This week, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held their seventh hearing in a series entitled “Confronting White Supremacy.” The focus of this latest hearing was the “ongoing threat to American democracy posed by white supremacist ideologies.” In her testimony, BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler explained the relationship between Christian nationalism and white supremacy, and suggested a helpful formula for distinguishing Christianity from Christian nationalism:
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.
In civil settings, we see the influence of Christian nationalism when the government co-opts Christian symbols and language to reinforce the power of the state. When Christian language and symbols point to Jesus and his Gospel of love, we are most likely dealing with an expression of Christianity. However, when that language or those symbols – usually accompanied by appeals to order and conformity – points the audience to the American flag or compels political unity, we are in the territory of Christian nationalism.
Responding to a question from subcommittee chair Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, Tyler explained the Baptist tradition of defending religious freedom for all. Baptist News Global’s Jeff Brumley reports:
“It really goes back to the beginning of the Baptist movement in the early 17th century and Thomas Helwys, who wrote the first defense of universal religious freedom in the English language and was imprisoned by King James I for his advocacy,” she replied. “It continued with Roger Williams, who founded the first Baptist church in America.”
Tyler added that the spirit of those and other early Baptists continues to inspire those engaged in today’s struggle for religious freedom beset by Christian nationalism and white supremacy.
“What unites these early Baptist advocates with modern-day advocates like me and others at the Baptist Joint Committee is our theological commitment to soul freedom and our living out of Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves,” she said. “We protect the religious freedom of our neighbors as we protect our own religious freedom, and we do it in our constitutional democracy by defending the First Amendment.”
If you want to hear more about Amanda’s experience testifying before Congress on this issue, check out this week’s Respecting Religion podcast – it’s episode 9 of season 4, and Respecting Religion is available on your favorite podcasting provider.
Lastly, you can add your own voice to those standing up against this dangerous ideology by joining thousands of other Christians against Christian nationalism across the country! And, if you aren’t a Christian, the website has resources for anyone to use as we work together to combat this danger to the nation and to the Christian faith.