". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Leftists Propagandize a ‘Christian Nationalist’ Scare

February 22, 2024

Hollywood director Rob Reiner’s new documentary, “God & Country,” released in theaters this weekend, warning Americans of an impending “Christian nationalist” takeover of the country. The Associated Press declared Saturday, “Many believe the founders wanted a Christian America. Some want the government to declare one now.” On Tuesday Alexander Ward and Heidi Przybyla warned in Politico, “Trump allies prepare to infuse ‘Christian nationalism’ in second administration.”

Such manufactures represent “a coordinated effort” to stoke fear before the 2024 elections, declared Family Research Council Action President Jody Hice, guest host of “Washington Watch” on Wednesday. Their purpose is not just “to rally the Left but, probably even more so … to intimidate and silence Christians who embrace a biblical worldview,” he said.

The purpose of this yellow journalism is more concerning than its aim. The Left’s “definition of Christian nationalism … tends to be a coat that is cut to fit whatever it needs to fit at any given time,” Regent University professor Dr. A.J. Nolte said on “Washington Watch.” As with donkeys and tails, it gets harder to pin the scare on the elephant after you’ve been blindfolded and spun in circles.

Some leftist definitions of “Christian nationalism” have little in common with Christianity. Take Reiner’s perspective, “The idea is that America was a born as a white Christian nation, and these people are virulent about returning to that, and they’ll do it at any means necessary, including … violence. And we saw this happen on January 6th.” Most Christians would have difficulty recognizing themselves in this description. For starters, Christianity knows no ethnic barriers (Revelation 7:9), Christians are commanded to submit to the government (Romans 13:1), and violence disqualifies a man from Christian leadership (1 Timothy 3:3).

Reiner’s definition wasn’t particularly concerned with scriptural accuracy, as the entire documentary really served as a “Trojan horse for progressive ideology,” wrote Southern Seminary professor Andrew Walker. His documentary painted institutions as disparate as The Heritage Foundation, Turning Point USA, and Hillsdale College with the same, broad brush, even though the first two aren’t sectarian, and the third isn’t political. Reiner “gives the game away when he talks about ‘white’ Christian nationalism,” Nolte noted, a mistaken “conflation of white ethnic nationalism with Christian nationalism.”

Some leftist definitions simply equate “Christian nationalism” with social conservatism. Nolte described a book titled, “‘Taking America Back for God,’ by two scholars named Perry and Whitehead.” In the book, “They took six questions, which are generally good questions if you’re trying to measure social conservatism,” and used them as “measures for Christian nationalism.” These measures included support for prayer in schools, opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, and an acknowledgement of Christian principles in America’s founding. “So, what you often find is that Christian nationalism is basically just … social conservatism, sort of relabeled,” Nolte concluded.

This definition becomes increasingly unrealistic as left-wing extremism puts more and more Americans on the “Right” side of social and cultural policy disputes, particularly where transgender ideology is at play. The coalition opposed to pornographic books in school libraries, for instance, includes not just Christians, but also Jews like Ben Shapiro, Muslims like the parents in Dearborn, Mich. or Montgomery County, Md., and agnostics like Jordan Peterson. The term “Christian nationalism” approaches meaninglessness when used to describe people who are not Christians and might not even be nationalists.

Some leftist definitions of “Christian nationalism” combine biblical positions with non-biblical ones. Thus, Przybyla (co-author of the Politico piece mentioned above) stated Tuesday, “We’re talking about here not just isolationism, immigration. We’re talking about ending same-sex marriage, abortion, reducing access to contraceptives, but also surrogacy, no fault divorce, sex education in public schools.”

But not so fast! Those are “two separate issue sets,” Nolte pointed out. Opposition to immigration and an isolationist foreign policy are the preferred policies of a populist segment of the contemporary American Right, but they shouldn’t be lumped together with what Nolte called “family-oriented, social conservative policies.”

Even if both sets of positions are found on the political Right, they are espoused by “two separate groups of social conservatives,” Nolte explained. Again quoting Perry and Whitehead, Nolte said that, “Among regular church attenders, they actually found less hostility toward those of different racial groups, toward immigrants … but there was more opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion,” while “among those who were socially conservative but did not attend church, what they found was the exact opposite.”

At the risk of committing an overgeneralization, one might say there was an inverse relationship between the depth of a person’s Christian walk and their espousal of “nationalist policies.” Does that sound like “Christian nationalism?”

Some leftist definitions of “Christian nationalism” simply mean that it’s bad for Christians to be involved in politics. For instance, “They’re all after Speaker Mike Johnson for his Christian faith,” said Hice. “He’s a Christian statesman who is certainly influenced and guided by his faith,” but “that’s no different from the liberal Left being guided by their secular, or whatever, worldview that they embrace.”

“This really galls the Left, [that] Mike Johnson has the unmitigated temerity to be a fairly conventional Southern Baptist,” Nolte agreed, with a touch of sarcasm. “Yes, he’s quite conservative on family issues. … But, as a conventional Baptist, he also stands [with] an over 200-year tradition of Baptists supporting religious liberty.” (Make that nearly 400 years in America since Baptist minister Roger Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island as a haven for freedom of conscience.) The point is, “If somebody is truly committed to religious liberty, you never have to worry about them imposing Christianity,” Nolte argued. “They want to protect your freedom to believe or not believe as you choose.”

Yet no leftist definitions of “Christian nationalism” acknowledge its presence on the political Left. Follow along, if you will, with this thought experiment Nolte set forth:

“Imagine a situation in which a Republican president goes to a church — a church that has been prominently associated with a Republican politics in the past — on a federal holiday, and gives a speech where he talks about how New Testament principles ought to be the basis of our politics here in America. Would the media label that as Christian nationalism, do you think?”

Over Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend in 2023, President Joe Biden spoke from that man’s one-time pulpit in Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, declaring that certain passages of the New Testament described “the essence of the American promise” and inspired his vision to “redeem the soul of America.” Yet, according to the propagandists now loudly decrying Christian nationalism, “that, somehow, was not considered Christian nationalism,” Nolte observed. So, when defining the term, “it kind of depends on who is using the New Testament and whether the media outlets in question like the use to which the New Testament is being put.”

Nolte suggested the entire project was political. His dissertation had examined how secularists in Turkey, France, and other countries have used “extreme fear language” about “religious reactionaries” to “mobilize constituencies that supported … secularism.” He warned that this strategy backfired in Turkey, where it “generally pushed most of the Islamic believers in Turkey more toward radicalism.”

Nolte argued leftists in America have made a “deliberate attempt” to craft a similar narrative. In particular, he pointed to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a tailor-made scarytale “that’s going to appeal particularly to secular educated women who do not attend church and are not familiar with Christian belief.” Nolte criticized the way it twisted Scripture to depict a “misogynistic, theocratic society” that has nothing in common with the policy goals of socially conservative Christians in America.

Ultimately, fearmongering about the slur “Christian nationalism” says far more about those who wield it than those they aim to describe. In the “Red Scares” of the 1920s-50s, allegations that there was a communist under every rock, tree, bush, government desk, and movie script did little to inform the American public about which people really were communists. But they did inform Americans that the accusers were anti-communists. Similarly, accusations of “Christian nationalism” don’t inform Americans about which politicians, if any, wish to establish a theocracy; but they do help Americans understand that the people making the accusations are anti-Christian and anti-nationalist.

One final accusation lobbed against Christianity came from UC Riverside professor Reza Aslan, a Christian apostate. “The biggest sin, if you will, of Christian nationalism, is that it sees pluralism as a weakness, and not what it is: the foundation of what it means to be American,” Aslan insisted. The irony in this inverted statement is so thick you could ice it and slice it. Not only did Aslan overlook the Christian origins of American pluralism, but he also missed the fact that American Christians are still pleading for a pluralistic society, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2). It is totalitarian leftists who seek to de-pluralize American public life by banishing Christians from the public square — and scaremongering about “Christian nationalism” is simply their latest attempt to do so.

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.