In late January, Evangelicals for Justice hosted in conference where various theologians from different backgrounds attempted to tackle the issue of Trumpism and Christian Nationalism as it affects the church. Many of the theologians emphasized that the church in the United States has not always been overcome by the unwavering support of the country and its leader. Rather, the current shape of the evangelical church was formed from years of attempting to mold the Bible into something that justifies and suits a white, Republican, hyper-masculine, upper-middle-class agenda. When this worldview is threatened, there is always an effort to maintain it by those who hold it dear and fear progress.
When the evangelical church attempts to make steps forward in the areas of equality, diversity, and justice, there is always a wave of this form of Christian Nationalism that pushes back. Christians, damaging the unity of the church as a whole.
As an institution shaping the minds and life decisions of young adults, Greenville University is responsible for responding to this current division and addressing the reasons for why it exists. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on just one reason, but one we believe is largely responsible for the current worldview: the poor-reading of the Christian Bible. We as Christians have to understand where our faith and politics intersect, where they do not, and how reading the Bible poorly hurts people. We have seen it countless times throughout history. Students and educators must look beyond confirmation bias. In an interview on the topic of Christian Nationalism with Dr. Ben Wayman, a pastor and professor here at GU, he stated, “The great invitation of Scripture is to be humble and courageous enough to be surprised by what God is up to, how God is turning our world upside down. Following Jesus and the Holy Spirit is all about this. The state has done a better job than the church of shaping us: making us think that being a traitor to our country is far worse than blaspheming God. Given this shaping, we are inclined to read the Bible in ways that deepen our patriotism rather than our discipleship.”
Some might say that universities should not be involved in politics and that they should just educate students in their respective fields of learning. We believe instead that GU should not shy away from politics because the institution has a responsibility to educate students on how to have a dialogue with people that hold opposing viewpoints and opinions. Higher education should provide access and opportunities for such discussions. Once such a formation has taken place, then we would be in a position as an academic community to hold a debate that might prove constructive for our community.
Christian universities, in particular, should be about exposure to different ideas and viewpoints, not pretending like the world outside of campus does not exist. Greenville University should be more honest about what the Bible says about nationalism and how Christians should read and interpret our current context in light of the biblical text. It should lay foundations that make clear that worshiping a president or other political figure is nothing less than idolatry. Caesar worship and nationalism were foundational to the political and social life of the Roman Empire, and awareness of this context can not only help Christians better understand Scripture, but also help Christians recognize the importance of worshipping God alone. Greenville University can address this by providing students the tools to better understand politics and the world potentially in the form of coursework or other avenues.
The conversations that need to be had should not be put off any longer. Christians living in America have gone far too long without admitting fault or guilt with regards to Christian Nationalism. These conversations, which will hopefully lead to lamenting and the seeking of forgiveness, need to happen now; GU needs to begin this as quickly as possible. This could take part within chapel or outside of chapel in large or small groups. The common American-Christian move to continue putting off these conversations for the right time or right place needs to come to an end. This is the right time and the right place.
Written by Isiah Ibarra, Jordan Hobson, Rachel Dempsey.
Media by Parker Lutz.