Paul Miller’s critique of political idolatry is persuasive. His defense of patriotic civil religion, less so.
“If ‘Christian nationalism’ is something to be scared of, they’re lying to you,” Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) told her supporters in June. “And they’re lying to you on purpose because that is exactly the temperature change that is happening in America today, and they can’t control it.”
Christian nationalism, once triumphant, will “stop the school shootings,” Greene claimed. It will lower crime rates, stop “the sexual immorality,” and guard children’s innocence and train them to want a traditional lifestyle. And it’s this wholesome movement of “Christians, and … people who love their country and want to take care of it” that “liars” in the media are deriding.
Greene is right on two counts: Christian nationalism is increasingly visible in American politics, and the movement has been much discussed in the press these past two years, particularly since journalists began to examine the Christian symbols and language used in the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The rest of Greene’s account leaves more to be desired, but its emphasis on cultural dominance, political power, and protection of one’s own tribe—all topped with a flimsy veneer of Christianity—will be familiar to any reader of Paul D. Miller’s The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism.
Miller is well suited to explain why Christian nationalism, though not “something to be scared of,” is certainly something Christians should reject. He’s a veteran of the US Army, the CIA, and the George W. Bush administration—no stranger to patriotic ...
As the national pro-life movement celebrated, activists opposing abortion in blue states watched years of setbacks happen in a few days. Still, they are finding different ways of winning.
As pro-life groups nationally celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and as pro-lifers in red states debated how far to go with abortion restrictions, pro-lifers in blue states are watching setbacks they think will take years to undo.
Pro-life lobbyists in states such as California and New York are dealing with a deluge of legislation expanding abortion access—reducing licensing requirements for abortion providers, adding public funding for abortions, shielding abortion clinics from liability for out-of-state patients, and creating state commissions to investigate crisis pregnancy centers.
Blue states are also considering constitutional amendments on abortion rights, which pro-lifers worry would hurt their cause for decades. At this moment, no US state has named abortion protections in its state constitution. The states debating such amendments already have abortion codified in their laws, but adding it to the constitution would keep abortion protected even if political power in the state changed and the legislature reversed its abortion laws.
“In New York and California and other states, it’s like working under Newton’s third law of motion,” said evangelical Jason McGuire, who leads New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. McGuire has worked for 16 years in the state legislature on stemming abortion laws, often the lone lobbyist on the issue alongside the New York Catholic Conference. “Every time something good happens at the national level, we know there’s going to be some pushback at the state level.”
The legislature in Vermont, where abortion is legal up until birth for any reason, passed a constitutional amendment earlier this year stating that “an individual’s ...
Evangelicals object to “extremely troubling” proposal that would exclude many religious groups.
Religious groups in Canada are asking the minister of National Defence to reject an advisory panel’s recommendation for redefining military chaplaincy.
The panel, made up of four veterans, said the military should stop hiring chaplains who believe that polytheists should be converted to Christianity or who think church leadership should be restricted to men.
“The Defence Team … cannot justify hiring representatives of organizations who marginalize certain people or categorically refuse them a position of leadership,” the report said. “These faiths’ dogmas and practices conflict with the commitment of the Defence Team to value equality and inclusivity at every level of the workplace.”
Cardus, a Christian think tank, wrote a letter to the National Defence minister Anita Anand calling these recommendations “extremely troubling” and “explicitly prejudiced.”
It is not the government’s business to tell its soldiers what to believe or not to believe, Brian Dijkema, vice president of external affairs at Cardus, said to CT. “That’s just wrong.”
According to Dijkema, the report demonstrates “a very ignorant understanding of what religions actually do when they talk about their faith” and attempts to push out anyone “who believes that their faith is true and that others should be persuaded of it,” he said.
The advisory panel was not asked to look specifically at the chaplaincy when it was formed in December 2020. It was tasked with identifying the policies, practices, and procedures that enable systemic racism and discrimination. The authors noted, though, how many LGBT people, indigenous people, and women could speak of traumatic ...
Though two-thirds are OK with flying the flag year-round, pastors have become more divided over Independence Day celebrations since 2016.
Protestant pastors say they will worship God and honor America at church services this weekend, and they’re not too worried churchgoers will confuse the two.
Most pastors (56%) say it’s important to incorporate patriotic elements into worship services the week of July 4th to celebrate America, including 27 percent who strongly agree, according to a Lifeway Research study of 1,000 US Protestant pastors.
Two in five pastors (42%) disagree, and 2 percent aren’t sure.
These findings represent a small decrease from a 2016 Lifeway Research study, when 61 percent of pastors felt such worship service elements were important.
“While not a date on the Christian calendar, most Protestant churches adjust their worship services to acknowledge the birth of the United States each July,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “For most churches, it isn’t just tradition. The majority of pastors agree it’s important to incorporate it into the worship experience.”
Pastors with no college degree (70%) or a bachelor’s degree (67%) are more likely to see elements celebrating America as important than those with a master’s (46%) or doctoral degree (50%).
Evangelical pastors (64%) are more likely than their mainline counterparts (48%) to value timely patriotic elements in the worship service.
Denominationally, Pentecostal pastors (77%) and those at non-denominational churches (70%) are more likely than Methodist (52%), Lutheran (48%), Presbyterian/Reformed (44%), and Restorationist movement pastors (29%) to see value in special Independence Day additions.
Younger pastors, those 18 to 44, are the most likely to say the worship service doesn’t ...
Richard Mouw reflects on the moral and spiritual work of loving your country.
What is the most appropriate way for a Christian to relate to his or her country?
Few questions have caused more heartburn among American evangelicals in recent years, and different voices beckon us to the extremes. On one side, some urge us to reject any forms of patriotism, lest we be accused of adopting some form of “Christian nationalism.” Others urge us to embrace the notion of “God and country” with few, if any, reservations.
Are these the only options for faithful Christians? Richard J. Mouw doesn’t think so. In his new book, How to Be a Patriotic Christian: Love of Country as Love of Neighbor, Mouw wrestles with the responsibilities and challenges that come with living as believers in particular nations.
Christians first and patriots second
Mouw begins by setting expectations. His goal is not to create a how-to guide, but to establish a “safe place for focusing on basic Christian thoughts … about what it means to be citizens in the nation where the Lord has placed us.” He then defines what he means by “patriotic Christian.” One’s Christianity always takes precedence over one’s patriotism; we are Christians first and patriots second. And for Mouw, patriotism is less about being a political cheerleader and more about “belonging to a community of citizens.” Patriotic Christians, then, are members of an eternal kingdom who care for and invest in their earthly homes.
In chapter 2, Mouw looks at what binds us together as a national community. America’s patriotic songs reflect consistent themes: proud memories of our nation’s past, devotion to certain ideals, and even an affection for the beauty of the land. Such ideals unify Americans. ...
On the day I am drafting this essay, I have dinner plans with my friend, a Canadian physician. No doubt our conversation tonight will quickly turn to the recent United States Supreme Court decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. No doubt we will each vigorously defend our opposing opinions about abortion.
My friend, who claims no religious faith, strongly defends a woman’s right to choose abortion. She will talk to me—as she has throughout the 11 years I’ve lived in Canada—about married women who confirm unwanted pregnancies in the ER.
Sometimes, my friend tells me, these patients worry about the economic hardship another child will impose upon the family. Sometimes, having already endured one difficult, even life-threatening pregnancy, they can’t conceive of risking a second (or third or fourth). Sometimes these mothers are already caring for aging parents or a child with special needs and simply can’t imagine assuming responsibility for one more life.
“Many of these women don’t want to have abortions, but they can’t conceive of the alternative,” she will tell me, pleading for me to understand their predicaments. I will listen sympathetically to the stories my friend tells and acknowledge the real fears of her patients.
Whatever a woman’s ethical views on abortion, she may end her pregnancy because she cannot script a story in which both she and the baby flourish. As Lifeway Research reports, nearly 16 percent of all abortions are sought by evangelical Christians, many of whom might see it as a necessary evil and feel like they have no choice.
Whatever the legal status of abortion, our continuous battle is to conceive of a world where abortion isn’t ...
Early pro-life advocates said “no” to abortion and “yes” to social safety nets for mothers. But most of today’s movement has lost that approach.
Crisis pregnancies have profound human costs. There are life-changing consequences for women who find themselves pregnant with a child they did not anticipate and may not feel equipped to care for.
Roe v. Wade suggested one way to manage those costs. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization suggested another way. In the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, my Twitter feed has been filled with partisans on both sides of the abortion debate expressing either outrage or jubilation at this transfer of costs.
Opponents of abortion are delighted that, at least in many conservative states, the unborn child will no longer have to bear the cost of a crisis pregnancy. Defenders of a woman’s right to choose are outraged that women in these same states will now have to bear this cost to an even greater degree. Roe v. Wade was a landmark women’s rights decision, they believe, and now that it has been rescinded, they are outraged.
But perhaps neither Roe nor Dobbs represents a fully Christian way to distribute the human costs associated with crisis pregnancies. And therein lies a dilemma for Christians who want to preserve human life and are unhappy with the results of Roe as well as the likely results of Dobbs.
The history of the pro-life movement sheds light on these perennial challenges. It also offers a rough guide for the future.
Roe v. Wade’s transfer of costs to the unborn
Roe v. Wade—which was widely supported by liberal Protestants, Jews, and secular Americans —was based on the premise that it was unjust and unconstitutional for the state to impose the costs of an unwanted pregnancy on the woman by forcing her to remain pregnant against her will.
But, of course, there was still a cost associated with ...
Millions of expectant parents have now seen ultrasound video of their unborn children. The technology is new, but the desire to see what’s invisible is not. We can trace six steps in prenatal visualization technology during the past 170 years—and then wonder what the seventh will be.
The first three steps involved word pictures. Stephen Tracy’s The Mother and Her Offspring (1853) was one of the first books I’ve seen that took readers week by week and month by month through the early development of unborn children:
At forty-five days … the head is very large; the eyes, mouth, and nose are to be distinguished; the hands and arms are in the middle of its length—fingers distinct. … At two months, all the parts of the child are present. … The fingers and toes are distinct. … At three months, … the heart pulsates strongly, and the principal vessels carry red blood.
The second step emphasized woman-to-woman lectures about the unborn. In the 1850s Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female to receive a medical degree in the US, pleaded with mothers to “look at the first faint gleam of life, the life of the embryo. … The cell rapidly enlarges. … Each organ is distinctly formed. … It would be impious folly to attempt to interfere directly with this act of creation.”
In the 1860s Anna Densmore French explained fetal development to teachers who planned to pass on this knowledge to their teenage students. French said, “Women would rarely dare to destroy the product ...
Overturning Roe v. Wade draws attention to what they’ve known all along: There’s much more to upholding life than banning abortion.
For many white evangelicals who led the pro-life movement, the end of Roe v. Wade marks a long-awaited and celebrated outcome. But for Black Christians whose political views on life extend beyond a single-issue fight, the sentiment is more mixed.
As the founder of Pro-Black Pro-Life, Cherilyn Holloway sees how Black Christians may agree with valuing life from a theological standpoint and are open to a “whole-life” perspective yet they reject politically conservative policy stances. For them, the racial disparities and injustice impacting abortion need to be prioritized too.
“To live abundantly, we have to be able to acknowledge the systems that have been put in place to keep us from doing that,” said Holloway.
While the abortion bans that go into place after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling may result in more babies born, Black Christians continue to call attention to so many other overlapping factors that threaten Black lives in pregnancy.
“It’s not quite as simple as some folks make it out to be. Having the baby isn’t the only issue, and abortion isn’t the only issue,” said Justin E. Giboney, president of The And Campaign. “There are a lot of other factors that go into that when it comes to policies like paid family leave, health care issues—which this country still has not dealt with adequately. Those also play into the conversation.”
Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, and their babies are half as likely as white babies to survive until their first birthdays. Racial disparities persist across nearly every measure—from income for covering childcare to quality ...
Supreme Court declines to reconsider definition of defamation and make it easier to prove malice.
The late D. James Kennedy’s television and radio ministry cannot sue for defamation over being called an anti-LGBT hate group.
Five years after Coral Ridge Ministries Media first protested the “hate group” designation, the US Supreme Court has declined to reconsider the legal definition of “defamation.” The ministry’s suit against the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) cannot go forward.
The Supreme Court’s summary disposition was handed down Monday without explanation. The only dissent came from Justice Clarence Thomas. He argued the court should overturn the guiding 1964 precedent, New York Times Company v. Sullivan, which says media companies are only liable for libel against public figures when they publish false information with reckless disregard for the truth and “actual malice.”
“Coral Ridge now asks us to reconsider the ‘actual malice’ standard,” Thomas wrote. “As I have said previously, ‘we should.’”
Donald Trump also pushed for a reevaluation of New York Times v. Sullivan when he was president, calling the legal standards for libel “a sham” and “a disgrace” to America.
“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws, so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts,” Trump said in 2018.
According to Coral Ridge Ministries’ lawyer David C. Gibbs III, the “actual malice” standard is “a more-often-than-not insurmountable bar for a public figure to plead and prove a defamation claim.” He argued it should only apply to elected officials, not “private ...