How I wish I could remember what wag quipped “The Christian Democrats are neither”!
Christian Democrats — a type of political party once popular in Latin America and Europe — were closely allied with the Vatican but, as The Guardian explains, were “not particularly democratic. They were formed during the late 19th century to defend the interests of Catholics against liberal and secular nation-states increasingly interfering in two core areas of church activity: education and the family.”
The same can be said of the oxymoron that is Christian Nationalism: They are neither. Don’t believe me? Consult Jesus in Matthew 25:31–40:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, he will sit on His throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.
Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
So, to be a Christian, you can’t very well support big, beautiful walls to keep out refugees (remember that Jesus and his parents were refugees in Egypt) or an end to Medicaid or school lunch programs. You have to support prison reform and a living wage (“For the worker is worthy of his wages,” 1 Timothy 5:18). You can’t make cutbacks in Social Security, which would affect widows and orphans. And you definitely can’t criminalize giving water to the folks you gerrymandered into districts where there will be hours-long lines to vote. Basically, you’d have to turn your back on 99% of the MAGA platform (if a collection of prejudices turned into policies can be called a platform).
But what about the nationalism part of Christian Nationalism? Jesus didn’t espouse nationalism; he wasn’t one of the Zealots, who envisioned an overthrow to the Roman control of Judea. (Their A.D. 70 attempt led to their being wiped out, and the Emperor Vespasian’s son Titus razed Jerusalem, including the Jewish Temple.)
Instead, St. Paul proclaimed in Galatians 3:18 that “[t]here is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Which, not incidentally, puts the lie to Congresswoman Lauren Boebert’s statement: “Women are the lesser vessel, and we need masculinity in our lives to balance that, that so-called weakness.” Speak for yourself, sister! Me, I’m a follower of Christ!
But, even beyond Jesus’ rejection of nationalism, what can nationalism mean in a pluralistic society like the United States? Nationalism would mean you support the entire nation, not just the 64% that calls itself Christian. And especially not when you’re ignoring all Christians except the 14% of Americans who are White Evangelicals. According to the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2022 American Values poll, this tiny minority openly longs for the days when Blacks couldn’t vote, housing was segregated, lynching was common, gays were arrested, and women were denied credit, employment and autonomy. That’s not putting America or Jesus first.
Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, the high priestess of the Christian Nationalist movement, may try to wrap herself in the flag and wave a Bible – but, if you know Jesus, you’ll recognize her as the latest in a long line of false prophets who claim their own fascism is what Jesus would do — and not only in Nazi Germany, but Africa, too. In the 1930s, as now, there was no end of religious leaders with a few more scruples who were willing to give up their misgivings as long as they got to be the state’s official religion. Don’t be fooled that this time is any different.