nationalism
A Trump supporter carries a Bible outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

New Curriculum Combats Christian Nationalism as a ‘Distortion of the Gospel’

By Yonat Shimron

On Jan. 6, Josh Scott of Nashville’s GracePointe Church watched images of the Capitol insurrection with a rising sense of alarm.

The unmistakable Christian elements were hard to miss — “Jesus Saves” signs and flags, a tall wooden cross, the prayer thanking God “for allowing the United States of America to be reborn.”

“I was speechless and angry,” said Scott, who pastors a nondenominational 350-member church. “And I thought, ‘What is this thing on TV that is masquerading itself as somehow being connected to the tradition of Jesus, who gave his life non-violently?’”

That thing, he came to realize, is Christian nationalism, and he began speaking out about it from the pulpit.

A loose consortium of Christian organizations whose members were just as scandalized as Scott has now produced a three-session adult study curriculum called “Responding to Christian Nationalism” for pastors who want to educate church members. 

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Published by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and Vote Common Good, the curriculum defines Christian nationalism as a merging of Christianity with American identity. “It’s a poison infecting our theology and our faith itself,” said Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee, speaking of Christian nationalism. “That’s the concern that’s driven a lot of the organizing around it.”

Founded by the Southern Baptists in 1936, the Baptist Joint Committee is independent of that organization but committed to protecting religious freedom and defending the separation of church and state.  

Two years ago, the Baptist Joint Committee launched Christians Against Christian Nationalism, a statement signed by 22,000 Christians, mostly clergy, condemning Christian nationalism as a “distortion of the gospel of Jesus and a threat to American democracy.”

Now it’s joined up with Vote Common Good, a liberal-leaning evangelical group led by Doug Pagitt dedicated to mobilizing people of faith to vote beyond Republican interests.

Amanda Taylor

The curriculum offers biblical passages to remind Christians that their ultimate loyalty should be to God and examines how Christian nationalism may overlap with racism and white supremacy.

So far, 334 people have downloaded the curriculum, and more are expected once it’s fully publicized, Tyler said.

Some Christian leaders had been critical of Christian nationalism well before the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, particularly in the insistence among some white evangelicals that America was founded on biblical principles as a Christian nation.

“Our desire is to present Jesus as we find him in the gospel, not an Americanized, politicized version of Jesus,” said Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei, a non-denominational Christian congregation in Portland, Oregon, who intends to use the curriculum.

McKinley said there are risks for any pastor in that message. When he started pushing his church to address diversity and inclusion, he said, he lost about 300 people who were not ready to abandon their view that being a good Christian and a patriotic American were intertwined. (Pre-COVID-19, some 2,000 attended his church services each week.)

He thinks “Responding to Christian Nationalism” can offer a structured way for pastors to educate church members on the issue.

“There are a ton of pastors who desire to move their congregation but don’t know how,” he said. “I think the curriculum will be really helpful for that.”

The resource offers a biblical discussion of misplaced loyalties and offers passages such as the Ten Commandment injunction, “You shall have no other gods before me,” which Jesus repeats in the Gospel of Luke, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”

Todd Blake, pastor of Madison Heights Baptist Church in Madison Heights, Virginia, and a trustee of the Baptist Joint Committee, said his identity as a Baptist compels him to oppose Christian nationalism. Baptists historically opposed any government with an established religion or religious practice.

“I don’t want Christianity to have this favored place in American politics over and against people of other faiths or no faith,” he said. “I want religious liberty and I want my neighbor to have it, too.”

Yonat ShimronYonat Shimron is a national reporter and senior editor for Religion News Service. 

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48 thoughts on “New Curriculum Combats Christian Nationalism as a ‘Distortion of the Gospel’”

    1. If the preacher is telling the church to avoid Christian nationalism, he/she is, in part, telling them to stay out of politics.
      More important, they are being told to avoid idolatry, which is not a political issue but a gospel issue.
      Christian nationalism, like its cousin white nationalism, is one of the most heinous errors in the American church today.

      1. GracePointe and Josh Scott are very poor standard bearers for the cause of anti-idolatry, given that their idols are homosexual practices, transgenderism, the “divine” in themselves, and leftist, progressive politics. The supreme irony is that GracePointe is the ultra political church that is grinding their own axe at the expense of the truth. I’ve been involved with a lot of churches in my 50+ years and have never seen one so utterly committed to partisan political causes as GracePointe. It is an idol for them. For Josh Scott to say one word about anyone else injecting politics into their faith is a breathtaking example of hypocrisy and pathological projection. It’s sick, frankly.

  1. Calvin Lindstrom

    There is no doubt that what took place on January 6 in Washington was not an ideal time for our nation. I do not think it is at all appropriate to call it an insurrection. It was foolish in terms of those who tried to break into the Capitol Building. People who broke our laws should be arrested and given fair trials. But most concerning in this article is that GracePointe Church in Nashville is not a Christian Church.

    From their website:
    Believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life.

    Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey.

    This is not Christian teaching. Something should be stated about this in the article.

      1. The goal of Marxism is to always destroy the foundation. America was founded upon Judaeo-Christian principles. Every State’s Constitution recognizes the providential hand of God in the formation of our great Nation.
        When groups and individuals such as these go to live under a communist regime such as Cuba or North Korea, perhaps then they will understand Christianity and national pride in our founding (one nation under God) and be thankful for living is such a beautiful country.

        1. Marin Heiskell

          You don’t need to live in the US or even be American to understand Christianity. You need to understand Christ and live in Him – He who existed long before the US. That is the issue with your logic, Keith.
          It’s not Biblical.

          1. So Christian Jews who love Israel are being unbiblical. Got it. God’s love of Israel is unbiblical. Got it. And the United States came into existence by random happenstance. Got it.

    1. This is the congregation that was in the news a couple of months ago when they had their controversy over what the Bible was and wasn’t (specifically the Bible wasn’t inerrant in their opinion). So I put little stock in their opinion on things.

    2. Calvin: You said”There is no doubt that what took place on January 6 in Washington was not an ideal time for our nation. I do not think it is at all appropriate to call it an insurrection. It was foolish in terms of those who tried to break into the Capitol Building. People who broke our laws should be arrested and given fair trials. But most concerning in this article is that GracePointe Church in Nashville is not a Christian Church.”

      People were killed during this insurrection and our democracy is still in peril because of what Trump and others planned and executed this day.

      I have heard little to no complaints about Trump over the last 5 years by “Christians”.

      And yet you try to turn this article into a discussion of whether Gracepointe is a Christian Church or not?

      I think this stain of “Christians” and Trump working arms and arms will never be able to be removed.

      1. Tom, The point is that GracePointe, a church that is emphatically not a church and emphatically does not promote Jesus, has absolutely nothing of value to offer the true Christian church. They are a pro-LBGTQ+ cult that has conflated their far left progressive politics with faith to the point that they have jettisoned the historical church and Jesus Himself from their congregation. They have nothing of value to offer. By the way, one solitary person was killed during the so-called insurrection. It was Ashley Babbitt, and she was shot by a government agent. That’s it. So, get your facts straight.

        1. Robin: You like so many Trump supporters try to change the narrative concerning 1-6-2021. Trump incited this insurrection and most evangelicals have not condemned this insurrection. When a “Church” makes the attempt to address this Christian Nationalism you and others attack them.

      2. Calvin Lindstrom

        Tom, I am not a famous figure by any means, but a fellow pastor and I do a regular podcast on Facebook called Here I Stand where we discuss the connection of the gospel and political matters in our nation. We have been very critical of Trump and his policies at times and supportive of him on other issues. I did not vote for Trump in 2016. I did vote for Trump in 2020 given the fact that his record in many ways did support Christian principles.

        In terms of what took place in January 6, I have interviewed first hand people who attended. The gathering that took place on January 6 involved a massive number of mostly peaceful people. As far as I know only one person died directly as a result of what took place on January 6, Ashli Babbitt. To say that our democracy is still in peril because of what took place on January 6 I think is a far stretch from reality.

        My main concern still stands. GracePointe Church is not a Christian church. If a Hindu organization made a curriculum, would we do an article on it?

        Thanks for interacting with comments and thoughts. May the Lord keep us faithful to His truth and allow us to bring a faithful witness to His perfect law and gospel.

        1. This is actually really easy, Calvin.

          If those storming the United States Capital on January 6 had been, say, BLM activists or Muslim mullahs can you honestly say that you would be saying that democracy was not in peril?

          If it had been a Democratic Party rally that was exactly the same in all particulars–erecting a noose, chanting vulgarities, vandalism, chaos and death–would you be saying that “most of them were peaceful” and “only one person died”?

          If your answer is no, then what you are engaged in here is not truth, but moral relativism.

  2. Marin Heiskell

    Amen. I just downloaded the curriculum from the website. I look forward to sharing what I have learned with those I see very caught up in this trap.

    1. In my opinion they’re not even nationalists, they’re just cultists.

      Easy to see that they follow the Trump flag, not the American flag, since they are constantly desecrating the Stars and Stripes by putting Trump’s image on top of it.

      That sort of loyalty to a single person should always be a red flag to Christians.

  3. Robin Wiggins

    I did a bit of investigation into Josh and GracePointe. Check out their main page. Lots of talk about gender identity, progressive Christianity, welcoming and affirming, sexual orientation. The acronym “LBGTQ+” shows up three times. Three of the five leaders at GracePointe who have public bios affirm their homosexual lifestyle. One thing that doesn’t show up on their main page, however, is the name “Jesus.” You look around their website and other than the sermon titles section, that word almost seems forbidden.

    One of the few places “Jesus” does show emphatically is in their “About Us” section: “We are Christians who affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey.”

    Folks, there are some genuine objections to the conflation of Jesus and country and the rise of Christian nationalism, but we would be foolish indeed to listen to one word that Josh Scott, a person who is anti-Jesus, has to offer on the subject.

  4. Debra Szemplinski

    One didn’t need a friend, relative, or ‘connection’ in the CIA/FBI or special ops, government or otherwise to know that there were ‘seeds’ planted in the crowd to feed the narrative of Christian radicals & violent Trump supporters. Seriously folks, this is the oldest trick in the book!!!

    One thing Christians must get & soon is street smarts. Perhaps start w/ Rise & Fall of the Third Reich By William Shirer.
    Hundreds of sources cited to educate oneself re: demoniac forms deception used throughout the ages.

    Learn what both sides did. A treasure trove from history poised to repeat itself.

    1. Debra:

      You said:”One didn’t need a friend, relative, or ‘connection’ in the CIA/FBI or special ops, government or otherwise to know that there were ‘seeds’ planted in the crowd to feed the narrative of Christian radicals & violent Trump supporters. Seriously folks, this is the oldest trick in the book!!! ”

      Do you have any proof for your statement, otherwise it is just another conspiracy theory IMO.

      1. Debra Szemplinski

        If you can’t find it you aren’t looking. I won’t do your homework for you. If I provided them you would deny them.

        Also, are you denying this tactic would somehow not be used in a struggle of this magnitude? And if not why? It is always used!!! Street smarts- get em.

  5. I appreciate his angst.

    But the issue is fraught with a great deal of complexity. Being “in the world but not of it” can be quite a challenge.

    But Christianity had a deep impact on the founding, laws, and morals of the U.S. until recent times. On February 29, 1892, The Supreme Court declared (in Holy Trinity v. United States) that the historical record of America overwhelmingly demonstrated that the United States “… is a Christian nation.” The historical evidence is overwhelming from old court houses built like churches, to the appointment of Christian Chaplains to the House and Senate shortly after these first bodies met, to voting sites in churches, to exemption from military service based on conscience (try that in China or Cuba), to crosses on graves at military cemeteries, to taking oaths on the Bible, to extensive Bible references in great political speeches by the likes of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln (The 2nd Inaugural speech at the Lincoln Memorial would be censored today.), and Martin Luther King, to “in God we trust” on coinage, to historic patriotic music. There was a unanimity in the early history of the country that democracy required the self-constraint and goodness of religious people to be sustained. Christianity was the religion of the masses. We may decide to be something else as a nation, but the history is what it is.

    The same Baptists who criticize the use of Christian symbols at the recent DC protest on ELECTION INTEGRITY and fear imaginary Christian nationalism were the one’s whose forefathers and foremothers said the same thing about the Civil Rights Movement protesting Jim Crow laws with Christian symbols! Election integrity is worth protesting about.

    Much of this is also media hype. I noticed in coverage the same few signs and big cross covered over and over and over again. We really need to come to grips with the legacy media as a PR machine for Democrats and the Left, and anti-Christian to the core. Seen much press on the oppression of Hong Kong or the protests in Cuba for freedom? It is ironic that this same media carried the multi-billion destruction of major cities by BLM and Antifa as “mostly peaceful” (resulting in thousands of deaths of Black young men killed by fellow Black men), supported everywhere de-funding police and delaying the deployment of the national guard, and even justified crowding in the midst of a “pandemic” while shutting down church services. Don’t hold your breath waiting for hard-hitting coverage of the 100+ shot, 35 killed in Chicago over July 4 weekend. The violence, death toll, and chaos every month in Chicago dwarfs the DC protest with one death of a protester and one policeman who died of a heart attack.

    Of course, patriotism and Christianity are compatible, just like love of family and community are not mutually exclusive. We hate our country, our community, our institutions, our history, and our families to our own detriment. If Leftist destroyers are successful, I rather doubt that what’s rebuilt out of the ashes will be better than our representative government with individual (not group rights) protected by the Constitution and greatly free market economics.

    1. I question the usefulness of categorizing the US as a “Christian nation.” Most European immigrants were fleeing countries that were just as “Christian” politically. If you take an in depth look at the African Slave trade, you will read about evils that are not matched by anything we see happening in our country today. The only “Christian nation” is the kingdom of God, which is not a political kingdom and does not wrestle against flesh and blood.

      1. Does history warrant the conclusion that religion is necessary to morality – that a natural ethic is too weak to withstand the savagery that lurks under civilization and emerges in our dreams, crimes and wars? … There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion. Will Durant, historian

        1. Durant, of course, did not equate “religion” as “Christianity”, and included Islam, Confucianism et. al in his definition.

          “ Nature and history do not agree with our conceptions of good and bad; they define good as that which survives, and bad as that which goes under; and the universe has no prejudice in favor of Christ as against Genghis Khan.”
          Will Durant, historian.

          You should perhaps read his work more widely before using a single out of context quote to justify your argument,

        2. Prior to Marx, I can’t think of any society that wasn’t religious. Historically, political figures have often used and distorted religion to solidify their power. Equating “God’s favor” to a political figure is nothing new, and too often terrible things are done by people believing that God is on their side.

  6. Jonathan Edwards

    How many times do I have to see the same three or four pictures from the DC protest?

    It’s media to order for the Left. Can’t you see the media is framing the issue. It’s media B.S. from the same people who won’t publish the name or picture of a minority who commits a crime and who censor every opinion they disagree with. How about another picture of that single big wooden cross?

    Were Christians there? Sure. Was it a Christian Nationalist or an alt-Right (whatever that is) insurrection? Utter nonsense. If it were, people would have been armed (no gun charges to date), people would have been killed (protesters killed no one), and the building would have been burned to the ground (not even close). They got into the building. Did they hold hostages? Heck no. They lounged around in the building, doing virtually no damage inside. BLM and Antifa were the insurrectionists all across the country while the DC Dems cheered them on.

    Tough political choices: Democrats, the evil party or Republicans, the stupid party?

    1. Evil is bi-partisan. Rick Warren said something to the effect that if he believed there was a political solution to the world’s problems, he would not be a preacher. The church should keep it’s focus on the Word, not ideology. First and foremost, we should be about examining ourselves and our own sin, not those we disagree with. We have taken our eye off the ball with political distraction.

    2. “How many times do I have to see the same three or four pictures from the DC protest?”

      No need for three or four pictures, Jonathan. There are literally hours of *video* documenting the violence at the DC insurrection, including Trump supporters beating police officers with American flags, and taking down the American flag to replace it with a Trump flag. That’s not nationalism (unquestioning support of a country)–Christian or otherwise–it’s cultism, the unquestioning support of a person.

      That’s not media framing, it’s what most of the country watched, live, horrified, on January 6.

      YOU are the one attempting to ‘frame’ the issue by denying reality because it doesn’t suit your politics.

  7. First of all no serious Christian supports what happened on January 6. It was not an insurrection and the only person who died that day was an unarmed woman. Many of the so called “participants” just wandered into the capital because the police did nothing to stop them. There is a lot we don’t know about that day and much of it is being intentionally buried.

    This is another totally one sided article. Do these journalists work for CNN?

    Do churches preach the gospel anymore or just repeat left wing narratives?

  8. In this thread, a lot of comments “shooting the messenger” (GracePointe) rather than addressing the message (the dangers of Christian nationalism).

    But many of these commenters supported the previous administration, when they insisted to everyone that the immorality of the messenger was irrelevant since his “his record in many ways did support Christian principles.”

    So I suspect that it is the message (the dangers of Christian nationalism) that is what really makes them uncomfortable. It must be hitting the mark.

    1. Lea: I think for most of the Trump supporters commenting here there is nothing that Trump would do for them to criticize him. I do not think it will ever dawn on them as to the damage they have done to the Gospel. They have chosen Trump over Jesus.

      1. I am grieved to say that I must agree with you Tom. Trump has all the hallmarks of the “man of sin” that the Bible warns us against, and his supporters have all the hallmarks of idolatry.

    2. You’re right. It hit close to home and makes me uncomfortable because the Christian nationalists are out looting, raping, pillaging and murdering every minute of every day. You can literally see hours of footage provided by Alex Jones.

      What we need is a registry of people who call themselves Christians. We can make that part of the “unvaccinated ” list because they’re also likely to be vaccine protestors even though Trump got the vaccine initiative up to warp speed. Right now the word nationalist is attached as a means to distinguish between good Christians and bad Christians. Don’t worry. That distinctive will no longer be needed soon. Soon enough, anyone who shows any affinity for Christ will be assumed to be a nationalist. The IRS already believes that the Christian church in America is a covert arm of the republican party and too many of them refuse to worship Caesar.

      But, it was clever of GracePointe to get out ahead of this because “how blessed are the feet of him who brings good news” or some good old fashioned adult curriculum to share with Cleetus and his backwoods cousins.

  9. First of all, I am NOT a Republican and I AM a never-Trumper. So don’t accuse me of disagreeing with this because I voted for that guy.
    My first red flag was the approbation of Doug Pagitt, a self-confessed progressive Christian who was a leading light of the Emergent church movement when that was a thing.
    I’m thankful to the brethren who did further research on GracePointe church and have shown us that it’s not a congregation we should be following or exemplifying.
    I would like to see Julie Roys respond to these comments. Since I am on her mailing list, I keep getting requests for contributions, but if this is the content I would be paying for I cannot in good conscience give.

  10. There is a fascinating irony here.

    A statement is made that Christian Nationalism is evil and must be resisted. The person who made that statement is then “revealed” to be a neo marxist, satanic, anti Christ pro LGBT liberal Democrat with horns, tail and a Pro Biden bumper sticker.

    Suddenly, the woodwork shakes and all those faithful allegiance pledging god fearing Iraq bombing Patriots surface to condemn Christian Nationalism.

    It produces a binary relief mechanism. Because Gracepoint is bad then anything they support must be bad.

    We really need to look beyond the simplistic black and whites of American Evangelicalism and explore these issues at the level of Conceptual, Biblical and Historical meaning.

  11. Calling what happened in DC an insurrection is a joke. The only person shot and killed was an unarmed women and no one including her family is allowed to know the name of the officer who shot her. Imagine if a cop shot and killed and unarmed a rioter in Seattle. The cops name and photo would be front page news.Many Christians didn’t like Trumps style but they certainly couldn’t complain about his policies. Now we have a President who they won’t complain about even though its clear that he is knee deep in the corruption associated with his son.

    1. I doubt Mike Pence would share your assessment of 1/6. Regardless, the whole event was based on a fabricated narrative whose own author, Sydney Powell, has declared that “no reasonable person would believe.” The issue isn’t about “style”. Do you think what happened to Liz Cheney was because of her policy differences? Too many evangelical Republicans are functioning in cult mode, and unable to think critically about what’s going on in-house.

  12. Donald Classen

    This is a means to weaponize religion/Christianity against your political opponents. An attempt to shame those you disagree with. Throw in the word “nationalism” and they are automatically awful people. Don’t mention the issues, that might lead to a rational conversation. This has been the MO of the left for a long time, just now they are using religion to attack.

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