Down with Christian Nationalism

Column by Rev. Dr. Mark Sandlin on 3 August 2023 0 Comments

I'd even go as far as to say the modern version of Dominionism, that's now called Christian Nationalism, is nothing like the teachings of the man who said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

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Will the polarity of beliefs between religions continue to grow, or will they eventually embrace diversity?


Dear Reader,

Let’s back up a second. Is the polarity of beliefs between religions really growing? Given the current divisiveness of our culture, it may SEEM that way. But it may just be a perception brought on by the amped-up noise and apocalyptic rhetoric of desperate fundamentalists and dogmatic believers.

Despite the uniformity of belief some religious leaders would like to project, beliefs and attitudes are not consistent even within the same traditions. Regional, cultural, and generational differences vary wildly.  So while it is true that in some cases, religious fundamentalism or rigid adherence to specific doctrines contribute to an increased perception of polarization between religions, it’s important to remember that there are also individuals and communities within every tradition that prioritize dialogue, interfaith understanding, and the recognition of shared values among different religions.

While not a case of polarity between different religions, I think the growing influence of Christian Nationalism in the United States is a good example of polarity within the same religion. As an advocate of the Separation of Church and State, I firmly believe that Christian Nationalism is a distortion of both the core principles of democracy and the fundamental values taught by Jesus. While democracy promotes pluralism, tolerance, and equal rights for all citizens regardless of their faith (or lack thereof), Christian Nationalism demonizes those who do not adhere to a dominant religious ideology, erodes the separation of powers, and systematizes discrimination and exclusion in the name of religion. And although the teachings of Jesus emphasize compassion, humility, and caring for the marginalized, Christian Nationalism is a divisive narrative that sees bigotry, racism, and White Supremacy as “a feature, not a bug.”

In all honesty, there is no scenario in which I see Christian Nationalists embracing diversity. Ever. Is that anything new? Nope. Christo-Fascism has been around for a long time. Its influence simply rises and falls over time. So, rather than wringing one’s hands over a perceived trend of growing polarity, I think it’s essential to consider the fact that there will always be those who manage to weaponize religion in the service of deeply held prejudices and hate.

Once you’ve embraced that reality, be intentional about seeking out those who are doing the often unsung work of promoting pluralism and religious tolerance. Considering the benefits and necessity of diversity, you can then be a part of initiatives that promote interfaith dialogue, cooperation, and mutual respect among religions. Perversions of faith like Christian Nationalism will not crawl back into the pit that spawned it of its own volition. It has to be actively worked against.

So, keep in mind that the polarity of religious beliefs will never be eliminated (and will sometimes even SEEM to be growing). In the end, the embrace of diversity will depend not on the “they” you speak of (authoritarian religious leaders or politicians) but on the one-on-one relationships of respect sought out and fostered by individuals like you.

~ Rev. David Felten




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