Home Christian News Major Christian Leaders Asked Jan. 6 Committee To Investigate Christian Nationalism

Major Christian Leaders Asked Jan. 6 Committee To Investigate Christian Nationalism

Jan. 6 committee
Supporters of President Donald Trump overtake the inauguration stage in front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (RNS) — A group of prominent Christian leaders, including the heads of major denominations, say they submitted a letter earlier this year to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, urging members to examine Christian nationalism and arguing the ideology played a crucial role in the insurrection.

Organizers of the letter, which has not previously been disclosed, told Religion News Service they were approached by a committee investigator on the topic. The resulting statement, dated June 2, was facilitated by Christians Against Christian Nationalism, an effort orchestrated by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

“The ideology of Christian nationalism helped motivate and intensify the insurrection,” the letter reads in part. “We ask the Committee to thoroughly investigate the role that Christian nationalism played in the attack. This investigation into Christian nationalism is important so that history does not repeat itself and so that we understand this threat to our country’s historic commitment to religious liberty and the importance of defeating it.”

Representatives for the House committee did not immediately respond to requests to confirm the faith leaders’ account of why the letter was drafted, or to clarify whether the committee pursued their request and investigated Christian nationalism specifically.

The letter notes the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign began at least 18 months before the insurrection took place. That is why, signatories argued, they “recognized the presence of Christian nationalism at the Capitol on that fateful day.” The letter also referenced a report published in February by the BJC and the Freedom From Religion Foundation detailing the role Christian nationalism played in the attack.

“As Christian leaders who are deeply concerned about Christian nationalism and its danger not only to our constitutional democracy but in its distortion of Christianity, we urge you to focus questioning and discussion on Christian nationalism and the role it played in bolstering, justifying and intensifying the January 6 attack,” the letter reads.

In addition to BJC head Amanda Tyler, signers of the letter included prominent faith leaders such as the heads of mainline and historically Black denominations. Among the signatories is the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; the Rev. David Peoples, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention; the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins, director of multiple Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) advocacy offices; Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, interim president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches; the Rev. John C. Dorhauer, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ; and the Rev. Paul Baxley, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Activists and scholars who have been outspoken about Christian nationalism also signed on, such as Shane Claiborne, head of Red Letter Christians; the Rev. Jennifer Butler, founder of Faith in Public Life; scholar and author Jemar Tisby; Mary J. Novak, head of the Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice; Anthea Butler, chair of the department of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania; and Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and director of the Center on Faith and Justice at Georgetown University.

The letter speaks to increasingly vocal criticism of Christian nationalism among faith leaders, often led by mainline Christian and Black Protestant voices. The Christians Against Christian Nationalism statement alone has accrued more than 30,000 signatures. Institutions such as Georgetown have hosted events condemning the ideology, and a recent effort spearheaded by activist group Faithful America decried various public figures and activists who espouse iterations of Christian nationalism as “false prophets.

Religious leaders have also protested near stops along the ReAwaken America tour, a traveling event known for controversial right-wing speakers who fuse conspiracy theories with fervent Christian nationalism. A group organized by Faithful America and Word and Way is planning to stage another such protest when the tour arrives in Missouri this weekend.

Many evangelical leaders condemned Christian nationalism in the wake of the insurrection, as did Jewish, Muslim and other non-Christian leaders as well as secular groups.