Lesson 9: Religious-Political Alliance

Christian NationalismI was drawn into this series primarily to see what to was going on with Christian Nationalists. These people seem to be breaking the rules pertaining to the separation of church and state. I found this cherished separation depended on practical agreement more than political theory. The government controlled the numerous religious communities by granting them favors such as releasing them from taxation and their leaders from the military draft. In return, the religious communities refrained from partisan political activity.

I felt if I had done what the Christian Nationalists are doing, the tax exemption of my congregation would have been removed. They insist the US is a Christian nation, lay hands on candidates they call God’s chosen servants, and claim true Christians must vote for certain laws, all on national television.

Now after about two months of study, I come away finding the group far more dangerous than I had imagined. They threaten anyone who does not agree with them and that includes many Christians, as well as all non-Christians.

I can’t see how we can have a creative conversation with die-hard Christian Nationalists. We can however try to blunt their influence in the public conversation.

That probably begins by helping people understand the danger this group poses. They carry a harmful characteristic of American-bred Christianity to the extreme when they justify using violence to bring about what they regard as an unquestionable clear-cut divine program. Fundamentalism promotes a one and only way to interpret scripture that makes 5 doctrines essential for true believers. Pentecostalism endorses direct messages from God that often give one person great power. But neither comes close to advocating violence.

It also helps to remember the Christian message is usually countercultural. The Bible sees God’s people suffering under this kind of alliance between political and religious powers. Throughout the scriptures, empires enslave the Hebrews, destroy their cities, tear them from their families and land, and tax them into poverty. Governments are always trying to silence those who speak for God beginning with Moses and continuing through the prophets to Jesus. “Silencing” often meant executing them as enemies of God.

You see much the same in church history. When religion allies with government, an orthodoxy is quickly established and heretics are persecuted. Too often they oppress non-Christians, launch crusades that devastate heathen nations, and enforce self-serving laws.

Perhaps the primary way to overcome the Christian Nationalist influence is to grant permission to interpret the Christian message in light of our own personal situations. The Bible goes to great lengths trying to express this diversity when it includes a number of differing traditions in both testaments. In the new it is especially inviting as it offers four rather than one gospel. The idea is clearly that Jesus speaks for God but there can be different ways to understand what this means. We are called to share our interpretations not impose them on others.

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