by John Ellis
I have publicly asserted that religious persecution for Christians living in this country is coming, an assertion that many white evangelicals whole-heartedly amen. Except, contra most white evangelicals, I believe that the persecution of followers of Jesus is likely going to arrive from the right (Republicans) first and not the left. For many, this may seem counter intuitive. Aren’t Republicans the party of God and country? Republicans support prayer in public schools, the prominence of Christian texts and icons on public buildings and spaces, and Christianity as the foundational worldview needed to promote human flourishing, after all. Don’t Republicans want to return America to its Christian roots? Yes, all that’s true, which is the problem: I believe that Christian nationalism is going to be the driver of the coming persecution of God’s people living in this country because it conflates God’s Kingdom with an earthly kingdom that is not our (Christians’) home.
Christian nationalism is an ungodly syncretism of the sacred and the secular. To expound on that probably requires acknowledging that syncretism is likely the wrong term. Christian nationalism worships a secular ideology and justifies it by dressing it up with supposed Christian values, objectives, and imagery. I’ve written other warnings about Christian nationalism and white evangelicalism, and I should probably write an article providing more details about what Christian nationalism is and isn’t. A cottage industry is growing in the publishing world that churns out books about Christian nationalism, many of them I’ve read and recommend. I have plans of continuing to add my voice via this blog to that conversation with an article or two defining Christian nationalism, including adding historical context and contemporary analysis. Today, though, I’m going to leapfrog that, assuming some agreement about Christian nationalism, and touch briefly on a video published by Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. In other words, my warning has a specific audience: Christians like me who see Christian nationalism as the idolatry that it is.
You may have seen the video since it’s going viral on Twitter. If you haven’t, Greene states that Christian nationalism is the solution to this nation’s woes. In a list of those woes, she claims, “This [Christian nationalism] will be the movement that stops the school shootings. This will be the movement that stops the crime in our streets.” She ends the video fueling the immense (and growing) partisan divide by denying that Christian nationalists are domestic terrorists. She adds, “We can even say the Democrats are the domestic terrorists.”
There is quite a bit in her video that needs unpacking, but sociologist Samuel Perry insightfully tweeted, “Cuz if libs hate #ChristianNationalism, it’s apparently more politically advantageous for far-right politicians to double down on it rather than deny it exists.” (Side note: Perry has co-written an excellent book on the subject titled Taking Back American for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States.) Perry’s insight contains the crux of my prediction.
You’re going to be hard pressed to get me to say that many (and a growing number) on the left view me as anything but a threat. I’ve never denied that persecution of Christians can’t and isn’t going to come from the other side. My prediction is that for people like me, the right (Republicans) is the biggest threat to our physical (and existential) safety. The full flowering of Christian nationalism is the precursor to this persecution. It’s continued embrace and promotion by Republicans in Congress (and likely the White House after the next presidential election), at the state level, and in our churches is evidence that the movement is being emboldened and becoming more active. The time is swiftly approaching when failing to bow before the cultural idols of the Republican party is going to bear a cost for those of us who claim the name of Christ. Unfortunately, as Christian nationalism continues its seemingly unabated growth in our churches, Christian schools, parachurch organizations, and our communities at large, the syncretism is going to act as a threshing floor. We’ll either be revealed to be one of them or against them. It won’t be enough to claim the name of Christ. We’ll also be required to bow before the name of the United States of America in very specific ways. And golden idols are often accompanied by fiery furnaces.
As the mid-term elections heat up, and especially as we begin to enter the 2024 presidential election season, Christian nationalism is going to become (if it isn’t already) a mark of the beast among a certain segment of our country. If we are unwilling to carry that mark (adopt and promote that ideology), those who bow before the antichrists leading the Christian nationalist movement and who accept its syncretism will bring the wrath of Christian nationalists down on us. Over the coming years, the cultural, political, and even physical cost of faithfully following Jesus is going to grow. That cost, though, and catching some by surprise, is likely going to be demanded to be paid by many of those whom we once worshipped beside in our evangelical churches.
Already, prayerfully attempting to see Kingdom ethics applied to racial justice earns the crosshairs of a hostile right (Republicans). As we’re seeing in the Southern Baptist Convention, defending and protecting those who have been sexually assaulted is declared gospel compromise by a loud and angry contingent of SBC pastors, leaders, and members of SBC churches. Even daring to question the Second Amendment is now grounds to be declared anathema by many within the Christian nationalist movement.
Persecution is at the door, and it looks like our friends and family members. King Jesus told us to expect it.
Please come quickly, King Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria
 Please don’t read into that (or this). God is in control. Whom shall I fear?