S4, Ep. 23: The myth of American ‘chosenness’

Dr. Catherine Brekus: “To be chosen was to be white and Protestant.”

Jun 1, 2023

How does the myth of America being a “chosen” nation lead to the religious nationalism we see today? Harvard Divinity School’s Dr. Catherine Brekus talks about how the myth is a complicated mixture of arrogance, exploitation, reform, racism and violence. She looks at the roots of this myth, how it has played out through our country’s history, and the ways that the recent surge of white Christian nationalism reflects a deep uneasiness about the loss of Christian privilege in this country.

Segment 1 (starting at 00:47): Meet Dr. Catherine Brekus

Dr. Catherine Brekus is Charles Warren Professor of the History of Religion in America at Harvard Divinity School, Chair of the Committee on the Study of Religion in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and an associate member of the Program in American Studies and the Department of History. Her research focuses on the relationship between religion and American culture, with particular emphasis on the history of women, gender, Christianity, and the evangelical movement. Currently, she is writing a book about the relationship between American nationalism and Christianity and co-authoring a biography of Sarah Edwards (1710-1758) with Harry Stout and Ken Minkema.

Read more about her on Harvard Divinity School’s website

This presentation was the 2023 Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden Lecture on Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State, an annual lecture series sponsored by BJC. Dr. Brekus gave this presentation at Old North Church in Boston. 


Segment 2 (starting at 2:30): The myth of American ‘chosenness’ 

You can watch the presentation online at this link.

Dr. Brekus’ presentation was followed by a panel discussion that included Dr. Brekus; The Rt. Rev. Carol Gallagher, PhD; the Rev. Darrell Hamilton; and Dr. Michael Hober­man. It was moderated by the Rev. Dr. Jaimie Crumley. You can hear their conversation in episode 24.

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

Transcript: Season 4, Episode 23: The myth of American “chosenness” (some parts of this transcript have been edited for clarity)


Segment 1: Meet Dr. Catherine Brekus (starting at 00:47)

HOLLY: 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 Holly Hollman, general counsel at BJC. This week my cohost, Amanda Tyler, is in Boston for our annual lecture series, the Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden Lecture on Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State.

This year, the series was held at historic Old North Church in Boston and featured a presentation on the myth of American “chosenness.” This presentation, which we are bringing to Respecting Religion listeners today, comes from Dr. Catherine Brekus, a Harvard Divinity School professor who describes how the myth of the United States being, quote, “chosen,” unquote, relates to religious nationalism throughout our country’s history.

At BJC, we’ve been exposing and countering the myths of America being a, quote, “Christian nation,” unquote, for decades. That false idea leads to many facets of the Christian nationalism we see today, including the political ideology of Christian nationalism that merges Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s democracy.

You can check out our podcast feed for various conversations on that topic, including what we’ve learned about Christian nationalism from recent polling and from Amanda’s experience at the ReAwaken America tour.

Dr. Brekus’s research focuses on the relationship between religion and American culture, with particular emphasis on the history of women, gender, Christianity, and the evangelical movement. You can read more about her impressive credentials and academic contributions in our show notes.

Now let’s hear from Dr. Catherine Brekus on the myth of American “chosenness” and how that false narrative impacts us all.


Segment 2: The myth of American “chosenness” (starting at 2:30)

DR. CATHERINE BREKUS: I’m writing a book that I’m calling Chosen Nation, which asks the question: What does it mean for people in the United States to say that they live in a chosen nation or, in more secular language, in an exceptional nation?

So let me begin with a story that dates from almost 150 years before the founding of the United States, a story which reflects not only the deep historical connection between Christianity and the belief in American “chosenness,” but which also foreshadows the morally complicated future of the nation.

In 1630, John Winthrop, one of the founders of Massachusetts Bay where we stand, wrote a lay sermon entitled “A Model of Christian Charity,” a sermon that he may have delivered aboard the Arbella, the ship that brought the Puritans across the sea to New England. We’re not actually sure he ever delivered it at all, but it’s a fascinating text.

Winthrop was a deeply religious man, and like other Puritans, he hoped to purify the Christian tradition from what he perceived as its degradation and corruption. Inspired by the story of the biblical Israelites who had crossed the Red Sea to enter into the Promised Land, he depicted the Puritans as a chosen people, in covenant with God.

Borrowing an image from the Gospel of Matthew, he claimed that New England would be a city on a hill. “For we must consider that we shall be as a city on a hill,” he wrote.  “The eyes of all people are upon us.” Winthrop’s language was self-important, even triumphalist. It was astonishing to claim that a small band of Puritan settlers numbered among the chosen people of God.

But in most of his sermon, Winthrop spoke with greater humility. He emphasized that the Puritans’ covenant with God was not only a blessing but a burden. To be a city on a hill was to be called to practice a radical form of Christian love.

“We must be knit together in this work as one man,” he testified. “We must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together.” This is really a beautiful speech in which Winthrop has found, it seems like, every example of love in the Bible.

Winthrop believed that if the Puritans could live up to this demanding vision of Christian love, God would shower them with his grace. But if they fell into sin, they would be punished just as the biblical Israelites had been. Based on his close reading of the Hebrew Bible, Winthrop believed that “chosenness” included suffering, sacrifice, and punishment.

Instead of predicting a glorious destiny for God’s new city on a hill, he ended his sermon with words of warning. “If we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God and all professors for God’s sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us, till we be consumed out of that good land whither we are going.”

Some of you may recognize that Winthrop was quoting the words of Moses, who was allowed to see the Promised Land but never to enter into it.

Winthrop ended his sermon on this sobering note because he wanted to encourage the Puritans to privilege the common good over their own selfish interests, but his inspiring vision of Christian unity had limits. Though he never explicitly mentioned Native Americans, he implied that not everyone was worthy of Christian charity. He and other Puritans expressed no qualms about settling on Indigenous lands.

In a brief aside meant to emphasize the importance of obeying God’s commands, Winthrop reminded his Puritan listeners that in the Bible, Saul lost his kingdom when he refused to follow God’s orders to annihilate every man, woman, child, and animal in the nation of Amalek. In Winthrop’s vision of a city on a hill, the same God who demanded self-sacrificing love could also call his chosen people to exterminate the native inhabitants of the land.

In 1637, only seven years after writing the “Model of Christian Charity,” Winthrop insisted that the Puritans had been called to wage war against the Pequot and to take their lands. In 1637, Puritans and their Narragansett allies massacred between 600 and 700 Pequot in Mystic, Connecticut — not only warriors but also children, women, and the elderly.

Determined to destroy the entire tribe, troops pursued the remaining Pequot to New Haven where they captured about 200 of them. They executed the men, sold the women and children into slavery, and forbade the survivors to return to their land or to refer to themselves as Pequot ever again. They were deprived even of their name.

Winthrop, this same man who had urged the Puritans to bear one another’s burdens as their own, requested that some of the captives be given to him as slaves. By the end of the 1600s, approximately 1,200 Native Americans and 400 Africans had been sold into slavery in New England.

So I begin with this disturbing, tragic story, because it reveals that the myth of American “chosenness” has always involved a complicated mixture of arrogance, exploitation, reform, self-sacrifice, racism, and violence. Tonight I will offer a brief historical overview of the myth of American “chosenness” in order to give us a deeper understanding of the recent resurgence of white Christian nationalism in our own time.

I plan to make five main points, so here’s the preview. First, as I’ve tried to demonstrate through John Winthrop’s example, the belief that America has a special relationship with God has deep historical roots that extend all the way back into the 17th century, when British settlers claimed Indigenous lands in North America as their own.

Second, Christianity and nationalism were fused together during the American Revolution when many patriotic Americans became convinced that the United States had been divinely destined to play a major role in world history.

Third, in the first decades of the United States, many Americans assumed that God had ordained the United States to be a white Protestant nation, governed by men.

Fourth, during the 19th and 20th centuries, many of those who had been deprived of political equality — including enslaved people, Native Americans, and women of all races — demanded their rights by appealing to the nation’s divine destiny.

And, fifth, the recent surge of white Christian nationalism reflects a deep uneasiness about the loss of the once privileged place of Christianity in our civic culture.

My first point about the Puritans’ identity as a new Israel lays the groundwork for the second. During the American Revolution, patriots argued that the United States was not simply, as Winthrop had claimed, a city on a hill. It was the city on a hill. Christianity was a crucial ingredient in the construction of American nationalism.

Many supporters of the Revolution were convinced that God had chosen the Colonies to become a beacon of democracy to the rest of the world. It’s worth thinking back to the very beginnings of the nation when we’re talking about 13 very small Colonies situated along the Eastern Seaboard, and yet people had such grandiose ideas about what these Colonies would become.

No book of the Bible was more popular during the Revolution than Exodus, the story of the Israelites’ revolt against an oppressive king and the miraculous journey out of slavery. The Reverend Nicholas Street, who portrayed the Revolution as a recapitulation of the crossing of the Red Sea, described King George III as Pharaoh and the colonists as the oppressed Israelites.

As Street explained to his congregation, “The British tyrant is only acting over the same wicked and cruel part that Pharaoh, king of Egypt, acted toward the children of Israel above 3,000 years ago.” Describing taxation without representation as the equivalent of slavery ‑‑ I’ll come back to this ‑‑ ministers complained that the British Parliament had, quote, “threatened us in our posterity with perpetual bondage.”

But just as God had raised up the biblical Joshua, he had inspired an American Joshua, and here I’m quoting, General George Washington, to lead his chosen people to freedom. Ministers claimed that the book of Exodus was not just the history of the Israelites. It also foreshadowed the creation of the United States which had always, supposedly, been part of God’s providential plan to spread liberty around the globe. An American Zion, as it was known, blessed by God, would lead the entire world to redemption.

Street’s language was explicitly Christian, but his faith in America’s sacred destiny was shared even by those who were skeptical of institutional religion. Benjamin Franklin, who might be best described as a Deist, also conflated the story of the Revolution with Exodus. In 1774, when Congress considered creating a new seal for the United States, Franklin suggested that it should be an image of, quote, “Moses lifting up his wand and dividing the Red Sea and Pharaoh in his chariot overwhelmed with waters.”

The myth of American “chosenness” had Christian roots, but eventually it evolved into a vaguer, more secular faith in American exceptionalism, the belief that the United States plays a unique role in human history and should be a model of political, religious, and economic freedom.

We can hear early expressions of this idea in Thomas Paine, who described the Revolution as, quote, “the birthday of a new world,” and Thomas Jefferson who, in his first inaugural, celebrated the United States as, quote, “the world’s best hope.” I hope you hear that language that’s become so familiar in political discourse, but Christians would say the world’s best hope is not the United States but Jesus.

In the elaborate biblical typology that settlers created to explain the Revolution, white Americans were the enslaved Israelites, the British were the Egyptians, and Native Americans were the Canaanites. Patriots justified their treatment of the original inhabitants of the land by remembering God’s biblical command to destroy the people of Canaan.

In a sermon entitled, “The United States Elevated to Glory and Honor,” Ezra Stiles, the president of Yale, explained that American Indians should be regarded as, quote, “Canaanites of the expulsion of Joshua.” Like John Winthrop more than a century earlier, Stiles and other white Americans insisted that God himself had ordained the conquest of Native Americans and the theft of their lands.

Many patriots, however, expressed some uneasiness about the continued existence of racial slavery. At a time when approximately 700,000 Africans were held in bondage, many white Americas recognized the contradiction between their demands for liberty and their participation in the domestic and international slave trades.

In 1775, Quakers organized the first anti-slavery society in America, and in 1780, Pennsylvania became the first northern state to pass a gradual abolition act, with other northern states following. But the Constitution, even though it outlawed the slave trade, did not abolish slavery itself, and by the 1830s and 1840s, southern Christians had created an elaborate biblical justification for enslavement.

The Reverend Thornton Stringfellow, for example, a Baptist, reasoned that since God had shown favor to biblical patriarchs like Abraham and Isaac, who had been slave owners, then southern planters could be confident that God favored them as well. Stringfellow also proclaimed that slavery was, quote, “full of mercy.”

If not for slavery, he argued, millions of Africans would never have been exposed to Christianity, and their souls would have been damned. American slavery was supposedly part of God’s providential plan to spread spiritual freedom around the world.

This brings me to the third of my key points. In the first decades of the United States, many Americans assumed that God had ordained the United States to be a white and Protestant nation. To be clear and contrary to what many Christian conservatives have argued today, the United States was not founded as a Christian nation. The First Amendment ‑‑ “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” ‑‑ guaranteed that Americans were free to worship or not to worship as they pleased.

But most Americans in the 18th century were Protestants and, despite their support of religious freedom, they assumed that they would always enjoy a privileged place in the Republic. Even the Baptists, avid supporters of the separation of church and state, supported reading the King James version of the Bible in public schools.

In 1844, Robert Baird, a Presbyterian minister, argued that God had delayed the discovery of the New World until the era of the Protestant Reformation because of his providential plan to transform America into, quote, “a great Protestant empire.”

At a time when large numbers of Catholic immigrants were arriving from Ireland and Germany, Baird insisted that God had chosen America, quote, “to throw off the shackles of Rome and to become, in due time, the most powerful of all Protestant kingdoms.” America’s national religion, he claimed, was evangelical Christianity, and its national character was Anglo-Saxon. To be chosen was to be white and Protestant.

Given these sentiments, it isn’t surprising that Catholic and Jewish immigrants were often viewed with suspicion by their Protestant neighbors who questioned their American‑ness. Catholics, in particular, were perceived as a threat to democracy because of their allegiance to the Pope.

In 1835, Lyman Beecher, one of the most influential ministers in antebellum United States ‑‑ he was the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin ‑‑ suggested that the mass influx of Catholic immigrants, whom he compared to, quote, “the locusts of Egypt,” might be secretly plotting to seize control of the United States government and to create a Catholic nation ruled by the Pope.

Later, in 1844, during one of the worst episodes of religious violence in American history, anti-Catholic riots broke out in Philadelphia, where two Roman Catholic churches were burned, more than 50 people were wounded, and 13 people were killed.

When the Ku Klux Klan was reorganized in 1915 ‑‑ the first Klan had disbanded in 1869 ‑‑ it targeted not only African Americans but also Catholics and Jews. By 1924, the Klan numbered more than 4 million members. This was not a fringe organization. And they identified themselves as the defender of God’s special relationship with the United States.

Choosing a fiery cross as their symbol and limiting membership to white Protestants, the Klan argued that they had been called to defend the nation from corruption. When new members were initiated into the order, they placed their hands on a Bible that lay on top of an American flag.

Now, it’s worth pausing here to note that anti-Catholicism and antisemitism ran deep. There would not be a Catholic president in the United States until 1960 when John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Richard Nixon, and there still has never been a Jewish president.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was common for Jews to be depicted as covetous, dishonest, and un-American. In 1915, when Leo Frank, the Jewish manager of a pencil factory in Atlanta, was accused of raping and murdering an employee, a 13-year-old girl, he was demonized as a greedy Jewish industrialist. During his trial, the courthouse was often surrounded by large crowds chanting, Hang the Jew.

Frank was eventually declared innocent, and historians have agreed with this verdict. But a mob, enraged by the verdict, broke into his jail cell, kidnapped him, and lynched him from a tree. As the news spread, a thousand people gathered to view his body.

I should stop here and just mention that there are some white Christian nationalist groups today that have been retelling this story of Leo Frank and arguing that, in fact, he was guilty.

Frank’s lynching stunned the nation, but antisemitism continued to spread. In the early 1920s, Henry Ford sponsored the writing of a series of antisemitic articles, later published in four volumes as The International Jew, which claimed that scheming Jews controlled the world’s finances and were ultimately responsible for the economic ills of the United States. In 1938, the Nazi government of Germany awarded Ford the Grand Cross of the German Eagle.

Many white Protestants speculated that an international cabal of Jews wanted to destroy what Ford described as the Anglo-Saxon culture of the United States. The assumption that true Americans were white Protestants, not Catholics or Jews, persisted into the mid-20th century, but it was gradually replaced by a more capacious understanding of a Judeo-Christian or tri-faith America.

Neither antisemitism nor anti-Catholicism ever fully disappeared, as we can still see today, but white Protestants became increasingly worried about the rising tide of secularism, and they recognize that Catholics and Jews could be valuable allies in the fight to preserve the nation’s religious identity. A crucial point of unity was that by the late 19th century, many Catholics and Jews shared the popular consensus that the United States stood as a beacon of political and religious freedom.

This is one of the greatest ironies in American history. Despite their struggle for full acceptance in the United States, Catholics and Jews eventually embraced the belief in American “chosenness” as their own.

On the Catholic side, Pope Leo XIII was so troubled by American Catholics’ enthusiasm for their new country that he published an encyclical in 1899 rebuking the heresy of what he called Americanism, the belief that the church should become more American and modern in its teachings.

On the Jewish side, Mary Antin, who had spent her childhood in Russia in terror of the pogrom, published a bestselling book in 1912, The Promised Land, which praised America as Zion. Both Catholics and Jews gained a modicum of political and religious acceptance in the United States by reaffirming its founding myth.

This brings me to my fourth point. Throughout American history, many who have been deprived of equality, especially enslaved people and women of all races, have demanded greater rights by appealing to the nation’s God-given destiny. Consider, for example, the remarkable story of Phyllis Wheatley, an enslaved woman, a poet, and the first Black woman to be published in what would become the United States.

In 1774, Wheatley condemned the avarice and hypocrisy of white patriots who ruthlessly practiced slavery while lamenting their own supposed enslavement by the British because of taxation. In a letter to Samson Occom, a Native American Christian, Wheatley reversed the meaning that white patriots ascribed to the book of Exodus by portraying enslaved and Indigenous people as the biblical Israelites and Americans as their Egyptian oppressors.

“In every human breast,” she testified, “God has implanted a principle which we call love of freedom. It is impatient of oppression and pants for deliverance, and by the leave of our modern Egyptians, I will assert that the same principle lives in us.” Her letter was widely reprinted in American periodicals, a rebuke to white slaveholders who dared to represent themselves as victims rather than as oppressors.

Yet despite her anger at Americans’ failure to live up to their own ideals, Wheatley also affirmed that ultimately, God had destined the United States to be a beacon of freedom.

In 1784, in a poem which personified the new nation as a woman, Columbia, Wheatley imagined Columbia spreading, quote, “heavenly freedom around the globe.” Like white patriots, Wheatley portrayed the nation as an agent of God, but she insisted that the United States could not fulfill its God-given destiny until it abolished slavery.

Later in the 19th century, both white and African American women would make a similar argument in reference to women’s suffrage. Frances Willard, the founder of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, a mostly white organization, claimed that women needed the vote in order to protect the home and the republic. In her words, “Mother-hearted women are called to be the saviors of the race.”

Willard had begun her career as a temperance activist, convinced that alcohol was responsible for poverty and domestic violence, but she soon became convinced that Christian mothers could not cleanse the nation of its sins without the power of the vote. God’s plan for the United States, she argued, could not be realized without women’s political equality to men.

Perhaps more than anyone else in American history, Martin Luther King Jr. revealed the revolutionary potential of the belief in American “chosenness.” In contrast to the Ku Klux Klan, who argue that God wanted America to be a white nation, King insisted that God had chosen America to be a model of racial reconciliation and equality.

In his letter from Birmingham jail, he testified, “I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. We will win our freedom, because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.” The motto of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was “To Redeem the Soul of America.”

King’s language reveals that historically the belief in American “chosenness” has been widely shared by Americans with competing visions of the nation. Imagining America as a city on a hill, a new Israel, or redeemer nation has been part of a tradition of consensus. On one hand, this consensus may have served to stifle dissent. There’ve been relatively few radicals in American history. I think of someone like Malcolm X or Native American activists who have fully rejected the idea that the United States has a special religious and political mission.

On the other hand, the consensus about American “chosenness” also seems to have helped to mediate change, holding the nation together as Americans have embraced revolutionary movements like feminism and civil rights. The belief in American “chosenness,” as revealed by the examples of Frances Willard and Martin Luther King has sometimes been used to bring about progressive goals.

This brings me to my final point. Ever since the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, who frequently borrowed John Winthrop’s language in order to hail the United States as a city on a hill, the language of American “chosenness” has been more identified with political conservatives than with liberals.

Many Democratic politicians have tried to reclaim this language as their own. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both described the United States as an exceptional nation, and Joe Biden has echoed Martin Luther King by promising to redeem the soul of America.

But white Christian conservatives have been particularly successful in mobilizing around the idea that they, and they alone, are the righteous defenders of the nation’s special covenant with God. Like John Winthrop who warned the Puritans that God might withdraw his favor if they fell into sin, they have spent the past 40 years claiming that God is angry with the nation because of a multitude of sins, secularism, gay rights, feminism, and — more recently — critical race theory and the catch-all category, wokeness.

Some of you may remember that after 9/11, Jerry Falwell Sr. suggested that God had withdrawn his protection of the United States out of anger about the nation’s political and religious direction. During an interview with Pat Robertson on the 700 Club, Falwell said, “I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, You helped this happen.”

During the past decades, Christian conservatives have repeatedly echoed Falwell’s warning that an angry God might break his covenant with the United States. This is one of the reasons that they have responded so fervently to the slogan, Make America Great Again.

Underlying the anger of white Christian conservatives is a deep sense of loss. There have been many reasons for the resurgence of a virulent form of white Christian nationalism in the United States, but a key issue is the decline of the white Christian population.

In the early 1990s, roughly 90 percent of the population identified as Christian, but by 2022, that percentage had dropped to around 66 percent. Similarly, in 1980, 80 percent of the population identified as white, but by 2022, that percentage had dropped to 60 percent. Many Christian conservatives, faced with massive demographic change, long for a world that they have lost.

According to a recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, 27 percent of Americans agreed or mostly agreed with the statement, “The U.S. government should declare America a Christian nation.” And 30 percent agreed or mostly agreed with the statement, “Being Christian is an important part of being truly American.”

We stand at a perilous moment in American history. As I’ve tried to show tonight, white Christian nationalism is not new, and the myth that the United States is a chosen nation has been part of our history since the founding. But there is a significant difference between the 18th century and the present.

The white Christian nationalists who supported the American Revolution were tainted by their racism and their refusal to extend political rights to women, but they defended the principle of democracy, even if it was only partially fulfilled, as a positive good.

This helps to explain why so many marginalized men and women throughout American history — people like Phyllis Wheatley and Martin Luther King Jr. — were inspired by the claim that the United States is God’s chosen nation. They wanted to believe that the nation has a transcendent purpose that bends toward equality and justice.

Today, however, white Christian nationalists are so convinced that they have been called to uphold the nation’s special covenant with God that they have been willing to dismantle the legacy of the American Revolution, including the separation of church and state. Determined to preserve their political dominance, many are no longer committed to the core principles of democracy. White Christian nationalists believe they must protect the nation which they see as sacred from the government, which they argue has become corrupt.

Let me conclude by emphasizing that, despite my admiration for activists like Martin Luther King Jr., I do not want to preserve the myth of American “chosenness.” Even in its most progressive forms, American Christian nationalism is built on ideas that too often have been used to justify imperialism and xenophobia.

Those of us who identify as Christian have a particular responsibility to explain to the public why white Christian nationalists do not speak for us. I have sometimes feared ‑‑ and I know I’m not alone in this ‑‑ that the entire Christian tradition has been sullied by its association with the ugliness that we see on our landscape today.

If we do not want John Winthrop’s stern warning to come true ‑‑ “we shall be made a story and a byword through the world, we shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God” ‑‑ we must continue to explain why white Christian nationalism is contrary to the message of freedom, human dignity, and the common good that represents the best of both the American and Christian traditions. Thank you.


HOLLY: We want to thank Dr. Catherine Brekus for that powerful presentation. After her speech, she joined a panel discussion to explore the idea further and address how pastors are, in this moment, helping their congregations explore and understand Christian nationalism, including how it’s shown up throughout history.

She joined The Right Reverend Carol Gallagher, The Reverend Darrell Hamilton, and Dr. Michael Hoberman in a conversation moderated by Reverend Dr. Jaimie Crumley. You won’t want to miss that. Visit our show notes for a place you can watch it online.

That brings us to the close of this episode of Respecting Religion. Thanks for joining us today. If you enjoyed today’s show, share this program with others on social media and tag us. We’re on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube @BJContheHill. You can email the show by writing to [email protected].

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