Religious freedom is a core American value. The First Amendment grants us the freedom to believe as we choose, with respect for the autonomy of others to do the same. But all too often, advocates on the Religious Right distort religious freedom and impose one narrow viewpoint on all.
Nowhere is this trend more dramatically illustrated than in the rise of Christian nationalism, a political ideology that conflates Christian and American identities. Across the country, candidates are turning to Christian nationalism to attract voters and consolidate power. They label the separation of religion and government a myth and push policies that favor a narrow worldview at the expense of those who do not conform.
As people committed to protecting both religion and democracy, it is important that we understand the dangers of Christian nationalism, know how to identify it, and speak out when our elected leaders espouse this ideology.
What is Christian Nationalism?
Christian nationalism is a cultural framework that blends American history with Christian identity. It attempts to redefine American society by claiming it has been and should always be distinctively “Christian,” and that this should be reflected in interpretations of history, national symbols, and policy making. It argues that Christian – most often white, conservative Christian – identity is under attack, and must be restored as the centerpiece of American life and politics. Christian nationalism has been correlated with vaccine refusal, anti-immigrant attitudes, and more.
Though “Christian” in name, Christian nationalism has little to do with religion and everything to do with politics. Christian nationalist rhetoric has been used by the Religious Right to undermine LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive healthcare access, and the rights of religious minorities.
Christian Nationalism as a Political Weapon
In recent years, candidates and lawmakers on the Religious Right have increasingly embraced Christian nationalist rhetoric. While some politicians use its language and symbols to garner votes and curry favor, others have gone so far as to endorse Christain nationalism by name. Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Green recently said in a live video stream: “…if Christian nationalism is something to be scared of, they’re lying to you.”
The endorsement of this ideology has severe consequences for our democracy. As pointed out by religion scholars Samuel L. Perry and Andrew Whitehead, the January 6th insurrection was rife with Christian nationalist symbolism, including “Christian banners and flags, the wooden crosses, the impromptu praise and worship sessions, the “Jesus Saves” signs, the Christian t-shirts, and the infamous corporate prayer in Jesus name in the Senate Chamber.
Christian nationalism proscribes a theocratic vision for our country – at the expense of people of all other faiths and of none. But Christian nationalists do not speak for all Christians. A growing number are speaking out to reject the threat this movement poses to our nation and their faith. Visit www.ChristiansAgainstChristianNationalism.org to learn more. To better understand the origins of Christian nationalism, how it connects to white supremacy, and what it would take to build a more inclusive democracy, check out “Confronting Christian Nationalism,” a panel discussion hosted by Interfaith Alliance.
Standing Against Christian Nationalism
Interfaith Alliance continues to call out Christian nationalism, whether it’s in the halls of Congress or on the campaign trail. This election season, join us in holding candidates that embrace Christian nationalism accountable in public spaces and at the ballot box. Together, we can counter nationalist ideas with an inclusive vision of religious freedom, one that protects people of all faiths and of none.
Learn more about Interfaith Alliance’s efforts to advance true religious freedom.