Illustration by Narrative Initiative
Illustration by Narrative Initiative

Countering Christian Nationalism With Jesus’ Love

Field Notes is where writers show us the creativity, perspectives, and strategies of everyday organizers who are pushing us toward a world where a truly just, multiracial democracy is possible. In this Field Note, Wendi Gordon shares her personal story as a pastor who organizes with faith communities to resist white nationalism.



Wendi Gordon


21 May, 2024

My husband Steve and I were wholly unprepared for the upheaval that awaited us as we entered the room where the president and vice-president of the congregation we co-pastored were waiting to meet us. We soon learned that, while we were on vacation, the church council had decided they wanted our immediate resignations. We were stunned; no one had previously mentioned that possibility to us. When I asked why they were suddenly so eager to get rid of us, they offered no explanation.

There’s still no clarity on what prompted the decision for our abrupt removal, but it was made in July 2020, shortly after the council chose to resume indoor worship. We had consistently advocated for the church to follow every CDC COVID safety recommendation, including eliminating congregational singing. They refused. 

Our disagreements about Covid-related precautions were connected to political discord, likely influencing the council’s desire for us to leave. Donald Trump had ignored advice from medical professionals and routinely diminished the severity of COVID-19. The council president and some other members were staunch Trump supporters and knew we were not. The looming 2020 presidential election only increased tensions.

I knew I couldn’t remain silent about the stark contrast between Trump’s words and actions and Jesus’ teachings.

Still shocked by the council’s decision, we reluctantly mailed a resignation letter to the congregation and our final worship was less than two weeks later. Interviews with other churches revealed similar sentiments among members who endorsed Trump and his Christian nationalist rhetoric. I knew I couldn’t remain silent about the stark contrast between Trump’s words and actions and Jesus’ teachings. But I also couldn’t talk about it without angering church members who believed God sent Trump to save our nation by making it Christian. So I abandoned my career as a pastor and became a freelance writer to combat Christian nationalism’s stronghold on American Christianity. 

My understanding of Christian nationalism comes from Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States by Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry:

Christian nationalism is a cultural framework—a collection of myths, traditions, symbols, narratives, and value systems—that idealizes and advocates a fusion of Christianity with American civil life … It includes assumptions of nativism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and heteronormativity along with divine sanction for authoritarian control and militarism. It is as ethnic and political as it is religious.

Christian nationalists insist that their views are God’s, labeling dissenters as not true Christians. My desire to challenge that claim led me to Faithful America, a Christian organization with nearly 200,000 members. Faithful America and its members are “sick of sitting by quietly while Jesus' message of good news is hijacked … to serve a hateful political agenda.” 

In a recent interview the Rev. Nathan Empsall, Faithful America’s Executive Director, said that Christian nationalists have convinced people that “if you’re a Christian you have to be conservative, when that’s a blatant lie.” He added that Faithful America is dedicated to challenging that perception. 

One of the ways members challenge that idea is to sign and share online petitions that protest or encourage specific actions. That’s what brought me into the Faithful America fold and I’ve signed dozens more since. A petition that urged event venues not to host Franklin Graham’s “God Loves You” tour didn’t mince words:

Despite the tour's deceptive name, Graham is a divisive figure who tries to hide a series of deeply hateful messages behind his father's Christian legacy. His message is not one of Christ-like love but of anti-democracy, anti-LGBTQ, partisan bigotry and harm …

Faithful America also sponsors mobile billboards and organizes protests. A billboard near Graham’s March 5 event in Tucson, AZ warned attendees that he is a false prophet. It also quoted his late father Billy’s statement, “The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.” 

Those billboards and protests attract attention and media coverage, something Rev. Empsall believes is very important. When Franklin Graham comes to town, Empsall said, “it’s no longer a story of gays, lefties, and atheists versus the Christians. It’s ‘look at Christians disagreeing on this narrative and taking their faith back from Franklin Graham,’ a fundamentally different story. 

Faithful America also creates an annual list of “American False Prophets.” In the Bible (Matthew 7:15), Jesus warns his followers, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Texas Governor Greg Abbott made the 2022 list. I live in Texas and was familiar with his hateful rhetoric and harmful policies, so I participated in that “False Prophets Don’t Speak for Me” campaign. I mentioned it in my article for the Texas Observer about why Christians must publicly denounce Christian Nationalism and spoke at a press conference about the campaign.

Does Faithful America’s work make a difference? Our successes include:

  • Pressuring a bishop to remove a priest who spread COVID vaccine misinformation and said one cannot be Catholic and a Democrat
  • Working with other organizations to block Trump nominee Anthony Tata, who had a record of white supremacy and Islamophobia
  • Providing “Immigrants and Refugees Welcome” banners to churches across the country to demonstrate Christian solidarity with immigrants

Other results, like how many people have used the discussion guides, books, training, and other resources on our website to help them understand and respond to Christian nationalism, are harder to quantify.

Empsall acknowledged that Faithful America’s work is unlikely to change the minds of Christian nationalists, “because that requires deep, personal, long-term work.” But he added that the organization provides an alternative for people who are ready to find new ways to be Christian. I am one of many Christians grateful for an alternative.

Wendi Gordon is a freelance writer and former pastor who has published over 150 articles online. She lives in Texas with her husband Steve.