The dangers lie in the concept of Christian nationalism

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A new term is creeping into the American lexicon called “Christian nationalism.”

It is a mistaken belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.

I have read the original writings of several of our founding fathers and this notion is simply nonsense.

Thomas Jefferson used his razor to redact parts of the Bible he disagreed with. Thomas Payne was an atheist. Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography in search of a skirt would make Bill Clinton blush.

Our second President, John Adams, said, “The government of the United States of America is in no way based on the Christian religion.

And yet, we continue to hear many of our contemporary leaders say just the opposite.

While some of our nations’ founders, such as George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, subscribed to orthodox Christian beliefs, many, if not most, would be best described as “deists” who believed in God but had no personal relationship with the Almighty.

During the American Revolution, British troops in New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina routinely burned down churches or turned them into stables or military hospitals. It was an expression of the crown’s contempt for religions other than Anglicanism, the state religion of England.

It was in this post-revolutionary environment that our Constitution was drafted with a clause prohibiting the establishment of a state religion but also protecting the right of the people to practice their religion freely. Benjamin Franklin spoke of his desire for Muslims and Jews to worship as freely as Christians in the new nation.

For those of you who are wondering about my own religious beliefs, I will tell you that I am an evangelical married to a Catholic. We send children to denominational schools and are active in our churches. Our faith is important to us.

But I don’t believe – and I never have believed – that our government should promote any particular religion.

For example, if the government imposed the prayer at school, who would write the prayer? It would not be possible to write an invocation that reflects the various religious views of those in any class.

And my cynical libertarian view is that the government isn’t doing anything particularly well. Why let him ruin religion too?

Unfortunately, we live in a society where Christian nationalism is entering the mainstream of political discourse.

So what is Christian nationalism?

Here’s how Paul D. Miller, professor of political science at Georgetown University,
described it in Christianity Today:

“Christian nationalism is the belief that the American nation is defined by Christianity and that the government should take active steps to make it so. Popularly, Christian nationalists assert that America is and must remain a ‘nation Christian “- not merely as an observation on American history, but as a prescriptive program of what America must continue to be in the future.”

When I was covering a Donald Trump rally in June, I saw lots of t-shirts that said, “Jesus Christ is my Savior and Donald Trump is my President.” It is an example of Christian nationalism.

Adolf Hitler hated Christianity, but he managed to convince many German religious leaders to support his regime. Swastikas featured prominently at shrines, and Hebrew words such as “hallelujah” were removed from religious hymns as part of Nazi anti-Semitic efforts.

Hitler often referred to God in his speeches and writings.

Such examples are not an indictment of Christianity but of how its powerful images can be misused by tyrants.

When a government endorses a particular religion, it inevitably leads to persecution. Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, outspoken Catholic priests and others were killed by the Nazis.

Hitler’s verbal support for this co-opted Christianity was a device designed to win the popular support of Christian Germans. He viewed Christian concerns such as compassion and charity as a significant weakness.

Some prominent Christians who resisted Hitler and his co-opted church were Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sophie Scholl, and Claus von Stauffenberg. Each was murdered by the Nazis.

Today I see politicians wearing crossed pins painted red, white and blue and I see the same abuse of religious imagery. This cross represents something far greater than a government or a political movement.

“I found Jan. 6 reprehensible, people charging up the Capitol wearing crosses,” said Dr. Shaun Lewis, who for 12 years served as unofficial chaplain to the Illinois Legislative Assembly.

Lewis’ gospel credentials are solid. He worshiped at Southern View Chapel, a fundamentalist church in the Springfield area. And he has a doctorate from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

But he does not subscribe to this Christian nationalist nonsense.

He wrote his thesis on the relationship between Christianity and civil government.

“Nowhere in the Scriptures is there any question of creating a Christian nation. That’s just not why Jesus died and rose from the grave,” he said. “Nowhere does God approve of an economic system or even our form of government.”

It would be easy to assume that Illinois is far removed from this notion of Christian nationalism. After all, we are a moderate to liberal state with a Jewish governor. Unfortunately, this malignity infected the country of Lincoln.

Just look at the words that U.S. Representative Mary Miller tweeted after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a public high school football coach could kneel and pray on the field after a game:

“Huge Victory for Religious Freedom at the Supreme Court Thanks to PRESIDENT TRUMP! Coach (Joseph) Kennedy set a wonderful example for the young men by praying after every game. We need God back in our schools to save our culture from the unhealthy agenda of the radical left! »

I can’t help but wonder if Coach Kennedy was a Muslim who spread out a prayer rug after every game if she would be so supportive.

I doubt it a bit.

Scott Reeder, editor of the Illinois Times, can be reached at sreeder@illinoistimes.com.


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