James Garfield is the answer to a fascinating trivia question. In addition to serving as the 20th president of the United States, he was also an ordained minister in the religious movement that would become the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). That makes him the only occupant of the Oval Office to also be a member of the clergy.
As a member of a Disciples congregation, I am proud that my denomination took this stand. For too long this subject has been minimized by many Christians who easily accept the presence of the flag on the United States in their sanctuary. Indeed, when I grew up that flag along with the Christian flag was displayed prominently near the pulpit. Every summer at Vacation Bible school the students pledged first their allegiance to the nation's flag, then the Christian flag and then the Bible. Funny we never pledged allegiance to the teachings of Jesus. We as Americans condemn other nations for comingling their religion with the government and their persecution of their citizens. However, this is exactly what the Christian nationalists are wanting. The religious wars in Europe showed the dangers of the secular government and religious authorities conspiring together. In fact those wars were one reason our country's founders wanted to avoid the injection of religion into government. In recent history we only have to look to Nazi Germany and the mingling of the church with the Nazi regime. The very existence of Christianity and the teachings of Jesus are at stake.
Thank you for sharing this article! I am a member of the Disciples of Christ clergy and proud of our denomination for passing this resolution condemning (White) Christian Nationalism!
I am also proud of our denomination for passing a resolution condemning those government bodies that have passed or proposed legislation that outlaws gender affirming care to those transgender and gender diverse. Our denomination also affirmed the transgender and gender diverse individuals.
May our denomination lead the way “to recognize and affirm the sacred dignity is all peoples as all are made in the image of God and deserving of respect and honor”
Thank you for this article and your upcoming book! I am so grateful for the DOC for leading the way and addressing the biggest issue for the church to address.
As a Disciples of Christ minister I have been addressing the issue of nationalism for the past 40 years. My first published piece appeared as the cover article in the OtherSide magazine in 1984, entitled "Identity and Idolatry: The Problem with Nation Worship." My most recent book "Bowing Toward Babylon: The Nationalistic Subversion of Christian Worship in America " (Cascade, 2017). Between those two pieces I wrote many other articles on nationalism, both academic and for popular audiences.
I entirely agree, as it says in the above article, "Most of the conversations about Christian Nationalism today focus on how conservative evangelicals are pushing this ideology... it also exists whenever a Mainline Protestant preacher offers a sermon standing in front of the American flag that has been in that sanctuary for decades."
The display of the American flag in sanctuaries and the inclusion of so-called "patriotic hymns" in worship are assumed to be practices that are benign. They are not! Symbols and gestures matter! They convey a story and shape character, one foreign to the Jesus story.
The fact is that nationalism is like racism. It fosters exclusion and the marginalization of anyone who does not view America with loyalty and affection, and it encourages the indiscriminate support of war whenever national leaders argue for it in the name of national security. Like racism, nationalism is a way that is paved in blood.
As such, the church should have absolutely nothing to do with it nationalism is utterly contrary to the nature and identity of the church. I am thrilled that the Disciples General Assembly has been willing to say as much. I hope more ministers will bring that message to their congregations.
Thanks for the excellent overview of how this crucial issue (white nationalism) was addressed at General Assembly. I feel and think it was an excellent gathering!
I am so grateful for this news. I will seek a Disciples church to attend. I had been puzzled, alarmed and disillusioned. Sadly, I decided to drop church attendance. For quite a while I had been searching for answers which eventually lead to several sources of information on Christian Nationalism as well Separation of Church and State. Thank you for reporting this encouraging development.