Jesus and J6: How America's faith leaders can defeat white Christian nationalism

On Wednesday, writing for Religion News Service, Eboo Patel and Robert P. Jones argued that the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol is best understood as Christian nationalists resorting to violence to try to reassert control over the country — and that past episodes of such violence show how faith leaders themselves can join forces to stop it.

"'This is nothing less than an epic struggle for the future of our country. Between dark and light,' said Trump ally Roger Stone, firing up a crowd of pro-Trump protesters the day before the insurrection, according to the committee. 'Between the godly and the godless, between good and evil, and we will win this fight or America will step off into years of darkness,'" wrote Patel and Jones. "Among the insurrectionists, there were crosses, Bible verses, 'Jesus Saves' signs and 'Jesus 2020' flags that mimicked the design of the Trump flags, intermingled with antisemitic symbols and slogans."

The scene is similar to former riots of the Ku Klux Klan, noted the authors, right down to how the KKK invoked God for their cause — and indeed, some are attempting to bring Trump and his associates to justice with civil rights lawsuits under the 1871 KKK Act. Therefore, they wrote, we should look to how religious leaders fought the Klan 100 years ago.

READ: Witness Garrett Ziegler lashes out at J6 committee in white nationalist grievance rant

"This earlier form of white Christian nationalism was defeated, in part, by a movement of Catholic, Jewish and Protestant leaders who believed in a more open, inclusive America. As Kevin Schultz details in his book 'Tri-Faith America,' the National Conference of Christians and Jews emerged in the late 1920s as a direct response to the KKK and quickly organized a host of interfaith activities across the nation," wrote Patel and Jones. "Perhaps most importantly, they offered early 20th century Protestants — in the conjured phrase 'Judeo-Christian' — a broader way of understanding the nation and their place in it."

"Judeo-Christian" as a phrase has been widely criticized, particularly in how it is used in modern parlance by right-wing figures, because Judaism and Christianity were not historically or theologically recognized as joined at the hip beyond both worshiping the God of Abraham. Nonetheless, it helped include Jewish people in the public perception of America — and similar unity calls today could do the same for Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and other religious groups that have grown in number and added to the right-wing nationalist fear of America changing.

"Despite its limitations, 'Judeo-Christian' did good work for more than half a century, moving us beyond a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant America. It was most certainly better to be a Catholic or a Jew in 1990’s America than in 1930’s America. Indeed, one measure of America’s progress is that, over the last century, the term’s usage has shifted from being an invitation by the left to embrace a more pluralistic future to a cry from the right to preserve a monocultural past," concluded Patel and Jones. "It’s time to say goodbye to 'Judeo-Christian' America. But we can learn from its example — especially the way it creatively expanded our civic and moral imagination — as we write the next chapter in the great history of American religious diversity."

You can read more here.

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