S4, Ep.03: Lessons learned in 3 years of the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign

The language around the political ideology continues to change.

Oct 20, 2022

It’s been three years since the launch of the Christians Against Christian Nationalism initiative. In this episode, Amanda and Holly discuss what we’ve learned since convening that project and how the conversation is changing today. They share about accusations we’ve heard over the project’s lifetime, why we are seeing this topic in the media more often, and the odd ways the public discourse is shifting.   

Segment one (starting at 00:47): A brief history of Christians Against Christian Nationalism 

Prior episodes of this podcast series discussing Christian nationalism include:

Read and sign the Christians Against Christian Nationalism statement at ChristiansAgainstChristianNationalism.org.

Visit this link for the Christians Against Christian Nationalism library of resources including:

Visit BJC’s YouTube channel for a playlist of videos addressing frequently asked questions, including:

Read the joint report from BJC and the Freedom From Religion Foundation on Christian nationalism and the January 6 insurrection at this link.

Visit BJC’s library of resources at BJConline.org/christian-nationalism


Segment two (starting at 11:40): Where are we now in the battle against Christian nationalism? 

We played two clips from members of Congress:

  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in a panel discussion at CPAC Texas 2022
  • Rep. Lauren Boebert speaking at Cornerstone Christian Center in Basalt, Colorado

The joint AP / PBS Frontline investigation on the rise of Gen. Michael Flynn and the ReAwaken America tour includes this article by Michelle Smith and Richard Lardner: “Michael Flynn’s ReAwaken road show recruits ‘Army of God’”

The PBS Frontline Special titled “Michael Flynn’s Holy War” is available at this link.

Read Amanda’s op-ed for CNN.com: Marjorie Taylor Greene’s words on Christian nationalism are a wake-up call

As mentioned, Amanda has been on several programs recently discussing Christian nationalism. Here are a few:

Segment three (starting at 27:04): Lessons learned as we continue the cause

Amanda was interviewed for this article in Texas Monthly by Bekah McNeel: Decoding the Christian Language of Texas GOP Officials

You’re invited! Join us October 26 at 7 p.m. Eastern Time in-person at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. or online for a special event: “How White Christian Nationalism Threatens Our Democracy”. Amanda will be alongside The Most Rev. Michael Curry (Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church) and Dr. Samuel Perry (the co-author of The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy). The conversation will be moderated by the Rev. Jim Wallis, who is director of the Georgetown University Center on Faith and Justice. Visit this Eventbrite link for registration and livestream details.

Respecting Religion is made possible by BJC’s generous donors. You can support these conversations with a gift to BJC

Transcript: Season 4, Episode 3: Lessons learned in 3 years of the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign   (some parts of this transcript have been edited for clarity):

Segment 1:  A brief history of the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign  (starting at 00:47)

AMANDA:  Welcome to Respecting Religion, a BJC podcast series where we look at religion, the law, and what’s at stake for faith freedom today. I’m Amanda Tyler, executive director of BJC.

HOLLY:  And I’m general counsel Holly Hollman. Today we’re going to talk about Christian nationalism and particularly what we’ve learned as the conveners of the Christians Against Christian Nationalism project.

Amanda, I know the listeners are interested in your perspective, especially as you’ve dedicated so much time recently to this topic.

AMANDA:  Holly, we’ve been talking about having this conversation about Christian nationalism on Respecting Religion for several months now. We realized that it had been several months since we had covered this topic, and a lot has happened in that time.

Of course, our project “Christians Against Christian Nationalism” — the project that we convene and host as part of BJC — is critical to our mission at BJC to advocate for faith freedom for all, and we have dedicated considerable organizational attention and resources to fighting Christian nationalism explicitly over the past three years.

So today, we’d love to talk about the project and where we are, but I do want to say that we have already talked about Christian nationalism as a topic previously on Respecting Religion. We’ve done so in prior seasons and in prior episodes, and we have a lot of other resources available on our website, BJConline.org, as well as on ChristiansAgainstChristianNationalism.org.

HOLLY:  And, of course, those who know BJC well know that our core mission is to protect faith freedom for all. We bring our Baptist history, which, of course, is informed by theology and a resistance to government-imposed religion, and our experience as dissenters from government establishments of religion, both in the Old World and the American colonies, and we bring our legal expertise to this mission.

And it should be no surprise that providing education about religious liberty and about the First Amendment has always been an important aspect of our work.

AMANDA:  It has, and so I think the natural question is:  Why now? Why did we need to start this ancillary project of Christians Against Christian Nationalism to complement and further our work ‑‑

HOLLY:  Right.

AMANDA:  — defending religious freedom for all? Well, first off, we have to note that Christian nationalism as an ideology has been around for centuries. It isn’t new. It didn’t suddenly pop up three years ago or even earlier this year, as some people have been saying or seem to be acting in the public square.

So, what is Christian nationalism? How do we define it? Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that tries to merge American and Christian identities. Christian nationalism suggests that to be a true American, one has to be a Christian and espouse certain theological views.

In our own organizational history at BJC, we have long worked to dispel the myth of America’s founding as a “Christian nation,” and when we use those words, we mean, a country founded by Christians in order to privilege Christianity.

We’ve been familiar with this topic for at least 35 years, and I date that back to the 1980s when David Barton started putting out his pseudohistorical tracts on the topic. We would put out myth-busting responses. No, America is not a Christian nation.

So, we weren’t new to this conversation. Our work as an organization fighting the ideology goes even farther back, even if we didn’t always have the specific language of Christian nationalism to put to that work.

But we really noticed something different — in kind and in scale — that started happening several years ago, and that’s because, tragically, we had a series of hate-inspired, white supremacist, anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim violent attacks in our country and around the world as well. And some of those examples are the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting in 2015, the Charlottesville rally in 2017, and then on October 27, 2018 — nearly four years ago as we record today — 11 people were killed during Shabbat morning services at the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

A common thread that was running through these and other attacks on houses of worship and in other areas was this ideology of Christian nationalism that inspired or seemed to inspire the attackers in those cases. And so for us, we saw this as a clear call that something needed to be done by Christians explicitly to name Christian nationalism and to work to dismantle it.

HOLLY:  It really was an alarm bell for us, to do more, to pay attention more, and to make sure that we were addressing what was going on and having this horrific, horrific impact.

AMANDA:  So, soon after the Tree of Life synagogue shooting — in the first part of 2019, we at BJC brought together first an interfaith table and then additional ecumenical partners to form what would become Christians Against Christian Nationalism.

Our interfaith partners quickly suggested that we target our efforts as Christians against Christian nationalism. They absolutely supported our fight against Christian nationalism, but they both felt that our advocacy would be more effective as a Christian-led project, and they also shared with us that they did not feel entirely safe calling out Christian nationalism in the way that we would.

We started with a statement of unifying principles that we hoped would appeal to a broad diversity of Christians who may disagree on a number of theological and ideological and political positions, but could be united, in spite of their differences, to oppose Christian nationalism and to affirm religious freedom for all.

HOLLY:  We did, and it worked immediately. People began signing.

AMANDA:  That’s right. I mean, we just hosted this platform, and we immediately had thousands of people adding their names to Christians Against Christian Nationalism. The effort launched in late July 2019 on ChristiansAgainstChristianNationalism.org, and if you haven’t yet, we hope that you will check it out. And we have accomplished a lot at Christians Against Christian Nationalism in the last three years.

HOLLY:  And as you look at that site, you’ll see the building blocks. First, we had to build awareness. Three years ago, Christian nationalism was a relatively obscure and misunderstood term. You know, we had talked in the past about not being a Christian nation. Obviously if you look at the words in the Constitution, it’s hard to get there from those words. Right?

But now the term “Christian nationalism” really needed to be defined and understood to really explain what was going on in society that we were concerned about. And so one of our key goals was to provide definitions and examples, so that people could start to recognize it and call it out. And we’ve continued to do that.

Most recently you’ll see on our YouTube channel, there’s a new playlist with videos answering frequently asked questions, like:  What is Christian nationalism? How is Christian nationalism different from Christianity? Is the United States a “Christian nation”?

So we’ll link to those videos in our show notes. It is important to have a common language to have really important and fruitful conversations.

AMANDA:  Absolutely.

HOLLY:  We created a library of resources that include videos, podcasts, discussion guides, curriculum, one-page explainers, FAQs, and all of these are free to access and to share. We hope people would share online. These resources were created for Christians to use in their communities. They were specifically made for those contexts, but they’re also very useful to non-Christians to engage in these conversations as well. And they have been accessed by thousands of people.

Obviously they are reaching far beyond Baptist life or traditional religious liberty circles. Some of those resources, of course, include that ten-part podcast series, Amanda, that you hosted. It’s from 2019, and that is accessible for anyone who wants to do an overview of all the different aspects of Christian nationalism. That’s a great resource.

We note that we’re part of a wider community fighting Christian nationalism, and through our leadership but also all of our project endorsers who’ve done so much work to promote this project, we have built a credible array of relationships with scholars, journalists, researchers, academics, activists, and more. It’s been a very significant outgrowth of this project, to be able to form those partnerships.

Of course, one of the most fruitful collaborations was with Freedom From Religion Foundation, and that resulted in that report on Christian nationalism and how it showed up in the January 6 insurrection. And we have dedicated an episode from last season to that report. The report is, of course, available on the website.

So in addition to providing those resources and building awareness, Christians Against Christian Nationalism has provided an open source list of signers, and that’s what we wanted from the very beginning, a place that Christians from across the theological spectrum could register their opposition to Christian nationalism, to ensure that those who speak about ‑‑ speak in ways that promote Christian nationalism are not the primary voice of Christianity in public discourse. And I think we’re near 30,000 signatures now and growing every week.

AMANDA:  And that is a grassroots network of individuals who have taken a public stand and who are ready to take additional action. It’s a group that we continue to engage with and who has signaled from an early point in the conversation that they are committed to fighting Christian nationalism.



Segment 2: Where are we now in the battle against Christian nationalism? (starting at 11:40)

HOLLY:  So let’s talk about where we are now.

AMANDA:  Well, I hate to bring the conversation down, Holly, but I have to say that something new and alarming is happening now when it comes to the conversation around Christian nationalism. And it really started a few months ago when Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and others started claiming Christian nationalism and a “Christian nationalist” label as something they wanted to be a part of and that they were calling more people to aspire to be part of Christian nationalism.

And that was a real shift in the conversation, especially given that earlier pushback that we had received to the campaign came in a very different form. It came in people saying, for instance, that Christian nationalism was something we were making up, or that we were just engaging in name-calling,

HOLLY:  It doesn’t exist.

AMANDA:  — right. It doesn’t exist, and if it did, I’m not one of them.

HOLLY:  Right, right.

AMANDA:  An early example comes from Tony Perkins who heads up the Family Research Council. And right after the campaign launched, he featured Christians Against Christian Nationalism on his radio show as well as in a blog post and talked about how this campaign was just something to try to push conservative Christians out of the public square, as if that could be something that we could do in the first place.

But, you know, it was in that moment that I was really glad that the very first of those unifying principles we talked about, Holly, was that people of all faiths and none have the right and responsibility to engage constructively in the public square. This statement affirms that people who are from any faith background and those who don’t claim a faith or religious tradition all have an equal right to space in the public conversation.

It’s like we had anticipated that attack. We think that you have a rightful place in the public square ‑‑

HOLLY:  Yeah.

AMANDA:  — for constructive engagement, but so do we.

HOLLY:  Exactly, exactly. And, you know, that comment, I believe, was a deliberate attempt to avoid the substance of the conversation, a conversation that we found people within Christian circles were so eager to have. They were hungry for, because they had seen this problem in their churches or in their communities or maybe in the media, and they were worried about it.

They’re like:  What’s happening to our faith? Why are these voices out there, and, you know, damaging how people see Christianity and damaging our country? And they really appreciated these helpful conversations that we were leading. We knew that we were on to something, something that was useful and helpful, and that we should stay with it.

AMANDA:  I agree that by far the biggest response we got from Christian communities over the three years of Christians Against Christian Nationalism leading up to this summer was positive. The rare outliers were those who were saying that Christian nationalism just didn’t exist and was something we didn’t have to worry about.

But then we had these few statements that started to garner massive media attention, I believe because of their shock value, but for us, they just underscored that Christian nationalism is a real threat and reinforced just how important the work that we’re doing really is.

HOLLY:  So you’re talking about those statements from members of Congress, Congresswoman Greene from Georgia and Congresswoman Boebert from Colorado. Right?

AMANDA:  I am. And I think we should let our listeners hear from the congresswomen in their own words.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene:  “When I said that I’m a Christian nationalist, I have nothing to be ashamed of, because that’s what most Americans are. We’re proud of our faith. [Applause] We’re proud of our faith, and we love our country, and that will make America great again, when we lean into biblical principles. You know, is there anything wrong with loving God and loving others? No.”

Rep. Lauren Boebert:  “The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church. That is not how our founding fathers intended it, and I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk that’s not in the Constitution. it was in a stinking letter, and it means nothing like what they say it does.”

AMANDA:  So these are what I believe to be two extreme examples of individuals who are openly embracing Christian nationalism and openly opposing religious freedom values, foundational religious freedom values of equality, despite our religious differences, in making these statements. But the problem is that they haven’t been countered by more mainstream conservatives.

And by going unanswered, by not being countered by those more mainstream voices, we have a risk of Christian nationalism being normalized. Those who are espousing Christian nationalism in these extreme ways have only been emboldened by the lack of response, and they’re using it during this campaign season as a motivation for more people to come and vote for them.

And I think that they may be on to something unfortunately, because we have new polling that was just released last month on Christian nationalism from Politico and the University of Maryland. And in that study, the pollsters asked participants if they believed the Constitution would allow the United States government to declare the United States a Christian nation.

And I am pleased to say that a strong majority, 70 percent of Americans, answered that question correctly. They know that the Constitution does not permit the United States to be declared a “Christian nation.” That’s good news. But then when asked, Would you favor or oppose the United States officially declaring the United States to be a Christian nation, the news gets worse. The findings were divided along partisan lines.

Overall 62 percent of respondents said that they would oppose the United States being declared a Christian nation. That includes 83 percent of Democrats but just 39 percent of Republicans. That means that a majority of Republicans in that poll, 61 percent, want the United States to be declared a Christian nation, even though a majority of Republicans, those same Republicans, know that would be unconstitutional.

HOLLY:  You know, that’s a really terrible, terrible poll, meaning it shows us something terrible going on. I do think it gets directly to your point that you have people who are running for office taking advantage of a hot topic and rallying people to use it for their advantage, for their political purposes. They see something in it that feels good and works with what they’re doing already, really devoid of thoughtful conversations about what that means and what they’re doing to people’s understanding of Christianity and what it means to be an American and have religious liberty the way we have.

AMANDA:  Even to have a democracy. And that ‑‑ you know, you mentioned political rallies. Well, we have seen a series of political rallies on something called the ReAwaken America Tour that has been taking place in different venues, often houses of worship, across the country over the past year. And the Associated Press and PBS’s show Frontline have worked together on joint investigation into this tour which was led by Michael Flynn who was national security adviser at one point for President Trump.

In the recent article from the AP, the authors wrote that, “The ReAwaken America Tour serves as a traveling roadshow and recruiting tool for an ascendant Christian nationalist movement that’s wrapped itself in God, patriotism, and politics, and has grown in power and influence inside the Republican Party.”  And so we will link to both the recent AP article and to the Frontline documentary that came out this week in show notes.

And, you know, I think this story and this TV special is indicative of the massive interest from the mainstream media that we have seen over the last several months in talking more about Christian nationalism.

HOLLY:  Yeah. I think the media wants to at least cover this issue. They see something significant going on. We certainly do, and we’ve seen clips of some of these rallies, and they are strange, actually sometimes hard to follow what they’re doing. But I think that quote seems fair, that they appear to be recruiting people for some purposes that clearly have to do with a certain kind of Christianity enmeshed with American citizenship and patriotism.

And, you know, the media’s interest in this story also led to some deeper conversations and some better conversations in some other formats. It led to your appearances on a variety of national and international interview shows that have really provided serious education about the topic to millions of viewers. As you’ve been out there engaging more deeply in these discussions in a variety of different settings, what are the big takeaways from your perspective?

AMANDA:  Well, first, I would say ‑‑ and this is right in the wheelhouse of BJC’s main expertise ‑‑ is what a threat Christian nationalism is to religious liberty for all. In fact, I have called Christian nationalism the biggest threat to religious freedom for all that we face today.

Christian nationalism threatens that fundamental value of religious liberty that individuals are free to follow their faith without the government getting involved or interfering, without the government showing preference or promotion of that faith, and of course, without the government denigrating that faith, and that we are all equal citizens without regard to religion.

So it has been important and, I think, helpful to have that civics lesson and education about religious freedom in the midst of having a conversation about Christian nationalism as well.

I’ve also come to appreciate the diversity of Christianity. We are an enormously diverse religion, and of course, that’s not new. We can go all the way back to the early church and Paul and Peter and different expressions of what it means to be a Christian. And that continues today.

HOLLY:  I mean, why do we have so many churches? That was my question, you know, growing up. You’d see all these different Christian churches. There has always been such diversity, even within that majority faith, that was the majority where I grew up.

AMANDA:  And yet, in the public discourse, we don’t always get that rich diversity of voices and perspectives when we hear from Christians in the public square. And we, Holly — we at BJC, you and I here on Respecting Religion — we don’t think that Christians should let those voices that are most loudly espousing Christian nationalism get to define Christianity in the public square.

The diversity in our faith should be acknowledged, respected in all its different expressions, in all of its different emphases and modes of worship and priorities, reflected in different ethnic and racial communities, that we are all part of the Christian family, and we express our Christianity in different ways, and that regardless of one’s specific denomination or church, Christian nationalism is a threat to all of our expressions of Christianity, because it confuses Christianity, the religion, with a political ideology that will damage both our faith and our democracy.

And because Christian churches and specifically white Christian churches have been so complicit in the furthering of Christian nationalism, whether it’s been intentional or not, I believe that these Christians also have a special responsibility now to fight against Christian nationalism.

HOLLY:  That all Christians do.

AMANDA:  Absolutely. Absolutely. And those of us who have committed ourselves to studying and understanding and noticing and calling out Christian nationalism, that this is a crucial moment for us to not be complicit but to stand up against it.

I’ve also come to appreciate that the problem of Christian nationalism is so much bigger than any one organization or one campaign’s effort to stop it. You mentioned earlier in our conversation today, Holly, all of those different individuals and organizations that we’ve worked with on this campaign, and something that I have really appreciated and learned from working with them is how generous they all are in lifting each other up, because we have a common enemy. That enemy is Christian nationalism.

And so we are always referring others to each other, knowing that we bring a unique perspective and angle to the conversation. We don’t always agree 100% on every question about Christian nationalism.

HOLLY:  How we talk about it. Right?

AMANDA:  Exactly.

HOLLY:  It sounds different coming from different voices sometimes.

AMANDA:  Yeah. And they don’t all have to be right or wrong or true or false. These are different aspects of a really complicated, deeply entrenched ideology, and our different perspectives help us understand that. And I’ve come to really appreciate and enjoy working with all these different organizations and individuals, and know that we have to work together. We have to overcome whatever other differences we might have in our religious expression and our political expression. We have to work together against Christian nationalism, and that if we are going to continue in this fight, we will need many more voices to join us.


Segment 3:  Lessons learned as we continue the cause  (starting at 27:04)

HOLLY:  Well, clearly given the scope of the problem, it is good news that so many different people are working on it. And kind of what’s your overall perspective on the media’s increased attention to the issue?

AMANDA:  Well, I’m glad that they’re focused on it. I wish that we had had more focus on it in earlier parts, not just of our campaign but in our collective American life, because we might have been able to work against it more quickly. But I am pleased that they are covering the topic. I think it’s predictable that it took some really extreme comments for them to focus so much attention on it, and that is just ‑‑ let’s acknowledge, the media is a business, and they are able to get paid and continue to be on the air based on how many clicks they get.

So when you have a really extreme comment from Representative Greene or Representative Boebert, that might be the hook, but then that gives us an opportunity and a longer conversation. And many of these interviews that I’ve been fortunate to have are really deep and meaningful conversations ‑‑ they’re not a quick sound bite ‑‑ to have a more nuanced conversation about Christian nationalism.

And once I can get into that conversation, I can say, you know, it’s really more than just this one extreme point of view; this is a much bigger issue maybe than you even really realize, and then, here, let me point you to all these resources that we have that can help us all better understand Christian nationalism and work to dismantle it.

HOLLY:  Well, what I’ve noticed, one thing that you often do very effectively is avoid just naming names. You’re not just out there calling names. That would fit very easily in our current political moment. Right? But that’s not something you do. But you provide historical context, and as you said, you point to these resources, you know, treating the audience, the listeners, with respect, that they can learn more about this.

And the other thing, I think, that’s so important that you can do in these media interviews is avoid the kinds of conflations that stop the conversations. And you know what I’m talking about, Amanda?

AMANDA:  I do.

HOLLY:  It seems often that people are quick to dismiss or maybe they won’t engage in a conversation, because they think it’s just this or that. What are some of those ‑‑ I guess they’re sort of pitfalls that you see that prevent people from understanding and seeking more information and ability to fight Christian nationalism?

AMANDA:  Well, first when you talked about naming names, I often hear in the question, Well, who’s a Christian nationalist? Is that person a Christian nationalist? And I ‑‑

HOLLY:  Other than the ones wearing the T-shirts.

AMANDA:  Right. Exactly. Those who have bought a T-shirt that says, I’m a proud Christian nationalist, I guess we can go by their preferred label.

But seriously, you know, I don’t call people Christian nationalists. I agree with what Professor Samuel Perry has said in some of the panels that I’ve done with him.  You know, Christian nationalism is not a diagnosis. It’s not that you are or you’re not a Christian nationalist. Rather, it’s an ideology that impacts us all, so I think that is one understanding that I hope to bring to these conversations.

Also in this labeling, who’s in, who’s out of this Christian nationalism circle, I often see this conflation of white evangelicals with Christian nationalism — in other words, people trying to suggest that that’s really how to understand white evangelicals, that that’s just Christian nationalism, and we don’t have a problem anywhere else. And so I do not believe that’s the case.

When I have those opportunities to have that conversation, I remind people that Christian nationalism is a problem for all of our society and for all of Christian expressions and denominations. I have yet to meet a Christian leader who didn’t tell me that Christian nationalism was a problem in their own denomination in some way.

And so this is something that we all have to work against. Now, I can also acknowledge that we might see higher instances of Christian nationalism in some expressions of Christianity, and I think that that is a fair characterization sometimes of what is going on in the evangelical community. But that’s a complicated question ‑‑

HOLLY:  Sure.

AMANDA:  — in and of itself, and I myself, Holly, do not consider myself to be an evangelical. And part of what we’ve been doing at Christians Against Christian Nationalism is not engaging in finger-pointing, but rather in self-reflection, so I am really hesitant to point out any one denomination as being a particularly bad offender when it comes to Christian nationalism and rather talk about how we all as Christians have work to do.

I’ve also seen in matters of conflation two extremes. Either people want to say that, Well, isn’t all of Christianity just Christian nationalism; isn’t that the same thing?

HOLLY:  That’s pretty horrifying.

AMANDA:  It is. On the other end of the spectrum, I hear people saying, Well, if it’s Christian nationalism, then it’s not Christianity, as in, you know, then they’re not real Christians if it’s Christian nationalism.

HOLLY:  And I have sympathy for that view. I have sympathy for that view, because when someone’s talking about your faith and you feel certain that you’re opposing what you’re hearing, Christian nationalism out there in the public discourse, you don’t want to be associated with that, and so you’ll say, no, Christianity is my religion. And yet, I think we want more conversation. It’s not so easy. Right?

AMANDA:  Right, right. It would be convenient to be able to say that, that Christian nationalism has nothing to do with Christianity, either in general or in my particular observance of Christianity. But I don’t think that’s accurate. I think that, instead, what we’re trying to do at Christians Against Christian Nationalism is lead people with our resources and with our encouragement to have hard conversations and reflection, to ask ourselves:  How has Christian nationalism impacted Christianity in my theology, in my practice? Are there ways that I can work to move closer to Christianity and farther away from Christian nationalism?

And I think another question or complexity that has come up in several interviews that I’ve had is this idea of what’s the difference between bringing religious motivations or principles into public or political discourse, what’s the difference between that and full-on Christian nationalism? Where’s the line?

And we do believe that there is a line there. We don’t think it is possible or preferable to strip religion out of the public square. We think that having a robust ‑‑

HOLLY:  Quite the opposite.

AMANDA:  — public square ‑‑ yeah ‑‑ requires religious diversity and presence, as well as those who are not religious in the public square. So helping people understand how to recognize the difference between the two, knowing that it’s rarely a bright line but something that needs to be continually interrogated, asked about, and something to approach with caution.

HOLLY:  Right. Well, of course, people bring their values, religious and other values, to debates about public issues, about political issues, and so you referenced that first principle in the statement, that that’s part of being a good citizen, that all people have the right and responsibility to advocate in the pubic square.

And I’m not surprised that that’s an issue that confuses some people. People have different tolerance, different commitments to acknowledging that, our religious diversity and how that’s part of our public conversations.

But I think you did a really great job in addressing that issue in that recent Texas Monthly article –- so we can link to that in the show notes — called, “Decoding the Christian Language of Texas GOP Officials.”  So you were at home, talking about your home state there, where there’s plenty of material to investigate this issue. But you discuss sort of the difference between an elected official talking about their religious motivations that maybe lead them to be a particularly outspoken leader on an issue, and the responsibility of elected leaders to serve in a way that says, We are all equal citizens without regard to religion.

In other words, just the fact that you don’t share my faith does not mean that your view is not significant or that my view wins. And the article also really demonstrates a problem that maybe is becoming more pervasive. It’s definitely something that we’re seeing a lot of, and that is actual elected officials purposefully blurring Christian language and calls for Christian action, explicit religious activity of conversion and leading in the faith with political calls to action.

Mostly that article made me very proud of Christians Against Christian Nationalism as a project, because I think that the project requires Christians to stop and think, you know, what does it mean to be a Christian. You know, this is my religion. What do I mean when I say that? And ‑‑ on the one hand, and on the other hand, what does it mean to be an American and what does it mean to express our patriotism?

And when you look at those things, I think that it’s really helpful and people will want to avoid Christian nationalism. They will see it for the threat that it is, both to a vibrant, healthy faith and to our country, a country where religion thrives in lots of different expressions and where people live in peace in all our religious diversity.

So I think that the campaign will continue to help people kind of to ask themselves these hard questions and to be better citizens and to be better Christians.

AMANDA:  Really well said, Holly. And I’m just grateful to have had this opportunity to talk to you today for Respecting Religion, but also all these opportunities for us to talk about Christians Against Christian Nationalism in the media and at public events.

And on a personal note, I am really excited about an upcoming event next Wednesday night, October 26, where I will get to go back to my alma mater, Georgetown University, of course, a Catholic Jesuit university here in Washington, D.C., is hosting an event as part of their Center on Faith and Justice called “How White Christian Nationalism Threatens our Democracy.”

And I will be on a panel, alongside Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church and Dr. Samuel Perry — whom I referenced earlier — who’s a professor at University of Oklahoma and the co-author of The Flag and the Cross:  White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy. And our moderator for the evening is Rev. Jim Wallis, who is the director of the Georgetown University Center on Faith and Justice.

So if you’re in Washington or the Washington area, I hope you will come for this in-person event on Wednesday, October 26, at 7:00 p.m. It’s free, but you do need to register. We’ll put a link in show notes. And if you’re not in the area or are unable to attend in person, then you can watch on livestream on the Center on Faith and Justice’s Facebook and YouTube pages.


That brings us to the close of this episode of Respecting Religion.

HOLLY:  Thanks for joining us for today’s conversation. For details on what we discussed, including links to the articles we mentioned, check out our show notes.

AMANDA:  If you enjoyed today’s conversation, give us a five-star rating. Then share this program with others on social media and tag us. We’re on Twitter and Instagram @BJContheHill, and you can follow me on Twitter @AmandaTylerBJC. Plus you can email both of us by writing to [email protected], and you can see a full list of shows on our website. Just go to RespectingReligion.org.

HOLLY:  And take a moment to find out more about BJC and how we’ve been working for faith freedom for all since 1936. Visit our website for a look at what we do and some of our latest projects

AMANDA:  Join us back here on Thursdays for new conversations Respecting Religion.