In the past, I’ve written about the threat of Christian Nationalism to the religious freedom of Buddhists in the United States. Dualistic absolutism allows Christian Nationalists (along with many others) to claim that they are on the side of the good and the right. Anyone who does not agree with them is, then, not only wrong, but evil, and can therefore be destroyed. This is not hyperbole—it was only last month that the government of Scotland issued an apology for the persecution and state violence visited on those that were cast as witches. Over the course of two centuries approximately 4,000 people—mostly women—were accused, and two-thirds of those were executed. (link). Russian leaders today are claiming that the war on Ukraine is “a holy war,” and that their cause is right and just, and that therefore they will prevail. From Julia Davis’ Twitter: “Deputy of the State Duma Vyacheslav Nikonov (a grandson of Vyacheslav Molotov) claimed: ‘In the modern world, we are the embodiment of the forces of good. This is a metaphysical clash between the forces of good and evil… This is truly a holy war we’re waging and we must win.’ ” (link) (As so often, this comes by way of Dr. Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters From an American, link.)
In contrast to those who promote the divisive views of Christian Nationalism, we find Christian leaders such as Rev. Nathan Empsall, who is identified as “an Episcopal priest and the executive director of Faithful America, an online community of grassroots Christians putting faith into action for love and social justice.” For Easter, he wrote a powerful online article regarding the dangers of Christian Nationalism, not just to the social, political, and moral structures of American society, but as a threat to Christianity itself. (link) He includes mention of another group, Christians Against Christian Nationalism (link), which has issued a report on the connections between Christian Nationalism and the insurrection of Jan. 6. (link).
The motto of Faithful America is “Love thy Neighbor. No exceptions.” This is the kind of Christianity that I find I can respect. It feels fully in line with the long Christian tradition of social justice, a tradition that included the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King last century, and the work today of Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, today (Poor People’s Campaign link). Arguments about the validity, authority, or authenticity of a religious identity, such as whether or not Jesus “really” rose from the dead on Easter morning or not (link), are to my mind beside the point. Much more important in my own evaluation, individual and subjective as that may be, is the practical consequences of a religious identity. Doctrine is indefinitely malleable, so other than the empty satisfactions of philosophical debate, it seems to matter little whether a person claims to be a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Wiccan, a shaman, a Secular Humanist, or whatever other religious identity might be claimed. What matters most is whether that person abuses others, denies them rights, inflicts punishments against women and minorities for being different, justifies war and genocide by claiming to be on God’s side, claims a superior status that allows them to mandate how other, less powerful people are allowed to live their lives, or creates and encourages the conditions for death and destruction.
Or do they instead promote respect for others, nurturance and caring for the poor and disenfranchised, protection of those in danger? Do they promote the kind of self-reflection that causes one to pause before engaging in actions motivated by fear, anger, resentment, and grievance?