Beware of Christian nationalism: God and Texas should not mix

By Hank Holland | Reporter

The claim that America — and, by extension, Texas — is a Christian nation is becoming more prevalent among politicians. It is almost exclusively made by Republican and right-leaning politicians. Welcome to Christian nationalism: the ideology of removing the wall between church and state. This is not only a violation of the most basic of all individual rights but also a distortion of Christianity itself.

At its best, Christian nationalism is presented as American culture “derived from a mixture of Enlightenment and church practices,” and at its worst, it is presented as the idea that “the Founding Fathers intended this to be a Christian nation.”

The second argument, like all good myths, is partially true. George Washington, John Jay and John Adams were all Christians. They married in church, prayed and often referenced God in their public statements. Unfortunately, the private lives of the founders are only circumstantial. If that weren’t the case, the average age of a politician would be around 44.

The only real piece of evidence in this argument should be the Constitution, which makes it pretty clear that the federal body cannot, nor should, enforce any one religion. The words of presidents cannot be taken into account, although they might have social weight behind them.

The first argument regarding Enlightenment and church practices is a little trickier. By no means am I trying to brush the beliefs this country was founded on under the rug. They’re all around us. “In God We Trust” marks our currency. We pledge our allegiance under God. God and the idea of having this country under His will are things with which America paints itself.

What I believe is that this works contrary to loving thy neighbor and accepting the poor and huddled masses — something I feel is more important for Christianity than invoking His name to justify a nation’s mere existence. Naming God in the founding documents was a rally to a vast majority of colonial citizens to call for a place in which everyone could individually practice what they please. Christian nationalism plays on the opposite end of this, often vaguely hinting that non-Christians should be expelled or ousted. My point is that we can acknowledge the heritage and values that created our country without alienating those from different backgrounds.

The issue of Christian nationalism grows every day in Texas. Republican politicians all over the state will keep a secular appearance, but they will certainly take the money of the ill-intended far right. For instance, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was quick to deny future contact with white supremacist Nick Fuentes, but he made no attempt to return his donation of $3 million via the Defend Texas Liberty PAC.

Empower Texans was one of, if not the biggest of, these PACs. It was run by West Texas billionaire Tim Dunn — one of the biggest private donors in the state — and fellow elites Farris and Dan Wilkes. Their mission is to sway Texas into a hard party-line state for the conservative factions. And while they might deny it — which they haven’t — their motivation is undeniably that of a Christian jihad, a religious answer to the perceived perversion of American culture. Not even other Republicans are safe from this movement, as campaign funds are only provided to those few who measure up to the standards of increasingly reactionary ideals.

When Empower Texans became too outwardly aggressive, Dunn and the Wilkes left and formed a new PAC: Defend Texas Liberty, the same PAC that allowed Fuentes to donate to Patrick. Should Dunn and the Wilkes come under fire again, it is my opinion that they will simply reform under another, more “Texas-friendly” name.

Outside of billionaire funding, a growing number of Republican voters are taking the side of church consolidation. In a poll to measure the views of Christian nationalists, a study of 6,000 Americans consisted of 29% adherents and sympathizers. It seems in a post-Donald Trump political landscape, Republican elections are transforming into a contest of whoever can lure the most evangelicals to the polls.

I don’t think engaging in endless arguments with relatives and internet battles means anything important. Instead, ask yourself, what are we called to do in our faith? To me, the mission to help and accept others trumps any point of pride in something as temporary as a country. While it may be our obligation to convert, it must come from a place of compassion, not exclusion. Against the growing landscape of “returning” to our Christian roots, we must accept that America is a land of differences, and we must remember Jesus’ greatest command: Love thy neighbor as thyself.