BJC’s Amanda Tyler testifies before the U.S. House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Courtesy of BJC

Understanding Christian nationalism imperative to dismantling white supremacy, preserving religious freedom for all

December 13, 2022
Editor’s note: BJC’s Amanda Tyler testified this morning before the U.S. House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties’ hearing on “The Evolution of Anti-Democratic Extremist Groups and the Ongoing Threat to Democracy.” The following are her opening remarks.

As a faithful Christian and patriotic American, I am honored to be here this morning to offer testimony about the connection between Christian nationalism and white supremacy, why Christian nationalism must be addressed, and why, I believe, Christians have a special responsibility to address the harms of Christian nationalism.

BJC has a long and consistent record of defending religious freedom, supporting both of the First Amendment’s religion clauses — No Establishment and Free Exercise. We chaired the coalition that pushed for passage of RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act).

In July 2019, BJC launched Christians Against Christian Nationalism. It is a grassroots project of Christians from every congressional district in the country who oppose the rise of Christian nationalism and its threat to our faith and country.

Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to fuse American and Christian identities. It suggests that “real” Americans are Christians, and that “true” Christians hold a particular set of political beliefs.

The “Christian” in Christian nationalism is more about ethno-national identity than religion. Christian nationalism is a gross distortion of the Christian faith I (and so many others) hold dear. Opposition to Christian nationalism is not opposition to Christianity, and a growing number of Christians feel a religious imperative to stand against Christian nationalism. Christian nationalism uses the language, symbols, and imagery of Christianity – in fact, it may look and sound like Christianity to the casual observer. However, closer examination reveals that it uses the veneer of Christianity to point not to Jesus the Christ but to a political figure, party, or ideology.

Christian nationalism often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation. It creates and perpetuates a sense of cultural belonging that is limited to certain people associated with the founding of the United States, namely native-born white Christians.

Christian nationalism is not patriotism. Patriotism is a healthy love of country; Nationalism is an allegiance to country that demands supremacy over all other allegiances.

Christian nationalism helped fuel the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, uniting disparate actors and infusing their political cause with religious fervor.
Christian nationalism relies on a cherry-picked and misleading version of American history to thrive. The Christian nation myth must downplay or ignore the role of Indigenous communities, Black Americans, immigrant populations, religious minorities, secular Americans, and all others who undercut the false narrative that the U.S. is special because it was founded by and for white Christians.

The myth of a Christian nation is worse than just bad history; it undermines and contradicts the U.S. Constitution, specifically the prohibition in Article VI against religious tests for public office, one of the truly revolutionary aspects of the Constitution that laid the foundation for the U.S. being a faith freedom nation.

As a Baptist, I became a leader in the fight against Christian nationalism because of my increasing alarm about the violence it has inspired at our country’s houses of worship: Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina; Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Chabad of Poway near San Diego, California.

As recently as earlier this year at the Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, NY, Christian nationalism inspired white supremacist violence in public spaces.

Christian nationalism helped fuel the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, uniting disparate actors and infusing their political cause with religious fervor.

We applaud this Subcommittee’s sustained work to confront white supremacy and investigate its myriad causes. Understanding Christian nationalism is imperative to both dismantling white supremacy and preserving religious freedom for all. Christianity does not unite Americans. Our belonging in American society must never depend on how we worship, what we believe or how we identify religiously.

Do not allow anyone to say that confronting Christian nationalism is somehow anti-Christian. All across this country, Christians are deeply alarmed by this ideology – especially the way it gives an illusion of respectability to white supremacy and undermines our nation’s foundational commitment to ensure religious freedom for all.

Amanda Tyler is executive director, BJC (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty). She’s the lead organizer of BJC’s Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign and co-host of BJC’s Respecting Religion podcast

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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