“As long as we have been a nation, there has been some prevailing strand of Christianity that has provided a sacred, legitimating canopy for power.” The Very Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas
On February 13, Labor-Religion Coalition, the Kairos Center, and Broadway Community, Inc. co-hosted Religion in a Time of Crisis, a day-long convening of religious leaders (lay and clergy) from across New York State and beyond.
We started the day by grappling with the rise of white Christian nationalism and its implications for our democracy, religious communities, and the movement to end poverty. White Christian nationalism is not new, but it has been ascendant in recent years and today it is a political and cultural force we can’t afford to ignore.
In this context, it’s even more urgent for religious leaders and communities to directly confront the cynical uses of our scriptures and traditions to maintain and justify systems of domination. As Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas reminded us, the roots of Christian nationalism can be traced as far back as Constantine’s conversion when the Roman Empire co-opted Christianity for its own aims. For thousands of years, rulers have understood that religion can be extremely dangerous to them when it inspires and empowers people to transform their conditions and challenge power structures. On the other hand, they’ve found that religion can also be a powerful tool to leverage in order to justify and support their own power.
Today, white Christian nationalism props up capitalism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy and attacks poor people, immigrants, LGBTQ+ people, women, the environment, and the global South. But as speakers and participants showed again and again during Religion in a Time of Crisis, it does so on the shaky scriptural and theological ground and by erasing the lived experiences of huge segments of society.
As has been the case throughout history, religious leaders and communities in our time hold a powerful and unique position to expose the heresy of religious nationalism and put forward a liberatory alternative that builds the movement for justice. Religion in a Time of Crisis was an important opportunity to bring together leaders already engaged in this effort and those who want to be. Labor-Religion Coalition is excited to continue collaborating with our network to build our collective understanding and capacity for this work.