What subsequent? Christian leaders present recommendation on countering Christian nationalism

(RNS) – For those who have persecuted Christian nationalism in the United States, the siege of the US Capitol was shocking, but according to Andrew Whitehead, co-author of “Taking America Back for God,” it was not surprising: Christian nationalism in the United States. “

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It is clearer than ever that Christian nationalism poses a threat to faith and democracy. Whitehead and Christian leaders agreed on Wednesday (January 27) at a virtual event dedicated to the issue.

The question remains, however, what can Christians do about it?

“Christian nationalism is not new, but the incidence of acts of violence inspired by Christian nationalism and the resurgence of attempts to legislate and govern from a position shaped by Christian nationalism has increased dramatically in recent years” said Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Freedom, or BJC.

“We believe that Christians have a special responsibility to understand and eradicate Christian nationalism.”

The leaders of two of the largest Protestant denominations in the United States – Bishop Michael Curry of Episcopal Church and Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – attended the panel discussion with Whitehead and Tyler, “Democracy and Faith Under Siege: Answers “Teil to Christian Nationalism“, organized by Christians Against Christian Nationalism, a BJC initiative.

They shared their thoughts on what Christians can do to counter Christian nationalism and “de-radicalize” those who believe in the cultural framework that privileges white Christians in particular in American civic life.

Amanda Tyler, clockwise from top left, Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Bishop Michael Curry, and Andrew Whitehead participate in the “Democracy and Faith Under Siege: Responding to Christian Nationalism” panel discussion hosted by Christians Against Christian Nationalism. Video screengrab

It’s important for Christians to stand up against this idea, Whitehead said, because it’s prevalent in Christian traditions – and because it affects everything from people’s attitudes towards racism to their behavior regarding COVID-19 -Pandemic. The majority of evangelical Protestants, he said, may not be openly Christian-nationalist in their faith, but they conform to this attitude – and according to his research, they are not just evangelicals.

“If we think about Christian nationalism and how to counter it, we have to adjust to the fact that Christian nationalism prevails within Christian religious traditions and is part of the people who worship with us,” he said.

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A good first step for Christians is to learn more about Christian nationalism – and why it is at odds with Christianity, Eaton said. The ELCA presiding bishop pointed to Whitehead’s book as a good place to start.

“Christian nationalism is different from being a patriot. God knows I love my country, ”she said. “But my primary loyalty as a Christian is not to my country, but to God.”

Curry referred to the famous words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. “

That said, Christians should offer a positive alternative to Christian nationalism, he said.

“We must counteract these negative perversions of Christianity and our humanity. We have to meet them with a positive, positive way of being Christian, ”he said. “Christianity must focus on the teaching, example, and spirit of Jesus of Nazareth.”

Supporters of US President Donald Trump put up a cross in front of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.  (Photo by Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Supporters of President Donald Trump put up a cross in front of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. (Photo by Win McNamee / Getty Images)

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church also suggested that Christians rebuild relationships between politics, race and religion.

“Everyone who knows someone who is different from them gets to know them, spends some time with them and lets this become a personal value in their life. Then maybe we can start splintering away, ”he said.

“Everyone won’t come on board, but someone will.”

In addition to these individual actions, said Whitehead, structural changes must also take place. People in positions of relative power must stand up for those who are marginalized on race, religion, gender, sexuality and otherwise.

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At a separate event on Wednesday, Al Vivian, son of the late Rev. CT Vivian, said some of the practices his father used as a civil rights activist among King’s leadership staff should be used in the aftermath of the Capitol storm.

“When dad trained me, he always talked to me about holding people accountable for what they think is valuable,” Al Vivian said at an online press conference about his father’s upcoming posthumously published memoir: “It’s in the action : Memories of a nonviolent warrior. “

“‘There are two documents that white America consistently says they value: the Constitution and the Bible, he said, and every argument we have ever used has been consistent with those two documents,” he said.

This includes constitutional rights and freedoms and biblical instructions to love your neighbor.

“You find out what people value, you blame them and you don’t give in,” said the younger Vivian of the principles that church and business leaders can apply. “You blame them for living the values ​​they believe in.”

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