Seven faith leaders challenge Christian nationalism
The following are excerpts from a press conference with faith leaders speaking out against the Christian Nationalist ReAwaken Gathering Sept. 16 and 17 in Post Falls. In conjunction with their gathering in Q'emlin Park, they gathered signatures and urged people to join in vigils in churches in the region.
Bishop Gretchen Rehberg, Episcopal Diocese of Spokane
"I'm concerned about the increase in divisiveness and polarization, and the assault on our democracy. Christian nationalism is not about patriotism. It's about one way of viewing the U.S. It's a viewpoint that is at odds with the Republican and the Democratic parties, Libertarians, Greens and everybody else. It is not the partisan politics of this country. It's a very radical way.
It is certainly not the way of following Jesus that invites us to love our enemies, do good to those who hurt us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who abuse us. These are not the words coming out of ReAwaken America.
As a Christian and as an American, I am distressed by this, but our response is to be in prayer and in love because that is what we are called to as followers of Jesus. We invite everyone to prayer and vigil services across the Diocese of Spokane.
Those who attend vigils may hear the love of God, so they may realize the dangers of Christian nationalism. I invite us to be in prayer and in love and to respond out of unity and connectedness, not demonizing, hate, violence or division.
Let us follow Jesus. We are Christians and let us remember that in this country, we are free to practice any religion or no religion. No religion is privileged over another.
Sr. Pat Millen, OSF, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
Bishop Rehberg reminded us we who follow Jesus have a standard beyond our nation's laws, one that tells us to turn the other cheek and work for peace. As followers of Jesus, we are called to a different way, a way that strives for justice, works for peace, offers love.
I am a Franciscan, a follower of St. Francis. St. Francis' life mirrors Jesus' life. Both were insignificant men who wandered around small villages preaching to whomever would listen. They didn't have any political power or lead armies into battle. Francis' revolutionary way of thinking is so radically simple that anyone can do it! Just follow the Gospel, live simply and show joy to the world.
Franciscans are heralds of peace and reconciliation. Francis said peacemakers preserve peace of spirit and body out of love of Jesus Christ. His greeting, repeated by Franciscans today, was "Pax et bonum," "peace and all good." Franciscans are called to build peace in their personal lives and society.
Not caring for my relationship with my neighbor ruins my relationship with myself, others, God and the earth. When these relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in the land, the Bible says life itself is endangered.
St. Francis' nonviolence is a commitment we need at this time when millions if not billions of people think that the more guns or bombs we have the safer I'll be, but we should never have too many guns and bombs. This is a suicidal trajectory. We need a nonviolent spirituality.
We live as sister and brother with one another, the entire human family and all creation. This time challenges us to be diligent in our efforts to safeguard and nourish all of creation. The care for our common home that is rooted in our Franciscan spirituality must be rooted in all of us.
Pax et bonum," "peace and all good."
The Rev. Sheryl Kinder-Pyle, executive presbyter, Presbytery of the Inland Northwest
"I am in solidarity with my Christian siblings and folks of other faith traditions in opposing the fusing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with politics. I oppose the use of the Gospel for political gain.
Our nation's founders, including the Rev. John Witherspoon, who was a Presbyterian minister and signed the Declaration of Independence, envisioned a nation where church was separate from the state. We support that separation. We continue and value that ideal today.
The Presbyterian Church USA points to the teachings of Jesus Christ and in particular the teachings of Matthew 25. We seek to eradicate poverty, dismantle systemic racism and treat everyone—everyone—as a beloved child of God. May the peace of Christ be with us all.
Rev. Phil Misner, assistant to the bishop, Northwest Intermountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
An early poster for the ReAwaken America tour featured a quote from the host who said, "Jesus is King and with him on our side, we will win this thing." As a Christian, I agree that Jesus is King, but we have to ask ourselves, what sort of king might Jesus be and look to the life and ministry of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Throughout Jesus' life and ministry, he was given opportunities to step into positions of political authority and power. Each time Jesus rejected those opportunities. He was not interested in being that kind of king. He is not interested in "winning this thing."
Jesus is not on one side or the other. Claims like this make Christian nationalism dangerous. Looking to the life and ministry of Jesus, he called out those who used power and authority for their own benefit. He came to share God's love and proclaim God's forgiveness for all. Those are the words of the King of Love that is our Shepherd. That's the only king that Jesus is.
The Rev. Daniel Miranda, District Superintendent, Inland Missional District United Methodist Church
"My earliest memory of coming to know who God was came from a scripture that my parents and my church made me memorize. I wasn't crazy about it then, having to hope, I thought, why should I go to church and have to memorize things? That scripture still dwells in my mind, heart and soul. It begins, "God so loved the world." Right? I love it because it doesn't say God loved a special group of people, who speak a particular language or have a particular color or race. God just loved the world.
It breaks my heart when people who call themselves "Christians," are saying God loves Americans more than anyone else. It breaks my heart because I was born in Colombia, South America. I became a citizen of this country by choice. I am a member of anyone who calls themselves a believer in God. That is a bigger family than being an American or a Colombian or from anywhere else. We are bigger than petty separations.
Jesus calls us to be an inclusive people who love and care for each other, support each other and remember that we are so much better when we are together.
Naghmana Sherazi, Muslims for Community Action and Support
Peace upon you all. I am not part of clergy with the Muslim faith. I am just a representative. I am co-chair of Muslims for Community Action and Support, co-chair for Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom and represent Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience, a group where I have many friends who are here. I'm standing in solidarity with them and speaking as a leader of conscience.
I am here today to make sure that everyone understands that there are many allies. We are all brothers and sisters in faith. In the Muslim faith, we can't be a true Muslim, unless we believe in Jesus. Jesus is mentioned 26 times in the Quran. We believe in the Virgin birth. We believe that he was taken up in flesh. We believe that he is the savior who will come to save us all on the day of judgement. If we don't believe that, we are not Muslims.
We have the same scriptures, the same God and the same beliefs. The love that exists between us cannot be denied. So, those who promote Islamophobia are telling me my philosophy is wrong or I am not welcome in the place I have chosen to live, bring up my child, and contribute to society.
We are united. We are together. We love one another. My friends here have chosen to put me in their hearts and are with me today. So, I stand in solidarity with all my sisters and brothers here, and I will continue to do so.
Rick Matters, priest at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Kennewick.
"We have collected 1,023 signatures to date for a statement to stand for the values of the Gospel and for the human dignity of all people. I'm holding a cumbersome sheaf of papers that are full of signatures. In my arms are 60,000 signatures from across the country, people who stand in support of our challenge to the Christian Nationalist ReAwaken Event in Post Falls (Sept. 16 and 17). Our almost 1,000 signatures will be added to these to increase the message of support for love and peace.
At least 39 groups gathered in North Idaho and Eastern Washington for vigils to offer prayers during the event. Other people said prayers in their home. We thank those who participated and Christians Against Christian Nationalism and Faithful America, two national groups that support our effort. Those signing the statement represent a variety of expressions of the Christian faith, including Evangelical, Mainline, Conservative and Progressive traditions, uniting with people of other faith traditions, as well as those who espouse no religious faith, to affirm love for our neighbors and for our country.
The statement letter is at secure.everyaction.com/jQ4VzMGfe0yZdwJy7Ymttw2