A coalition of progressive Christian leaders — many of the same people who came together to endorse Joe Biden for president — have now released an open letter urging white evangelicals to come to terms with their role in promoting Christian Nationalism and inadvertently giving rise to the Capitol coup.
The open letter acknowledges the “damage done by radicalized Christian Nationalism in the world, the church, and in the lives of individuals and communities.”
Just as many Muslim leaders have felt the need to denounce distorted, violent versions of their faith, we feel the urgent need to denounce this violent mutation of our faith. What we saw manifest itself in the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, is a threat to our democracy, but it is also a threat to orthodox Christian faith. The word “Christian” means “Christ-like.” As leaders in the Church, we do not agree on everything, but we can agree on this — Christians should live in a way that honors Jesus, and reminds the world of Him.
This is where the letter goes wrong. The problem isn’t that Christian Nationalism is a “violent mutation of our faith.” It’s that Christian Nationalism is the faith. It always has been. Roughly 80% of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in 2020. If we’re talking about a radical minority of that latter group, it’s the people writing this letter, not the ones leading the churches.
I’m glad organizer Doug Pagitt understands how white evangelicals accommodated white supremacy and demonized immigrants — and I would love to see more church leaders join his cause — but let’s not pretend he speaks for the majority or that his faith would be totally fine if not for those conservative radicals.
He’s calling out bad apples without realizing the entire orchard is poisonous.
The religion was broken long before Trump came around. Even if you take politics out of the picture, it continues to be wildly harmful on matters of LGBTQ acceptance, women’s rights, sex, and science. Critics of evangelicalism have spent decades pointing out the problems, only to be ignored or dismissed as heretics.
The Christian attack on the government we saw on January 6 wasn’t some anomaly; it was the apotheosis of years of pretending to be persecuted (despite having an abundance of power). These progress Christians are going after the Christian Nationalists — but they should also be going after the churches who perpetuate harmful ideas outside of politics since that’s what created a foundation for the political extremism to grow.
Why save a religion that deserves to be abandoned entirely? At this point, if you’re still attending a white evangelical church, or using that label, you’re part of the problem whether you like it or not.