Working together to dismantle Christian nationalism

by | Apr 28, 2022

For nearly three years now, BJC has been focusing attention on Christian nationalism – defining it, recognizing it and understanding the dangers it poses to American democracy and Christianity itself. Since we first organized and launched Christians Against Christian Nationalism in July 2019, tens of thousands of people have used and shared our resources in their efforts to dismantle Christian nationalism in their communities and congregations.

Earlier this year, in partnership with our friends at the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), BJC published a new groundbreaking report on Christian nationalism and its role in the January 6 insurrection. As reported in our spring magazine, this report provides the most comprehensive accounting to date of the role that Christian nationalism played in justifying, bolstering and intensifying the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The report focuses not only on the events of January 6 itself, but it looks at events, rallies and networks assembled in advance of the attack. No one who sees the evidence can deny that Christian nationalism played a role in the insurrection.

Since its release in February, the report has garnered widespread attention in the media, the public and by members of Congress. In a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on March 31, Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., commended the BJC/FFRF report. Jack Jenkins, a reporter for Religion News Service, noted that this was the first time that a member of Congress had explicitly linked Christian nationalism to January 6 in a floor speech.

The report is not just a historical accounting. It provides an urgent warning for everyone to work against Christian nationalism now in order to protect American democracy. January 6 was a wake-up call for many to just how dangerous Christian nationalism is in the hands of violent extremists. But the alarm is still ringing. We hear it in the speeches that are part of the “ReAwaken America Tour” currently making its way through churches across the country, where election lies and pandemic conspiracy theories are sandwiched between praise music and prayers. The false narrative of a “stolen election” has fueled voter suppression bills in state legislatures. The idea that God has preordained an election result or that a political candidate is a messiah leads some people to believe that the only legitimate election is one in which their candidate wins. The proliferation of Christian nationalism is eroding trust in elections and democracy.

Dismantling Christian nationalism will take a broad and diverse coalition of people — different in perspective yet united in support for everyone’s religious freedom. It was that spirit of collaboration that led us to work with FFRF on this important report. We come at the work differently — BJC as a faith-based organization, FFRF as a secular organization — but we both agree that keeping the institutions of religion and government separate is the best way to protect everyone’s freedom, and it’s critical to countering Christian nationalism.

A Christian group working with a group of atheists, agnostics and skeptics of any pedigree also affirms one of the core principles of religious freedom as stated in the Christians Against Christian Nationalism statement: one’s religious affiliation, or lack thereof, should be irrelevant to one’s standing in the civic community. I was saddened, though not surprised, to see the hateful invectives levied against FFRF, questioning its motives and its patriotism for calling out Christian nationalism.

This experience showed me yet again the privilege that we as Christians (and particularly white Christians) continue to enjoy due to Christian nationalism. I believe that those of us who are white Christians and lead predominantly white institutions have a special responsibility to call out and work to dismantle Christian nationalism. Our involvement is not alone sufficient, but it is necessary if we are to make progress. I am grateful for your involvement in this cause and your support of BJC as we continue to sound the alarm about Christian nationalism.

Amanda Tyler is executive director of BJC. Follow her on Twitter: @AmandaTylerBJC.

This column first appeared in the spring 2022 edition of Report from the Capital. You can download it as a PDF or read a digital flip-through edition.