Confronting Christian Nationalism

By Allison J. Tanner

Christian nationalism, on display so vividly this past week, is deeply woven into the fabric of our country. From our nation’s inception, Christianity has been used to justify the genocide of the indigenous peoples of this land and the forced migration and enslavement of Africans. Today, it is through appeals to white Christian nationalism,  specifically for “our” safety and for “our” prosperity, that black and brown bodies are attacked, caged and killed at our nation’s borders, in the heart of our cities and throughout the land. This ongoing abuse of Christian theology to bolster racism, colonization and white supremacy led me to go to our nation’s capital to participate in direct action against Christians United for Israel (CUFI).

On Monday, July 8, I joined with more than 100 Christians, Jews, Muslims and other people of conscience to Rise Against Racism: Counter CUFI. We stood together to challenge the growth of white supremacy in the United States and abroad, specifically under the guise of Christianity, and the ways Christian theology has been co-opted to support racist and inhumane practices, particularly against Palestinians, in the very places Jesus worked for liberation.

CUFI is an organization boasting six million members that promotes Christian Zionism, a political ideology that argues that God wants – actually needs – modern-day Israel to expand in order to usher in the “end times.” It buttresses its political goals through distorting Christian theology, proof-texting and otherwise manipulating Scripture, and using its religious and political power to pressure President Trump to endorse racist policies, military occupation and increasing oppression of the Palestinian people.

We gathered in D.C. to bring attention to the ways in which Christianity has been co-opted for political purposes and the ways in which our government willingly participates in Israel’s injustices perpetrated against Palestinians. We seek to disrupt and dismantle these practices, working alongside Palestinians in their struggles for freedom and self-determination. As a lifelong Christian and pastor of two decades, I felt the need to reclaim Christianity’s message of love and liberation for all, not just some, and to proclaim that God’s reign is one of justice and peace. Enacting a familiar biblical reversal, it is as part of an interfaith resistance group challenging distorted Christian theology that I am able to affirm these core Christian values.

The Palestinian people have long been working for freedom, justice and equality for their people: freedom from  occupation and colonization, justice for the diaspora who continue to live in exile, and equality for those who live in Israel. As one who worships the God who brought freedom to those enslaved by Egypt, the God who demands justice through the voice of the prophets, and the God of equality as embraced by the followers of Jesus, I feel compelled to join their struggle.

As many in our own country continue to demand freedom for all its residents, justice for all we’ve wronged, and equality for all who live in our land, we have much work to do to rise against the racism, Christian nationalism and white supremacy that prevents us from enacting our vision of freedom and justice for all.

Allison Tanner is a representative of the Justice in Palestine and Israel Community of the Alliance of Baptists, and
a pastor of the Alliance-affiliated Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, Calif. 

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