S4, Ep. 05: Christian nationalism and the midterm elections
Amanda and Holly discuss new polls, the ReAwaken America tour, and the latest outrageous claims of Christian nationalism
Christian nationalism’s influence continues to permeate so many facets of our world, particularly as we approach the midterm elections. Holly and Amanda look at the headline-grabbing ReAwaken America tour events happening across the country, including how Michael Flynn and others are exploiting Christian nationalism in those arenas for political gain. Plus, they review new research about Americans’ attitudes toward – and knowledge of – Christian nationalism, Supreme Court justices, and recent court decisions. Amanda and Holly share how these new polls can help all of us in our work calling out and dismantling Christian nationalism in our communities and in ourselves.
Segment 1: Michael Flynn and the ReAwaken America Tour (starting at 01:02)
Amanda and Holly gave an update on the Christians Against Christian Nationalism initiative in episode 3.
You can watch the PBS Frontline special “Michael Flynn’s Holy War” at this link.
Amanda spoke to Michelle Smith from the Associated Press for this story: Michael Flynn’s ReAwaken roadshow recruits ‘army of God’
Read the report on Christian Nationalism and the January 6, 2021, Insurrection from BJC and the Freedom From Religion Foundation at this link: https://bjconline.org/jan6report/
Amanda and Holly mentioned these articles about the ReAwaken America rally at Spooky Nook in central Pennsylvania:
- Right-wing roadshow promotes Christian nationalism before midterms by Annie Gowan for The Washington Post
- COVID-19, rigged elections and a prophecy from God: Clay Clark’s ReAwaken America tour comes to Lancaster by Carter Walker for Lancaster Online
Segment 2: A growing interest and concern about Christian nationalism (starting at 14:46)
Read and sign the Christians Against Christian Nationalism statement here.
Andrew Whitehead and Sam Perry are the co-authors of Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States
Click here to read the new findings from Pew Research Center with the headline “45% of Americans Say U.S. Should Be a ‘Christian Nation’”
Holly answers the question “Is the United States a Christian nation?” in this video.
Segment 3: Christian nationalism and the midterm elections (starting at 26:48)
Read the results of the FiveThirtyEight/PerryUndem/YouGov survey at this link.
Respecting Religion is made possible by BJC’s generous donors. You can support these conversations with a gift to BJC.
Transcript: Season 4, Episode 5: Christian nationalism and the midterm elections (some parts of this transcript have been edited for clarity):
Segment 1: Michael Flynn and the ReAwaken America Tour (starting at 0:02)
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’ll discuss recent developments in Christian nationalism, particularly its influence in gatherings branded as the ReAwaken America Tour and how Christian nationalism is being exploited in this election season. We’ll also look at some new polling to consider as we continue to try to dismantle Christian nationalism, support Christians and others working against Christian nationalism, as we move beyond this election season.
AMANDA: We are taping just before the midterm elections, and our listeners at Respecting Religion know that on episode 3, we provided an update on Christian nationalism, on how we had seen the conversation morphing and changing since we started Christians Against Christian Nationalism in 2019, and I think our conversation today will add to that picture, and particularly when we talk about the new polling data which is helpful for informing the public about the state of our country’s understanding and views about the relationship between religion and government.
HOLLY: And I think another reason we are anxious to keep learning about the problem and how best to address it is because, as we noted in the very beginning of the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign, violence is one of the extreme consequences of Christian nationalism.
We have seen the influence of Christian nationalism in horrific violent incidents, and it’s those extreme examples that led many people to first begin paying closer attention to Christian nationalism and to want to explore it more thoroughly.
And so while Christians Against Christian Nationalism focuses just on the day-to-day experience of seeing Christian nationalism in all its different manifestations, different ways we can address it and providing education and sort of building this network of those who want to register their opposition and stand up to it, you know, it’s always with us, this awareness. We’re aware of the prospect of political violence. We know that it is real, and it is, once again, in the news.
AMANDA: And it’s definitely not far from our minds this week, because just last week, Paul Pelosi, the husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, was violently attacked in their home in San Francisco in what was a targeted political attack. And tragically, we have seen attacks like this on members of Congress before, but for this to occur in someone’s home and just before the election, you know, it’s really a chilling reminder of the potentially deadly consequences of not standing up to harmful ideology, whether that’s about election denial or conspiracy theories or what we have increasingly seen: the demonization of our political opponents.
HOLLY: We have to. We have to do that. We have to stand up to it, and I hope ‑‑ I think we hope and trust that more and more people will, that we’ll work together and demand better for our country.
I think in the meantime, we know that some are just beginning to be aware of Christian nationalism as a rallying cry for extreme views, and there’s a lot that they can see now to explore what it means, starting with this ReAwaken America tour.
AMANDA: Yeah. So we have been aware of this ReAwaken America tour for some time now. Really almost a year ago is when I first started paying attention to what was going on, because in November 2021, this tour was in San Antonio, Texas — not far from where I grew up in Austin — at a large church there, and former General Michael Flynn made a comment there that I wrote about at the time. He said, “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, one religion under God.”
And what caught my attention about that phrasing was here is repeating kind of one of these mantras of civil religion, one nation under God ‑‑ but then continuing to say the quiet part out loud, this idea of what is the end goal of this, and evidently in Flynn’s mind, it is to have a theocracy, to have one religion, centralized, and for the government to enforce it.
So, you know, since then, we’ve only seen these events gain traction, gain more attention. They’ve been on this long tour, and I’ve been watching these. I’ve also been involved with some of our partners at Faithful America as we have tried to organize some faith leaders to provide an alternate Christian witness in the public square around these ReAwaken America tour events. And so I have a bit of a picture into what they talk about. It’s really almost a continuation of what was started on January 6 ‑‑
AMANDA: — of continuing to challenge the legitimacy of the 2020 election, spreading lies about the election, spreading misinformation about COVID vaccines. It hasn’t always been tied particularly to particular candidates, but as we’ve gotten closer to the election, they’ve started to involve candidates for public office in these tour events as well.
HOLLY: Right. It made sense that it got your attention, Amanda, as we were tracking examples of Christian nationalism, just to teach people about what it was and how that ideology is at odds with the religious freedom tradition we have in America, and how it’s like civil religion gone too far, and it leads into this Christian nationalism.
So that’s what we were looking for, and then it led to examining these larger events and seeing how it was tied in to all of the other issues that you mention, and, of course, eventually led to some good reporting that would go into this ReAwaken America tour and look more closely at the tours but also specifically at Michael Flynn.
You know, a quick note for those who don’t know him, who haven’t paid attention to him, he is this former military general. He’s most often identified as “disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn.” He willingly and knowingly made false statements to the FBI. His service as NSA was in the Trump administration for a very short time, January to February 2017. I think it’s the shortest tenure for national security adviser in the history of that position. And he resigned after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the nature and content of communications with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
That story happened really fast. I believe he pleaded guilty, then was pardoned by President Trump, and since then, he’s kind of taken on this new persona, this new role as a leader of these misinformation campaigns that include a sort of a mishmash of grievances and culture war issues, including mixing religion and this Christian nationalism ideology. We really got to see more about him and his role up close in this recent PBS Frontline story.
AMANDA: Yeah. The title of the special was, “Michael Flynn’s Holy War.” And I highly recommend it, though it is incredibly ‑‑
HOLLY: It’s hard to watch.
AMANDA: It’s really hard to watch, but I think it’s necessary to watch. I think it’s incredibly ‑‑ as we’ve said, we are not alarmists, and we are really alarmed about what’s going on. To me, it shows the power of excellent and persistent reporting. The AP reporter, Michelle Smith, who worked on the story and was really featured in the documentary ‑‑ I spoke to her at length as part of her reporting and investigation. But she has been reporting on Flynn since 2017. She knows him well. She knows his family. She’s really been able to go in deep, and that is, I think, very important to the story. She tells his biography and then really helps explain how that led to his radicalization. I mean, that ‑‑ when I stopped watching, I really felt like he has been radicalized.
HOLLY: And we need to understand that. This is a former general. These are the kind of people that we look up to generally in our culture and in our government, so that was a really helpful thing to be able to try to understand that. How did this happen?
AMANDA: Yeah. And part of how that happened, I think, was his military service itself, and he served as a leader in Iraq and Afghanistan. I first encountered Flynn as a person when he gave the speech at the Republican National Convention in 2016, which was a hate-filled, anti-Muslim speech, and the documentary, I think, told a story of how that might have happened through some of his military service, as well as his upbringing in a Catholic political family.
The language he used of the United States as a “Judeo-Christian” country, which is, again, a marker of Christian nationalism, and how he placed that against this threat of the Muslim world, this existential battle of good versus evil, that all goes into this radicalization of Flynn. I was also struck in the story ‑‑ there was quite a bit of footage from some of these ReAwaken America tour events ‑‑ but just how evident the Christian nationalism markers were on the tour, including not just from Flynn but also from failed U.S. Senate candidate from Oklahoma, Jackson Lahmeyer. If people want to see what Christian nationalism looks like in political discourse, you have many excellent examples in this hour-long special.
And, you know, finally, I just was struck by the chilling violence and how Flynn’s current work in Florida overlaps with and is a continuation of the attack on the Capitol on January 6. You know, Flynn himself helped rile up the crowd with Christian nationalism rhetoric, and that’s noted in the report that BJC put out with Freedom From Religion Foundation on January 6 and Christian nationalism. But to see not only footage of those speeches on January 5, the night before the attack, but also to see how that’s continued to the present day is incredibly troubling and something we need to be paying attention to.
HOLLY: Well, from there, we see how this is wrapped up in current election times, because a recent stop on the tour was in Central Pennsylvania, in Manheim, at this big sports arena called Spooky Nook, which, Amanda, you know that I am familiar with that. As a basketball mom, I’ve been many times. I always felt like I was being fleeced for having to pay $50 for parking and $40 for a wristband to see 15- to 17-year-olds play basketball. But just imagine what they’re doing to these people who are paying $500 for VIP tickets and being sold all kind of merch to be lied to.
So, anyway, it was remarkable to hear about this event, that they had it at that location and that the tour included not just spotlight on Michael Flynn, but all of these seemingly kind of random but troubling speakers coming from all different angles.
I loved the reporting that The Washington Post did where Annie Gowen, the reporter, described it as “the traveling carnival of misinformation.” She said, “It merges entertainment, politics, and theology, and makes the existential argument to those attending. The debate is no longer about Republican versus Democrat. They say it’s about good versus evil. And it’s time to pick a side.”
I mean, that is so troubling, just to imagine kind of whipping up the crowd in that kind of arena setting and, you know, how obvious it is that that could lead to violence.
AMANDA: And some of the language there is, I think, right along the lines of that dichotomy that’s being explained at these events. They explicitly used language here ‑‑ several of the speakers ‑‑ of putting Christian nationalism on one side and atheist globalist on the other. You’re either a Christian nationalist or you’re an atheist globalist, as if those are the only two options.
HOLLY: (Laughing.) I don’t understand how that’s not insulting to like most of America. Right?
HOLLY: I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of other options within Christianity, within other religions, within secular life. I don’t think that those are the only choices. But that is the radicalization that we see in these kinds of events, to try to, you know, whip people up, and now, as we see, more boldly and explicitly embrace this label of Christian nationalism.
AMANDA: Yeah. I think that that’s why they are drawing this ridiculous line and making people choose, because if you’re going to embrace Christian nationalism ‑‑
HOLLY: Scare ’em into it.
AMANDA: Yeah. And say that that’s synonymous with being a Christian. That’s just another lie that they’re telling and something that we as Christians must fight back even more forcefully in explaining how Christianity is not Christian nationalism.
Segment 2: A growing interest and concern about Christian nationalism (starting at 14:46)
HOLLY: Well, in addition to these carnival-like events and pre-election rallies, we are seeing other evidence of a growing interest and concern about Christian nationalism, and we hope that it will inspire more people to join Christians Against Christian Nationalism.
You know, as we’ve mentioned in earlier episodes, Christians Against Christian Nationalism began in 2019 as a grassroots place, a platform, to register opposition to the ideology and to share resources, to learn more about Christian nationalism, and to do something about it, to make sure that there is a Christian witness, a strong Christian witness against Christian nationalism.
And we’ve noted that in the last few years, there’s been growing media attention on Christian nationalism, and now what we’re seeing is additional social scientists and pollsters really trying to understand and measure attitudes relating to Christian nationalism.
We’ve often cited the work of Sam Perry and Andrew Whitehead, who are leaders in studying the attitudes related to Christian nationalism, and they continue to do excellent work. And now we are seeing some more political pollsters and other groups and entities doing helpful work to sort of dig deeper into the issues and the attitudes that Americans have.
Specifically, we just learned about new polling from the Pew Research Center on American attitudes toward Christian nationalism, and we thought we’d like go ahead and hit some of the highlights, even though this is brand new and we’re just starting to look at it, and there’s probably a lot to learn here, Amanda.
AMANDA: Yeah. And what first caught our attention, caught a lot of people’s attention, I think, was the headline on the write-up of the poll, which is, “45% of Americans Say U.S. Should Be a Christian Nation.” That felt alarming to see it like that. But as in a lot of things, you have to read past the headline.
And so we want to talk a little bit here about what else we saw. I think one thing we saw was that support for a Christian nation myth is unfortunately pretty strong. 60% said that they think the Founders originally intended for the U.S. to be a Christian nation, so we have a lot more work to do, Holly, on busting those myths of the U.S.’s founding as a Christian nation. We need better education. But that idea that ‑‑ buying into that myth, even saying that the U.S. should be a Christian nation, that doesn’t necessarily lead to Christian nationalism.
HOLLY: Yeah, because people mean different things by that term.
AMANDA: Yes. And you, Holly, had an excellent video where you explained where we talked about, you know, Is the U.S. a Christian nation. We will link again in show notes to that video. But it explains that we don’t always mean the same thing when we use those words. And the poll results bear that out, because the pollsters found that many people continue to embrace the separation of church and state as a good thing and as a protection for religious freedom.
It was not just in this poll but also looking at earlier research from March 2021, the Research Center concluded, quote, “There is far more support for the idea of separation of church and state than opposition to it among Americans overall.” So that finding doesn’t square exactly with our immediate reaction to the headline of 45% saying the U.S. should be a Christian nation.
HOLLY: Yeah. That’s right. It argues against thinking that everyone who said the U.S. should be a Christian nation believes that we should pass religious laws, that the church should control the state, and, you know, other kinds of thinking that really are fundamentally different from the kind of government we have and that look like a theocracy instead of a democracy that we have.
AMANDA: And one question that I noted in particular was that they asked the, quote/unquote, Johnson Amendment question directly. They said, “During political elections” ‑‑ which, of course, we are in right now ‑‑ “should churches and other houses of worship come out in favor of one candidate over another?” 77% said, no, they shouldn’t endorse, and that is ‑‑
HOLLY: Right. It’s a high number.
AMANDA: — completely consistent with earlier polling on this issue, and I think, again, an understanding, a healthy understanding of the relationship between the institutions of religion and government.
HOLLY: We just note intuitively that that number includes a lot of people who are in houses of worship and who respect ‑‑ when they think about the separation of church and state, they think of their religious identity, their religious practices, being something that is separate from the political arena, at least in some regards, you know, and that it’s not the same, and they don’t go to church for the same reasons that they go to their local, you know, Democratic or Republican gathering or vote in these primaries. And so I think that that makes a lot of sense.
It probably also includes others that fear, that have some fear of religious voices, particularly as they’re more aware of the kind of Christian nationalism that they often see in the public square now.
AMANDA: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, another notable finding of the poll is that they actually asked directly about Christian nationalism. Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that tries to merge American and Christian identities and demands a privileged place for Christianity in American law and politics. They didn’t provide a definition, by the way, in the poll, but that’s the definition that we use at Christians Against Christian Nationalism and BJC.
But the poll did ask, “How much, if anything, have you heard or read about Christian nationalism?” This was a little shocking to me, Holly. Maybe I’m living in a Christian nationalism echo chamber ‑‑
HOLLY: You are sort of in the middle of these discussions, Amanda.
AMANDA: So more than half of the respondents, 54%, said they had heard or read nothing at all about Christian nationalism, and then another 31% that they had either heard or read a little or some. I bet some of them had heard none and they just didn’t want to say they’d never heard of it.
AMANDA: But only 14% said they had heard or read a great deal or quite a bit. So that shows that there’s still quite a bit of education and understanding to go for people to understand Christian nationalism as an ideology. And then encouraging to me is that most of those who had heard about it oppose it. They asked, “All in all, do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of Christian nationalism?” Of all the respondents, 24% said they had an unfavorable or somewhat unfavorable view. Only 6% had a favorable view. And they didn’t ‑‑ the 54% who’d never heard of it didn’t have an opinion — obviously.
HOLLY: I think that is encouraging, and it’s what we would expect. And as we’ve talked before, we’ve been surprised by those who embrace the term, because it is alarming. It doesn’t sound like a religious freedom nation, as most Americans agree and take pride in that we are that kind of religious freedom nation. The good news is that most people, upon hearing this term, think, that doesn’t sound right.
HOLLY: So that’s helpful.
AMANDA: That’s good. So we need more people to know about the term, so that they can then work to oppose it.
AMANDA: The Pew Center also asked about the Supreme Court and the influence of religion on the decisions of the Court. They first asked respondents whether the Supreme Court justices should or should not bring their own religious views into how they decide major cases. I was encouraged to see that 83%, a vast majority of the respondents, said that they should not bring their own religious views into how they decide major cases.
But then they asked the next question. “How much do you think Supreme Court justices have relied on their religious beliefs in recent decisions?” I think the Dobbs decision is looming very large silently in this question. 44% said that Supreme Court justices had used their religious beliefs or relied on their religious beliefs too much.
HOLLY: Yeah. I think that aspect of the poll was particularly interesting to us at BJC because of our work in filing amicus briefs with the Supreme Court and seeing how religious liberty law is changing. And that first question about whether they should bring their own religious views into judging, that high number, you know, 83% that said they should not, I think that reflects this ‑‑ what people understand about separation of church and state.
HOLLY: That comment ‑‑ I mean, that metaphor, we know, that’s been around forever is always hotly debated. What does it mean? But I think that’s what it means, is that we have a government that is designed not in a way that’s hostile toward religion but that is different from our religious work that we do in our individual life and in our individual religious communities. We expect government officials doing a government job to do that in accordance with their civic duties, their civil duties, not their religious duties.
AMANDA: Yeah. And that understanding, again, doesn’t square with 45% saying we should be a Christian nation.
AMANDA: So that’s why there’s really more to understand and dive into these results. And finally on the Supreme Court, they asked a question that I found a little bit confusing, honestly. But they said, you know, “Do you think recent decisions have helped or hurt different groups of people?” And they asked about women and LGBT groups. But they also asked about Christians. And 42% said they felt like recent decisions had helped Christians. 15% said they had hurt Christians. And that was a confusing question to me, because, of course, we understand that Christians are diverse and have many different other identities in addition to their religious identity. So it would be difficult to know how to answer or respond to that question. I might, as a takeaway, say, there’s this sense by a large number of respondents, 42%, that Christians are being privileged by Supreme Court decisions, are being helped in some way. How fair is our justice system, and are we really equal under the law if there’s this disparate feeling?
HOLLY: Well, we know that often the reporting has said that this is a “pro-religious liberty” Court, and so perhaps because Christians continue to be in the majority in our country, there’s some people equating the idea that this Court is pro-religion ‑‑ and sometimes interpreted as pro-religious liberty; we’ve talked about why that’s not always the case. That that has influenced people’s view about whether it’s, you know, something that helps Christians, and others, you know, may know that, wait a minute, that’s not what the Court does, and I’m not sure that’s what’s going on here.
Segment 3: Christian nationalism and the midterm elections (starting at 26:48)
HOLLY: Well, also this week, PRRI came out with new polling ahead of the midterms. They held an event at Brookings on October 27, illuminating Americans’ attitudes about racial justice and religious pluralism, trust in public institutions such as schools and libraries, reproductive rights, gender identity, and LGBTQ issues, and structural reforms to our political parties, processes and courts. They also survey some highlights about values and issues that are really driving people’s concerns during this election season, and they touch on some Christian nationalism ideas.
AMANDA: They did ask a question about Christian nationalism. The way that they phrased their question, asking if people agreed with this statement is this: “God intended America to be a new Promised Land where European Christians could create a society that would be an example to the rest of the world.”
That’s, I think, a pretty extreme way to test for Christian nationalism. If someone agrees with that statement, I think they are pretty highly embracing Christian nationalism. In their survey of 2,500 Americans, almost a third of them, 31%, said yes, that they agreed with that statement.
And then they broke that down on partisan lines. Half of Republicans who responded agreed with that statement. Half of white evangelicals agreed with that statement. And that number was the highest of any other religious group that was noted.
But it’s important to note that people from other religious groups, people from other political parties also agreed with that statement. 18% of Democrats agreed with that statement, as did about a quarter, 26%, of independents.
And in the video presentation of the poll, Robert Jones from PRRI, he explained this finding, and he also said that in delving deeper into the results, that those who agreed with this statement of Christian nationalism, it was highly correlative to also how much they embraced QAnon, as well as ‑‑
HOLLY: Oh, my.
AMANDA: — how they could measure for propensity to violence.
And then, Holly, we had yet another poll out last week that talked about Christian nationalism. This was from FiveThirtyEight, which I think is best known for Nate Silver and his predictions for elections that people follow quite closely. But they have some new information out that, again, touches on Christian nationalism.
A couple of things that really stood out to me in this polling. One, in the write-up of the poll, FiveThirtyEight highlighted the victim narrative that I think is an undercurrent for many of these attitudes that people have towards the relationship between religion and government. And their findings were that the perception is very different.
Quoting here from FiveThirtyEight, “Nearly half, 46%, of survey respondents told us that discrimination against Christians is a problem in American society today, while a majority, 54%, think it’s not.” So we’re pretty polarized and divided over this question of the victimization of Christians, and I think that helps understand our polarization and different attitudes on the larger questions.
They also found, I think in an encouraging way for me, that a minority of the respondents hold views that are consistent with Christian nationalism. And, again, I’m reading from FiveThirtyEight here. “According to our survey, only 27% of respondents agreed that the government should favor Christianity over other religions, and even fewer, 22%, said that God has called on conservative Christians to take control of our politics and culture.”
That’s still an alarmingly high number actually, 22%. “Only 13% said that the federal government should advocate for Christian religious values, and 19% said that the federal government should stop enforcing separation of church and state.” So, you know, these are, I think, not negligible numbers, but still a clear minority of Americans hold views that are consistent with Christian nationalism.
HOLLY: Well, all of this new polling gives us more to understand, more to look at. I think that there’s probably more to it than we can address here today, and we will be doing that in the coming weeks. So what are some of our takeaways?
I have to note that very first, our first takeaway is that sometimes people are talking about different things when they’re talking about America being a Christian nation or wanting to be a Christian nation or for certainly not being a Christian nation. And it’s really important to have good conversation and good education to start with definitions.
And so we look at these polls carefully to see how they ask the question and that helps us interpret the data. But we also know that we have a very clear perspective that Christian nationalism is harmful, harmful to Christianity, harmful to our nation, and we want to bring people together to fight it, and so we have to be smart in how we have these conversations, bringing people together on common language and definitions to be able to move forward and have productive conversations and productive reactions to what we’re seeing.
AMANDA: Yeah. And developing a common language, we also have to be sure that more and more people hear about Christian nationalism. Until we name it, until we understand it, until we learn to recognize it, we can’t fight against it, and it is a virulent and potentially dangerous ideology that we all, all Americans, should be concerned about, regardless of our religious identity, and I also believe all Christians should be incredibly concerned about it as a threat to our faith.
I’m really emphasizing the “all,” because I think all of these polls also show that while the embrace of Christian nationalism is much more prominent among Republican voters, it is not exclusively a Republican issue.
HOLLY: Right. Yes.
AMANDA: And I think there are takeaways on both sides. One, we’re seeing one party really exploit Christian nationalism to galvanize voters, but, two, we can’t think that this is something that is only affecting one segment of our population. It impacts us all.
HOLLY: Yeah. Another takeaway is that our goal at Christians Against Christian Nationalism is one that we really need to keep our eye on. We want to engage more people to ask themselves the tough questions. Who are we as Americans? What does it mean to be a country that is devoted to a concept of religious freedom for all, where we can be equal citizens without regard to religion? What does that mean? And also to ask yourself, what does it mean to be a Christian?
Those who identify as Christians across all of these different denominations, all of these expressions, to think about what does that mean and to see how these two identities are different. It’s not that they don’t have overlapping concerns, but they are distinct, and how both identities can be harmed by fusing them and not understanding the important distinctions.
AMANDA: And, lest people feel too downhearted or discouraged by our conversation here today, I think that these polls also point to the fact that we have the tools we need to fight against Christian nationalism, and that is our model of religious freedom for all, protected by the institutional separation of church and state, that a majority of Americans continue to want and embrace, and that that is the counter-narrative that we can use that can unite us. Our religious identities don’t unite us as Americans, but our commitment to religious freedom can. And so if we can lean more fully into those principles, those values, those protections, then we can have that government that we want, that we need, that represents our multiracial, multiethnic society in the way that we need it to for the challenges of our day.
HOLLY: That religious freedom commitment is so important now, and we do have it, even though we struggle and even though there are concerns about the Supreme Court and whether this Court will continue to uphold the vision of religious freedom that has, I believe, made our country so strong and has helped us hold together, despite our religious differences.
Even while people are concerned about the Court ‑‑ and we know many are motivated and inspired to work on reforming the Court ‑‑ you know, what can we do? We know what we can do. We can educate ourselves about the importance of religious freedom and how important it is to stand together and stand up for each other in all of our religious diversity, to ensure that we all continue to be equal citizens without regard to religion, that that is the best situation for religion to flourish but also for America to flourish.
And so I’m hopeful that this polling, this information, all that we are learning, will continue to inspire us to do what we need to do to stand up for religious liberty and oppose Christian nationalism.
AMANDA: 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 appreciated our conversation today, give us a five-star rating and 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] 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.