Douglas Brouwer: Confronting Christian nationalism

I as soon as got here to a church as a younger pastor and found flags on the entrance of the worship area — an American flag, which after all I acknowledged, but in addition a Christian flag, which on the time was new to me. Neither the Christian Reformed church of my childhood nor any church I had beforehand served had flags, indoors or out, so I used to be puzzled.

Being younger and possibly overconfident concerning my authority, I promptly moved each flags out of the worship area and into the fellowship corridor. After worship the next Sunday, I used to be approached by a person who clearly had a navy bearing. He launched himself as “Bruce,” however I later discovered he had spent his whole profession in U.S. naval intelligence and had retired with the rank of commander.

Douglas Brouwer

I anticipated the worst, however surprisingly Bruce apologized to me. He mentioned, “I do know the flags look dangerous, so this week I’ll get new ones, and I’ll polish these brass stands too. Subsequent week all the pieces will look nice.” Bruce thought I moved the flags as a result of they seemed shabby.

Bruce and I got here to know one another effectively over the subsequent 13 years. I discovered an important deal from him (about flag etiquette and far more), and he one way or the other withstood my first query, which was, “Who or what are we worshiping right here?” I miss him nonetheless.

I wish to suppose that over the subsequent 40 years or so, I discovered one thing about re-arranging worship areas with out consulting anybody, however I by no means stopped asking my query. I discover myself asking it immediately. Reasonably than shedding its urgency, the query has develop into extra pressing than ever. Increasingly more, the evangelical church within the U.S. is embracing what appears to be like like an unhealthy hybrid of Christian religion and patriotism, an ideology I can discover nowhere in Jesus’ phrases or anyplace else within the Bible.

Tim Alberta, the creator of two best-selling books about Christian nationalism, printed an interesting story within the December Atlantic Month-to-month about his father’s evangelical Presbyterian church in Brighton, Michigan. Beneath his father’s management, the church the place Tim was raised grew from just a few hundred to a couple thousand members.

Tim’s father repeatedly blended religion and patriotism on Sunday mornings. If, for instance, a soldier confirmed up in worship, carrying a full gown uniform, his father would lead the congregation in a thunderous ovation. What Tim remembers much more vividly, although, was that if a visiting missionary was launched to the congregation, that individual would obtain what he calls a “golf clap” — or tepid applause. At a younger age, Tim started asking the “who or what are we worshipping?” query, too.

The reality is, plenty of us are asking that query. In late November, I attended a gathering on the Holland Armory with a program titled “Confronting Christian Nationalism.” Making the presentation was an evangelical pastor named Doug Pagitt, who describes himself as “a proud, involved, and hopeful American.” He’s additionally the co-founder of a gaggle known as Vote Frequent Good, which is devoted to encouraging “individuals of religion to interact in civic life.”

What drove the attendance that night time was that we in Ottawa County are, as Pagitt put it, “on the middle of the swirl.” As most Holland Sentinel readers know, a gaggle of evangelical Christian residents from Ottawa County, deeply involved concerning the response of state and native authorities to the COVID-19 pandemic, fashioned a gaggle known as Ottawa Influence and within the final election ousted the incumbent Republican commissioners from the county board.

What Pagitt inspired in response was “empathy and engagement,” although the title of this system, I believed, prompt one thing completely different and will most likely be reconsidered. To Pagitt’s credit score, he requested the members of the viewers to attempt to perceive what motivates a gaggle like Ottawa Influence in addition to those that elected and proceed to help them.

Total, I believed it was a balanced presentation, and I agree that we have to make “civic involvement a discipleship challenge,” we have to “study to speak about politics,” we should always “resist us vs. them” language, and we should always reply with “empathy and engagement.” I wish to suppose that I’ve spent my life doing these issues, although clearly I might be doing extra.

I’m a Christian, I’m a pastor and I’m a U.S. citizen. I’ve different identities too, like husband, father and long-distance runner, however by most of my life, the primary three identities I discussed have required appreciable effort to carry in stability. It isn’t all the time straightforward. Nor ought to it’s.

— Douglas Brouwer is a resident of Park Township. Earlier columns and different writing could also be discovered at dougsblog.substack.com.

This text initially appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Douglas Brouwer: Confronting Christian nationalism

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