To be sure, in a digital world dominated by the promise of easy answers in 280 characters or fewer, many Christians have lost sight of the Bible’s instructions to live peacefully, patiently and with control of their emotions (Galatians 5:22-23).
Before we reject Christianity based on its most extreme adherents, we would do well to recall that Jesus himself famously rebuked the revolutionary spirit among the Jewish people in Mark 12:17 as follows: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Christopher J. Wells, Arlington
Why did so many of the Jan. 6 attackers on the Capitol claim to be acting on behalf of their Christian beliefs and values? How do they link Christian tenets to justify their violent and illiberal actions?
For the past decade, we have studied the phenomenon of “Christian nationalism” through public opinion surveys. We argue that citizens who participated in the January insurrection are nationalists first and foremost; their religious beliefs are subsumed in nationalism.
In our work, we refer to this as American religious exceptionalism. Adherents are driven by their conviction that they are the epitome of a “true” American. An increasingly multicultural America challenges their sense of self, driving them to embrace illiberal anti-democratic ideas they rationalize as necessary for defending “true” Americans. These self-identified Christians have internalized deeply secular and yet superficially religious myths about the United States’ exceptional role in the world. Religious nationalists do not need to attend church, read scripture or have any commitment to their religion. They merely need to believe that their nation is chosen by God and that they are one of God’s people; therefore, everything they do is divinely ordained.
Was Jan. 6 a Christian revolt? No. It was an insurrection led by nationalists in Christianity’s clothing. The attackers are not only traitors to their country. By their blasphemous use of religious imagery, they also betray the promise of a great faith. To allow them to claim anything more is to feed their paranoid delusions.
Eric L. McDaniel, Austin
Irfan Nooruddin, Washington
Allyson F. Shortle, Oklahoma City