Greetings, Fremont Family:
January was an eventful month, and the various national occurrences all happened to fall on Wednesdays. My son, Elijah, read one headline that talked about the “I”‘s of Wednesdays in January: Insurrection, Impeachment, Inauguration and Investment (referencing last Wednesday’s GameStop stock event where everyday investors beat hedge fund investors at their own game). While each of these events is noteworthy in its own way, the insurrection on the first Wednesday in January merits some deeper conversation and reflection because it implicates Christianity in very specific ways.
Christian Nationalism, for several years, has been on the rise. By simple definition, Christian Nationalism “seeks to merge Christian and American identities that ultimately distort both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy.”* In Washington, DC on January 6, we saw a dangerous and violent blend of evangelical Christianity with anti-democratic behavior that led to the death of 5 individuals. As Christians, we must understand the history and the threat of Christian Nationalism and begin to recognize the more subtle ways that we, as Christians, are tempted to be too closely aligned with power in the United States.
In a beautiful sermon on January 10, my colleague and friend, Rev. Nathan LeRud, Dean of Trinity Cathedral in downtown Portland (https://trinitycathpdx.
podbean.com/e/1102021-dean- nathan-lerud/) spoke about how the road to peace is not always a peaceful road. Jesus in his ministry would set “brother against brother,” “mother against daughter.” For many of us, in our families, the effects of the Trump Administration and its divide over the last four years has run right through many of our families and friendships. All of a sudden, in 2016, we discovered that people we loved not only thought very differently than we did, but that those differences had tangible consequences. As Christians moving forward, the invitation to live more deeply into our baptismal identities will include a thorough examination of the ways that the desire for political power has infiltrated American Christianity (or always has).
At Fremont, following January 6, we changed our reader-board (see photo above) to make it clear that our intentions as a faith community will line up with God’s way of peace in Jesus, who “though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped at, but emptied himself taking the form of a servant becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2).” There can be no blurring of lines in these days. Our allegiance is to God and to God’s way of humility and peace. If you are interested in learning more about the rise of Christian Nationalism, I would recommend Katherine Stewart’s book entitled, The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism. Also, our nearby sister Episcopal Church, Grace Memorial in the Lloyd District, is currently hosting a Forum on the rise of Christian Nationalism. The forum is lead by Rev. Jeanne Kaliszewski, the Curate at Grace Memorial. Here is a link to session 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=Era8h7_mSjo&list=PLtV_ CHZ0VsQdMjcae2_ZTQmF8o46Juzwi& index=1&t=189s
In this season of Epiphany, we have been learning in our origin stories that Jesus, in the spirit of God’s good creation, takes up our humanity and invites us into a way of life with him. His message is simple, but strong: “the time is now, heaven is here. Change your hearts and your minds, and trust with all of your being in the power of God’s way of peace.” May it be so for us.
Grace and peace, Pastor Erin
*From the Statement from Christians Against Christian Nationalism