First Post in a Blog Series on the Christian Right
This series of posts on The Christian Right includes excerpts from my new book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation: Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World. If you Contact me with the words “free chapter,” I will send you a free chapter of the book.
“To carry the cross as Jesus carried it, then, means taking up a solidarity with the crucified of this world— with those who suffer violence, who are impoverished, who are dehumanized, who are offended in their rights.” Leonardo Boff, Passion of Christ, Passion of the World
This post is the first in a Blog Series on The Christian Right, which has been growing in power for decades. Christian nationalism, the most obvious manifestation of this movement, links church and state (“God and country”) and attempts to impose conservative social and political values and policies on society. Rather than fostering democracy, Christian nationalism promotes authoritarianism, and in some cases, fascism. A resurgence of Christian nationalism is taking place throughout the global church, for example under far- right leaders like Brazil’s Jair Bolsinaro and Hungary’s Viktor Orban.
This is taking place in a big way in the United States. In the 2016 election, the majority of white Christians voted for Donald Trump, and many stayed loyal to him after his loss to Joe Biden, continuing to support “The Big Lie” that the 2020 election had been stolen. This has culminated (so far) in the January 6th Capitol insurrection. This violent insurrection was suffused with Christian symbols. Several groups carried large wooden crosses, leading the way for people with red Make America Great Again (MAGA) hats, clothing and signs with racist and anti-Semitic slogans, Trump paraphernalia, insignia of white supremacist groups and right- wing militias, guns, spears, and even a gallows with a noose. A huge portrait showed Jesus wearing a MAGA hat. People flew “Jesus 2020” and Christian flags alongside US, Confederate, and Trump flags. Banners and T-shirts read “In God We Trust,” “Make America Godly Again,” and “Jesus is my Savior / Trump is my President.” This illustration of far-right political extremism merged with far-right Christianity is an example of Christian symbols being used as religious justification for violent actions in support of antidemocratic Christian nationalism and white supremacy.
My concern in writing this series of posts is this: As a Christian pastor and follower of Jesus who seeks to love God above all and my neighbors as myself, I am distressed to see Christianity so distorted and misused. While liberation theologians like Leonardo Boff proclaim a message of seeking solidarity with the “crucified” people of our world, the false religion of Christian nationalism promotes policies that inflict further suffering on those who “suffer violence, who are impoverished, who are dehumanized, who are offended in their rights.”
How is it that the cross and other Christian symbols can represent actions so opposed to one another in meaning? How has Christianity become so divided? I am convinced that the answer lies in how those of us who identify as Christians understand the central story of Christian faith, symbolized by the cross. The meaning that we ascribe to the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus influences how we understand God. In turn, how we understand God has everything to do with our priorities, choices, and actions in the world, including how we respond to the suffering of humanity and the degradation of the earth. The story of Jesus carries both personal and social implications, depending on how it is told.
In this blog series on The Religious Right, which includes excerpts from my new book The Cross In the Midst of Creation, my goal is to bring clarity to this discussion. The blog posts in this series will be:
- Christian Nationalism (this post)
- Two Crosses: Divided Christianity
- US Civil Religion: Heretical and Blasphemous
- The Christian Right’s Authoritarian God
- The Anti-Imperial Wisdom of God
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