“We’re fighting against Christian nationalism, in part because it goes hand in hand with White nationalism.” – The Reverend Rick Matters
A Christian nationalist group held a political rally in our region September 16-17. Because this group, called “ReAwaken America,” uses the name of Jesus, and includes Christian music, prayers and Scriptural citations, Christians took the lead in responding to their dangerous message. Several Christian leaders lifted up Gospel values in contrast to the division and hatred expounded, and indeed celebrated, in this ReAwaken America event.
More than 1000 people, including Christians and people of other faith traditions, as well as people who embrace no religious faith, signed the petition opposing Christian Nationalism and the Re-Awaken America tour. Many of the signers represented a wide variety of expressions of the Christian faith, including Evangelical, Mainline, Conservative, and Progressive traditions. “All of us share deep concern for the threat that the misappropriation of the Christian faith for extremist politics and misinformation poses to the common good,” the statement said. “The tour declares that Jesus is on their side, but its message is contrary to His message in many ways, which makes us gravely concerned.”
In addition, the Christian leaders encouraged people to hold Christian or Interfaith vigils during the ReAwaken event, offering resources and guides for vigils.
“When we heard that Reawaken America was coming to Post Falls, a lot of us started talking about the challenges that were presented to us as members of the Christian faith and as citizens of the United States,” said Rev. Gretchen Rehberg, bishop at the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane in an interview with KXLY. “I would urge anyone who thinks that Christian nationalism is Christianity to go back and read the gospels. Read the words of Jesus himself because the words used by Christian nationalists are words of demonization, division, of violence, of separation. They are not words that Jesus would use,” Rehberg said.
Sister Pat Millen disputed their claims of being a “faith-based nation” in the same KXLY interview. “I know there is an emphasis that we should be looking at: we should be one religion, under one nation. and I don’t agree with that,” she said.
The petition says, in part: “Our Savior teaches us through Scripture to love our neighbors as ourselves. This love requires us to dedicate ourselves to glorifying Christ by giving ourselves to others, following the example of Jesus, who gave his life for the sake of the world. Whereas we commend the Gospel to all people, likewise we are called to demonstrate love and respect for all people, regardless of their race or religion. Jesus is the Prince of Peace who calls us to respect the dignity of every human being and to honor the image of God in all people. We are reminded to “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (Philippians 2:5-7).”
The Christian leaders wrote that their concerns about the ReAwaken America Tour include:
Using Jesus to Accrue Power, Incite Hatred and Condone Political Violence: As reported at previous tour events, many speakers mix militant talk with Christian language while speaking of life-and-death stakes. Some speakers imply the need for political violence by urging supporters to win the battle for God against their fellow Americans. Claiming that Jesus is on their side, they seek to “win back America” for Jesus. They demonize their political and ideological opponents, labeling them in such terms as being on “Team Satan.” At least seven of the tour’s top speakers either have ties to the Proud Boys or were involved in planning and executing the January 6th insurrection, which wounded more than 140 police officers, yet they defend the insurrectionists. This is far from Jesus blessing the humble, the meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers (see Matthew 5:3-11).
We believe it is our moral responsibility to protect our communities from violence and hatred. We observe that the tour is designed to divide and radicalize people in our beloved region by pitting us against each other and thereby making us vulnerable to more violence. We reject the hateful rhetoric and divisive language of this event and its speakers. We affirm the gifts of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Distorting Christianity with Nationalism: We are very concerned that the name of Jesus is used by speakers to advance an exclusivist vision of our country as a “Christian nation.” Using Jesus and God to gain political power in order to dominate others is the opposite of what Jesus taught us about loving our neighbors. America is a country that cherishes religious freedom for all people. We cannot let patriotism become a false idol in this way.
The Christian leaders wrote, “we are encouraged by the number of local Christians and many non-Christian friends ready to speak out against the misinformation and dehumanizing of this brand of Christian nationalism, standing instead for the Gospel values of love, peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, and truth. As St. Paul reminds us, we are to“Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10).”
Our PJALS community includes many people whose social justice values are deeply rooted in their faith perspectives, as well as many who have experienced religious trauma. We are united in opposing any faith perspective being used to oppress or dehumanize any of our human family. We salute and appreciate the Christian leaders organizing against Christian Nationalism.