Home Christian News Christian Nationalism’s Opponents Are Getting Organized

Christian Nationalism’s Opponents Are Getting Organized

Christian nationalism
Poor People’s Campaign co-chair the Rev. Liz Theoharis speaks during the announcement of a new resolution titled “Third Reconstruction: Fully Addressing Poverty and Low Wages From the Bottom Up,” May 20, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

(RNS) — On Jan. 6, 2021, Rahna Epting, the executive director of liberal advocacy group MoveOn, watched her television in horror. As supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the seat of U.S. democracy, Epting couldn’t help but notice the Christian symbols some waved as they surged past police barricades.

Appalled, she contacted the Rev. Liz Theoharis, a Presbyterian minister and head of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice. The pair had worked together in the past and quickly brainstormed their next project: combating the forms of Christian nationalism visibly evident Jan. 6.

“There is a tribalism and a very strong, religious-like element to this MAGA movement, which we name as white Christian nationalism,” Epting said. “As a progressive, secular organizer, I don’t think me and my comrades in our space are really fully evaluating what this threat is.”

In the years since Jan. 6, however, as proponents of Christian nationalism have grown louder, so, too, have their detractors: Epting and Theoharis’ partnership turned into a yearslong project to determine how best to curb the influence of the ideology, ultimately resulting in a 75-page report titled “All of US: Organizing to Counter White Christian Nationalism and Build a Pro-Democracy Society.”

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Their study is but the latest in an intensifying effort to challenge Christian nationalism and its influence on U.S. politics. Denominations are condemning the ideology. Local faith leaders are launching awareness campaigns. Clergy and secular groups are teaming up to strategize ways to combat Christian nationalism ahead of the 2024 elections.

The Rev. Liz Theoharis, from left, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Imam Saffet Catovic and Bishop Vashti McKenzie during the Poor People’s Campaign’s congressional briefing on Sept. 22, 2022, at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Epting, Theoharis and Stosh Cotler, the former head of Bend the Arc Jewish Action and the report’s chief author, collected examples of these efforts for their study. They interviewed dozens of activists and were advised by an array of leaders with ties to religious groups such as United Church of Christ or secular organizations such as the Working Families Party. The report’s preface notes those involved include a mix of Christians and non-Christians who are united by a “shared recognition that the rise of an authoritarian strain in our politics has been fueled and emboldened by a white Christian nationalist movement.”

As they mined their findings, authors slowly came to identify ways they believe activists can blunt Christian nationalism’s impact.