One Church’s ‘Freedom Sunday’ Says More About the Church Than American History
First Baptist-Dallas shot off fireworks and once again, linked Christian faith and American patriotism
First Baptist-Dallas is an influential megachurch that last year featured a mid-pandemic, July 4th, “Celebrate Freedom” sermon by Mike Pence and a maskless choir. Again this year, pastor Robert Jeffress dubbed the Sunday leading into July 4th “Freedom Sunday.” While signs of Christian nationalism have become the norm in many right-leaning churches across the US — lavish, holiday red, white, and blue American flag altar bunting is common — not many do it with the literal fireworks at the altar seen at First Baptist Church, Dallas this weekend.
Grand Old Flag-type patriotic anthems mingled with a brassy orchestra in lieu of hymns. Giant screens filled with scenes of national and military monuments. An acapella group interpreted the Preamble to the Constitution. An announcer described how the words of patriots “warn us of the consequences of taking liberty for granted” and “urge us to willingly and courageously take up the mantel of those who have sacrificed so we can be free.” Each branch of the U.S. military was recognized with theme music and time for veterans and service members to stand and be recognized. A prayer, from a deacon and retired US Army chaplain in dress uniform, praised God for “the liberty that we have in Jesus Christ,” granted by the crucifixion, and a spiritual heritage that came from God by way of America’s Founding Fathers.
It was all big, and loud, and judging from the congregation’s reaction, stirring.
Less Americans being over-the-top patriotic, the spectacle is more deeply a commitment to a worldview that paints one type of America, and by extension, one sort of Americans, as favored winners in a spiritual battle.
For those unfamiliar with Christian nationalism, the scene might look less like worship of Jesus and God, but instead worship…