(The Conversation) — Part of the “freedom convoy” occupying Ottawa are White Christian Nationalists. White Christian Nationalists are people who combine American-style White evangelicalism with Canadian Nationalism to declare themselves as the only authentic Canadians. We’ve all seen photos and videos of the convoy on news sites, social media, and websites like “convoytraitors” which is dedicated to documenting businesses involved in the convoy.
As I was perusing “convoytraitors” the other night, one image caught my eye. It was displaying a banner with a verse from the Book of 2 Chronicles. I am a biblical scholar with a particular interest in 1-2 Chronicles. What was this verse, 2 Chronicles 7:14, doing on the back of a truck cab in Ottawa?
The Biblical Verse
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
The banner displays a translation from the New King James Version, which is a favorite of certain evangelical Christians. This verse is from the passage when God appears to Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:12-22) after he has finished building the temple in Jerusalem. Here, God speaks to Solomon and confirms that his prayer in 2 Chronicles 6 will be fulfilled — that God will hear them, forgive them and repair the land. But if God’s commandments aren’t followed, the temple will be destroyed and the people expelled.
In ancient Mediterranean theologies, all natural disasters had divine cause. Deities could punish their adherents for their sins with famine, disease, drought, conquest and other disasters. This passage was written about two centuries after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple by the Neo-Babylonians in 586 BCE. It’s an explanation of why the temple was destroyed. It was rebuilt about a century after its destruction, and this passage is both a promise that God hears prayers in the new temple and a warning about its possible fate.
The truck donning 2 Chronicles 7:14 is just one example of Christian Nationalism visible in Ottawa. After residents sought an injunction to end the blaring truck horns, a group claiming to represent the truckers posted a news release calling for a temporary halt to the horns on Sunday, Feb. 6, “out of respect for the Lord’s Day (and) for members of the military … who continue to sacrifice so much for our freedom.”
After GoFundMe shut down the convoy’s fundraiser, the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo started raising funds. The Ontario Superior Court has since frozen these funds. GiveSendGo was recently hacked and analysis of the donor list shows that over 13,000 donors left comments including “God” or “Jesus.” And late Monday (Feb.14), occupiers started talking about a daily “Jericho march” around Parliament Hill.
White Christian Nationalism & 2 Chronicles 7:14
Two Chronicles 7:14 is one of the texts used by the United States Christian Right to support their claim of being the remnant responsible for morally or spiritually healing the country. They read this verse as referring to the modern nation of the U.S. rather than an ancient land suffering from drought or disease.
In her book White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America, religious studies scholar Anthea Butler argues that evangelicalism is at its heart a political movement dedicated to shaping a White American nation. In an interview with Salon she warned: “The rhetoric of freedom is being used to elevate ‘freedom’ for white Christians and to suppress freedom for everyone else. In order to remain on top, the freedom of everybody else is being suppressed.”
What I see here, in front of Canada’s Parliament buildings, is an expression of that same White Christian Nationalism, positioning the “truckers” as the remnant that will heal Canada. The combination of the verse, the signs, and the Canadian flags indicates the combination of Christian identity, Canadian national identity and political beliefs.
When we look at the context of the verse in 2 Chronicles on the truck cab, one might wager that those truckers assume Parliament is the temple that will be destroyed unless people turn from their sin. And the divinely-mandated mission is the overthrow of the Canadian government in order to further God’s mission of love. This group is small, but it’s there. And they should not be dismissed as being merely religious.