Christian nationalism without violating the separation of church and state -- by the end of day on Monday, June 24, 2024.

  1. Introduction
  2. Christian nationalism 101: The basics
  3. What Jesus says vs. what Christian nationalism teaches
  4. Personal stories and sermon illustrations
  5. How social-justice Christians are opposing Christian nationalism
  6. Thoughts on the Revised Common Lectionary for Sundays, June 30 and July 7, 2024
  7. Sample sermons
  8. Sample prayers
  9. The flag in the sanctuary
  10. Additional resources 

1. Introduction

Thank you for taking a stand against dangerous, heretical Christian nationalism. Change can only come when we all speak out with a collective prophetic voice -- which means you're making a difference. Together, we can denounce the hateful, Christofascist hijacking of our faith against democracy and ultimately reclaim Christianity for the Gospel values of love, equality, peace, social justice, and the common good.

As this toolkit will discuss in more detail below, Christian nationalism is the belief that America is a "Christian nation" where a person's civic and religious identities are one and the same and there is no such thing as the separation of church and state. This political ideology paves the way to theocracy, granting special rights to conservative Christians while denying equality to others. As patriotic Americans, we can certainly honor our nation's flag, and as Christians, we venerate Christ before the cross -- but while both objects are of great importance to us, only one is Godly. We should be careful not to turn our country into an idol, always keeping our appreciation for the flag separate from our love for the cross, just as we keep both our Christian and American identities intact but separate. 

This toolkit is designed to provide Christian preachers with helpful resources for use in writing a sermon against Christian nationalism and Christofascism -- or for including relevant prayers in your regular worship service. Many non-Christian faith leaders are also deeply concerned about Christian nationalism, and although we at Faithful America are focused on our own faith's traditions and teachings as Christians, we extend to them our deep gratitude and love. Although this toolkit is focused on Christian theologies and perspectives, we do hope that some of the materials in sections 2 and 4 below might also prove helpful to preachers of all faith traditions.

Below you will find general background information on Christian nationalism, specific talking points you might wish to include to educate your congregation, an emphasis on the values that we're for as well as the injustice that we're against (including Scripture references), sermon illustrations you might wish to draw on 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.

Many thanks again -- we're praying for you!

 

2. Christian nationalism 101: The basics 

  • Christian nationalism is a political ideology that claims America was founded to be – and should remain – a so-called "Christian nation," despite the clear intent of the Constitution to separate church and state and to honor religious liberty for all.
  • Christian nationalism merges our religious and civic identities, proclaiming that only conservative Christians are true Americans. According to a recent Brookings/PRRI survey27% of Americans say they "would prefer the U.S. to be a nation primarily made up of people who follow the Christian faith."
  • A major goal of Christian nationalism in the U.S. is for conservative Christians to seize complete power by any means necessary, no matter who gets hurt or how many elections have to be overturned -- even though Jesus refused political authority when tempted by Satan in the wilderness.
  • Christian nationalism can be identified not just by its rhetoric, but also by its theocratic policy agenda. Despite Christ's commandments to love, adherents advocate for oppressive legislation -- rooted in far-right religious beliefs -- that strips away equal rights the LGBTQ community, non-Christians, women, people of color, and immigrants, among others. According to the Human Rights Campaign, more than 540 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year (a record) and at least 45 of them have already passed.
  • Christian-nationalist leaders like David Barton and Lauren Boebert claim that the Constitution does not include a separation of church and state, downplaying correspondence by Thomas Jefferson and selectively editing letters by John Adams to give a false view of history and the Constitution. Speaking in 2021 at a ReAwaken America rally in a megachurch known for its antisemitic founding pastor, Michael Flynn declared that America should have only "one religion." This means that Christian nationalism is antisemitic and Islamophobic, and that it poses a threat to democracy and to the religious freedom of America's non-Christians – including Jews, Muslims, Indigenous peoples, atheists and agnostics, and more.
  • Christian-nationalist leaders speak as if their conservative brand is the only authentic form of Christianity – thus erasing not just non-Christians but also mainline Protestant Christians, progressive Catholics, the Black church tradition, and more.
  • Christian nationalism encourages political violence
    • 40% of its adherents say that "American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country”
    • The ideology helped fuel the January 6th insurrection
    • The Anti-Defamation League has found that antisemitic incidents in the U.S. are at an all-time high after rising 36% last year.
  • As the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign notes, "[Christian nationalism] often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation.” This is why you will also often hear the related and important term "white Christian nationalism.”
  • Just as Christian nationalism distorts the Bible, it also distorts the Constitution, using selective editing and mental gymnastics to claim these documents say things they don't say. Sometimes Christian-nationalist leaders insist on a literal reading of Scripture and an originalist interpretation of the Constitution; other times they claim the Bible doesn't mean what it says or they ignore the explanations given by the Constitutional framers. This is hypocrisy, something Jesus repeatedly condemns.

  • Unholy, anti-democracy Christian nationalism is not Christian, and every church should reject it as heresy and sin. This is a political ideology, not a religion, that hijacks our faith by distorting and abusing religious imagery to seize power.
  • However, individuals who believe in Christian nationalism are still Christian if they say they are. We don’t know their relationship with God, and we shouldn’t question their faith if we don’t want them questioning ours.
  • By falsely making Jesus appear to be a power-hungry hate monger who only protects white, conservative, straight, cisgendered Christian men, Christian nationalism doesn’t just attack democracy and equal rights. It also drives people away from the church, giving us Christians multiple pressing reasons to respond. We must side with vulnerable communities, and we must reclaim our own identity and prophetic voice.

 

3. What Jesus says vs. what Christian nationalism teaches

"Where Christian nationalism spreads QAnon lies, Jesus says the truth shall set us free. Where Christian nationalism incites political violence, Jesus is the Prince of Peace. And where Christian nationalism spreads division and hatred, Jesus calls us to include and love our neighbors -- no exceptions." - The Rev. Nathan Empsall, Faithful America executive director

  1. Love vs. Bigotry
  2. Peace vs. Political Violence
  3. Truth vs. QAnon Conspiracy Theories
  4. Community vs. Theocracy
  5. Power for all vs. power for ourselves
  • Love vs. Bigotry
    • Jesus taught us to love our neighbors — no exceptions. The Gospels emphasize this commandment in dozens of different verses about love (particularly in the Gospel of John), and lay out specific blueprints about what love in action looks like throughout Matthew 25, the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, the Sermon on the Plain in Luke, the beginning of his ministry in Luke 4:18, Mary's song about the rich and the lowly in Luke 1, and more.
    • Christian nationalism contradicts these verses by scapegoating the LGBTQ community, non-Christians, people of color, and its political opponents in hateful and intentionally divisive terms.
    • Clay Clark, organizer of the ReAwaken America megachurch tour, has told audiences that they are on “Team Jesus” while their opponents are on “Team Satan.” Fox News ex-host Tucker Carlson has similarly proclaimed that trans people are the “natural enemy” of Christians, and Donald Trump has openly said that despite Scripture, he does not love his enemies.
  • Peace vs. Political Violence
    • Jesus is called Prince of Peace, and forbade his disciples from using force to stop his arrest, telling them in Matthew 26:52, “Put your sword back into its place, for all who take the sword will die by the sword.”
    • Christian nationalism encourages political violence, especially when its followers fail to win elections. 
      • According to a PRRI/Brookings survey, “Christian nationalism adherents are nearly seven times more likely than non-adherents – 40% vs 6% – to agree that ‘true patriots might have to resort to violence to save our country’.”
    • By attaching partisan politics onto passionately held religious beliefs, Christian nationalist leaders are able to turn that religious passion into partisan passion. Then when they use rhetoric like "holy war," "armor of God," and "angel of death" to tell people that their favorite politicians are anointed by God and can’t lose, overturning election results that don’t go their way can feel like a Godly mission where anything goes – even violence.
    • Christian nationalism was a major driver of the January 6th insurrection, as evident in the Bibles and crosses present that day, the conspiracy-laden prayer rallies held in the run-up to the insurrection, and the prayers offered by insurrectionists on the House floor and at meetings of the Proud Boys.
      • Michael Flynn -- the former general and Trump aide, co-plotter of January 6, and self-proclaimed Christian nationalist -- refused to say under oath that the violence of January 6 was neither morally nor legally justified, pleading the Fifth Amendment instead.
      • For a more comprehensive overview of Christian nationalism's role before and during that deadly day, read the report "Christian nationalism and the January 6, 2021 Insurrection," a joint project of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC)'s project Christians Against Christian Nationalism and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
    • Christian-nationalist ideologies have continued to fuel other incidents of violence, including the racist and anti-immigrant “replacement theory” that motivated the mass shooting at a Black-neighborhood grocery store in Buffalo, NY.
  • Truth vs. QAnon Conspiracy Theories
    • Truth is a fundamental Christian value. Jesus told us in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Likewise, the Ten Commandments forbid bearing false witness.
    • Christian nationalism is a hotbed for disinformation and misinformation including QAnon conspiracy theories, election denial, and anti-vaccine lies – anything that can be used as a wedge issue to divide the population and seize authority, valuing power more than truth.
  • Community vs. Theocracy
    • By using the legislative process to pass a theocratic agenda – passing state and federal bills that require the Ten Commandments be taught in public schools, fund private Christian schools with public money, strip away LGBTQ equality, restrict abortion access, and other policies based solely on religious beliefs -- Christian-nationalist leaders seek to force their religion on other Americans.
    • Although Jesus taught us to spread the Gospel, he was clear that we should never force it on anyone, telling his disciples in Matthew 10:14 to simply move along when audiences weren’t interested: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.” Jesus wants our faith to be grounded in an authentic relationship with God, which is not something you can create by weaponizing government.
  • Power for all vs. power for ourselves
    • It is good for Christians to engage in the civic process, and even to seek office. But when we do these things, it should be for the benefit of the common good, not just ourselves and those like us. If we seek power, it should be to share it with the marginalized, not to hoard it as authoritarians.
    • In Luke 4:5-8, when Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, he offered Jesus complete political authority -- but Jesus refused.
    • While political power can be a helpful tool for helping all God's children, it is only a tool to be used lightly and appropriately, not the end goal or purpose of our faith. Jesus reminds us of this in John 18:36 when he says, "My kingdom does not belong to this world."
    • In contrast, a primary goal of Christian nationalism is to seize political power for a specific group of people -- straight, conservative, white Christians -- at any cost. Speaking at a “Pastors for Trump” event this year, Sean Feucht, a worship leader who is performing at all 50 state capitols and who speaks on the Christian nationalist ReAwaken America Tour with Michael Flynn and Eric Trump, spoke for many when he proclaimed, “We want believers to be the ones writing the laws. Yes. Guilty as charged.”

 

4. Personal stories and sermon illustrations

Personal Stories from the Frontlines

Some of the best sermons always include stories and compelling illustrations. It's also important to talk about who we support -- putting our voices behind marginalized individuals and communities just as Jesus did -- not just whom we oppose.

To that end, you might consider lifting up examples of people who have been harmed by Christian-nationalist attacks on LGBTQ rights -- perhaps the parents of trans children in Texas, or a school librarian afraid for their job in Florida. You can find some of those stories in the news articles below:

One more haunting example of unholy Christian nationalism: The ReAwaken America Tour

Perhaps the most glaring example of Christian nationalism outside of state legislatures since the January 6 insurrection is the ReAwaken America megachurch tour from Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Mike "My Pillow" Lindell, and Eric Trump. The tour provides several disturbing images and quotes that can help your congregation recognize the threat of Christian nationalism.

ReAwaken America has been called "A Who's Who of the New Christian Right," "QAnon 2.0," and "January 6 Goes to Church." The event is a touring political rally that blends baptisms, praise music, QAnon misinformation, and election denial. Yes, you read that right: baptisms. Roughly once a month, a crew of high-profile MAGA celebrities, January 6 insurrectionists, and right-wing pastors visit a new state -- usually but not always at a church -- to spread hateful MAGA talking points in Jesus's hijacked name. These pro-Trump political rallies are designed to radicalize Christians, use the church as a vehicle for QAnon misinformation, and ultimately seize power for conservative white evangelicals at any cost. The tour is also the incubator for the new organization "Pastors for Trump," which holds prayer calls and prayer rallies that feature almost no prayer at all, and include more politicians than pastors.

Here are just a few of the more disturbing quotes from ReAwaken America, all shared before audiences of thousands, blessed by the presence of pastors, and legitimized by former General Flynn's three stars:

  • Pastor Mark Burns, May 12, 2023: “You got to get to the point where you realize that when they smack you in the face, you smack them back two times harder! ... The Bible says the violent take it and we take it by force. We are here and ready to take this nation back.”
  • General Michael Flynn, May 12, 2023: "The other side is an ideology that, they don’t have faith, they don’t believe in God, they have no soul, they have no consciousness. When we think about something, we go black-and-white, right-and-wrong, good-and-evil. They don’t see things like that.”
  • Bo Polny, October 21, 2022: "The angel of death is coming to visit these people [Biden, Harris, the Clintons, etc]. These people are going down. These people who control the world think that they are pharaohs -- the present-day pharaohs soon you shall never see again!"
  • Scott McKay, "The Patriot Streetfighter," 2021: "This is war. It’s gonna get bloody, and I’m going to get ugly too: no less ugly than any 1776 preacher that dropped his Bible on the lectern, grabbed his muzzle loader or musket, and went out and put balls and bullets inside people and watched blood flow on a battlefield. That’s what they had to do. That’s in the name of Christ. It's an evil enemy. Any of the minions, including the doctors and nurses who are part of it... They need to know what's coming next, and that's the only other battle in my future that I can see coming up."
  • Clay Clark, ReAwaken America organizer and host, claims the COVID-19 vaccines are Bill Gates using satanic technology to inject Jeffrey Epstein's DNA into us to create a new transhuman species. This is the same Clay Clark who tells his audience that they're "Team Jesus" and that their pro-vaccine opponents are "Team Satan," and who has written on ReAwaken America promotional posters that "With God on our side, we will win this thing!"

 

5. How social-justice Christians are opposing Christian nationalism

"Together, we can defeat fascism with fierce love." - The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church and author of "Fierce Love"

This section is intended to help you move your congregation to action by providing examples of what's already happening. It can also provide a dose of hope after spending so much time on what's -- let's admit it -- a scary and depressing topic!

We've all heard it, over and over again: In the face of so much hypocrisy and twisted Scripture, where is the church? The answer is, we're right here.

First, note that you are not the only preacher tackling Christian nationalism.

Previous sermon drives have been organized by Faithful America, Red Letter Christians, Vote Common Good, the Florida Council of Churches, Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice, the Clergy Emergency League, and many more. You are but one of thousands of voices in a choir singing across the nation at once!

For years, multiple Christian and multifaith advocacy organizations have been speaking out against Christian nationalism. We encourage you and your parishioners to sign petitions and take other actions to reduce the power of Christian nationalism at faithfulamerica.org, and also to check out the good and diverse work of co-conspirators like Christians Against Christian NationalismSojourners, Red Letter Christians, Vote Common Good, Faith in Public Life, the Interfaith Alliance, and more -- the list goes on! These groups don't just stand against hatred and Christian nationalism, either: They also offer a positive witness about the things Jesus taught us to stand for, particularly love, dignity, and social, economic, and racial justice.

But it's not just the independent advocacy groups -- it's the formal church, too. For the past year and a half, Faithful America has been organizing local pastors to speak out against the Christian-nationalist ReAwaken America Tour whenever it comes to town -- and we've been joined in this effort not just by dozens of individual clergy but also by the United Church of Christ's national leadership, the Florida Council of Churches, the New York Council of Churches, the Ohio Council of Churches, and two different Episcopal dioceses.

Some denominational governing bodies have passed resolutions against Christian nationalism. Meanwhile, the "Christians Against Christian Nationalism" campaign has received important endorsements from church leaders like Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, ELCA (Lutheran) Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Bishop W. Darin Moore of the National Council of Churches USA, and multiple Baptist denominations, as well as authors and leaders like Catholic activist Sister Simone Campbell, Rev. Carlos L. Malavé from the Latino Christian National Network, evangelical authors Jim Wallis and Shane Claiborne, and many more.

Where is the church? We're right here!

So what can YOUR church do after this sermon or service?

The low hanging fruit is to take a closer look at the issue and learn more -- perhaps with a book group, webinar discussion, or short training. You can find recommended books, videos, and curricula at Faithful America's resources page here. 

But the most important thing we can do is to show up. We cannot allow Christian nationalism to go unchecked as the only visible and vocal public representative of our faith, or people will believe its leaders when they say they speak for all Christianity. It's up to us to be present in our communities and offer both a counter witness against Christian nationalism and a positive prophetic voice for the values and policies we believe in, expanding equal rights for all regardless of their race, religion, sexual identity, income, physical and mental health, or zip code.

Christian-nationalist organizers have been pushing their followers not just to vote, but to vote in every state and local election -- and also to show up at school board hearings, state legislature committee meetings, city council meetings, and more. Are we showing up too, or are we ceding that ground? Perhaps your church can research local civic calendars and encourage members to start attending regularly.

Other, related actions you might consider include:

  • Contacting lawmakers to make your voice heard on state and local legislation
  • Holding non-partisan voter registration drives (something churches are most certainly allowed to do!)
  • Speaking to the local press as public witnesses - we can't let the voices of one "side" dominate the conversation
  • Introducing resolutions against Christian nationalism and hateful legislation at church bodies (and making sure the press knows when they pass)
  • Joining existing local initiatives from organizing groups like Faith in Action
  • Tracking extremism in your area and holding counter press conferences or even counter protests when Christian-nationalist events like ReAwaken America or Turning Points USA come to town
  • Holding positive events of your own in the community
  • Maintaining rather than severing personal ties to friends and family who don't share our views.

A little can go a long way!

 

6. Thoughts on the Revised Common Lectionary for Sundays, June 30 and July 7, 2024

 

Commentary on the RCL for the two Sundays surrounding the Fourth of July shall be added by Thursday, June 20.

 

7. Sample sermons

When it comes to preaching against Christian nationalism, you're in good company! Here are some additional sermons you can watch for ideas and inspiration.

Preach-And-Pray Against Christian Nationalism

On June 11, 2023, more than 300 clergy and worship leaders affiliated with Faithful America and other organizations participated in our inaugural sermon drive against Christian nationalism. This great article from our friends at Word & Way includes coverage of several of the sermons.

The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson:

The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis and Rev. Benjamin Perry:

Counter Voices Against Christian Nationalism

This video is not of a sermon, but of a Faithful America press conference featuring several national and local faith leaders against Christian nationalism and, specifically, the ReAwaken America Tour when it stopped in Batavia, NY. Speakers include the Rev. Nathan Empsall of Faithful America, Pastor Doug Pagitt of Vote Common Good, the Rev. Jen Butler of Faith in Public Life, and more.

Preachers United Against Christian Nationalism

On October 2, 2022, for World Communion Sunday, Faithful America member Rev. Rebecca Littlejohn organized a previous sermon drive called "Preachers United Against Christian Nationalism." Our friends at Word & Way have a great round-up of some of the sermons -- no videos, but plenty of quotes!

 

8. Sample prayers

Feel free to use these prayers as written, to edit them as appropriate for your setting, or simply to see them as mere inspiration for crafting your own.

Collect for Love and Discernment:
Architect of the world, who created this nation and every other nation with equal measures of love, we come to you this day seeking ways of hearing your voice through the noise of modern life and division, and asking that you be with us and that you help us to keep our ears, eyes, and hearts pointed only towards you and your way of love, this we pray through the Holy Spirit and in your loving Son's name, Amen.

A Prayer for Truth:
Divine Creator, we come to you this day seeking to remember the truth that lives deep within us, your truth. As we seek to uncover your holy truth of love, peace, and justice from the hateful rhetoric of nationalist lies that fill our ears, please remind and strengthen us in our beliefs, that you alone are the truth. That your love is available to all, regardless of the different labels we humans apply to one another. Give us the courage to be your reconciling presence on earth. To be pillars of love in a world defined by anger, fear, and separation. Help us to love our neighbors and ourselves, even when the world tells us we should not, and even when it is hard -- especially when it is hard. Be with us, now and always, Amen.

A Prayer Against Christian Nationalism's Abuse of Faith
Creator God, who has called us to be fishers of people and to show your love to all the nations of this earth: We thank you for founding your Son's church through the rock of Peter, and for welcoming us into a cloud of witnesses and communion of saints that stretches across all time, space, and race. You have charged us, as your church, to work for your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, creating a beloved community where together we practice loving you and loving our neighbors. As a collective church, Lord, we ask your forgiveness for those times when your name has been used not for this mission of love, peace, and truth, but misused for hatred, violence, misinformation, and power. Guide use to be beacons of Christianity, not of Christian nationalism. Help us to raise a prophetic voice so that we may resist the hijacking of your name, provide a counter-witness to the abuse of faith, and do the work building a better world for the oppressed and marginalized, while also examining our own communities and taking the logs out of our own eyes as we attempt to do this heavenly work for you and for others. This we pray through the Holy Spirit and in the loving name of your risen Son Jesus Christ, Amen.

Churches that write their own responsive prayers (e.g. "Prayers of the People") might also consider creating a special version that asks for God's help raising a prophetic voice against Christian nationalism and doing the work of love, peace, truth, equality, and justice, incorporating these themes into your prayers for the traditional categories of the church, the nation, the world, the local community, those who suffer, and the departed.

9. The Flag in the Sanctuary 

For conversations about flags in churches, we recommend "Flag Placement in Church: How to Have the Conversation" by the Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade, as well as this essay by the Rev. Rebecca Littlejohn: "Why My Congregation Removed Flags From Our Church’s Sanctuary."

You might also read "I’m a conservative Christian. I’ve got a problem with the flag" by Scott Collins at Baptist News Global and "10 Reasons Why U.S. Flag Should Not Be in Your Sanctuary" from Craig Watts at Good Faith Media.

10. Additional resources 

For additional resources against Christian nationalism (including book recommendations, webinars, discussion guides, and more), visit this page on the Faithful America website.

And to help congregants recognize Christian nationalism when they see it, you can learn more about specific Christian-nationalist leaders in both church and society at Faithful America's webpage "False Prophets Don't Speak for Me."

Thank you for everything you do to love your neighbor and lead your community in doing the same!