You may have recently heard about the phrase ‘Christian’ nationalism. I (Pastor Tyler) know it has popped up on numerous podcasts I listen to in the past few months, as well as other media and social circles. But you may not know what ‘Christian’ nationalism is. In the simplest terms, ‘Christian’ nationalism is not Christian as we traditionally understand it in the Lutheran church, nor most other church bodies.
Addressing ‘Christian’ nationalism, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton says this dangerous ideology “is a perversion of the gospel and a threat to our democracy. It’s precisely because I love my country that I warn against ‘Christian’ nationalism.” To hear Bishop Eaton say more about why ‘Christian’ nationalism doesn’t represent Christianity as we know it, please watch her video. You can also read her article on what it means to be a real American. She writes, “An element in our country wants to legislate that the United States is a Christian nation where Christianity should be privileged and only Christians should hold office. This is ‘Christian’ Nationalism, which is neither Christian nor patriotic.” Bishop Paul Erickson also recently spoke up against ‘Christian’ Nationalism at a rally of religious leaders and was interviewed by WPR.
So why am I telling you all this? Simply put, sometimes people use words to claim to stand for something people think of as good but actually stand for something different. ‘Christian’ nationalism may sound like a good thing because it uses the word Christian. And the people who advocate for ‘Christian’ nationalism do think of themselves as Christian. However, they stand for things we in our tradition identify as contrary to the Gospel and opposed to what it means to be Christian.
And we are not alone. Christians from many traditions – Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, UCC, Lutheran, Presbyterian, AME, and the president of the National Council of Churches in Christ – have come together to make a statement as Christians Against ‘Christian’ Nationalism. There is a unified voice among the major traditions of Christianity that this movement does not represent what we mean when we say Christian.
The next time you hear someone talking about ‘Christian’ nationalism, please take a moment to ask yourself, “Are they talking about Christianity as I understand it, or do they mean something different from what I believe?” If you need help answering that question, read through the brief statement the major Christian traditions wrote together and consider if what you’re hearing aligns with or opposes the points in that statement.
If you would like to engage this topic more, please ask me any questions you may have. I will not claim to be an expert on this topic, but I’ll gladly research the answers with you.