With Flag Day coming on June 14, several Christian groups hope pastors across the country will lift up a different standard during church services on June 11. Calling Christian Nationalism a danger to both democracy and the church, the “Preach and Pray to Confront Christian Nationalism” initiative is urging hundreds of pastors to warn against efforts to conflate Christian and American identities.
Organized by Faithful America, the effort is also cosponsored by Clergy Emergency League, Red Letter Christians, Vote Common Good, Florida Council of Churches, Southern Christian Coalition (in Tennessee), and Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice.
“Faithful America chose the weekend before Flag Day for our ‘Preach and Pray to Confront Christian Nationalism’ event because all too often the flag is made into an idol, sitting near the altar at the front of sanctuaries across the country,” Rev. Nathan Empsall, executive director of Faithful America, told Word&Way. “Certainly, as patriotic Americans, we can and do honor our nation’s flag, and as Christians, we venerate Christ before the cross — but while both objects are of great importance to us, only one is godly and only one is part of our faith.”
Empsall announced the initiative during a press conference last month at an Episcopal church in Miami Springs, Florida, to protest the ReAwaken America Tour being held at nearby Trump Doral. A traveling carnival of Christian Nationalism and conspiracy theories, the ReAwaken events demonstrate the influence of the ideology in contemporary politics and among Christian communities.
Building on the effort by Faithful America and other groups to protest last month in Miami with mobile billboards on trucks and boats, the “Preach and Pray to Confront Christian Nationalism” initiative brings the witness from a Trump property to pulpits across the country. And Empsall hopes the message heard in church sanctuaries will echo that lifted up in Miami: that millions of Christians reject Christian Nationalism as a threat to democracy and a distortion of the gospel.
“Jesus taught his followers a message of love, peace, truth, and justice — and calls us to do likewise today,” Empsall said. “It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see so many far-right politicians and pastors go a different direction, twisting the gospel to seize power at any cost, attack equal rights, demonize their opponents, and spread dangerous conspiracy theories.”
“Toxic Christian Nationalism is the single biggest threat to both democracy and the church, and we pastors have a moral obligation to loudly oppose it as a dangerous hijacking of our faith,” Empsall added. “Unless we as Christians challenge this dangerous political ideology, its leaders will continue to twist our faith as they try to justify an agenda that is in actuality the antithesis of what Jesus taught: To love our neighbor and to care for the least among us.”
The June 11 effort follows smaller efforts in recent years to encourage pastors to raise their voices against Christian Nationalism. Last year, several pastors joined “Preachers United Against Christian Nationalism” to speak against the dangerous ideology on World Communion Sunday (Oct. 2). And Christians Against Christian Nationalism has also mobilized pastors and lay people to speak out.
For June 11, Faithful America created a resource page to help pastors and church leaders prepare their sermons, prayers, services, or Bible studies. The page explains what Christian Nationalism is, how it is different from patriotism, and how it differs from the teachings of Jesus. The site includes links to numerous articles (including Word&Way pieces), survey data, and reports about the dangers of Christian Nationalism. The resources page also includes thoughts on connecting the lectionary texts for June 11 to a critique of Christian Nationalism, videos of some sample past sermons on the topic, and some sample prayers to use during a service.
Pastors can learn more and signal their plans to participate on Faithful America’s website.