Opinion | What Christian Nationalism Has Done to My State and My Faith Is a Sin (2023)


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Guest Essay

Opinion | What Christian Nationalism Has Done to My State and My Faith Is a Sin (1)

By Susan Stubson

Ms. Stubson is a member of the Wyoming Republican Party.

CASPER, Wyo. — I first saw it while working the rope line at a monster-truck rally during the 2016 campaign by my husband, Tim, for Wyoming’s lone congressional seat. As Tim and I and our boys made our way down the line, shaking hands and passing out campaign material, a burly man wearing a “God bless America” T-shirt and a cross around his neck said something like, “He’s got my vote if he keeps those [epithet] out of office,” using a racial slur. What followed was an uncomfortable master class in racism and xenophobia as the man decanted the reasons our country is going down the tubes. God bless America.

I now understand the ugliness I heard was part of a current of Christian nationalism fomenting beneath the surface. It had been there all the time. The rope line rant was a mission statement for the disaffected, the overlooked, the frightened. It was also an expression of solidarity with a candidate like Donald Trump who gave a name to a perceived enemy: people who do not look like us or share our beliefs. Immigrants are taking our guns. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. You are not safe in your home. Religious freedom is on the gallows. Vote for me.

The messages worked. And in large part, it’s my faith community — white, rural and conservative — that got them there. I am a white conservative woman in rural America. Raised Catholic, I found that my faith deepened after I married and joined an evangelical church. As my faith grew, so did Tim’s political career in the Wyoming Legislature. (He served in the House from 2008 to 2017.) I’ve straddled both worlds, faith and politics, my entire adult life. Often there was very little daylight between the two, one informing the other.

What’s changed is the rise of Christian nationalism — the belief, as recently described by the Georgetown University professor and author Paul D. Miller, that “America is a ‘Christian nation’ and that the government should keep it that way.” Gone are the days when a lawmaker might be circumspect about using his or her faith as a vehicle to garner votes. It’s been a drastic and destructive departure from the boring, substantive lawmaking to which I was accustomed. Christian nationalists have hijacked both my Republican Party and my faith community by blurring the lines between church and government and in the process rebranding our state’s identity.

Wyoming is a “you do you” state. When it’s a blinding snowstorm, the tractor’s in a ditch and we need a neighbor with a winch, our differences disappear. We don’t care what you look like or who you love. Keep a clean fence line and show up during calving season, and we’re good.

(Video) Baptist leader speaks out: 'Christian nationalism is not Christianity'

But new sheriffs in town are very much up in their neighbor’s beeswax. Legislation they have proposed seems intent on stripping us of our autonomy and our ability to make decisions for ourselves, all in the name of morality, the definition of which is unclear.

Rural states are particularly vulnerable to the promise of Christian nationalism. In Wyoming, we are white (more than 92 percent) and love God (71 percent identified as Christian in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center) and Mr. Trump (seven in 10 voters picked him in 2020).

The result is bad church and bad law. “God, guns and Trump” is an omnipresent bumper sticker here, the new trinity. The evangelical church has proved to be a supplicating audience for the Christian nationalist roadshow. Indeed, it is unclear to me many Sundays whether we are hearing a sermon or a stump speech.

Christians electing candidates who reflect godly values is a good thing. Tim, who ran against Liz Cheney in the 2016 Republican primary, has no doubt been a recipient of votes from our friends in the faith community. Yet Christian nationalism has nothing to do with Christianity and everything to do with control.

In last year’s elections, candidates running on a Christian nationalist platform used fear plus the promise of power to attract votes. Their ads warned about government overreach, religious persecution, mask mandates, threats from immigrants and election fraud. A candidate for secretary of state, an election denier named Chuck Gray, hosted at least one free screening in a church of the roundly debunked film “2,000 Mules,” about alleged voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. (He won the general election unopposed and is now next in line to the governorship.)

None of those concerns were real. Our schools largely remained open during the pandemic. Businesses remained open. The border is an almost 1,000-mile drive from my home in Casper, and the foreign-born population in the state is only 3 percent. Wyoming’s violent crime rate is the lowest of any state in the West. Wyoming’s electoral process is incredibly safe. So what are we afraid of?

Yet fear (and loathing for Ms. Cheney, who voted to impeach Mr. Trump and dared to call him “unfit for office”) led to a record voter turnout in the August primary. The Trumpist candidate, Harriet Hageman, trounced Ms. Cheney. Almost half of the Wyoming House members were new. At least one-third of them align with the Freedom Caucus, a noisy group unafraid to manipulate Scripture for political gain under a banner of preserving a godly nation.

The impact of this new breed of lawmakers has been swift. Wyomingites got a very real preview this past legislative session of the hazards of one-size-fits-all nationalized policies that ignore the nuances of our state. ‌Last year, maternity wards closed in two sparsely populated communities, further expanding our maternity desert. Yet in debating a bill to provide some relief to new moms by extending Medicaid’s postpartum coverage, a freshman member of the State House, Jeanette Ward, invoked a brutally narrow view of the Bible. “Cain commented to God, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’” she said. “The obvious answer is no. No, I am not my brother’s keeper. But just don’t kill him.”

This confusing ‌mash-up‌ of Scripture (Ms. Ward got it wrong: The answer is yes, I am my brother’s keeper) is emblematic of a Christian nationalist who weaponizes God’s word to promote the agenda du jour. We should expect candidates who identify as followers of Christ to model some concern for other people.

Rhetoric like Ms. Ward’s can have devastating implications when it results in policy change. Even though the Medicaid bill became law, the hospital in Rawlins no longer delivers babies, meaning Wyomingites about to give birth must now travel 100 miles over one of the nation’s most treacherous stretches of Interstate. Woe to those with a winter due date.

I am adrift in this unnamed sea, untethered from both my faith community and my political party as I try to reconcile evangelicals’ repeated endorsements of candidates who thumb their noses at the least of us. Christians are called to serve God, not a political party, to put our faith in a higher power, not in human beings. We’re taught not to bow to false idols. Yet idolatry is increasingly prominent and our foundational principles — humility, kindness and compassion — in short supply.

“It was a great day!” one of our pastors proclaimed on social media last year when Mr. Trump came to town to campaign against Ms. Cheney. Though many agreed with him, some of his pastoral colleagues grieved, traumatized by the hard right turn in their congregations.

I recently attended a conference devoted to spiritual maturity. Of the attendees, a large percentage were pastors. Some had flown in, seeking anonymity for fear of job loss or reprisal. Many had dared to raise hard questions, challenging their congregation to think deeply about immigration, puzzle through the church’s treatment of the L.G.B.T.Q. community, to dive into Scripture and to find answers.

For some, just making the suggestion had put their neck on the line. One pastor was recently fired. Another, who was nearing the end of his career, lamented: Where did I go wrong in my teaching? Am I complicit in this movement? Have I created this monster? I have failed my flock.

(Video) Resisting American Apartheid

I can think of no better illustration of the calamitous force of Christian nationalism than a room full of faith leaders, regret lined deep in their brows, expressing shame and disappointment in those they were called to lead.

In February, Gov. Mark Gordon hosted a prayer breakfast, a tradition in the Wyoming Legislature in which leaders come together, read Scripture and listen to an inspirational message. The breakfast came toward the end of the Legislature’s session, one pockmarked with ugly exchanges between the Freedom Caucus and other right-wing legislators and the moderates, a house more divided than ever.

The Senate president, Ogden Driskill, and the House speaker, Albert Sommers, were each invited to read a passage from the Bible. They carried the shrapnel of the session in their slumped shoulders as they approached the dais. They were tired. Weary. Both are veteran legislators, throwbacks to a time when lawmakers disagreed, then shared a drink at the end of the day. This session was different. Meaner.

Mr. Sommers is the quieter of the two. Before reading, he said he was not the best versed in the Bible but spoke of his experience finding faith and said he viewed his prayer and relationship with God as largely private. Mr. Driskill was equally humble: If anyone ever told me I would be in this position, standing in a room packed with political and business leaders, he said, I never would have believed it. And yet here I am.

Both leaders have deep roots in the state. Mr. Driskill and Mr. Sommers are the faces of my beloved Wyoming, a place so intent on preserving our live-and-let-live cowboy culture, we enshrined it in our state code, Section 8-3-123. They are earnest public servants who choose service over self, who love the state and are willing to make unpopular decisions at the risk of their political futures, who think nothing of leaving their homes to travel hundreds of miles across the state for a steak dinner and a reasoned discussion on carbon capture.

This is the state I cannot quit. I rely on those gritty and courageous leaders who hold tight to our rural values. They are the Davids in the fight against the Philistines. They are our brother’s keeper.

Susan Stubson (@wyorodeoqueen) is a pianist, lawyer and member of the Wyoming Republican Party.

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Does nationalism have to do with religion? ›

Many ethnic and cultural nationalisms include religious aspects, but as a marker of group identity, rather than the intrinsic motivation for nationalist claims.

Is Christianity declining in America? ›

A 2021 Gallup poll revealed another grim number for Christians: church membership in the US has fallen below 50% for the first time.

What religion is Christianity based on? ›

Christianity is based upon the teachings of Jesus, a Jew who lived his life in the Roman province of Palestine.

Were the founding fathers Christian? ›

On the surface, most Founders appear to have been orthodox (or “right-believing”) Christians. Most were baptized, listed on church rolls, married to practicing Christians, and frequent or at least sporadic attenders of services of Christian worship. In public statements, most invoked divine assistance.

Is nationalism positive or negative? ›

In practice, nationalism is seen as positive or negative depending on its ideology and outcomes. Nationalism has been a feature of movements for freedom and justice, has been associated with cultural revivals, and encourages pride in national achievements.

What is an example of a nationalism? ›

Examples of third world nationalist ideologies are African nationalism and Arab nationalism. Other important nationalist movements in the developing world have included Indian nationalism, Chinese nationalism and the ideas of the Mexican Revolution and Haitian Revolution.

Where is Christianity declining the most? ›

  • Austria. Learn more. ...
  • France. Christianity has been declining in France steadily since the 1980s. ...
  • Finland. In Finland, 78.4% of the population practised Christianity, and the figure decreased to 67.7% in 2021, about a 10 digit decrease in a decade. ...
  • Germany. ...
  • Hungary. ...
  • Ireland. ...
  • Netherlands. ...
  • Poland.

Is Christianity growing or Shrinking in the world? ›

As Christianity continues to grow in the global South, it is also becoming increasingly less concentrated. In 1900, 95% of all Christians lived in a majority Christian country. In 2022, that number has fallen to 53.7%. By 2050, most Christians (50.4%) around the world will live in non-majority Christian nations.

Which religion is growing in America? ›

According to various scholars and sources Pentecostalism – a Protestant Christian movement – is the fastest growing religion in the world, this growth is primarily due to religious conversion. According to Pulitzer Center 35,000 people become Pentecostal or "Born again" every day.

Is Christianity truly a religion? ›

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. It is the world's largest and most widespread religion with roughly 2.4 billion followers representing one-third of the global population.

What is the true religion in the Bible? ›

12:2). In short, James tells us that true religion is a devotion to God, demonstrated by love and compassion for fellowmen, coupled with unworldliness.

What is the biggest religion in the world Christianity? ›

Catholicism – 1.345 billion

Catholicism is the largest branch of Christianity with 1.345 billion, and the Catholic Church is the largest among churches. Figures below are in accordance with the Annuario Pontificio, at 2019.

Why does it say in God we trust on money? ›

Originally used on coins during the Civil War and later adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956, the meaning of "In God We Trust" denotes that the political and economic prosperity of the nation is in God's hands.

What countries are founded on Christianity? ›

These countries include Argentina, Armenia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Denmark (incl. Greenland and the Faroes), England, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Samoa, Serbia, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vatican City, and Zambia.

What beliefs was America founded on? ›

Among them was the idea that all people are created equal, whether European, Native American, or African American, and that these people have fundamental rights, such as liberty, free speech, freedom of religion, due process of law, and freedom of assembly. America's revolutionaries openly discussed these concepts.

What best explains nationalism? ›

Nationalism is an ideology that emphasizes loyalty, devotion, or allegiance to a nation or nation-state and holds that such obligations outweigh other individual or group interests.

What are the negative effects of nationalism? ›

positive outcomes—promotes a sense of identity, unites people, promotes pride. negative outcomes—leads to conflict with others, infringes on rights of others, creates xenophobia—the fear that someone will take them over.

What is a great quote about nationalism? ›

Patriotic quotes to celebrate America
  • “Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” —Benjamin Franklin. ...
  • “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” —John F. ...
  • “Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” —
5 days ago

Is the United States a nationalism? ›

Contemporary United States

Due to the distinctive circumstances involved throughout history in American politics, its nationalism has developed concerning loyalty to a set of liberal, universal political ideals and perceived accountability to propagate those principles globally.

What is nationalism in your own words? ›

Nationalism is the belief that your country is superior, without question or doubt. In some cases, nationalism can inspire people to break free of a foreign oppressor, as in the American Revolution, but nationalism can also lead a country to cut itself off from the rest of the world.

What feelings is nationalism? ›

Nationalism is a feeling of belongingness to one nation. It is a feeling of oneness or togetherness, characterised by common culture, land or history.

Which is the most powerful religion in the world? ›

Major religious groups
  • Christianity (31.1%)
  • Islam (24.9%)
  • Irreligion (15.6%)
  • Hinduism (15.2%)
  • Buddhism (6.6%)
  • Folk religions (5.6%)

What country has the most Christians? ›

The United States has the largest Christian population in the world, followed by Brazil, Mexico, Russia, and the Philippines.

What percentage of Americans go to church? ›

The share of all U.S. adults who say they typically attend religious services at least once a month is down modestly but measurably (by 3 percentage points, from 33% to 30%) over that span, and one-in-five Americans say they now attend in person less often than they did before the pandemic.

Where is Christianity increasing the most? ›

Christianity has been estimated to be growing rapidly in South America, Africa, and Asia. In Africa, for instance, in 1900, there were only 8.7 million adherents of Christianity; now there are 390 million, and it is expected that by 2025 there will be 600 million Christians in Africa.

What is the fastest growing church denomination in the United States? ›

1. Lutheran Church of Hope. The fastest-growing Christian church in 2022 was the Lutheran Church of Hope, located in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Do Christians live longer? ›

In both samples, the study showed that those with documented religious affiliations lived an average of 9.45 and 5.64 years longer respectively than those who did not.

What is the most powerful religion in us? ›

The U.S. has the world's largest Christian population and, more specifically, contains the largest Protestant population in the world. Christianity is the largest religion in the United States at 63% of the population, with the various Protestant Churches having the most adherents.

Is American religion declining? ›

“This accelerating trend is reshaping the US religious landscape.” In 1972 92% of Americans said they were Christian, Pew reported, but by 2070 that number will drop to below 50% – and the number of “religiously unaffiliated” Americans – or 'nones' will probably outnumber those adhering to Christianity.

What is the US #1 religion? ›

The United States has the largest Christian population in the world and, more specifically, the largest Protestant population in the world, with nearly 210 million Christians and, as of 2021, over 140 million people affiliated with Protestant churches, although other countries have higher percentages of Christians ...

What language did Jesus speak? ›

Aramaic is best known as the language Jesus spoke. It is a Semitic language originating in the middle Euphrates. In 800-600 BC it spread from there to Syria and Mesopotamia. The oldest preserved inscriptions are from this period and written in Old Aramaic.

What religion was Jesus? ›

He was born of a Jewish mother, in Galilee, a Jewish part of the world. All of his friends, associates, colleagues, disciples, all of them were Jews. He regularly worshipped in Jewish communal worship, what we call synagogues. He preached from Jewish text, from the Bible.

What religion has the same God as Christianity? ›

Most mainstream Muslims would generally agree they worship the same God that Christians — or Jews — worship. Zeki Saritoprak, a professor of Islamic studies at John Carroll University in Cleveland, points out that in the Quran there's the Biblical story of Jacob asking his sons whom they'll worship after his death.

Who is true God in Christianity? ›

God in Christianity is believed to be the eternal, supreme being who created and preserves all things. Christians believe in a monotheistic conception of God, which is both transcendent (wholly independent of, and removed from, the material universe) and immanent (involved in the material universe).

Do all religions lead to God? ›

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last…” (Romans 1:16-17, NIV). In some way, all religions and philosophies lead to God. But only Christ leads us to right-standing with God and a relationship with him.

What religion is it when all religions are true? ›

Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Omnism is the respect of or belief in all religions with their gods or lack thereof. Those who hold this belief are called omnists, sometimes written as omniest.

What is the number 1 most followed religion? ›

Christians. Largest Christian populations (as of 2011):

Why is Christmas on December 25? ›

“The real reason for the selection of Dec. 25 seems to have been that it is exactly nine months after March 25, the traditional date of Jesus' crucifixion. … As Christians developed the theological idea that Jesus was conceived and crucified on the same date, they set the date of his birth nine months later.”

Are Mormons Christians? ›

Beliefs. Mormons consider themselves Christians, but many Christians don't recognize Mormonism as an official denomination. Mormons believe in the crucifixion, resurrection and divinity of Jesus Christ. Followers claim that God sent more prophets after Jesus's death.

Does your money belong to God? ›

Any wealth, power, or strength we have originated with God. Any gift or talent we have – the same is true (James 1:17; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11). Even our ability to give generously comes from God (Deuteronomy 8:18; 2 Corinthians 9:10-11). Everything we have, and everything else that exists, is all his.

Does God tell us to save money? ›

Live on Less Than You Make and Save

That means living on less than you make—so you'll have money left over to save. The Bible talks about the importance of saving in Proverbs 21:20 (NIV84), which says, “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.”

Was the US founded on Christianity? ›

America was not founded as a Christian nation; take a look at the Constitution. The more interesting question is whether America is a Christian nation. For the better part of its history, the United States and the most prominent form of Christianity in America, mainline Protestantism, were intertwined.

Which country adopted Christianity first? ›

Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity about 300 ce, when St. Gregory the Illuminator converted the Arsacid king Tiridates III.

Where did Christianity officially start? ›

Christianity began in Judea in the present-day Middle East. Jews there told prophecies about a Messiah who would remove the Romans and restore the kingdom of David. What we know about Jesus's life and his birth around 6 B.C.E., comes from the four Gospels.

What is the oldest religion in the world? ›

The word Hindu is an exonym, and while Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, many practitioners refer to their religion as Sanātana Dharma (Sanskrit: सनातन धर्म, lit.

Did the Founding Fathers believe in God? ›

In reality, a number of the key American Founders were neither Christians nor deists, but theistic rationalists. Theistic rationalists believed in a powerful, rational, and benevolent creator God who was present and active in human affairs.

Who came up with America? ›

America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer who set forth the then revolutionary concept that the lands that Christopher Columbus sailed to in 1492 were part of a separate continent.

Why did people come to America? ›

They wanted religious freedom and economic opportunity. The United States is a country where individual rights and self-government are important. This has always been true. Colonists first came to America for more freedom.

What is the difference between religion and nationalism? ›

Whereas with religion full allegiance is demonstrated through the willingness of the faithful to live and die for the teachings of their god; with nationalism, allegiance is shown through the willingness of citizens to live and die for the artificial imageries and symbols defining their imagined communities.

What does culture have to do with nationalism? ›

Cultural nationalism reflects national identity defined by a shared sense of cultural traditions. Cultural nationalism is most clearly identified via symbols of national pride. This may be contrasted with the ascribed characteristics surrounding race and ethnicity.

What is nationalism in the United States today? ›

American nationalism sometimes takes the form of Civic nationalism, a liberal form of nationalism based on values such as freedom, equality, and individual rights. Civic nationalists view nationhood as a political identity. They argue that liberal democratic principles and loyalty define a civic nation.

What is nationalism in Christianity? ›

Christian nationalism is a type of religious nationalism that is affiliated with Christianity, which primarily focuses on the internal politics of society, such as legislating civil and criminal laws that reflect their view of Christianity and the role of religion in political and social life.

What has the same meaning as nationalism? ›

patriotism. nounlove of one's country. allegiance. chauvinism. flag-waving.

What is the main difference between nationalism and patriotism? ›

While nationalism emphasizes a unity of cultural past with inclusion of the language and heritage, patriotism is based on love towards people with a greater emphasis on values and beliefs.

When was cultural nationalism? ›

This vision of American nationalism, as Goldman describes it, flourished from 1630 to perhaps 1830, strained by the rise of Jacksonian frontier culture and finally buckling under the weight of German and Irish immigration in the 1840s and 1850s.

What plays an important role in the making of nationalism? ›

History, fiction, folklore and songs, popular prints and symbols played a part in the making of nationalism. The identity of the nation is most often symbolised in a figure or an image. This helped to create an image with which people can identify the nation.

What role did nationalism play in colonization? ›

Some historians argue that colonialism was an outgrowth of nationalism. Once the people in the leading industrial powers started to strongly identify as British, French, German, American, or Japanese, they fell in love with the idea of planting their national flags all over the map. Hence, “empire.”

Who is a US nationalist? ›

As defined by the INA, all U.S. citizens are U.S. nationals but only a relatively small number of persons acquire U.S. nationality without becoming U.S. citizens.

What does new nationalism mean in US history? ›

Roosevelt made the case for what he called "the New Nationalism" in a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, on August 31, 1910. The central issue he argued was government protection of human welfare and property rights, but he also argued that human welfare was more important than property rights.

What is nationalism for one's country? ›

Nationalism is the belief that your own country is better than all others. Sometimes nationalism makes people not want to work with other countries to solve shared problems. It is important not to confuse nationalism with patriotism.

Does nationalism mean pride? ›

Definition of Nationalism

Nationalism is an attitude or a feeling, a consciousness that arises to preserve a nation's traditional cultures and pride.

What do Christians believe? ›

Followers of the Christian religion base their beliefs on the life, teachings and death of Jesus Christ. Christians believe in one God that created heaven, earth and the universe. The belief in one God originated with the Jewish religion. Christians believe Jesus is the “Messiah” or savior of the world.

Why is religious freedom important in the United States? ›

Religious freedom preserves America's diversity, where people of different faiths, worldviews, and beliefs can peacefully live together without fear of punishment from the government.


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2. Christian Nationalism vs. Mere Christendom? | Doug Wilson & Stephen Wolfe
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3. Two Wolves of Christian Nationalism
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4. Charitable Chat on Christian Nationalism Controversy
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5. Are Republicans Imposing White Christian Nationalism? | Ep. 47
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