In late February progressives rolled out a petition to condemn Christian nationalism. Its flawed and it won’t work for many reasons. Secular Dispatches explained why in a column the other day. Plus I also share some my experiences in evangelicalism to explain why this is doomed to fail. Conservative evangelicals operate in a tribal mentality and don’t consider those who are theologically liberal to be Christians. But it breaks down even further as there are Baptists who won’t charismatics to be Christians. The only way to get conservative evangelicals to reject Christian nationalism is when they realize it not in their interest.
“Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception.“
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
Isaiah 25:1 ESV
Ken Peters of the Christian nationalist church planting movement called The Patriot Church.
This is a post that I’ve debated about doing but the more it was considered the more I realized it had to be done. Sometimes when it comes to evangelical theology things need to be explained. Recently I was speaking to a pastor who told me that evangelicalism is hard to define. He described it like jello, and trying to define it was like trying to nail jello to the wall. The more I’ve thought about that description the more I’ve come to understand it. After all when I considered the time I spent in evangelicalism from 1999 until 2017 there were so many movements. fads, issues that popped up. For example vaccinations were accepted by many evangelicals in 1999/2000. Today there is a large crowd that does not accept vaccinations. Evangelicalism deals with fads. Here’s another issue that has changed and its prosperity theology. Prosperity theology became more mainstreamed with the passage of time. Its much easier to identify today than it was in 2000 as many evangelicals are much more open about it. You don’t have to go to TBN to find it easily you can do to a charismatic church down the street form you. When the January 6 coup attempt took place there was a movement by progressive evangelicals to call out Christian nationalism and to reject it. It consists of a group of mainstream Protestants, Episcopals, Catholic social justice individuals, Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, etc… It took me a couple of minutes to realize that this was not going to work. Let me explain why below. And let me share another groups beliefs as to why it won’t work either.
Secular Religion Dispatches Weighs In…
There is an organization called Religion Dispatches that covers religions interaction with politics, culture and religion. It does this from a secular and more scholarly perspective. After that petition came out by Progressives Secular Religion Dispatches stated that it will not work. In a column by Daniel Schultz called, “The Problem With An Evangelical Petition Calling White Nationalism ‘Heresy’” he explains why. He starts out by talking about how originations like the Southern Baptists and Pentacostals are deeply embedded in Christian nationalism. Its a part of who they are. Then he proceeds to say that its not heresy its idolatry for this crowd of evangelicals. Then it goes on to state that there is no standard for evangelicalism. You can’t say, “One God, one faith one baptism.” This is actually how this wing of evangelicalism is designed. Conservatives don’t care what progressives think of them. But he says the one goof thing to come out of this petition is that it gets a lot of people to actually define what Christian nationalism actually is. I would encourage you to read that and let me share some personal experiences in evangelicalism.
Conservative Evangelicals Don’t Consider Those Outside Their Tribe to be Christians
When I was involved in Fresno Evangelical Free they considered the Catholic faith to be a cult. I was baptized in part because my baptism as a baby didn’t count at all. It was almost like I was never baptized. When I was in Campus Crusade for Christ I heard there that Catholics aren’t Christians. And my Crusade director in Milwaukee Steve Papez took it further. Mainstream Protestants, Lutheranism aren’t Christians either. In this camp you carve out a small corner for yourself and your tribe and state that you are the true ones. Its breaks down even further as I heard of Baptists that questioned the faith of charismatics. Some Baptists didn’t consider those in the Assembly of God to be Christians. Because true Christians don’t believe in prophesy or speak in tongues. My leaders at Wooded Hills a charismatic church made comments about how Lutherans were not Christians. Its almost like everyone is excommunicating everyone. Its how this group thinks. For years I ran into this train of thought in different contexts. And this is why conservative evangelicals don’t care. Some progressives and liberals make outreaches to conservative evangelicals and are given a cold shoulder. I recall before I even got involved in Campus Crusade for Christ at Fresno State I was involved in a Catholic Young Adult Ministry. And a Catholic sister who ran it told the group that she reached out the Crusade director and offered to do a few things together to help Catholics and evangelicals build bridges and understand each other better. The Crusade director gave her the cold shoulder and ignored her suggestion. This Catholic sister was disappointed.
This is What Needs to Happen For Christian Nationalism to be Rejected
The only way Christian nationalism is going to be rejected is when conservative evangelicals realize it is not in their interest. This blogger considers many evangelicals to be fools because many do not understand how the separation of church and state works to their best interest. Keeping government out of religion allows people to worship how they want. When government has interfered in religion in past history its resulted in people fleeing and for one group to go after another. Say the Franklin Grahams and Robert Jeffress actually got to control policy and deny Civil Rights to blacks, outlaw programs for gays, and restricted how mainstream Protestants could worship or function. Now imagine a situation where the table turns and that government is thrown out of power. Baptists experienced some persecution in Europe and fled. Here in the United States Baptists knew that their kind were fined, harassed and even thrown in prison in Massachusetts in 1645. The Baptists at this time encouraged Thomas Jefferson’s’ beliefs on separation of church and state. This is why the Danbury Letter is so significant, and what Jefferson said in return. You can read about that in, “Remembering Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists in January of 1802.” So imagine a situation where after extreme religious interference by conservatives, the tables turn and Progressives get into power and outlaw the Southern Baptist Convention or do something drastic. Then and only then will conservative evangelicals have realized their mistake in interfering in government so much. They have to be in the receiving end. Conservative evangelicals falsely believe they are being persecuted. The fact of the matter is they are not. Evangelicals in the United States do not know what persecution is, and when the claim it they mock those who are being persecuted in Iraq, China, Nicaragua and elsewhere.
In order for Christian nationalism to end organizations like the Southern Baptist Convention, Assembles of God, Evangelical Free Church of America and others need to come out and issue a statement and condemn it. Ministries such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Cru, as well as Focus on the Family need to come out and forcefully condemn it. But the fact of the matter is that wont happen. for a couple of reasons. Many of those organizations do not reject Christian nationalism but embrace it in some form. And some organizations live in fear of some of their churches. This blog actually predicts if J.D. Greear condemned Christian nationalism and the SBC passed a resolution forcefully condemning it, you’d see a large group of churches that would leave the Southern Baptist. And places like First Baptist Dallas with Robert Jeffress would be leading the way. When Evangeliclas have problems they just schism and break away, as they don’t know how to solve them. But that break away in the Southern Baptist won’t happen. In the view of this blog evangelicalism is a sick movement and the best thing people can do is walk away.