The First Amendment Encyclopedia

The writers of the U.S. Constitution made a deliberate decision to omit any mention of God within the document. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution then ensured the freedom to practice religion, while also forbidding Congress from endorsing any specific religion. Although the Constitution of the Confederate States of America did contain a mention of “the support and direction of Supreme Being,” attempts to modify the constitution and declare the United States as a Christian nation have not succeeded.

No facts have prevented public leaders from referencing God in their speeches and proclamations or adopting the words “In God We Trust” as the national motto.

Throughout U.S. History, activists from a variety of Christian denominations, often joined by counterparts from other religions, have worked to advance the rights of African Americans and other minorities, secure the right to vote for women, and abolish slavery. It is an attempt to integrate the principles of justice that Christianity shares with other religions into fundamental law. One difficulty is that Christian nationalism has a variety of meanings. There has been an increasing number of articles and books written on the subject, and an increasing number of individuals identifying themselves with Christian nationalism.

It is not important to exclude Christian nationalism from the public square; he also believes in the free exercise of religion, which values that a nation believes in. He recognizes that some versions of Christian nationalism can become perverted. D. John Wilsey, an associate professor of church history at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, has sought to identify the most prominent strains of Christian nationalism in U.S. History in his book “The Many Faces of Christian Nationalism.”

Professor points to six major strains of Christian nationalism

Wilsey categorizes six varieties of Christian nationalism that have had significant roles in the history of the United States.

The first Puritan calls for Millennialism posited that the people who settled America had a covenant with God. This strain rejected the traditional amillennialism, which believed that biblical references to the millennium were more figurative than literal. Instead, they believed in a progressive “post-millennialism” and foresaw America as the way for Christ’s hastening, even in the developments they were preparing for.

During the American Revolution, Wilsey claims that the colonists, who saw themselves as fellow countrymen and were confident in the support of the gods, fought against the perceived tyranny of the British pastors, likening their situation to the ancient Israelites in Egypt. This struggle was seen as a battle against the British and a fight for Christian Republicanism.

In the 19th century, journalist John L. O’Sullivan further developed the idea of “manifest destiny,” emphasizing the belief that the displacement of Native Americans and the acquisition of colonies after the Spanish-American War and the war against Mexico were justified. This plan was seen as fulfilling God’s plan by expanding across the West Coast and the prairies, highlighting another strain of Christian nationalism among U.S. Citizens.

Abraham Lincoln, in his speeches suffused with biblical language, observes that Christian nationalism, which was Unionism Lincolnian, was an exemplar to the world, manifesting God’s judgment on the sin of slavery as a whole nation and not as a vindication of God’s judgment over the South by the North in the Civil War. He interpreted the Civil War not as God’s judgment on the nation as a whole for the sin of slavery, but as God’s vindication of the North over the South in preserving the Union.

John Foster Dulles, who served as the Secretary of State under President Eisenhower, viewed America’s mission of “peace forging” in the aftermath of World War II and the Cold War as advocating for the participation of the United States in the League of Nations. He further added to this mix of idealism by portraying America as a nation spreading its freedom abroad.

According to Wilsey, in his 1977 book “The Myth of Christian America,” he believes that the founders of America, who were Christians, interpreted scripture with the intent of understanding the conceptions of nationalism and Christian identity in earlier times. They believed that America was uniquely blessed by God. Those who identified as Christians and contemporary Americans were seen as successors to the founders. Wilsey notes that this interpretation of American history emerged from cherry-picking historical facts and looking back to an imagined past.

Some note new militant phase of Christian nationalism

The First Amendment guarantees the separation of state and church, and some people believe that it poses a threat to religious liberty. This version also mentions Wilsey’s article, which identifies a more militant phase of Christian nationalism, with goals such as loosening restrictions on government funding for religious schools and making abortion illegal.

“The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism” is a book written by Stewart, who asserts that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose regarding abortion exemplifies a triumph for Christian nationalists and poses a threat to the liberties of Americans. This ideology, referred to as “Seven Mountains Dominionism,” advocates for the dominance of Christians and their beliefs in crucial sectors of American society, including the government. It has gained more widespread acceptance, as evident in the statements made by state and national politicians, as discussed in Stewart’s guest essay titled “Christian Nationalists Are Excited About What Comes Next,” which was published in The New York Times in July 2022.

Many supporters of Trump, who were seeking to overturn the presidential election, broke into the U.S. Capitol in January 2021, sporting Christian symbols as they threatened the lives of elected officials. Today, Paul D. Miller, a fellow researcher at the Religious Liberty and Ethics Commission with the Liberty University, published an article titled “What is Christian Nationalism?” In which Miller notes that such militancy has been observed in Christianity.

Miller argues that Christianity was exploited to justify slavery and segregation, but it is important to acknowledge that there were also Christians who opposed these practices. Additionally, the idea of using Christianity to preserve America’s Christian identity has a long history and is concerning, according to Miller.

Wilsey Smith, in citing B. Steven’s perspective, argues that racism is a corrupt form of American ideals, contradicting the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom and the disestablishment of bigotry. He believes that Christians who recognize this corruption have a meaningful role to play in enhancing democratic values without compromising democratic ideals. He affirms that all individuals are entitled to equal rights and that Christians can bring a special intensity to the national affirmations, but he eschews the “America Christian” viewpoint, believing that there is plenty of common ground for room.

Wilsey writes that Christians should recognize the commitment of the nation to honor equality and freedom, while also rejecting bigotry, racism, and any religious faith or other religious faiths.