The Threat of White Christian Nationalism
What It Is
How It Started
How We Respond Today
A Justice Advocates Series from
September 22, September 29, and October 6, 2022
Christian Nationalism - and specifically White Christian Nationalism - has been defined as "a cultural framework that idealizes and advocates a fusion of Christianity with American civic life. [It] contends that America has been and should always be distinctively 'Christian' from top to bottom – in its self-identity, interpretations of its own history, sacred symbols, cherished values, and public policies – and it aims to keep it that way." (from christiansagainstchristiannationalism.org)
Session One: September 22, 2022
Christian Nationalism: Its Historical and Theological Antecedents
In this talk, Rev. David Jones offered an overview of historical and theological precedent for Christian nationalism, including “Constantinian Christianity” and the Crusades. He sought to explain how Christian Nationalism theologically undermines the Christian faith as well as democracy as defined in the Constitution.
Rev. David A. Jones
Pastor, Williams Memorial Baptist Church
David Arnez Jones was born and raised in Highland Park, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. He has earned the Associate of Divinity from Mid-Atlantic Theological Seminary; the Bachelor of Ministry and Master of Biblical Studies from Jacksonville Theological Seminary; the Master of Divinity (magna cum laude) and Doctor of Ministry from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia.
On July 29, 2012, Rev. Jones was installed as the 2nd pastor of the Williams Memorial Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia. Pastor Jones has initiated a broad, progressive agenda for this historic church. He may be heard each Sunday on WTOY radio at 8:30 a.m. on the radio broadcast “Think on These Things.”
Dr. Jones is the Political Action Chair of the Roanoke Branch of the NAACP, as well as the Chairman of the Social Justice Committee of the Valley Baptist Association of Roanoke. He is involved in several community action groups including the Northwest Faith Partnership, the Equitable Policing Group, RAISE (Roanoke Area Interfaith Stewards of the Earth), the Pledge to End Racism, and the Roanoke Gun Violence Commission.
Session Two: September 29, 2022
Christian Nationalism in Recent United States History: Why “What the Founders Meant” Matters Today
In this talk, Professor Sylvester Johnson explained the history of Christian Nationalism in order to shed light on the controversies surrounding the American nation-state. Johnson demonstrated how recent debates about the United States and its relationship to Christianity reveal contemporary conflicts concerning America’s political history and its future. Johnson’s talk invited the audience to consider America’s particular relationship with the question of religious identity in light of global patterns.
Sylvester A. Johnson, PhD
Executive Director, Tech for Humanity Initiative
Assistant Vice Provost for the Humanities
Director, Center for Humanities
Co-Editor, Journal of Africana Religions
Professor of Religion and Culture
Professor Sylvester A. Johnson, the founding director of the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities, is a nationally recognized humanities scholar of religion and US culture, and a public intellectual, specializing in the study of technology, race, religion, and national security. He is also assistant vice provost for the humanities at Virginia Tech. Professor Johnson’s graduate degrees from Union Theological Seminary, New York City (1997, 2000, 2002) are in Systematic Theology/ Contemporary Religious Thought, a discipline that is centered on the study of doctrinal traditions (currently Christian) viewed historically, with the goal of relating those traditions to the theology of contemporary Christian doctrines.
Johnson, who holds a faculty appointment in Virginia Tech’s Department of Religion and Culture, has authored The Myth of Ham in Nineteenth-Century American Christianity, a study of race and religious hatred that won the American Academy of Religion’s Best First Book award; and African American Religions, 1500-2000, an award-winning interpretation of five centuries of democracy, colonialism, and freedom in the Atlantic world. He has published more than 70 scholarly articles, essays, and reviews. Professor Johnson’s list of invited talks is very long and equally impressive in its breadth, ranging from presentations in a scholarly setting to talks at many churches of differing denominations, including, for example “Religion and Politics in American History.”
Session Three: October 6, 2022
An Interfaith Response
Our final session highlighted faith community leaders from Roanoke and the New River Valleys as they responded to the following questions:
What are the challenges presented to the faith community by White Christian Nationalism?
How does White Christian Nationalism impact/affect your faith community?
How will you and your faith community respond?
Rabbi Kathy Cohen
Temple Emanuel Roanoke
Pastor Andrew B. Fairfield
Christiansburg Mennonite Fellowship
Pastor David A. Jones
Williams Memorial Baptist Church Roanoke
Prof. Hesham A. Rakha
Samuel Reynolds Pritchard Professor of Engineering, VA Tech Trustee, Islamic Society of the New River Valley
Father David Sharland, Y.A.
Chaplain Catholic Campus Ministry VA Tech
Deacon Jon Greene
Moderator Justice Advocates Team