By Willow (willowashmaple.xyz)
November 8, 2022
Fun fact: I was what could now be described as a Christian nationalist in my younger years.
I thought (my romanticized version of) America was God's country and American culture was godly culture, and Satan was out to destroy it through Democrats and "politically correct" (PC) ideology. I was thoroughly indoctrinated by Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and Christian radio stations and regularly donated to Christian Coalition, American Centers for Law and Justice, and other similar entities. I believed that America's God-given destiny was to conquer the nations and make them submit to the Gospel.
I attended three worship services every Sunday at a typical megachurch because I equated "big" and "rich" with God's approval. Every megachurch had flags of many countries on its stage, pretending to be how international it was. But the endgame was to make them American (but not necessarily immigrating to the United States, but rather using them to "spread the Gospel" and to "transform their own cultures for Christ").
Back then I could not imagine how a Christian could vote Democrat and still be saved. Those mainline denominations were spiritually "dead," no longer teaching the Bible, and thus "unsaved" to us.
After a few years, however, I began sensing that so much of this "Christian (sub)culture" had little to do with the Bible. Most of it was a modern creation peddled by Christian media, publishers, businesses, and political groups. It was very white, suburban, middle-class, and capitalist. This "faith" upheld a romanticized picture of America, the Republican Party, and the prosperity gospel that appeals to the middle class but looks down on the poor and weak. But it was very attractive to me when I did not know this and did not exercise critical thinking. The lure of megachurch evangelicalism was that it makes you feel like you are part of a "winning team," part of "God's army." It was decidedly a muscular Christianity that goes to battles, whether be "spiritual warfare" of fervent prayers or in the political realm. Some were already teaching a form of theology later known as Dominionism, to influence the "seven mountains" by any means necessary. By contrast, I felt that "traditional" Christianity represented by historical denominations was "weak" -- my impressions of it were those of soft-spoken, elderly (or, female, or *gasp* gay!) pastors reading poetry and feel-good stories from the pulpit for 10 minutes, not transformational hard preaching rooted in scriptures.
The ultimate turning point for me was, ironically, after I decided to attend a bible college and took a Hebrew class. My curiosity took me to dig deeper into the Torah and traditional Jewish interpretations of it. One such writing, Mishnah was written around the time of Jesus (Second Temple period) and represents the cultural and theological contexts from which the New Testament emerged. I highly recommend everyone read this. It is eye-opening. So much of what I was taught as "biblical" truth were creations of white American culture and its interpretations of the Bible through their lenses. As I studied more in college, I learned church history, the history of religion in the United States, and sociology, further weakening my faith in American Evangelicalism -- all while attending a decidedly Evangelical college.
Christian nationalism may be a new buzzword for many, but it existed in various forms since the 1970s under names such as religious right and faith-based conservatism. To put it rather crudely, Christian nationalism is a golden calf, just like the Israelites created one as an ersatz substitute for the promised land to satisfy their grievances and their desires for instant gratification.
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