Faith-based advocacy organizations have launched a curriculum aimed at helping evangelical pastors combat Christian nationalism within their congregations.
Christians Against Christian Nationalism, Vote Common Good and Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty announced the creation of the three-lesson curriculum last week.
According to a statement, the curriculum defines Christian nationalism as “a framework of thinking” that “seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy.”
Baptist Joint Committee Executive Director Amanda Tyler told The Christian Post that the curriculum was created in response to a webinar in January that CACN hosted titled “Democracy and Faith Under Siege: Responding to Christian Nationalism.” CACN was launched in 2019 by the Baptist Joint Committee.
“Christians Against Christian Nationalism received many requests from pastors and lay leaders for additional resources to use with their congregations to better understand and respond to Christian nationalism in their communities and churches,” said Tyler.
“We developed the curriculum this spring and released it this summer as churches are planning their fall activities, many returning to in-person programming.”
Tyler believes Christian nationalism is “at odds with the core tenet of Christianity — that is, that Jesus Chris is Lord” and is “pervasive throughout American society.”
“Christian nationalism demands ultimate loyalty to political power rather than God. And therefore can become idolatrous,” she continued.
“The curriculum relies on Biblical passages and core Christian theology to differentiate the Christian religion and tenets of Christianity from the ideology of Christian nationalism.”
Tyler hopes that churches that use the curriculum will learn “a basic understanding of what Christian nationalism is and how racism feeds into Christian nationalism” and “ways to respond to Christian nationalism that are grounded in Scripture and Christian understanding.”
Content for the curriculum is free to download on the CACN website and includes discussion questions for video clips tied to the January webinar.
Panelists involved in the webinar included Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, head of The Episcopal Church; Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and Andrew Whitehead, associate professor of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
According to the groups, dozens of evangelical pastors have already agreed to use the curriculum for their congregations, with Vote Common Good planning various means of expanding that number.
Vote Common Good is a progressive evangelical grassroots organization that held rallies during the 2020 presidential election encouraging Christians not to vote for former President Donald Trump.
“Vote Common Good plans to get the curriculum in front of evangelical pastors through educational pamphlets, outreach to Christian schools and more,” Vote Common Good Executive Director Doug Pagitt, a Minnesota pastor, said in a statement emailed to CP.
“… we are also considering paid ads, and will tap into our growing network of Pastors and Christian leaders nationwide to push for its implementation.”
One of the pastors planning to utilize the curriculum is the Rev. Michael Mills of Agape Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. His congregation has been a longtime supporter of the Baptist Joint Committee, an education and advocacy organization supported by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and over a dozen other Baptist organizations.
Mills told CP that his church wanted a way to better talk about "the merging of a Christian and an American identity," believing that the curriculum "equips our people with the tools to identify it when we see it and to know how to talk about it with others."
"Because we are not a large congregation, we can gather as one to work through the curriculum and discuss it," he explained. "This enables us to have the same conversation, to hear from and learn from one another, and to share a common experience."
While many evangelical leaders have condemned Christian nationalism, others have expressed concern that the term is used to bash conservative Christians.
In a column by John Stonestreet and Timothy D. Padgett published by CP in January, the two authors argued that Christian nationalism is used as “a scare label to dismiss any policy or person more conservative than whoever is using the term.”
They pointed to a recent article by the United Kingdom-based publication The Guardian quoting experts saying proposed pro-life legislation was “Christian nationalist” in nature.
“As seen in The Guardian, we’re all but guaranteed for the near future that anything vaguely traditional or moral, and any appeal to anything higher than the latest cultural fad, will be smeared with this label. It’s silly. Even more, it’s dangerous,” they wrote.
“Even so, Christians must not abandon the public square just because people say mean things about us.”
Professor and author Owen Strachen wrote a column published earlier this month in which he critiqued critics' concern that "a militantly racist body of extremist 'white' fundamentalists waits just beyond the city gates to take back America." He called the idea "downright silly."
"... supporting conservative politicians does not make you .... a 'white Christian nationalist.' Over and over, Christians who want their country to flourish have been labeled in such terms for voting for candidates of a Republican or conservative bent," wrote Strachen.
"The vast majority of Christians I know supported such candidates in past days because they are ardently pro-life, pro-religious liberty, anti-big government, anti-progressive agenda, and pro-free market. They do not have anything close to an evil vision of America that would ruin the lives of people of color. Nor do they wish to impose a ferocious theocracy on any who dare disagree with them. Instead, they want people of all kinds to be free, prosperous and able to worship God."
Regarding the criticism leveled by some, Pastor Mills of Agape Baptist told CP that "whenever the Church has become cozy with the state, things have not gone well for the Church."
"In our present context, those that seek to promote and benefit from Christian nationalism have targeted socially conservative Christians," said Mills.
"I believe there is a legitimate pathway to adhere to conservative values without the heavy hand of the state being involved. That pathway needs to be recovered, or socially conservative Christians will lose all credibility in the public sphere."
Mills added that "challenging Christian nationalism" is not "a smear campaign" against conservative Christians but rather "a call for us to be better."
"Because the undoing of Christian nationalism will result in more faithful Christians and more faithful Americans," he concluded.