During my time as a boy attending an evangelical church and then later, when I attended an evangelical seminary, it was hard not to notice an underlying misogyny that seemed consistently present. As a man, I would be the head of the household. I was like Christ to my future wife. In fact, I once heard a sermon by prominent evangelical minister Tony Evans where he declared that wives must refer to their husbands as "Lord." In my church youth groups, we were separated by sex and the boys had bizarre discussions on the type of men we should become. There was a strong emphasis on being what they considered to be manly and tough, whereas young girls, of course, were encouraged to be nurturing, submissive and, most important, sexually pure.
When contemporary evangelical leaders push a message around Christian nationalism, I can promise you it always refers back to a time when the "traditional" roles of American households held fast. Making America "great again" is truly about bringing back a time when women were subject to their husbands' wills and whims, and the husbands were lords of the house.
Someone recently wrote to me, in response to one of my previous articles, wondering why so many evangelicals chose Donald Trump, a vulgar misogynist who shows no understanding of any element of the Christian faith, over other candidates who were much closer to the evangelical movement. The difficult answer is that most evangelical men long for the days when misogyny was cool, when women were under the thumb of their husbands and sexual harassment was almost universally accepted. Trump exemplified that approach — and a great many evangelicals loved him for it. Trump remains the favorite of the evangelicals not because any commitment to Christ or the Christian way of life — since he has none — but because of the widespread desire among evangelicals to take back control over their lives, and their wives. One of the major ways this has been expressed lately is through the ideology known as Christian nationalism.
As I understand it, Christian nationalism is an idea now widely accepted within the evangelical church that the U.S. is a Christian nation founded upon Christian principles — no matter what it may say in the Constitution. This commitment to the Christian faith, as a nation, is the reason God blessed the U.S. as the greatest nation that ever existed. God will only continue to bless this nation, however, as long as it remains a Christian nation. As America becomes more progressive and increasingly secular in terms of politics, culture and faith, then in this view God will remove his blessing and protection and great evils will befall our nation.
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This remarkable theory has no connection to any of the teachings of Jesus Christ or his followers, and is completely irrelevant to the Christian faith. I will certainly admit that I have a heart for American idealism. I have officiated at numerous Veterans Day and Memorial Day services, and I have felt the love of country enormously, on those days and all the days in between. None of that, however, has anything to do with Christianity. God does not play favorites when it comes to nations, people or cultures. That entire idea is morally and theologically absurd.
In truth, Christian nationalism is based not in the Bible or the teachings of Jesus Christ, but on the idea of the traditional American family. As roles for women have changed, as divorce becomes more common, as same-sex marriage gains a firmer footing, and now with the movement for transgender rights and visibility becoming more public, the panic of the Christian nationalists becomes ever more desperate. This is where all that rage among evangelicals is coming from. Understand, most people are motivated politically based on how they perceive policy decisions affecting their day-to-day life. Nothing affects our lives more than what is happening to our families. When things fall apart at home, it can feel helpful — even if it's not healthy — to blame someone or something besides ourselves. For myself, I know that all my personal failures are mine alone. I can't blame MTV or Eminem or the LGBTQI population, the evangelical church, Trump, Biden, Obama, my mom, my dad or anyone else. The problem is in the mirror, as it is for everyone. Any effort to pass that blame along to others is quite human, and quite wrong.
My final point on Christian nationalism is around all the macho tough-guy stuff that seems to be on the lips of every right-wing leader. Being "tough" seems to be the only thing conservative commentators and evangelical leaders care about. Trump is supposedly the epitome of that and his little posse loves him for it. I won't pretend to understand it. After I graduated middle school, being tough just didn't seem that important. But for people like Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Jerry Falwell Jr. (before his fall) and of course Trump himself, it's important to keep pretending that they are a bunch of tough guys, even though they also claim to stand with Jesus Christ, a humble, meek and homeless teacher.
I'm no tough guy but I am happy to offer a challenge to any of these fake tough guys. Debate me anywhere, anytime. I am truly blue-collar, a member of the American working class. I am a Bible-believing minister and a flaming liberal. I believe that the Christian nationalist message comes from the devil himself. I am trying to save the name of the Christian faith and to stand up for American idealism. I oppose every part of the hypocritical, fake-populist agenda of the Christian nationalists and their enablers. I double-dog dare any of them, here and now, to stand up and take me on in public debate. Odds are they never will.
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