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Christian Nationalism: Rejecting the Left's Misleading Narrative

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WASHINGTON – Since Donald Trump's entry into politics began with a ride down the Trump Tower escalator almost nine years ago, the presidential candidate spoke directly to evangelical Christians and many responded in kind.  

In 2024, not much has changed. "We have to bring back our religion, we have to bring back Christianity in this country," Trump recently told those gathered at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville. 

Unfortunately, some who made their way inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6th echoed some of that same spirit with a prayer inside the Senate Chamber. In the aftermath of those events, many news organizations took a closer look, resulting in stories with headlines like, "The Growing Danger of Christian Nationalism," that imply it's a movement rooted in political power and even violence.  

Georgetown Professor Paul Miller, who wrote the book, What's Wrong with Christian Nationalism, has some of those same concerns. "There's a kind of nationalism that uses Christian language and symbols and rhetoric to advance its agenda and it's bad," Miller tells CBN News. "I think Christian Nationalism is real."   
However, what exactly is being included under the umbrella term, "Christian Nationalism" and how widespread is it? 

A new Public Religion Research Institute poll shows roughly three in ten Americans qualify as Christian Nationalist adherents or sympathizers.  In that specific survey, the criteria cites someone as a Christian Nationalist if they believe the following: that the government should declare America a Christian Nation; laws should be based on Christian values; that we will not have a country anymore if America moves away from our Christian foundations; being Christian is an important part of being truly American and that God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society. 

That sort of grouping could potentially include millions of Bible-believing, church-going Christians who don't view any or all of those concepts as radical at all. And some don't think the left should get to decide or define what Christians in the U.S. are allowed to believe.

"Their definition of Christian Nationalism is something that obviously we reject," says Russ Vought, the president of the Center for Renewing America, an organization devoted to restoring and promoting Judeo-Christian principles. "I mean, they're putting this in a bucket that is un-American. We're not talking about theocracy." 

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A recent article in Politico painted Vought and the group as an organization developing plans to infuse Christian Nationalist ideas in a new Trump administration. Vought sees that as a scare tactic. 

"We're a think tank, we have a policy bent towards us," Vought tells CBN News. "We have goals that are one-year, five-year, 25-, 50-year aims and I would put Christian Nationalism and really the desire for Christian Nationalism in that bucket." 

Vought says it's about preserving a Judeo-Christian heritage through sound public policy decisions. "I do believe that America has been, should be and I hope it to be someday a Christian nation that affords religious liberty to everyone." 

Miller and others see it differently. They feel Christian Nationalists are more about pursuing special rights for Christians and not religious liberty for all. "A good litmus test here is do you support the same freedoms and rights for non-Christians?" he said.
In one statistical litmus test, Pew Research shows that less than one percent of White Evangelical Protestants believe Christians should get special rights. And of those who believe that the U.S. should be a Christian Nation, only 24% think the federal government should advocate Christian religious values. About twice as many, 52%, believe the government should advocate for moral values that are shared by people of many faiths.  

Meanwhile, others in the media, like Politico Reporter Heidi Przybyla have broadly defined Christian Nationalists in a manner that's considered a basic Christian viewpoint. "They believe that our rights as Americans, as all human beings don't come from any earthly authority. They don't come from Congress. They don't come from the Supreme Court. They come from God," she recently said on MSNBC. 

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While Przybyla's remarks received criticism from conservative evangelicals, Professor Miller believes it comes down to a question of where does American identity come from: universal values or Christian ones? "If you think that we should privilege the Judeo-Christian template in the public square, that's Christian nationalism... are you out to advocate for Christian principles or Christian power?"    
Russ Vought says what this is truly about is politics and creating a narrative that anything labeled as Christian Nationalism is dangerous with the goal of keeping conservative Bible-believing Christians out of the public square and public policy. 

"The continental divide between right and left is about God," Vought tells CBN News. "Do you believe that God is the measure of all things or do you believe that man is the measure of all things? If you kind of understand that fundamental, it's going to help interpret where you see people fall not only on this debate but on a host of public policy debates."   
READ  The Founders Meant to Keep Government Out of the Church, Not God Out of the Government


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