Dismantling Christian nationalism starts with questioning assumptions and myths that underlie common statements, like “America is a Christian nation.” We can affirm a productive role for religion — including but not limited to Christianity — in our public square without providing Christianity or Christians a place of privilege in our laws and policy.
The constitutional framers protected religious freedom by balancing two guarantees in the First Amendment: the free exercise of religion and the prohibition against its establishment by the government.
These values are being challenged in this election year by politicians and other leaders. Doug Mastriano, the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee in Pennsylvania, participated in the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6 and has been subpoenaed by the Select Committee. He also has repeatedly blended religion and government in his public speeches, saying at one point: “We’re going to bring the state back to righteousness, this is our day, our hour to take our state back and renew the blessings of America.”
This kind of language — harking back to some idealized “time in America” — is one way that racism and white supremacy become coded into Christian nationalism. Violent extremists, such as the insurrectionists at the Capitol and more recently the shooter at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, use Christian language and symbols in conjunction with overtly racist rantings in attempts to cloak their actions in respectability and divine authority.
The Christianity they summon and the Jesus they imagine — a white, muscular figure who seeks and wields political power — is not only not present in the Gospels, it is refuted by the Gospels.
The tumultuous events of 2020 have called the question about where we white Christians stand on white supremacy. History is recording a roll call vote that requires us to declare our position.
At this time of reckoning, we can remain loyal to our heritage and ancestors through defensiveness and inaction. Or we can rededicate ourselves to the work of handing down a healthier faith and country to our children and our children’s children. But we can’t do both.
My hope is that enough of us will awaken from the fevered nightmare of white supremacy and finally choose a future in which we work shoulder to shoulder with our Black and brown brothers and sisters to achieve the promise of a multi-racial, multi-religious America.
This post was adapted from the afterword in the paperback edition of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. Copyright © 2021 by Robert P. Jones.
From another bailiwick we find Elie Mystal in the May 2022 Nation urging we take off our gloves (or is it put them on?) in opposing SCOTUS’ overturning of Roe v. Wade:
We now live in a country where the government cannot force you to wear a mask on a plane during a pandemic but can force you to carry a pregnancy to term against your will. It is a country where the government won’t ban certain kinds of assault rifles but will ban certain kinds of medical care….
Mystal, who is an attorney and the justice correspondent at The Nation, where he writes about the courts, suggests [urges] that we drop “choice” as our rallying cry against our loss of rights. “Choice” was a rational argument, but it is insufficient as a fighting posture. “I am done ceding the moral space to Christian fundamentalists. Forced birth–literally commandeering a person’s womb and forcing threm to incubate cells against their will–is evil and barbaric and cannot be compelled by a legitimate government….The fundamentalist program will have to be opposed–and opposed vehemently–through policy, the courts, and moral suasion”.
Mystal urges Democrats to learn how to fight the moral battles: Perhaps it’s time for Democrats to stop trying to compromise with the Christian fundamentalists who have taken control of uteruses that don’t belong to them and start trying to fight them.