At a congressional hearing about global religious persecution last week, some House Democrats hijacked the event to fearmonger about a small school of political thought that espouses a position that its proponents call “Christian nationalism.”
The Oct. 25 hearing was held by the House Oversight subcommittee on national security, the border, and foreign affairs. Yet, rather than remain focused on the many urgent crises facing religious believers around the world—in Armenia, Nigeria, North Korea, and China, to name a few—Democrats chose to highlight the contrived problem of Christian nationalism in the United States.
Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee, an organization known for supporting unconstitutional bans on public symbols of faith such as the Bladensburg Peace Cross, a World War I veterans memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland, was Democrats’ witness at the hearing.
According to Tyler, the “single greatest threat to religious liberty in the United States today” is “Christian nationalism.” She defined it as “a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to fuse American and Christian identities.”
Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., ignored the topic of global persecution entirely in his questioning of witnesses, instead pointing the finger at Christians in the United States.
“Christian nationalism is a form of religious extremism making its way into our policies and undermining our democracy,” Frost said. “These extremist actors are co-opting the language of Christianity and religious freedom to push an undemocratic agenda that seeks the very opposite of what they claim to do.”
Who are these “extremists,” according to Democrats? Well, if you’re a faithful Christian with a biblical worldview, you might just be one yourself.
Gillian Richards, a researcher at The Heritage Foundation, wrote in The American Mind that “the term is mostly used as a smear against conservative Christians who defend the role of religion in American public life.”
One need only look at the actions that progressives claim represents “Christian nationalism” to see that this is accurate. Currently, House Speaker Mike Johnson has been labeled a “Christian nationalist” for such commonplace actions as looking to the Bible to shape his personal worldview, quoting the Bible in his first speech as speaker, or working at a Christian legal group now called Alliance Defending Freedom.
If these sound like things that any Christian working in politics would say or do, that’s because they are.
Family Research Council’s Joseph Backholm argues that progressives are not genuinely concerned about the supposed threat of Christian nationalism, because they are perfectly happy to accept Democratic politicians who invoke Bible verses to promote their agenda. Rather, he says, progressives are stirring fear about Christian nationalism to shame Christians into “silence, fear, and retreat.”
At the hearing, Frost went on to suggest that Christian nationalists are making a “coordinated attempt” to “co-opt the right of religious freedom to try and justify stripping rights away from people.”
Now, this line of argument is par for the course these days among progressives. The only “religious freedom” that many progressives actually will accept is freedom from religion. Any display of religion in the public square increasingly is seen as provocative in a culture dominated by radical secularism.
It is slanderous for Frost to suggest that those who promote a true understanding of religious freedom are doing so for corrupt motives. Unfortunately, the confusion surrounding what Chrisian nationalism actually is and how Democrats are using the term lends itself to false accusations and misunderstandings.
Later in the hearing, Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., appeared to link violent attacks on synagogues or grocery stores to Christian nationalism without offering evidence of specific incidents, all while accusing Republicans of “silence” on the issue.
With so many pressing and widespread issues of religious persecution around the world, it is unfortunate that some House Democrats diverted the hearing’s attention from actual victims of persecution. Sadly, this is not an isolated instance. The Biden administration’s foreign policy routinely has overlooked issues of international religious freedom.
Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., who chaired the hearing, told Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on Thursday’s “Washington Watch” that the Biden administration hasn’t been prioritizing religious freedom in foreign policy.
“The United States does not appear to be weighing in,” Grothman stated. “And that’s very concerning.”
“Maybe the reason the U.S. government is not that concerned about Christians being persecuted is they themselves are weighing in on other countries with their LGBT agenda, their Planned Parenthood agenda, as we try to use our financial muscle or our foreign aid to make these countries less Christian,” the Wisconsin Republican said.
It is shameful for Democrats to ignore the suffering of religious believers around the world, and instead to waste time accusing political opponents of Christian nationalism and steering our foreign policy resources toward progressive political agenda items such as LGBT activism or pro-abortion expansionism.
While Democrats in Congress fight the exaggerated threat of Christian nationalism, the U.S. government continues to neglect the promotion of international religious freedom.
The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 formally elevated the importance of international religious freedom in our foreign policy. Democrats—especially those on congressional committees that deal with foreign affairs—should look back at that bipartisan law to be reminded of just how important it is to fight global persecution, and why it’s in America’s interest in the long run.
This commentary originally was published by The Washington Stand
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