George A. Mason and David Gushee Speak Out Against Extremism and Christian Nationalism
By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine
Our online magazine has published thousands of columns since our founding in 2007, calling on people to build healthy communities that embrace the world’s cultural and religious diversity.
This particular Cover Story in our weekly magazine appears on Yom Kippur, often called the holiest day in the Jewish year. This year, the rising tide of hate speech and hateful violence—including record rates of antisemitism as documented by the ADL—is a major concern in Jewish congregations nationwide. This Cover Story is an effort to remind all of our readers that our Jewish neighbors are not alone in urging Americans to recognize the dangers of escalating violence and to confront extremism.
This autumn, we are hearing from major Christian leaders who are allies in this effort—especially speaking out against the specific threat they refer to as “Christian Nationalism.”
George Mason: ‘Welcoming every faith to offer its unique gifts’
In his latest email-newsletter to his readers nationwide, George A. Mason (author of the new The World Made Fresh) zeroed in on the threat of Christian Nationalism in nations including the U.S. as well as Russia, where the Russian Orthodox Church fully supports attacks on Ukraine.
Mason wrote, in part:
Every religion thinks it is special. Language like “divine election” and “chosen people” leads devotees to feel beloved. And as long as they live and worship only with one another, that has a cohesive effect of giving followers strong identity. But when people of other religions begin to inhabit the same geographic and political space, it threatens the psychic space of those who think themselves the most special. …
Religious nationalism is a growing existential challenge in our world today. Hungary, Russia, and the United States are dealing with surging versions of Christian nationalism. … The psychological woundedness of fearing that one’s religion is no longer special if it is not privileged leads inevitably to violence.
The Catholic global theologian, Hans Küng, said: “There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.” We must learn to live together freely and respectfully across our religious differences.
This is why Rabbi Nancy Kasten and I conceived of Faith Commons. We believe that every religion has something to contribute to God’s healing work in the world.
Mason’s message to his readers expanded on this theme to address religious nationalism in other nations as well, including the surge in Hindu nationalism in India and Islamic nationalism in a number of predominantly Muslim nations. Overall, Mason urged his readers to work toward a world in which “every faith can offer its unique gifts for the good of us all.”
Unfortunately, millions of people around the world are missing that message. You can learn more about George’s work by visiting his Faith Commons website—and by ordering a copy of his new book, The Word Made Fresh.
David Gushee: Confronting ‘the toxicity that is with us now’
In this most recent video, Gushee speaks with scholar and podcaster Brad Onishi about these issues.
This year, Gushee is circling the world with his own prophetic message through videos and in-person talks. He explains that “Christian Nationalism” has become “the leading category being used in scholarship and in public discussion to describe these disturbing political trends.” But he also broadens his warnings about these dangers by calling them “authoritarian reactionary Christianity,” which we see popping up especially in Russia where the Orthodox church has completely aligned itself with Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine. Around the world, Gushee argues, there is something fundamentally wrong with many groups waving Christian banners as they try to seize power, often overlooking or actively encouraging violence.
Now, the dangers of such Christian extremism are so dire in America that—as the 2024 election year looms—Gushee has a new book coming out this autumn, called: Defending Democracy from Its Christian Enemies. And, he’s also posting videos, like the one below, trying to raise awareness of these dangers.
(Coming soon: Watch this online magazine in coming weeks for more about Gushee’s new book and ongoing efforts to confront extremism.)
Featured in this video are …
His discussion partner in this newest video, Bradley Onishi, is a scholar whose research, writing and teaching focuses on Christian Nationalism, the history of Evangelicalism, race and racism in America. He has taught at the Graduate Theological Union at UC Berkeley, Rhodes College, Skidmore College, Central Michigan University and the University of San Francisco. You can learn more about Onishi via his website.
WANT TO SEE MORE? THIS VIDEO CONVERSATION WITH ONISHI is just one part of a series of videos David Gushee is posting to his YouTube channel to highlight these issues. If you visit this YouTube page, you’ll find this Onishi conversation as well as three other videos, as of September 25, 2023, all focused on confronting extremism and Christian Nationalism.
Care to read more?
Here are some other recent headlines about these issues
FROM PEW RESEARCH: In their own words—How Americans describe ‘Christian Nationalism’
FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE: Calvinist activist warns that white nationalism is invading Reformed churches
FROM SOJOURNERS: 6 warning signs of Christian Nationalism in US politics
FROM BILL McKIBBEN in THE NEW YORKER: A Christian’s thoughts on the problem of Christian Nationalism
ALSO FROM THE NEW YORKER: How Christian is Christian Nationalism?
FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES: Whose version of Christian Nationalism will win in 2024?
FROM BAPTIST NEWS GLOBAL: Christian Nationalism—How evangelical Christianity became a political religion