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What is Christian Nationalism and What Does Our Church Say About It?

Christian nationalism is “a cultural framework that idealizes and advocates fusion of certain Christian views with American civic life. This political ideology, whether explicit or not, includes the beliefs that the U.S. Constitution was divinely inspired and enjoys godly status, that Christianity should be a privileged religion in the U.S., that the nation holds a special status in God’s eyes, and that good Americans must hold Christian beliefs. Proponents range from those who believe the United States should be declared a Christian nation (approximately 21% of the U.S. population) to those involved in more virulent strains that are openly racist, anti-democratic or gang-like. The symbols and ideology of Christian nationalism were widely evident during the Jan. 6, 2021, attempt to throw out certified U.S. election results.”


Does the ELCA Oppose Christian Nationalism?


Our Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton has endorsed the Christians Against Christian Nationalism statement that reads, in part:


“Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation.


We reject this damaging political ideology and invite our Christian brothers and sisters to join us in opposing this threat to our faith and to our nation.”


In a November 2022 video Bishop Eaton stated: “Christian Nationalism identifies a human-made government with God’s will and seeks privilege specifically for Christians, and many times only white Christians. Lutherans teach that government should be held accountable to God, but never dictated as God’s will. We must remain committed to strengthening the public space as a just place for all who seek peaceful governance, regardless of religion or worldview, and we will defend the full participation of all in our religiously diverse society.”


Why is This Important to Lutherans?


The ELCA is committed to the common good — not for the good of Christians first — and to working with and learning from others.


In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther expounds upon the Eighth Commandment, writing that “we are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead, we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.”


The ELCA social statement The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective (1991) includes this:


“The example of Jesus invites Christians to see people near and far away, people of all races, classes and cultures, friends and strangers, allies and enemies as their ‘neighbor.’”


It continues,


“As a reconciling and healing presence, this church is called to minister to human need with compassion and imagination. It strives to pioneer new ways of addressing emerging social problems and environmental  degradation. This church has a responsibility to mediate conflict and to advocate just and peaceful resolutions to the world’s divisions. It should support institutions and policies that serve the common good and work with and learn from others in caring for and changing global society.”


This information and more can be found on the ELCA website.


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