Repentance in the age of Christian Nationalism

Can we talk about repentance and Christian nationalism? I’m not an authority on any of this, but I’m part of it, and Lent seems like a good season to begin such a conversation.

Remember you are dust---and to dust you shall return.

As a pastor I’ve spoken those words again and again as I used ashes to mark the sign of the cross on people’s foreheads. The words felt true when I was looking into ancient eyes, but when I spoke them to a toddler, my eyes betrayed me. My mouth said the words, but my eyes said “Just kidding, little one, see – the ash is in the shape of a cross – through the cross you will live forever! Don’t worry.”

Both the ash and the cross are true. But the ash is first. We will die.

We don’t like death, and we don’t like the humiliation of the ashes, we want the hope of the resurrection, without the death. Maybe that is why we fall for the serpents lie, again and again:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3: 4-5).

O the temptation to see myself as God—with the power to declare what is good and what is evil: Power to say who has power over whom. The seduction of this power is the pull of Christian Nationalism. I think that might be true.

After years of extensive research Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry wrote a book called “Taking America Back For God.” They define Christian Nationalism as a cultural framework that “idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture.” The framework is built on the myths of nativism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, white supremacy, and the divine use of militarism and authoritarianism.

I would love to say that I’m not caught up in any of this, but the ashes in me know better. Whitehead claims that Christian nationalism is the experience of all Americans. Whether we reject it, resist it, accommodate it or even be ambassadors for it; Christian nationalism is a big part of being American in the 2020’s.

Ash Wednesday begins Lent, a season of repentance. With that in mind, this conversation isn’t about what terrible people Christian Nationalists are, instead it’s about recognizing who benefits from these myths and who is harmed. As a white woman, my story includes the benefits I receive from aspects of white supremacy, and the harm I endure from patriarchy. But I won’t be writing all the entries in this series. My colleagues Pastor James Philips, Pastor Joseph Castañeda Carrera, Pastor Maria Paiva and Pastor Brenda Bos will tell the stories of their own benefit/harm experiences.

This will only be a conversation if you all chime in. The blog will be on the https://livingtheresurrection.comas well as the Living the Resurrection Facebook page. You’ll need to subscribe to the blog or “like” the Facebook page to contribute. So, let’s get this started:

What are your first impressions of the concept of Christian nationalism?

What do you hope this blog series will include?

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