In 1915, the Ku Klux Klan found revival at Stone Mountain in Georgia in a ceremony that included a U.S. flag and a Holy Bible placed on an altar before a burning cross.
More than a century later, today’s generation of white supremacists are following in their political ancestors’ footsteps, explicitly and proudly embracing the label of “Christian nationalist.” Some are even going so far as to sell merch, with Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) hawking “exclusive” shirts emblazoned with “Proud Christian Nationalist.”
Even before she began advertising the shirts on Instagram with the call to stand against the “Godless Left,” Greene told an interviewer that the Republican Party needs “ to be the party of nationalism and I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists.”
It’s not the first time she has embraced the label. And it’s a dangerous turn of events that requires active, loud opposition from all of us, especially from American Christians, for whom Greene and her allies claim to speak.
As a pastor, if there’s one thing I understand, it’s that Christian nationalism is unchristian and unpatriotic. Academic researchers define the authoritarian ideology as a political worldview—not a religion—that unconstitutionally and unbiblically merges Christian and American identities, declaring that democracy does not matter because America is a “Christian nation” where only conservative Christians count as true Americans.
If there’s any doubt that this is the heart of Christian nationalism, consider these two examples. First, last fall former Trump aide Michael Flynn stood in a Texas megachurch known for its antisemitic pastor and told a crowd chanting “Let’s Go Brandon” that America should have only “one religion.” Then only last month, America First Legal—whose board includes top Trump allies Stephen Miller and Mark Meadows—issued a statement asking the Supreme Court to let the 50 states create official state churches and “establish religion within their borders,” claiming that the First Amendment only applies to the federal government.
The clear goal of Christian nationalism is to seize power only for its mostly white evangelical and conservative Catholic followers, no matter who else gets hurt or how many elections have to be overturned. This is the unholy force that incited the failed coup of Jan. 6, 2021, brought us the recent spate of theocratic Supreme Court opinions, and has inspired multiple wave upon wave of dangerous misinformation about elections, climate change, and COVID-19—all in direct contrast to Jesus’ teachings of love, truth, and the common good.
Whether they speak from the halls of power or the front of a sanctuary, Rep. Greene and her ilk know exactly what they are doing when they so proudly embrace the label of Christian nationalist. Each explicit declaration of Christian nationalism is a blatant attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes and make the anti-democracy extremist ideology seem safe and more palatable, distracting us from the right’s project of seizing power to remake America into a theocracy in their image—a nation where the LGBTQ community, people of color, and non-Christians all lose rights while evangelicals and conservative Catholics are put permanently in charge.
They are America’s false prophets. And Jesus warned us about them.
Wrapping their hateful heresy in a T-shirt, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They try to appear righteous, carrying a cross and wrapping themselves in the flag, but instead are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. They cross the land to convert Americans to their hate-filled ideology with the promise of salvation but instead lead their converts astray, dividing families and undermining our democracy at every turn.
Greene would have you believe that all of her critics “hate America [and] hate God,” but this ignores the fact that most Christians are appalled at the way she hijacks the Gospel to justify attending white nationalist rallies and spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories. Yet she’s not alone: evangelical businessman and QAnon believer Clay Clark tells his right-wing political rallies that they’re “Team Jesus” battling the Catholic Joe Biden and the Jewish Anthony Fauci on “Team Satan.”
For all their cries of a “Godless left,” conservative, white evangelicals are only a fraction of American Christianity and an even smaller fraction of America. According to the nonpartisan PRRI, white evangelical Protestants only make up 14.6 percent of the population, but are among the most likely to believe that the election was stolen from Trump and other QAnon lies, and that “American patriots might have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”
They don’t speak for American Christians. And it’s up to us to finally deflate their claims of a monopoly and thus their hold on power, reclaim our religion and its prophetic voice for the Gospel’s true values of love, dignity, equality, and social justice.
Across the country, Christians—clergy and lay folk alike—are speaking out. The Christian organization I lead, Faithful America, has amassed more than 112,000 signatures in the past year alone on actions condemning Greene’s unabashed Christian nationalism and calling for consequences when she and her allies, including political candidates like Doug Mastriano and incumbent Reps. Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert, and Madison Cawthorn, spread violent and hateful Christian nationalist lies. We’re also taking a Christian stand against the ministers and religious leaders who sell out their churches for a taste of power like Franklin Graham, Proud Boy allies Sean Feucht and Greg Locke, and Bishop Joseph Strickland.
I’m particularly inspired by clergy from California to Ohio who have spoken out in opposition to Christian nationalism as the ReAwaken America Tour has rolled into their communities, bringing Greene, Clark, disgraced General Michael Flynn, Roger Stone and dozens of others connected to the Jan. 6 insurrection, QAnon, and the spread of COVID-19 misinformation to local megachurches. Never underestimate the power of speaking out together: When local faith and community leaders petitioned government officials and mobilized against the tour stop in Rochester, New York, they successfully pressured the venue to cancel the event and forced tour organizers to scramble to find a new venue.
Everything Green and her ilk says is a bastardization of the Christian faith, and it is harmful not just to the church but to all Americans. Christians will not ignore this hateful hijacking of Jesus’s name. And we will stand against America’s false prophets in this fall’s midterm season and beyond.