Opinion | What’s God Got to Do With It? The Rise of Christian Nationalism in American Politics.


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jane coaston

It’s The Argument. I’m Jane Coaston.

Christian nationalism might be a term you know well, or maybe it wasn’t really something you thought about until the Dobbs decision came down from the Supreme Court. But either way, it seems like it’s everywhere, especially in a specific subset of Republican politics, and it’s not subtle. Just ask Marjorie Taylor Greene.

marjorie taylor green

We need to be the party of nationalism. And I’m a Christian and I say it proudly — we should be Christian nationalists.

jane coaston

I’ve been a Christian pretty much my entire life, though my faith journey would probably be best discussed on another podcast. But the world of Christian nationalism — or as I argue, nationalism with a light Christian flavoring — is both foreign to me and frightening. It’s not the first time I’ve asked, what are these people doing with my faith? And it’s probably not the last.

But just how big of a problem is Christian nationalism in our politics? And as church and state get closer together, is there a better way for them to exist side by side? My guests this week are contributing opinion writer Esau McCaulley, who is theologian-in-residence Baptist Church in Chicago, and the author of “Reading While Black: African-American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope.”

esau mccaulley

A large part of my spiritual biography is kind of helping people make sense of, what does it mean to be a person of faith on the other side of deep disappointment with your church?

jane coaston

And Katherine Stewart — she’s the author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism,” and she’s been reporting on the rise of the Christian right for over a decade.

katherine stewart

This is not a new movement. It long preceded Trump. But the ideology is just becoming much more widespread as the movement has seized control, I believe, of the Republican Party.

jane coaston

Katherine, Esau, hello. Thank you so much for joining me.

katherine stewart

Hi, it’s great to be in conversation with both of you today.

esau mccaulley

Thank you so much for having me.

jane coaston

I want to start with some context. I was raised in a Catholic tradition, but of kind of the Catholic liberation theology tradition, which is doing all that you can on behalf of those who have nothing — kind of the idea of the Catholicism of the body, of caring for the poor, of lifting up the poor, thinking of them first. And I believe that Christ died and rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures. I believe like — I believe in all of this. But I also had the experience of being like, why are these people such jerks?

And so, I think that that actually gets to what I want to talk about today, which is this idea of Christian nationalism. Katherine, you’ve been reporting on the religious right for years — specifically American non-denominational Christianity. So what have you seen since 2016 in the work that you’ve done?

katherine stewart

Well, the big thing that we’ve seen change, I think, is there was a coup attempt — a real test about whether people would pick party or country. There was a real choice between the agenda of Christian nationalism or — some people call it the Christian right, other — you know, people use different terms to refer to this movement, which is an organized quest for political power. And the leaders of the movement have made their choice absolutely clear. They said that their agenda is more important than the protection of our democracy.

I mean, they have spread lies about the election, all of the sort of “Stop the Steal” stuff, not just through individual leaders, but within the infrastructure of the movement — which consists of right-wing policy groups, activist groups, networking organizations and the like, and a vast messaging sphere. And I think that it’s always been a threat of our time. But we saw a real shift, I think, when Donald Trump took office. A lot of folks who didn’t identify as evangelical all of a sudden started to because nobody could think of Trump as a model of — a values man, right? But he bubble-wrapped himself in sanctimony. He gives rallies. He’s got his very political reactionary pastors doing warm-up acts for him.

And that’s what you see religious nationalist leaders doing around the world when they’re trying to consolidate authoritarian forms of political power. So when you look at people like Vladimir Putin in Russia or Viktor Orban in Hungary or Erdogan in Turkey or leadership of Iran, for instance — when these leaders bind themselves very tightly to reactionary religious figures in their own countries to consolidate a more authoritarian form of political power, we rightly recognize this as religious nationalism. And I do think that authoritarianism is a danger of our time.

jane coaston

Esau, what are your thoughts as someone who teaches about theology and obviously thinks deeply about theology? What do you think has shifted in the past few years?

esau mccaulley

I want to say that nothing has shifted, and I want to say this from a particular perspective. There is a way of looking at what we’re now calling Christian nationalism, or the use of Christianity as a cloak for the acquisition of power and the exploitation of the poor — as the perpetual enemy of the Black church and Black Christianity. So if you go back and you look at something like the Abolitionist movement, you know, that was led by many of the historically Black churches. And there was a group of Christians who were saying, no, no, no. God wants people to be enslaved and we should be in power.

katherine stewart

Right, the Cornerstone Speech —

esau mccaulley

Yeah.

katherine stewart

The idea that like actually, the Bible loves slavery and it’s totally awesome.

esau mccaulley

Yes. So I consider 2016 and what has followed as being the manifestation of what you saw post-Reconstruction — where whenever there is an expansion of Black rights, there’s an increase in fear which leads to a backlash that we then have to fight against. And so yes, I think that 2016 and follows is in some sense a response to the fear caused by the Obama presidency and the diversification of America, leading to this backlash that is now focused under the concept of Christian nationalism. So I am worried about it. It’s bothersome and it’s — but I feel like it’s my generation’s fight. But it’s the fight that, at least in the Black church — and it’s not limited to the Black church. Other people have fought it too. But this is the reality that we’re seeing. So I recognize it as a danger, but I’m not shocked by it.

jane coaston

Katherine, you mentioned that you see authoritarianism as the end game here. But I’m interested in what that actually means. So we’ve talked about — we think about Marjorie Taylor Greene, who says that she’s a Christian. But if you were to know her by her works, you would not really say that she was practicing Christianity in her daily life — though you know, I don’t know her heart. But when we talk about authoritarianism under a Christian nationalist regime, I think some people are thinking like, Gilead from “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Realistically I don’t think we’re going to get nearly that far. But is that what you’re worried about?

katherine stewart

Yeah, you’re absolutely right. We’re not going to get “The Handmaid’s Tale” here. I think what we risk is more of an authoritarian kleptocracy that stays in power by feeding disinformation and propaganda to a large number of Americans while convincing them that they’re doing God’s work.

And we’re not just talking about people who happen to be Christian and happen to be patriotic. I mean, that’s not what this is about at all. I think we can look at whether the advocacy of Christian nationalists or members of the religious right fits within a certain pattern of authoritarian politics.

So I mean, here are some different features of that pattern.

Number one — do they view the opposition as fundamentally illegitimate? Here we were talking about the myths of the stolen election. And I think that Christian nationalists’ consistent support for Trump’s coup attempt shows us where they stand on that issue. Absolutely they regard any election that doesn’t go their way is illegitimate.

Another aspect is, do they feel against all reasonable evidence — do they say that we’re the most persecuted group in society, and thus that their very survival is at stake?

And this is another thing that they do. It’s how a lot of Christian nationalist leaders consolidate the rank and file. It’s how they consolidate their base by stoking that persecution narrative.

And we can look at the facts. They are overrepresented in the courts. They’re frankly overrepresented in power and in our politics. This is a movement that for many years, the Republican Party thought they could make use of, and they’ve kind of seized control of the Republican Party. And yet they consistently maintain that they’re being censored and persecuted.

jane coaston

And I think that that gets at the idea to me, that Christian nationalism is an un-Christian concept. The emphasis is on the nationalism part. And all of this is to me, disconnected from Christianity writ large because I think that it’s so performative. It’s entirely divorced from any form of Christianity beyond like “War on Christmas” nonsense.

And you know, it’s all about yelling at people who are not on your side and being OK with people who are on your side, no matter what they do. Like, Trump could have had three more marriages while he was in the White House and people would still be like, eh, well, it’s different. The sins we commit are cool and the sins you commit are evil.

katherine stewart

Religions are very diverse —

jane coaston

Right.

katherine stewart

And there are a lot of different ways to practice the Christian faith and any other faith. And a lot of the folks that I have met in the past 12-plus years of researching and writing about this movement, practice their religion with as much passion and sincerity as anyone else. But we have to note that there are so many different groups that are standing up and saying, not in our name.

The difference is that the religious left, as it were — sort of, I would say moderate liberal left — is not the equivalent of the religious right. Because the religious right is really a very organized political movement — extremely well funded. They’ve been investing in all the features of modern political campaigns for decades. And they work by turning out the rank and file to vote — their rank and file to vote in disproportionate numbers. Whereas on the religious left, it’s more frankly about values and messaging. So —

jane coaston

Why do you think that is? There is a religious left.

katherine stewart

Absolutely.

jane coaston

There has long been a religious left.

katherine stewart

Right.

jane coaston

And I want to be clear here that when I’m thinking about the left and Democrats, those are not the same thing, as anyone who is involved with either will tell you. But it seems as if Democrats are moving away from talking about religion and politics or talking about Christianity. And I’m worried that that leaves a vacuum to be filled in which the people who are permitted to be people of faith are, you know, people who are of the faith of the right.

katherine stewart

That’s interesting you say that, because I speak constantly to Christians and other religious folk who are deeply concerned about the direction of our country. But they don’t tend to be — the organizations don’t tend to be quite so candidate focused. They’re definitely not handing out the kind of voter guides or videos that can be aired at churches and other houses of worship that the religious right is doing, because they respect their 501(c)(3) status. They respect the religious diversity of our country. And they really take this idea very, very seriously that religion and politics thrive best when there is some kind of separation between the two.

jane coaston

Well to that point about separation between religion and politics on the left, let me counter with the Black church. Esau, I feel like it’s often ignored when we think about Christianity in America. But how do you think about some of the very good things Black churches have contributed to American politics? I’m thinking about things like Souls to the Polls or Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth or Dr. Martin Luther King.

esau mccaulley

Well, I think it was interesting — and I don’t want to make this — this may be a different angle into the same thing that Katherine said when she spoke about maybe the lack of organization among religious moderates. I don’t know where you would put the Black church in that category. Because as it relates to basic beliefs in church attendance, we are similar to Evangelicals and how much we go to church and how much we like the Bible and how much we pray.

But we tend to vote for more leftist policies. But if you look at three or four of the key cities that swung the 2020 election, they were swung by Black cities and regions and most of those voters were probably church attenders.

And so you can say that many elections — at least the last two elections as relates to the Black turnout — a lot of that Black turnout has been people of faith.

And so I do believe that the Black church understands that often, it is our freedom — along with the freedoms of others — that is at stake in elections. And so I think that the Black voting bloc that is largely Christian is organized and aware, even if it doesn’t receive the same coverage. And so I do believe that that is an underreported aspect of the wider religious world — that we often put into the binary between the religious right and the religious left without understanding the messy middle that the Black church often inhabits.

katherine stewart

Yeah, we permit religion often to be defined by the loudest and the edge cases.

esau mccaulley

Yes.

katherine stewart

And I think that that can be — you know, 70 percent of Americans are Christian, but that encompasses so many different ways to be Christian.

esau mccaulley

Well, I think one of the things that I’ve heard you say a lot — and I get it — that the people who are practicing these kinds of things, being upset by persecution, is hypocrisy. And there is this instinct to say, well, these people aren’t real Christians.

And I want to say, when I talk to African Americans who’ve kind of experienced this kind of white Christian nationalism, that’s driven them away from the faith, that simply doesn’t do the emotional work that you think it is. And I found it necessary to, in some sense, say, it’s true.

People in the name of Christianity have done horrible things, and that that’s part of the legacy that I don’t get to exit from. But it’s my job as a person of faith to actually be the most vocal opposition to it.

And so I think that what I’m seeing is, that people are seeing the hypocrisy that you describe, and it’s driving them to be more and more hostile to Christianity. And the solution to that is actually to show how the resources within Christianity itself can respond to the distortion of tradition. But we just can’t pretend — you can’t easily vote them off the island, in that sense.

katherine stewart

Right.

esau mccaulley

You have to confront them.

jane coaston

If we could, buddy.

esau mccaulley

So when 2016 happens and you begin to see the rise of what we now call Christian nationalists and the Trump supporters, I said, oh, maybe people just don’t know about these stories in the Bible about the poor and the sick and the needy. I’ll just show, here’s how Christianity — and the way that Christianity was consistently redefined to support whatever was going on, it was completely detached from a theological conversation. It was a matter of power.

It was a matter of, what’s going to get us the most power. And I was shocked by how little theological engagement actually took place around the 2016 and the 2020 elections as it relates to the relationship between Christianity, voting power and democracy. No one does that. They just de-Christianize the opponents.

jane coaston

Right. Katherine, you were talking about what this looks like and about what increasing authoritarianism looks like. What kind of timeline are we talking about?

katherine stewart

Well none of us can predict the future. But —

jane coaston

Nope.

katherine stewart

So I don’t think about timelines in particular. But I do think that we’re seeing more overt expressions of religious nationalism in our politics today than we have in the recent past for sure. What’s really interesting is, I was at the National Pro-life Summit in January. And when you go to these conferences — I go to a lot of right-wing conferences and meetings and strategy gatherings — you can really see the direction of our politics in the next year and the next couple of years.

One of the speakers was discussing how they primary Republicans — even Republicans who declare themselves to be anti-abortion. It was Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America — one of the very leading anti-abortion organizations. And she said, we’ve got these Republican politicians who call themselves pro-life but they won’t endorse — I’m paraphrasing here. She said, they won’t endorse the extreme positions that we want them to endorse. And we will primary them.

And it provides a kind of explanation for why the Republican Party has gone so far off to the right, and why some of these culture war policies have gone so far off to the right. Because thanks to gerrymandering, a lot of Republicans at the state level earn safe seats. They’re never going to run against a Democrat. And the only way they can lose is if somebody runs to the right of them.

So they all try and conform to this movement’s agenda. I mean, if anybody thinks that they’re going to stop with overturning Roe versus Wade, well, they’re not. They say they’re not. They say the goal is actually to introduce a constitutional amendment banning abortion nationwide.

I heard that not only from Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins, but also from a representative of the Alliance Defending Freedom — one of the key legal advocacy groups of the religious right. They’ve always been very clear about wanting to end the right to same-sex marriage. It’s not that they’re hiding. It’s that we’re not listening.

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jane coaston

So I want to get to how faith and politics and our two political parties could potentially co-exist. So there is a growing number of people who identify as non-religious but there are still millions and millions of Americans for whom faith takes up a big part of their identity. And it cannot be divorced from their politics, nor for many people, they want it to be. There are people for whom their experience of faith is how they decide how to vote, and I think that in many ways that is true for me. So Esau, what are ways that religion can play a healthy role in politics? Because —

esau mccaulley

Yeah.

jane coaston

There’s a way to do this and we’ve seen it before. How can we do it again?

esau mccaulley

Yes. Well there’s a couple of things. I think that we vote based upon our values, and our values are informed by some of our most deeply held beliefs. For some people, those deeply held beliefs come from religion. And so I think, like you said, it’s impossible to completely remove the influence of religion from the public square. And I think the most healthy forms of religious interaction with the political process has been as a way of saying, this is the way that we might move them and make it better for everyone.

So the Civil Rights movement wasn’t simply for the rights of Black people. It was helping to make America a better place. So I think that we don’t have a problem with people using religion in the public square.

I think we run into a problem when the religion becomes an absolutism and a power from on high that we use to step upon weak people.

So I think that the main thing that we can do as people of faith, is present arguments and to say, this is how I think that society can be better. And be honest about where our influences are. And there are certain things, as a Christian, that I believe that I think should have no place in law. But there are places where I say, well, you know what? As a Christian — not because I’m a Christian, but because some of the things that are part of this faith would be good for the rest of society — I might present that as perhaps.

jane coaston

Yeah, I think that that’s for me, the piece where, it’s like yes. Like there’s a time for politics and there is a time for faith. And I think a lot of people have grown up in faith-filled places around America, growing up — and I grew up in Ohio. If you grow up in the South and a lot of places, people are Christian-ish where it’s just sort of like, even if you’re a Christmas and Easter Catholic, or you’re someone who’s gone to church every week for a really long time, these are parts of your world. So I’m curious, Katherine, what do you see changing within the evangelical community or in the church community over the next few years as these debates continue?

katherine stewart

Well, I think a lot of people are really concerned that Christian nationalism is damaging to both faith and the nation, and people are trying to grapple with that. And I think the political damage is in some ways easier to see. Because by locking in a base of voters around a set of non-negotiable positions, some of which have frankly little basis in fact, they’re effectively exploiting conservative Christians and using them to advance the movement’s larger agenda — it’s sort of many agendas unchecked. I think this kind of hostage taking licenses the political corruption of leaders.

But I think the damage to religion is frankly harder to see and doesn’t get enough attention. Because this kind of politicized religion is incredibly binary. It demonizes political opponents. And at the conferences I’ve attended, I’ve heard Democrats described as demonic, satanic, like not even as people.

I mean, it’s really quite scary. It’s incredibly dehumanizing language. The targets shift, of course. It could be secularists, liberal Christians, the L.G.B.T. agenda, et cetera. But this kind of binary, you know, you’re either righteous or completely damned — is really kind of — it’s awful.

esau mccaulley

Yeah. There’s this growing unease that I have. I want to see if I can articulate it well. There is a sense in which the religious right is creating this binary, where you’re either on our side or against our side.

But I want to say that, if there’s one misconception that happens in the media — and no one’s going to want to hear this part — it’s like the failure to actually try to understand Christians and what some of our actual beliefs are. So in other words, it’s possible to be someone who says, you know what? As a Christian, I really care about lives and wombs. And it doesn’t mean that I’m a nationalist. It doesn’t mean that I want to take over the government. It doesn’t mean that I’m this extremist. And so I think what happened in the storming of the Capitol is bad.

But am I allowed to potentially have these opinions? Am I allowed to support women who need the economic resources to bring their child to term, if the economics are the main cause? And so I do believe that one of the ways that we need to learn how to talk about Christianity in America, is to understand that every single thing that a Christian nationalist says is not exclusive to Christian nationalists.

jane coaston

Right.

esau mccaulley

And so —

jane coaston

And I also think that there are ways in which people are — I think that people feel as if their beliefs get wielded against them as a cudgel.

esau mccaulley

Yes. And so what I want to say is that when we sometimes think about the good that religion can do, we tend to have this idea that a religion is good if it says all the things we want it to say.

jane coaston

Right.

esau mccaulley

And the truth is, if you let Christians speak, they will sometimes surprise you. And they will have clusters of ideas and beliefs and values that don’t completely fit in either the political binaries. And I think that the call for nuance is sometimes heard as a call for normalizing oppression. One of the things about the Civil Rights movement that I really love — is it was actually religiously diverse. It was Catholics, Baptists, Jews, atheists. And King did not expect ideological conformity on every issue. He, him and others — and I want to speak especially to the women whose role in the Civil Rights movement is often neglected — the idea was, if you are in line with this part, we can work together here.

jane coaston

Right.

esau mccaulley

And I do think there’s lots of places where there can be greater cooperation amongst people from a variety of political and theological camps around core issues. And how we organize that and our failure to organize that, is reality. I can honestly admit to saying, yes. The far right has done a better job of organizing people around their two or three pet issues than the rest of Christianity has been in working towards the consensus that we already agree on.

katherine stewart

I want to go to something that you said also about expressing your faith in the public square. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with having religious views and then advocating for your policies. That’s absolutely fine.

But that’s sort of not really what we’re dealing today. The fact is, what we’re dealing with is — it becomes a way of misframing the issue at hand. And I think that question is often asked by folks who are trying to conflate in the minds of the public, their religion with what it means to be a true American.

So rather than say, you can have all kinds of opinions on the issue — and the specific issue of abortion — and not be a Christian nationalist. But if you were allowing that one single issue to control your vote, you are actually lending support to a Christian nationalist agenda.

esau mccaulley

Well, actually, what I was trying to say is the distinction between how religion works in the public square and Christian nationalism. We don’t actually agree, I think that you’re correct. What I was trying to articulate is, when you try to enforce your religion as the basis of your argument and the sole way of being a good American, that’s Christian nationalism.

And when you’re saying, well, hold on, here is a value that I want to advocate for, perhaps this is my best presentation of the issue. Let’s vote and let society decide. I think that’s the best that you can hope for. In the sense — and this is what I say — I get this question all of the time from Christians. And I say the key word as a Christian is “perhaps.”

In other words, you can’t say, it must be this way. You want to say, can I form your imagination so that this way is compelling even if you don’t share all of my values? And I feel like if it’s going to be something that’s going to be in a representative democracy, you have to make your case like that. Because otherwise, you’re in danger of becoming something else.

I do want to ask a question because there is a couple of things that are floating in the back of my head that we maybe haven’t addressed. We’ve had an entire conversation about the threat of Christian nationalism, and I want to say that that threat is real. But I wonder — maybe I can ask this question of Katherine.

If I — like, storming the Capitol, the worst thing you’ve ever seen in the history — in my lifetime. The biggest attack on democracy is the attempt to decertify the 2020 election. At the same time, I am seeing a state that I would have thought as a teenager, unflippable — Georgia and Texas now changing.

So which one of those are the determinative factor in the next 25 years of American politics? Because I could look at it from that perspective and say, no. We’re actually winning. We’re making progress in creating a more just society.

katherine stewart

But this is why movement leaders are so intent on destroying faith in democratic elections. This is why they’re trying to pass crazy laws like, you can’t bring people water while they’re waiting in line to vote — by the way, in a district where there aren’t enough places you can vote. This is why they’re attempting to decertify elections.

And this is, frankly, a big change in the movement. It kind of goes back to where we were in the beginning. And it shows that yes, I think a lot of people are sort of putting two and two together, and seeing through the hypocrisy of the movement.

A lot of people are saying, you know, people who aren’t religious are like, I’m an American too. And this isn’t right. Or people who are members of minority faiths are saying, wait a second. I’m just as American as anyone else.

And a lot of Christians are saying, this doesn’t represent my faith. But I think that movement leaders can see the writing on the wall themselves. And, you know, this is a movement that represents a minority of our country, but they punch above their political weight because of this positive culture of voting. So —

esau mccaulley

Yeah.

katherine stewart

Like for example in 2016 — George Barna, he’s an evangelical pollster. And he did some of the math and he said he identified this cohort — the most devoted religious right supporters. He called them, Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservatives — only 10 percent of the population, but 91 percent voted in 2016, 93 percent voted for Donald Trump.

Now when you have a country of, 40 percent to 50 percent of people don’t bother to vote at all, and an additional number have their votes essentially stolen from them through race-based gerrymandering, voter suppression, et cetera, you don’t need a majority to win elections. All you need is a disproportionately organized minority.

jane coaston

I want to ask one final question, which is — the hypocrisy question to me is so important, because we see again and again, that there will be people who are the firmest against abortion, who will then pay someone to get an abortion. And you see that people really don’t like hypocrisy, especially in people who claim to be either political authorities or religious authorities. So I’m curious for you, Katherine — is there an amount of hypocrisy from people who purport to be Christian nationalists, where people are going to say like, this is too much for me? Like, do you think that there will be, within these communities, a pushback?

katherine stewart

I mean, I try to think about examples. And the most clear example, we can think of is former President Donald Trump, who — again, no one could think of as a representative of the so-called values voter. But at the end of the day, this isn’t really about — you know, this is a movement that wants to promote theocratic policies, but theocracy is really not the endpoint. It’s sort of a means to an end, which is authoritarianism.

And Trump — yes of course, he gave movement leaders what they wanted, policies that privilege their religion — he threw open the doors to them. He gave them access to public money. He gave them right-wing justices. He gave them economic policies that are favorable to their funders.

But at the end of the day, he represents the strongman. And this is a model of leadership that the movement really likes. If you’ve persuaded yourself that you’re in an apocalyptic struggle between absolute good and absolute evil, you don’t want the nice guy fighting for you. You want the mean guy, right? The strongman who’s going to crack heads, as long as those heads —

jane coaston

Heads aren’t yours?

katherine stewart

Heads aren’t yours, exactly.

jane coaston

Esau, if you are a Christian who is listening to this, or someone who is a person of another faith, for whom it feels as if the loudest voices in your religion or your faith community are people who you’re like, I don’t know who this is. This is not what this looks like to me. This is not how I talk. This is not what I want. If you’re a person who doesn’t recognize this and doesn’t want this, what do you do?

esau mccaulley

I think that you have to pay the price of standing up and speaking your values. I think that Katherine is correct, that they’ve created a political binary. That if you’re not lockstep in a certain set of ideological ideas, you’re seen as a bad guy or a bad girl.

And you got to have to take the L, as I would say. That’s the first thing I would say, you have to have religious courage. And at some point, you have to speak your convictions. I think the second thing that you really have to do is, you have to recognize that the solution to bad theology is sometimes better theology or healthier theology. And that you have to be able to articulate for your people why this stuff matters. And there’s a lot of people who are just putting their head down and hoping that it goes away. And that you can’t just hope that it goes away and only focus on Jesus.

You have to actually at some point say, what does my belief in Jesus have to say about these things? And so I think that running away from politics is not the solution. I think articulating a Christian public theology, which is what we’ve done throughout our history, is probably the best way forward.

jane coaston

Katherine, Esau, thank you so much for joining me.

katherine stewart

Great to be in conversation with you guys.

esau mccaulley

Any time. [MUSIC]

jane coaston

Katherine Stewart is a journalist and the author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.” Esau McCaulley is a contributing opinion writer, an associate professor of New Testament at Wheaton College and a theologian-in-residence at Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago. If you want to read more about Christianity and its effects on democracy, I recommend “Christian Nationalists Are Excited By What Comes Next“, by Katherine Stewart in The New York Times, and “How Religion Can Help Put our Democracy Back Together” by Richard Just in The Washington Post Magazine. You can find links to these in our episode notes.

The Argument is the production of New York Times Opinion. It’s produced by Phoebe Lett and Vishakha Darbha. Edited by Alison Bruzek and Anabel Bacon, with original music and sound design by Isaac Jones, mixing by Pat McCusker, fact checking by Kate Sinclair and Michelle Harris. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta with editorial support from Kristina Samulewski.



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