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What is Christian Nationalism and why has the Lutheran Church / ELCA (and many other Mainline Christian communities) taken a stand against it?
The issue of Christian Nationalism seeps into many a conversation and is a factor in several of the social struggles our country and the Christian Church is facing today. It has a long and complicated history; related questions have come up recently in various forms, in the media and so I thought I'd take a moment to address it. In this context, it can only be a brief statement, however, additional resources are listed below.
First, let's clear up any confusion there may be about the name. Christian nationalism is NOT about being patriotic or proud to be either a Christian or an American. We can be thankful for the good gifts of God that come to us through our faith and through our constitutional democracy! In the week of July4th, 2023, the nation celebrates it's 247th birthday and the hard won freedoms we have ensconced in both the laws and systems of government of our republic. However imperfect the Union may be, we can always celebrate the ideals and hopes we have for these United States and be thankful to God for the ways God has worked in our history!! Many Christians and people of all faiths celebrate being patriotic and faithful!
Christian nationalism, in contrast to both Christian belief and the historical values embedded in the founding documents of the U.S., conflates being an American and being a Christian into one identity. It is a philosophical and political ideology that suggests that Christianity is the only rightful faith for an American and to be a good American one needs to be a Christian. It argues that God favors Christians and so should the government; that the United States is and always should be "a Christian" nation. Further, it is often associated with and overlaps with "White Christian nationalism" which is a belief that to be a rightful American, one should be both Christian and of "white"/European ancestry. As you can imagine, this worldview supports white supremacy and the subjugation of people of color as not only appropriate, but as God-ordained.
The ELCA, along with many other denominations is a signatory to a public statement entitled,
"Christians Against Christian Nationalism"
Click here to read the statement.
Click here to see the denominational Endorsers.
Click here to read Bishop Eaton's statement on Christian Nationalism.
In a recent issue of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics, theologian and professor, the Rev. Dr. Norma Everist wrote, "Christian Nationalism is idolatrous because it conflates God and country. It has a deep history. The KKK’s goal in 1922 was patriotism and nationalism combined in their focus on white Christianity. The result was lynchings. Today the Proud Boys pray that “God will watch over us as we become proud.” The result is violence."
Christian scriptures encourage followers of Jesus to be engaged in public issues and justice concerns for the good of all. The U.S. has historically been committed to religious pluralism. Both values seek to create civic harmony and respect for all others. Sadly, as Christian nationalistic perspectives have seeped into the wide variety of Christian cultures in America, it has become an increasing concern and source of division and conflict. As the CACN statement states, "As Christians, we must speak in one voice condemning Christian nationalism as a distortion of the gospel of Jesus and a threat to American Democracy."
For a careful consideration about the full breadth of Christian Nationalism, Click here for a written and podcast discussion/interview with Professor /Author Paul D. Miller, Global Media manager Morgan Lee, and editorial director Ted Olson, offered via Christianity Today.
*A Review of "Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States by Andrew L. Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry" - Journal of Lutheran Ethics
*Religion and Government: Creating Trustworthy Places to be Different Together (Addressing American Civil Religion and Christian Nationalism) - Journal of Lutheran Ethics
Christian nationalism and the January 6, 2021 Insurrection
Christians Against Christian Nationalism
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