This month, as I started preparing for our worship service on the Sunday closest to our nation’s Independence Day celebration, my email inbox was flooded with encouragements to use this occasion to condemn Christian Nationalism. One email put out the call to action with this explanation: As patriotic Americans, we can certainly honor our nation’s flag, and as Christians, we venerate Christ before the cross — but while both objects are of great importance to us, only one is Godly. We should be careful not to turn our country into an idol, always keeping our appreciation for the flag separate from our love for the cross, just as we keep both our Christian and American identities intact but separate.
We all know what it feels like when some people use Christianity to justify their misogyny, their homophobia, their racism. We also know what it feels like when some people use Patriotism to justify their hatred, their xenophobia, their privilege. We want to shout, “Those people don’t speak for ALL Christians. Those people don’t speak for ALL patriotic Americans. I’m a Christian, and I’m a patriotic American, and they certainly don’t speak for me.”
The truth is, though, the voices of Christian Nationalism, those who would conflate allegiance to God and to Country as one and the same, are often the loudest voices in our media and in the public sphere, in the halls of government and in the town square. These voices would have us believe that to be Christian and Patriotic means to drown out any other voices that would speak of love and inclusion and diversity and welcome.
As we worship this coming Sunday, I won’t be preaching to condemn Christian Nationalism – condemnation is not what our God wants us to proclaim. Instead, we will hear voices from America’s rich history of preachers and poets and political leaders, and we will listen for the ways in which these voices offer hope and resonate with the voice of God we hear in scripture.