Christian nationalism is a threat to freedom and the American way of life, a group of pastors told a small gathering in a parking lot behind Batavia’s First Baptist Church this morning, while across town about 3,000 people gathered at Cornerstone Church for ReAwaken America. Round.
Among the speakers was the Reverend Nathan Empsall, Episcopal minister and director of Faithful America, an online organization where Empsall puts his faith into action for social justice and love.
“Christian nationalism is defined by scholars and scholars as a cultural framework and political ideology, a political worldview, not a religion,” Empsall said. “Christian nationalism is the fusion of American national identity with religious identity, making it one and the same, saying you’re not a real real American unless you’re a Christian conservative. The hallmark phrase of Christian nationalism is that America is a Christian nation. That is not true, of course. We are a pluralistic nation.
Empsall said Christian nationalism is a threat to freedom in America.
“The goal of Christian nationalism is not to follow Jesus,” Empsall said. “The goal of Christian nationalism is to seize power, political power, at all costs, no matter who you have to hurt along the way. No matter how many rights you have to take away from other groups, no matter how number of elections you can must try to overthrow despite the will of the voters.This is typical of authoritarian movements in this respect.
He linked many speakers at the Tour event to the Jan. 6 insurrection, when Donald Trump supporters stormed the capital in an attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election.
He suggested that while the ReAwaken America Tour may not be explicitly violent, it does build the framework for future political violence.
“When we talk about the threat of violence, we’re not saying ReAwaken America is a bar and in the end there will be a drunken fight in the parking lot,” he said. “You may not see violence today. What worries us is that another January 6 will happen, but maybe not in the nation’s capital, maybe in all cities or capitals of local states when the elections will not go the Christian nationalist way next time.
“When you raise the stakes to the max and demonize your opponents in the name of God, you don’t have to tell people to commit acts of violence,” he added. “They connect the dots.”
That said, he said, he is ready to embrace Mike Flynn and Roger Stone, two Trump allies and former advisers speaking at the Tour event, as brothers in Christ.
“Now listen, if Mike Flynn and Roger Stone and the pastors who are with them today tell me they’re Christians, I believe them,” Empsall said. “I don’t know their relationship with God. I don’t know their heart. I don’t doubt them. But I know their actions and their words are not Christian actions. They are not Christian words.
“So this morning,” he added, “as we hear all the lies from Qanon 2.0 about public health and about democracy – we ask them to know the truth because the truth will set you free. We say to Clay Clark and Mike Flynn “Brothers, do not bear false witness. Come home like the prodigal son.” We follow the Prince of Peace. We love our neighbors. We don’t call them Team Satan because they don’t share our politics or because they share a different approach to our faith or faith itself.
Reverend Roula Alkhouri, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Batavia, moderated the event.
“Our hearts are broken,” she said. “Because of the damage that this tour, this ReAwaken America tour, has already done in our country, using the cover of religion to sow division and hatred. I have personally experienced this kind of hatred since I started talking and saying we should ‘I don’t have that here, that kind of language and that kind of hate-inciting event. I got a lot of hate for that.