Religious leader confronts Christian nationalism

Rev. Phyllis Stutzman gave a program on Christian nationalism Thursday evening to a gathering of Allen County Democrats. The term "Christian nationalism" is exclusionary, says Stutzman.

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April 26, 2024 - 3:25 PM

The Rev. Phyllis Stutzman of Emporia visits with Maria and Russell Unruh after Thursday’s meeting of Allen County Democrats.

As a religious and community leader, the Rev. Phyllis Stutzman fears the movement known as Christian nationalism is a grave threat to American democracy.

Government and religion have important roles in our lives, but when combined, they can lead to an abuse of power, Stutzman, a pastor at Emporia Presbyterian Church, told a gathering Thursday night of Allen County Democrats.

The term Christian nationalism is exclusionary, she said.

“If you say that to be a true Christian, you must be American, you automatically cut off a global community, leaving billions of people out of the conversation,” said Stutzman. “And if you say that to be an American, you must be a Christian, you lock out millions of our own citizens.”

“And so, it becomes this very insular, small community that is becoming very loud,” Stutzman said. And that “squeaky wheel” is threatening our democracy.

How so?

Because the movement asserts that God has a special bond with selected politicians who adhere to a specific brand of Christianity – one of 10,000 distinct religions — to rule Congress, state governments and the court system.

“So, we should not only be an exclusively Christian nation, but also with certain ‘kinds’ of Christians.

“But what’s the litmus test?” Stutzman asked. “Who gets to decide who is a believer? Because Christians are not this singular, homogeneous group of people.”

Which is the point of the movement, she said. A goal of Christian nationalism is to leave wide swaths of people out.  To rule over. To discriminate against.

Such an ideology, “is a corruption of the Christian gospel and of who we are as a country,” Stutzman said.

“Christian nationalism is not an expression of Christian faith. It’s an expression that says God blesses only our little group in our little way, in our little place and everything else doesn’t matter.”

Most Christian leaders oppose this sentiment, Stutzman assured. In fact, the organization Christians against Christian Nationalism was formed in 2019 specifically to speak openly against its threat to democracy. Today, dozens of denominations have signed on, from Baptists to Catholics, Lutherans to Presbyterians, Quakers to Episcopalians.

I can absolutely love God and my country at the same time. That is a thing I can do because faith and patriotism are not mutually exclusive.The Rev. Phyllis Stutzman

That broad support is important, Stutzman said, “because if you run in Christian circles, you know we don’t all get along. We antagonize or annoy one another on a great many things. But Christian nationalism is an ideology we are united against.”

Stutzman clarified the confusion over the term Christian nationalism.

“I can absolutely love God and love my country at the same time,” she said. “That is a thing I can do because faith and patriotism are not mutually exclusive.”

“But American Christians can’t complete the two and claim, ‘this is God’s country.’”

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