The Rev. Jen Butler to discuss combating white Christian … – LNP | LancasterOnline

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The Rev. Jennifer Butler will speak at Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren Aug. 20. 
The Rev. Jennifer Butler will speak at Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren Aug. 20. 
A Presbyterian pastor who founded a nonprofit that helped defeat a ballot measure in Ohio Tuesday will speak in Lancaster about the dangers of an evangelical movement that seeks to make the United States a conservative Christian country.
White Christian nationalists believe that since the founding fathers were Protestant, America should become a Christian nation with conservative leaders and goals, said the Rev. Jennifer Butler. She will present “Reclaiming Faith to Counter White Christian Nationalism” Aug. 20 from 3-5 p.m. at Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren, 777 S. Mount Joy St., Elizabethtown.
“I measure success by legislations we have helped to prevent,” Butler said from her Atlanta home.

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Outlawing abortion, Butler said, violates biblical principles that say women deserve respect and should control what happens to their bodies.
The pastor created Faith in Public Life in 2005, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that mobilizes religious leaders and voters around the country to combat white Christian nationalism.
“I want to empower all people to tune into their faith voice to talk to their friends, neighbors and to even speak at school board meetings,” Butler said.
Butler stepped away from Faith in Public Life July 31 to work on forming an international organization to combat global religious nationalism.
The pastor described her Atlanta childhood as “growing up in the Bible Belt.” She and her family attended a Methodist church. Even as a youngster, Butler asked questions about racism.
“Social justice was not in my vocabulary,” she said. Seminary, the Peace Corps and a job with the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations in New York called attention to inequities faced by women and those who didn’t conform to their birth gender.
“Christianity is a liberationist movement to free humans from tyranny,” Butler said, explaining why she believes everyone deserves equal rights.
That belief drew attention from local religious leaders. “We are bringing in Jen Butler partly because she’s a recognized expert on the topic of white Christian nationalism, and partly because there is a lot of interest in this topic by the members of Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness,” said Barry Stoner, who serves on the group’s board. The organization formed in 2003-2004 to advocate for peace during the war with Iraq.
“Right now, the United States is engaged in a very important conversation about who we are. Are we a country with liberty and justice for all? There are elements of the Christian Right who say that full liberty and political power should be reserved for conservative Christians,” Stoner continued. “Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness doesn’t believe this kind of power grab is genuinely American — or genuinely Christian.”
Rabbi Jack Paskoff, who leads Congregation Shaarai Shomayim, a conservative synagogue in Lancaster, expressed similar views.
“This is one of the biggest threats to American life today,” he said and called merging religion and government “a deadly combination.” Paskoff worries about others who share his faith. “Where do we stand as Jews in this country? I’m very frightened,” he said.
Greg Carey, acting assistant dean and professor of New Testament at the Lancaster Theological Seminary, has spoken against white Christian nationalism several times.
“Democracy is not a huge priority,” he said of the movement.
Butler has several talking points ready when someone quotes the Bible to argue that America is a Christian nation, and that evangelical Christianity should play a major role in politics.
She explained that her interpretation of the Bible says Jesus did not believe in taking away anyone’s rights, even if that person didn’t share the same beliefs.
“The only way to pull someone out of (white Christian nationalism) is to introduce doubt,” Butler said. For instance, she might counter another person’s argument with this response: “As a Christian, I can’t bring myself to vote for that.”
Carey notes that discussion opportunities like Butler’s talk are important.
“We have to continue the work of educating and building community,” Carey said.
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