January 6 a year later: Staying Alert to Christian Nationalism

By Amanda Tyler

Image: C-SPAN

A year after the horrific and deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol building and American democracy itself, our nation is taking stock. Congress and law enforcement continue their investigations. Those responsible for the attack have only begun to be identified and held accountable. We as a country are asking ourselves important questions: What have we learned? Where do we go from here? And how can we prevent history from repeating itself?

Christians are also engaging in necessary self-reflection on this first anniversary of the insurrection as we continue to grapple with the fact that many of the insurrectionists claimed to be doing God’s will as they attempted to overturn the presidential election results and interfere with the certification of electoral votes.

The motivations and contributing factors that converged in the insurrection are many and multifaceted. But, as I wrote last year for Good Faith Media, Christian nationalism was immediately recognizable as a factor in the attack as it played out live. Attackers used the ideology that conflates political allegiances with allegiance to God both to bolster and attempt to justify their indefensible actions. In the coming weeks, BJC will release a joint report with the Freedom From Religion Foundation on Christian nationalism and the January 6, 2021, insurrection. It will be the most complete accounting to date of how Christian nationalism permeated and intensified the attack, with analysis and commentary from leading experts.

January 6 served as a wake-up call for many about the dangers of Christian nationalism.

Since 2019, BJC has led the Christians Against Christian Nationalism initiative, raising awareness of the dangers the ideology poses both to our faith and our country. As part of this ongoing work, we produced new resources to help individuals and communities understand and address Christian nationalism. We hosted two webinars in 2021 — Democracy and Faith Under Siege: Responding to Christian Nationalism (January 2021) and White Christian Nationalism: How Racism Undergirds Christian Nationalism (July 2021). We produced a curriculum to accompany the recordings so that small groups can discuss Christian nationalism and commit to take action to dismantle the ideology in themselves and their communities. We also have a statement Christians can sign and share to raise awareness in their networks about Christian nationalism.

In the organizational statement BJC released soon after the insurrection, we noted and recommitted to the core values that have sustained us: telling the truth, refraining from the demonization of those with whom we have honest disagreements, proceeding in a posture of humility, love and mercy, and protecting our neighbors’ faith freedom as we would our own. Those values endure as our touchpoints to persevere in this long work of dismantling Christian nationalism.

Solemn anniversaries like this one remind us of the urgency and importance of our shared mission. The work of standing up for religious freedom for all and speaking against Christian nationalism will continue today, throughout this year and for many years to come.

Amanda Tyler is Executive Director of BJC (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty).