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Stop Smearing Christians As ‘Christian Nationalists’ Just Because They Value Both Faith And Freedom

7 23 109
23.02.2021

Throughout the Trump presidency but with increased frequency in the days and weeks following the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, the term “Christian nationalism” has littered newsfeeds, and “Christian nationalist” has become a ubiquitous insult hurled broadly at those on the religious right.

We can’t say Christian nationalism doesn’t exist; it does. But what does it mean? Who are the Christian nationalists? Much like the irony of the racism label, when religious folks fight the Christian nationalist tag, their foes seem to take that resistance as further proof that they are indeed Christian nationalists.

Part of the problem with the label is that it is ill-defined, meaning it’s hard to know what exactly Christian nationalism is, how to identify it, and thus hard to counteract or refute it. This makes it a convenient and effective rhetorical grenade to launch at faithful Christians.

Rachel S. Mikva, writing in USA Today, seems to think Christian nationalists are “Christians who plan to take the country for Jesus,” while Amanda Tyler, writing in Religion News Service, describes the phenomenon as “Christianity wrapped in an American flag.” It’s “a fusion of God and country,” explained Jack Jenkins in the same pages.

The Rev. William E. Swing, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, defines Christian nationalism as “those who believe that God is partial to Christians, that Christians are God’s chosen people in this country. They are convinced that America has always been a Christian nation and always will be.”

While Christian nationalism predates the Trump era — critics hurled the same accusations against George W. Bush for his policies — some authors have fused this idea with the 45th president, saying “the most extreme corners of support for Mr. Trump have become inextricable from some parts of white evangelical power in America,” as Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham wrote in the New York Times.

In The New Republic, Matthew Avery Sutton takes it a step further, claiming that “fear, anger, and anxiety remained as central to the lives of evangelicals as any practices of forgiveness, love, understanding, or compassion,” and that Trump “stoked evangelicals’ terror of state power and brought their deep-seated racism and sexism to the surface.”

David French zooms away from Trump to help articulate a clear explanation, which he takes from Thomas Kidd quoting Matthew McCullough: Christian nationalism is “an understanding of American identity and significance held by Christians wherein the nation is a central actor in the world-historical purposes of the........

© The Federalist


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