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Sight Magazine – Essay: The January 6 Committee must tackle Christian nationalism

United States
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Moments after an insurgent carried the Christian flag into the US Senate chamber on January 6, 2021, Jacob Chansley (the “QAnon Shaman”) lead intruders in a prayer:

Thank you Heavenly Father for being the necessary inspiration for these policemen to allow us to enter the building; to enable us to exercise our rights; to allow us to send a message to all tyrants, communists and globalists, that this is our nation, not theirs… Thank you for allowing the United States to be reborn. … In the holy name of Christ, we pray! Amen.

Jacob Chansley, center, better known as ‘QAnon Shaman,’ and other supporters of then-President Donald Trump, confront Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber at the inside the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. IMAGE: AP Photo/Manuel Balcé Ceneta.

It may be tempting to fire a man in a cocked fur hat, but that’s only one of the dozens of examples of Christian nationalism that the Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol must recognize and address in its upcoming hearings. We won’t get a full picture of what happened that day without an in-depth account of how Christian nationalism united the various actors and escalated their attack.

Christian nationalism is a political ideology and a cultural framework. It merges American and Christian identities, suggesting that only Christians are “real” Americans. This pervasive ideology not only undermines the ideal of religious freedom for all – which is the foundation of our constitutional democracy – but also threatens the fundamental guidelines of Christianity: to worship only God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

“Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework. It merges American and Christian identities, suggesting that only Christians are ‘true’ Americans. This pervasive ideology not only undermines the ideal of religious freedom for all – which is foundation of our constitutional democracy – but also threatens the fundamental guidelines of Christianity: to worship only God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

For these reasons, the organization that I lead, Joint Baptist Committee for Religious Liberty, has for years denounced the dangers of Christian nationalism. We created the Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign to give voice to other opponents of this ideology. The campaign provides resources on Christian nationalism and how it distorts Christianity and harms our neighbors.

Earlier this year, BJC worked with lay partners at the Freedom From Religion Foundation to release a Detailed report on Christian nationalism and its role in the January 6 attack. The project, which serves as a resource for lawmakers and the general public, includes the most comprehensive record yet on how Christian nationalism helped fuel the insurgency.

Much like racism, Christian nationalism permeates our culture and affects us all to varying degrees – I have yet to meet a person who identifies as a Christian nationalist. Dismantling Christian nationalism begins with challenging the assumptions and myths that underpin common statements, such as “America is a Christian nation.” We can assert a productive role for religion – including, but not limited to, Christianity – in our public square without giving Christianity or Christians a place of privilege in our laws and politics.

The constitutional framers protected religious freedom by balancing two First Amendment guarantees: the free exercise of religion and the government’s prohibition of its establishment.



These values ​​are being challenged in this election year by politicians and other leaders. Doug Mastriano, the GOP gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, participated in the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6 and was assigned by the select committee. He also repeatedly mixed religion and government in his public speeches, at one point saying, “We are going to bring the state back to justice, this is our day, our time to take back our state and renew the blessings of the state. ‘America. ”

This kind of language – reminiscent of a certain idealized “time in America” ​​- is one way racism and white supremacy become encoded in Christian nationalism. Violent extremists, such as the Capitol insurgents and more recently the Tops supermarket shooter in Buffalo, use Christian language and symbols in conjunction with openly racist rantings to attempt to disguise their actions with respectability and divine authority.

The Christianity they invoke and the Jesus they imagine – a white, muscular figure who seeks and wields political power – is not only absent from the Gospels, it is refuted by the Gospels.

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I will follow the congressional hearings closely. I hope committee members will name examples of Christian nationalism and explore how this ideology has inspired violence. How have white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys used the language of Christian nationalism to attract more support for their extreme views? How did political leaders such as President Donald Trump and Mark Meadows confuse religious authority with political authority in their communications?

At a gathering the day before Jan. 6, Pastor Greg Locke prayed, “God is on our side. America is the last bastion of Christian freedom. This is the last bastion of capitalism… I tell you that President Donald Trump will stay in the White House for another four years… We are a powerful army. They must listen. They can’t ignore us.

I agree with Locke: we cannot ignore what he and so many others are saying. We cannot turn away from the danger that Christian nationalism poses to our country. The upcoming hearings offer the public an opportunity to see Christian nationalism for what it is: a clear and present danger to American democracy.

Amanda Tyler is Executive Director of BJC (Joint Baptist Committee for Religious Liberty) and the main organizer of Christians Against Christian Nationalism.


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