Evangelicals should denounce Christian nationalism throughout Capitol riots

(RNS) – The startling events in Washington on Wednesday (January 6) were shocking, not only because of the scenes of illegal rioters in the U.S. Capitol, but also because of the sight of people waving flags and crosses in the name of Jesus and President Donald Trump. It was another bold move for some who have traded harmful Christian ideals for false white Christian nationalism.

As evangelicals, we must recognize, confess, and deplore our role in order for Christian nationalism to fuel these types of actions.

According to social science studies we’ve done, fear is a likely answer to why some evangelicals have accepted a politically motivated gospel substitute that runs counter to the teachings of Christ. Part of what we saw during the riots were Christian nationalists taking action against people who, because of their feelings of insecurity, perceive them to be “outsiders” or “different” from themselves.

CONNECTED: Take seriously the white Christian nationalist symbols of the Capitol uprising

Studies have shown that in-group and outside-group differences are more likely to become bloated when groups feel threatened. Although social psychologists have discovered that this is a common form of self-protection, it is linked to higher levels of fear, bias, prejudice, and tribalism. It is too often a scapegoat for those – like refugees and immigrants – for whom Christians have a biblical reputation to care. However, it is not enough to understand the causes of what happened. Too many evangelicals have accepted or ignored a movement fueled by misinformation and lies.

What happened in the Capitol was a culmination of those lies.

A Trump supporter carries a Bible in front of the Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington. (AP Photo / John Minchillo)

Support or silence about Christian nationalism damages not only our democracy but also the witness of the church. Influential evangelical pastor Tim Keller shared: “For Christians, it is really idolatry to only fully associate with one party or the other. … It also reduces the gospel to a political agenda. “This week it finally led to chaos in our government rooms.

In a climate of fear and misinformation, evangelicals must commit to receiving and sharing the best information available. As people who follow whoever said of himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” we must commit to seeking the truth and rejecting lies, even and perhaps especially when it is impractical.

As evangelicals, we must respond by praying, speaking, and acting in ways that testify to the hope and faith we hold onto in Christ – not in a leader or political party. We must speak out not only against today’s unrest, but also against the ideologies, beliefs, hatred, racism, scare tactics, misogyny, bigotry, white privilege, xenophobia, oppression and other injustices. We must correct a dynamic in which biblical foundations are so clearly compromised.

CONNECTED: How the shofar became a weapon of spiritual warfare for some evangelicals

Don’t get us wrong: we are in no way suggesting that evangelicalism equals Christian nationalists. Since we are evangelicals ourselves, we know that evangelicals can show a deep spiritual commitment to the Christian faith and still hold very different political beliefs and choose differently.

But all evangelicals must ask themselves whether our actions promote unity or division, as the apostle Paul admonished in his letter to the Ephesians: “Strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Our unity must reaffirming Christ’s call to love our neighbors, including those with whom we disagree. The scriptures should teach us to regularly care for the widow, orphan, hungry, and migrant and not to hate our neighbors.

Regardless of our politics or who holds a political office, we must remember, as the Gospel of John teaches, that our ultimate hope is in the kingdom of God and is out of place when given to Caesar.

(Jamie Aten is the founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College. Follow @drjamieaten on Twitter or visit jamieaten.com. Kent Annan is the director of Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership at Wheaton College. Follow us on Twitter at @kentannan or visit kentannan.com. The views expressed in this comment do not necessarily reflect those of the Religion News Service.)

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