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An Unholy Alliance: Christianity and Nationalism

Christianity and nationalism

The world watched supporters of President Trump breach police barricades and force their way into the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6. In addition to the Trump flags, those watching the news also saw rioters carrying signs that said “Jesus Saves” and “Jesus 2020.” An image that likely won’t be forgotten anytime soon is a person who made it into the Senate chamber while carrying a Christian flag

Horrified at this new brand of Christianity, the world watched in shock, but is this a new brand of Christianity or is it something else? Christian leaders and sociologists have dubbed this “movement” as something very different from mainstream Christianity. Now a term that was relatively unknown to the broader U.S. population outside of the church is showing up in headlines and mainstream media: Christian nationalism.

“The January 6 attack on the Capitol was characterized not only by vicious lies, deplorable violence, white supremacy, white nationalism, and wicked leadership—especially by President Trump—but also by idolatrous and blasphemous abuses of Christian symbols,” a statement signed by over 250 Wheaton College faculty and staff reads. 

People took to Twitter to express similar outrage at all the Christian symbols being brandished during last Wednesday’s troubling events.

The Wheaton faculty and staff statement was released on Tuesday, January 11th, and expressed the signees’ condemnation of a form of Christianity on display at the riots, one that they believe bears “absolutely no resemblance to the Christian teachings or ethics that we submit to.” 

The statement casts a level of blame at Christian leaders who either implicitly or explicitly encouraged the events at the Capitol Building:

In the days and weeks preceding January 6, many more leaders, including many evangelical leaders, could have spoken truth to the disillusioned supporters of President Trump—diminishing the prospects for violence and bolstering the witness of Christian love and the call for justice in our civic life. Some did. However, many wittingly propagated lies, or were unduly silent in a just cause. 

Russell Moore: What Happened at the Capitol Is Satanic

Expressing similar outrage about the Capitol riot, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) president Russell Moore did not mince words when he referred to those who stormed the Capitol as “domestic terrorists” in an article posted to his blog on Monday. Moore went on to decry the conflation of the “Jesus Saves” message with the aims of the rioters:

The sight of “Jesus Saves” and “God Bless America” signs by those violently storming the Capitol is about more than just inconsistency. It is about a picture of Jesus Christ and of his gospel that is satanic. The mixing of the Christian religion with crazed and counter-biblical cults such as Q-Anon is telling the outside world that this is what the gospel is. That’s a lie, and it is blasphemous against a holy God. 

Moore also pointed to the longer-term consequences this unholy alliance will continue to have when he wrote, “Every survey shows that the church is hemorrhaging the next generation because they believe that evangelicalism is a means to an end to this political movement.”

This idea that we will likely lose a large portion of the next generation of evangelicals over either our complicity toward or adherence to Christian nationalism is also being voiced by Skye Jethani, a minister and co-host of the Holy Post podcast. On Twitter, Jethani posted a thread which voiced his concern: