"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
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
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.
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
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:
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 Nationalism, Sojourners, 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:
A little can go a long way!
6. Thoughts on the Revised Common Lectionary for Sunday, June 11, 2023
For those churches and denominations that follow the Revised Common Lectionary, June 11, 2023, is the second Sunday after Pentecost, Year A.
Gospel: Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
Unconditional love and acceptance
In the first part of today's Gospel reading, Jesus dines with sinners, including the corrupt tax collector Matthew. Remember, tax collectors in those days were not like the IRS agents of today. They were individual law enforcement officers who were known for taking more than what was owed in order to pocket it for themselves. This was who Jesus chose to associate with, along with prostitutes, lepers, and other sinners.
Jesus's behavior here is an example of unconditional love. He did not tell people that they had to stop sinning before they could share his company. He probably didn't even make a big deal of their sin at all, or they wouldn't have bothered to stick around for an uncomfortable and unpleasant meal. Then in the second part of the reading, a synagogue leader who keeps company with Jesus's biggest critics comes to ask him for help raising his daughter from the dead. Jesus doesn't grill him on his beliefs, behavior, or identity first, nor does he ask if the daughter is worthy -- he just helps and loves, no questions asked. And when a woman touches his cloak for healing because of an apparent reproductive illness, Jesus doesn’t test her, demonize her, or turn her away; he calls her "daughter" and declares that it is her faith that has made her well.
The only point for Jesus in these two stories is to show love to people who need it, to find healing and right relationship, and to build community. This is what love looks like: Not "tough love," not "just telling it like I see it," not "love the sinner hate the sin," but simply showing up and being present with laughter, willing hands, and a warm heart.
This stands in direct contrast to church leaders and politicians who use religion as a cudgel, passing laws in Jesus's name that divide us rather than unite us at the table: Attacking LGBTQ rights and trans families, banning refugees and treating migrants as political pawns, stripping voting rights from people of color, scapegoating marginalized communities in public education, and declaring that anyone who doesn't share these politics is a "soulless" member of "Team Satan," soon to be visited by the "angel of death."
This is the theocratic Christian nationalist legislative agenda. And none of it looks like Jesus's practical examples of loving his neighbors. Christian nationalism seeks to give special privilege and rights to straight, conservative Christians (and in particular white Christian men) -- but Jesus didn't have any litmus tests before showing love, not even a behavior check. Jesus is here for all of us, no matter what our religion, race, sexual identity, income, mental or physical health, or zip code.
A prominent theme in this Gospel reading is the role of healing in Jesus's ministry. Here are two brief observations about healing that you might wish to expound on.
First, many Christian-nationalist politicians who build their political careers in Jesus's name are the same lawmakers who oppose vaccines and who try to repeal America's health-care laws. But in this reading -- as in many others -- Jesus emphasized health and healing, not profits.
Second, by seeking to seize power at any cost and ultimately enact a theocratic agenda, Christian nationalism gravitates toward the centralization of power via the doctrine of sovereignty. But Jesus doesn't just refuse to seek power when tempted by the devil in the wilderness in Luke 4. By healing as well as calling others, Jesus even gives away power. (In Luke 8:46, he says that when he heals others, he can feel "that power had gone out from me.")
As we see from its theocratic policy agenda of attacking equal rights in Jesus's name, Christian nationalism seeks to impose its understanding of Biblical law through America's secular law.
But here in his letter to the church in Rome, Paul explicitly states, "If it is the adherents of the law who are to be [Abraham's] heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation."
God loves us. Our creator and parent God yearns for a fulfilling relationship with us for both our sake and God's. For a relationship to be authentic and fulfilling, it must be given freely. Forcing any form of Christian discipline and behavior (particularly a legalistic, conservative form) on people is a form of involuntary bondage, not of faith. In fact, it is a barrier to faith. America is a nation of equality and religious freedom, not a "Christian nation." Yet even if our country were a Christian nation, it would be wrong to create fundamentalist Christian laws for non-Christians to follow. That is not the kind of evangelism and voluntary relationship that Paul and Christ asked of us. Rather, it is a cruel imposition that pushes people away from Jesus in fear and disgust, not closer to him through an embrace of affirmation and love.
One can also consider the role not just of secular law in society, but of God's Law within religious life. The Law certainly matters as a tool for staying disciplined and focusing on God. However, to overemphasize it, misinterpret it, or to violently inscribe it the way Christian nationalism does risks focusing on the Law for its own sake rather than as a tool for love -- the very mistake some (not all) of the Pharisees made. What Jesus said in Mark 2:27-28 about laws concerning the Sabbath could perhaps be said of the whole Law: "The Sabbath was made for humankind and not humankind for the Sabbath."
Where Christian nationalism focuses on strict adherence to its oppressive and theocratic vision, the New Testament focuses on grace, with the Law as merely a means to an end. We can combine what we've heard in Romans today with this verse from Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast."
Genesis 12:1-9 and Psalm 33:1-12
At first glance, today's Hebrew Bible readings might seem to pose a challenge to a preacher taking a stand against Christian nationalism. After all, God tells Abram "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you," and the psalmist writes, "Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord."
It is likely best to focus the lectionary portion of your sermon on the Gospel and perhaps on Romans, but do be prepared to address these readings if parishioners ask about them.
In contemporary usage, the word "nation" usually means "nation-state" or "country." The modern nation-state as a sovereign unit, however, is not a concept that existed until the 15th century or so. In these Scripture readings, "nation" is distinct from "country," and refers more to a religious or ethnic community. Abraham did father many nations -- the 12 tribes of Judaism via his son Isaac, as well as Islam through his son Ishmael. This is what Scripture refers to, not the countries or nation-states in which these religious and ethnic nations would later reside.
As Christians, we do ask for and rejoice in God's blessing and wisdom. We also pray for others, including members and residents of other nations, that they might receive those gifts too. This does not mean that we seek to force our religion on others through secular law -- Abraham didn't, and we shouldn't either.
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. Additional resources
For additional resources against Christian nationalism (including book recommendations, webinars, discussion guides, and more), visit this page on the Faithful America website.
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.
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!