Christian nationalism: a threat to democracy
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You may have you noticed billboards near the state Capitol promoting separation of religion and government. They are sponsored by HumanistsMN and aim to draw attention to one of the biggest threats facing our democracy: the rise of Christian nationalism.
For decades, proponents of this worldview have been seeking to merge Christianity and American identities, declaring that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, and arguing the government should take steps to keep it that way. The Center for American Progress succinctly defines this ideology as the “anti-democratic notion that America is a nation by and for Christians alone.” The frightening implication: Anyone who is not Christian is anti-American and unpatriotic.
This is a fundamental affront to the constitutional separation of church and state that has guided our country from the start. But a recent poll found that two-thirds of white evangelicals and a majority of Republicans are adherents or supporters of Christian nationalism.
Prominent Republican advocates include U.S. Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.
Christian nationalists played an alarming role in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, as documented in a thorough report released last year by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The influence of Christian nationalists can be seen in efforts across the country to inject religion and prayer in public schools; get taxpayers to foot the bill for religious schools; and restrict LGBTQ rights, access to abortion, and gender-affirming care. To aggravate matters, the U.S. Supreme Court is increasingly allowing religious doctrine to dictate its decisions, as in the recent ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade.
In our state, groups like Restore Minnesota (no affiliation with Habitat for Humanity’s Restore) and the Minnesota Legislative Prayer Caucus seek to insert Christianity into public policy.
A group of concerned legislators — with the encouragement and support of HumanistsMN — recognize the grave threat this movement represents to democracy. They formed the Secular Government Caucus in October to protect the separation of church and state.
They pointed to efforts by the Prayer Caucus in recent years to have “In God We Trust” posters hung in public schools and to threaten the funding of the Minnesota Historical Society because it sponsored a lecture by Steven K. Green, author of “Inventing a Christian America: The Myth of the Religious Founding.”
Other Minnesotans are also alarmed. A new Rights, Faith, and Democracy MN Coalition, which unites LGBTQ-rights and other advocacy organizations, aims to reclaim “religious freedom” as a progressive value rather than one that has been “co-opted by Far Right Christians to codify Christianity into public law.”
As secular humanists, we believe that people can be ethical without theism or other supernatural beliefs. And, that the U.S. and Minnesota Constitution protects the right of people of all faiths — or no faith — to practice or not without governmental interference.
Christian nationalism does not represent all of Christianity today. In fact, some Christians are among its biggest critics. “America has no second-class faiths. All are equal under the U.S. Constitution,” says Christians Against Christian Nationalism.
More than 1,000 Minnesotans have signed a Christians Against Christian Nationalism statement denouncing Christian nationalism, a movement it says “often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation.” It is no coincidence that as Christian nationalism has risen, so have antisemitism and hate crimes.
Some might scoff at the looming threat. But secularists warned that the religious extremists were coming for reproductive freedom, and they did. We warned that they were coming for public education, and they have. We warned that they were causing grave harm to marginalized communities, and they are.
So when you hear Nick Fuentes — a white Christian nationalist who had dinner last year with former President Trump — say, “We’re having something like Taliban rule in America but in a good way,” believe him. And when his fellow white supremacist Vincent James Foxx says, “We will not stop until ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is a reality,” believe him.
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