How is America a Christian nation?
Seriously, I ask.
Christian nationalism is on the rise again. Christian nationalism is a mixture of Christianity and nationalism disguised as patriotism. It assumes that true Americans should be Christians and that Christianity (or what passes for Christianity) should be enshrined in law.
Christian nationalism emerges from the fear that, without special protection, this narrow Christianity will lose its hold on culture and politics and wither away. Some Christians in the United States preach this message, and they find comrades in the Russian Orthodox Church, whose patriarch supported the invasion of Ukraine.
This revival of Christian nationalism repeats the same tired passages around sexuality in the Bible while ignoring the greatest number of passages about mercy, love and justice. Christian nationalism also strangely attributes divine inspiration to the Constitution. Just as Christian nationalism picks and chooses from the Bible, so does the Constitution. The Second Amendment is lifted, while the Ninth Amendment is not read: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed as denying or denigrating others retained by the people.”
And so militant legislatures and judges will impose their worldview on others. The right to bodily autonomy and the freedom to make health care decisions with your doctor is replaced by the power of judges to make that decision for you based on their personal beliefs.
I can only imagine what other decisions these judges might make. Will their worldview prevail over the right to same-sex marriage, the right to be treated as an equal before the law, the right of students not to have religion imposed on them in schools? What other rights could these militant judges and legislatures undermine?
Christian nationalism is neither patriotic nor authentically American, much less Christian.
But let’s ask ourselves a question: what would a Christian nation really look like?
A nation that provides access to health care for all, regardless of their ability to pay? Jesus healed many people. He didn’t even ask if they had a job or if they were able to work.
A nation that supports education for all? Jesus taught the crowds openly and freely, and his disciples provided material needs. Luckily Jesus wasn’t working on a teacher’s salary from Idaho!
A nation that supports families and children – with access to nutritious food, clothing and community support? Where children can go to school safely, without fear of being murdered by someone with a gun? Imagine being keen to ensure that there is no stumbling block for one of these little ones.
A nation slow to anger and abundant in unwavering love? Love towards neighbors and even enemies?
A nation quick to forgive crushing debts and burdens? “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors! Uh-oh, what about personal responsibility?
A nation that embraces refugees, remembering that Jesus, Mary and Joseph sought refuge in Egypt when the despot Herod targeted them?
A nation that values goodness and justice over wealth? “You cannot serve God and wealth,” as it says in Matthew 6:24.
This is an interesting image of a Christian nation. Even so, I wouldn’t want the nation to be confused with Christianity. As a faithful Christian, I want all of these things for people, regardless of religion, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, or lack of economic power. An America for all Americans.
Christianity should always push for greater goodness, greater justice, greater mercy, not greater power. It is a Christianity worthy of the name of Christ.
Reverend Joseph Farnes is rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Boise.
The Idaho Statesman’s religious column features a rotation of writers from different faiths and perspectives.