White Christian nationalism is back in full force. White Christians will need to do everything in their power to stop it — even those of us who avoid politics. When interviewed about Donald Trump’s success last week on NPR, former Republican presidential candidate and adviser to three presidents Pat Buchanan argued for a white, homogenous America, claiming that diversity of language and culture undermines our nation.
White nationalism is idolatry, plain and simple. As Christians our allegiance is to God, not to the American flag. “God’s country” is not the U.S.A but the whole human race, which is created in the image of God — no matter the race, no matter the religion. Our biblical alarm bells should go off when we hear candidates or neighbors say the U.S. is more special to God than other countries, particularly if it's that our whiteness is what makes us great. This is heresy.
White Christians living in America — a country which likes to view itself as having somehow having God’s special blessing — need to remind our people of who we are as Christians and Americans. We are not special because God loves us more. If we are special it is because we have shown God’s love in fighting back the baser, ungodly human instinct to denigrate and exclude other races. We have often fallen short on this. But sometimes as a nation, driven by higher values, we have dismantled systems that perpetuate racism, bigotry, and intolerance so that all God’s people can bring their talents to build this nation.
Don’t mistake me for not loving my country — I’m proud often to be an American. The thing I’m most proud of is the fact that my son can sit next to people from all over the world and all races in his classroom. He barely knows how unique that is, but I know it will make him stronger and smarter. I’m proud that leaders in my home state of Georgia desegregated public schools so that I could have a privilege my parents did not have — to learn from and with my African American brothers and sisters. I’m proud that my country sent me overseas as a Peace Corps volunteer to share with another country and culture — that has made me stronger. I’m grateful for the Southern Baptist Church, which sent me to work one summer among migrant workers on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I learned how hard immigrants work; how much we share the same dreams; how they have made this nation stronger.
Such experiences can teach us the truth of human existence: we have nothing to fear from each other. The only thing we need to fear is our own fear of the other: a fear Jesus repeatedly told us to let go of as he lovingly encountered Samaritans, lepers, outcast women. God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. Voices like Buchanan lack that self-discipline. They have embraced fear, and unchecked will tear this country apart.
Not all of us feel comfortable critiquing political candidates, but there is much we can still do. As CEO of Faith in Public Life, I am inspired by what faith leaders are doing. Around the country, clergy are preaching on how Christians should relate to Muslims, immigrants, gun violence. Churches are holding inter-racial dialogues. They are providing legal services to children from Central America fleeing gang violence. They are sheltering Syrian families, Muslim and Christian, mentoring them as they join this great country.
Our voices matter this election cycle. Let's call our fellow Christians to their better angels.