LANCASTER, Ohio — Too little attention has been paid to the troubling role that Christian nationalism played in the attack on the United States Capitol. A recent report from the Religion News Service quote Amanda Tyler, who heads the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, saying Christian nationalism was used to “support, justify and escalate the January 6 attack on the Capitol.” The report noted that at least one person carried a banner that read “Proud American Christian.”
The violence and chaos of the Donald-Trump inspired insurgency has dominated the headlines for weeks. But less portrayed, wrote Matthew D. Taylor of the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies in a Nov. 4, 2021 Baltimore Sun. editorialwas “the Christian tint of it all: the Christian Prayer Gatherings at the Capitol in December which spread post-election lies; the Christian flags deployed as rioters climbed the steps of the Capitol; the self-proclaimed pastors and apostles who urged DC crowds of Trump supporters; the rioters speaking in tongues; the Proud Boys kneeling to pray before they go stomping heads. “
Although they describe themselves as “patriots”, Christian nationalists reflect an un-American view that only their conservative interpretation of Christianity and its role in the political and social life of the country is valid. They argue that this country was built by and for white Christians. They fear their way of life will be threatened as the country becomes more diverse, and they insist that ethnic white Christians must control the political process.
Another episode of the Religion News Service series reported thata year ago, America First podcaster Nick Fuentes warned at an America First conference that “America will cease to be America” if it loses its white core demographic and if it loses its faith in Jesus- Christ”.
Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, said at a Christian rally last November: “If we want to have a nation under God, which we have to do, we have to have a religion. One nation under God and one religion under God.”
A reviewer of the 2020 book, “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States” by Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry, writes that, “At its heart, Christian nationalism demands that we preserve a particular kind of social order , an order in which everyone – Christians and non-Christians, natives and immigrants, whites and minorities, men and women – recognizes his “righteous” place in society.”
Whitehead and Perry cite statistics collected over the past decade that they say show that about 20% of Americans strongly embrace Christian nationalism.
The National Council of Churches warns that Christian nationalism “encourages its adherents to believe that they are fighting the forces of darkness on all fronts… This beleaguered justice mindset is applied to perceived enemies of the state (e.g., liberals, humanists , pluralists, atheists, and various minority communities), and true believers are urged to employ all means, however undemocratic and violent, in order to win political contests.”
Having strong religious beliefs is a basic right that all Americans hold dear. But the rise of a movement that believes the separation of church and state is a myth and advocates government shaped by conservative Christian values as a political force is a threat to a democratic, multicultural America. For Christian nationalists to impose their beliefs on us goes against everything America has stood for throughout its history.
In “It Can’t Happen Here,” novelist Sinclair Lewis wrote about an elected American government promoting a return to patriotism and “traditional” values, leading to fascism in the United States. A quote often attributed to Lewis, although there is no evidence that he said it — “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross” — should serve as a fair warning.
Chuck Ardo, a retired political consultant in Lancaster, Ohio, previously served as press secretary to former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and director of communications for the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office.
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