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The wolf you feed: The fight against white Christian nationalism


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The wolf you feed: The fight against white Christian nationalism

Commentary by Paul Graves | FāVS News

Recently, a friend reminded me of an old story usually attributed to Cherokee folklore that tells of a grandfather’s sharing some wisdom with his grandson. The elder describes a fierce good vs. evil battle between two wolves within one’s self. When the child asks which wolf wins, the grandfather responds, “The one you feed!”

The story is useful in so many contexts, isn’t it?

Today, let’s plop it down in the middle of what — for a large majority of people — is the feeding of a dangerous political trend: white Christian nationalism. A Feb. 20 article by Politico identifies some allies of Donald Trump brazenly planning to inject Christian nationalism into all of American culture if Trump is elected president.

One of their strategies is a destructive grab for political and economic power through “Project 2025,” developed by The Heritage Foundation.

The loss of religious freedom

For us who believe strongly in the separation of church and state — and in the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution — this prospect is both dangerous and likely very illegal. It could also deal a serious body blow to the spiritual foundations of our cultural traditions.

The Christian nationalist movement is determined to impose a toxic and exclusive form of Christianity into the fabric of our federal government. Many “true believers” see their version of Christianity as a mandate for them to exercise domination over all aspects of American society.

Myth of American exceptionalism

Further, they believe America was founded as the “Promised Land” for white European Christians and that the founding fathers meant to create a Christian nation. They base their passion and determination on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible and American history.

A distressing extension of this Christian nationalism effort happened on June 19. Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry signed into state law that public schools must display a poster-size copy of the Ten Commandments in each classroom. “If you want to respect the rule of law, you gotta start from the original law given which was Moses. … He got his commandments from God,” Landry said.

Gov. Landry’s conflating of Old Testament theology with New Testament Christian theology is simplistic and naive. This law could also damage Louisiana children’s and teenagers’ long-term view of Christianity as a viable, welcoming faith tradition.

Feeding the wolf of liberty

Not surprisingly, on June 24, nine Louisiana families filed a federal lawsuit against their state’s education department and their local school boards to challenge the constitutionality of this new law.  

The families are Jewish, Christian, Unitarian-Universalist and non-religious. Two of the plaintiffs are clergy: a Unitarian-Universalist (whose husband is Jewish) and a Presbyterian pastor.

All assert that the new law “substantially interferes with and burdens” the parents’ First Amendment right to raise their children in whatever religion (or non-religion) they want. I encourage us all to how this lawsuit plays out.

Which wolf do you want to feed when the challenge facing you is about how your religious liberty may well hang in the balance in our country? 

One wolf seems hungry to impose one form of religious indoctrination and uniformity on what may be deceptively called “religious liberty.” The other wolf desires to be nourished by the religious diversity, personal and social freedoms that keep our society stronger.

The views expressed in this opinion column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FāVS News. FāVS News values diverse perspectives and thoughtful analysis on matters of faith and spirituality.

Paul Graves
Paul Graves
Paul Graves is a retired and re-focused United Methodist pastor and a long-time resident of Sandpoint, Idaho, where he formerly served on city council and mayor. His second career is in geriatric social work, and since 2005 he's been the Lead Geezer-in-Training of Elder Advocates, a consulting and teaching ministry on aging issues. Since 1992, Graves has been a volunteer chaplain for Bonner Community Hospice. His columns regularly appear in The Spokesman-Review's Faith and Values section, and he also writes the Dear Geezer column for the Bonner County Daily Bee and is the host of the bi-weekly Geezer Forum on aging issues in Sandpoint.

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Walter A Hesford
Walter A Hesford
5 days ago

Thanks. Paul,for your always though-provoking commentary. Unfornately down here in Moscow…and I suspect in other communities….people are not so much feeding a wolf within them as flocking like blind sheep to the false shepherds of Christian Nationalism.

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