The latest polling shows a continued decline in Christianity in the United States.
These two quotes grabbed my attention:
In the latest Gallup Poll, belief in God dipped to 81%, down 6 percentage points from 2017, and the lowest since Gallup first asked the question in 1944.
In recent years there has been a rise in the number of Americans who acknowledge being Christian nationalists — those who believe Christian and American identities should be fused.
“It could be that the increase in the number of atheists is a direct result of Christian nationalism,” said Ryan Cragun, a sociologist at the University of Tampa who studies the nonreligious. “They seem to be dominating the rhetoric. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is legitimately backlash against it and people saying, ‘You know what? I’m an atheist.’”
Let’s think about this together. If Christianity IS Christian nationalism, then I’m an atheist too.
But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. For the sake of clarity, let’s try to define our terms. Paul Miller, a professor at Georgetown University, says, “Christian nationalism is the belief that the American nation is defined by Christianity, and that the government should take active steps to keep it that way.”
He further explains why this message is dangerous to the church:
Christian nationalism takes the name of Christ for a worldly political agenda, proclaiming that its program is the political program for every true believer. That is wrong in principle, no matter what the agenda is, because only the church is authorized to proclaim the name of Jesus and carry his standard into the world. It is even worse with a political movement that champions some causes that are unjust, which is the case with Christian nationalism and its attendant illiberalism. In that case, Christian nationalism is calling evil good and good evil; it is taking the name of Christ as a fig leaf to cover its political program, treating the message of Jesus as a tool of political propaganda and the church as the handmaiden and cheerleader of the state.
It’s totally understandable why people would reject such a toxic message. In fact, I do too.
Yet I think the gospel of the crucified Messiah is the best response to Christian nationalism.
First, it’s true.
Second, it sets up the value system that honors sacrificial love as the supreme fulfillment of human life.
Third, it assures that even being subjected to state violence can be a pathway to eternal joy and glory.
For these reasons (and many others), I think that if more people decide to follow Jesus as Lord, then they will be less swayed by the allure of Christian nationalism.
But how do you evaluate the data?