Dying is ugly and hard.
It requires a distinct letting go of known and comfortable places of life that steady us along the journey and an entering into the mystery of the unknown. Sadly, in America, within our medical, religious, political, and family systems, few are able to release control and allow new life to emerge from the death of what was. Within our medical systems, this is evident in a “If you can, you should” mentality that is costly and painful for all involved. It is predicated upon a system of fear that seeks to mitigate pain above all else. This pain mitigation often leads to “more time;” “more time” filled with more symptoms, drugs, side-effects, and weakness, in essence, “more time” almost always involves more dying, and the pain of that can never be mitigated, no matter how hard we fight.
Reading social scientists, Andrew L. Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry’s Taking American Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States, it is clear that the influence of Christian nationalism is dying and those that adhere to its premises are in the “If you can, you should” state of being. “‘Christian nationalism’ describes an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular Christian identity and culture.” Christian nationalism embodies a blurred identity between being Christian and being American, a conservative political viewpoint, belief in the Bible, a premillennial vision of moral decay, and a divine command for conquest of others. It’s high calling is “fidelity to religion and fidelity to nation.”
Whitehead and Perry utilized “high-quality and transparent methods to gather, analyze, and truthfully present data” collected from hours of interviews of American men and women from different regions of the USA, with the goal of “systematically and empirically examin(ing) Christian nationalism and its influence in American social, cultural, and political life.” Since the 1800s, Christian nationalism has impacted all aspects of American life, whether a person “rejects, resists, accommodates, or embraces it.”
Within the study, four main groups of Americans were identified regarding this subject: Rejecters, Resistors, Accommodators, and Ambassadors. Rejectors oppose narratives that espouse a special relationship between God, or some higher power, and the USA. Resistors are more indecisive, believing that the government should not declare the USA to be a Christian nation, are not directly opposed to religious symbols in public places, but do oppose Christian nationalism. Similar to Resistors, Accommodators are indecisive on governmental declaration of the USA being a Christian nation, but do see value in positive Christian, and other religious group’s, principles within the public sphere. The last group is that of Ambassadors. This group wholly embraces and supports Christian nationalism by advocating for governmental declaration of the USA being a Christian nation, desiring prayer in schools and the Ten Commandments displayed in courthouses, and maintaining a conservative political stance.
Over the past decade, Ambassadors have experienced a decrease in number. This decrease is offset by an increase in numbers of Rejectors and Resistors. This shift is but a continuation of a thirty-year decline, where Americans increasingly do not believe America to be a Christian nation. This belief is especially prevalent in younger generations, such as millennials. These trends lead to power shifts and struggles. Positions of power and influence are weakened, thus creating a threatening environment for those who have embodied Christian nationalism throughout their lifetime. As fear creeps in, rhetoric in political and religious systems intensifies as that which was known moves into the realm of unknown, as what once was slowly dies and is replaced by a measure of mystery and discomfort.
Culturally, Americans do not die well. Death goes against our “can do” attitude. Not only do we have limited language surrounding death, but many Christians also lack the theological foundations to support them through dying into death. As a result, we panic, flail, fret, and fight. None of which is pretty, and little of which is God honoring.
Because we lack language for dying and death, we often strip others of their humanity. We label and blame, causing increased pain in already stressed systems. The line between the good guys and bad guys becomes increasingly blurred, and the “more time” within comfortable knowns that we desperately seek becomes increasingly filled with suffering and adverse symptoms. Our current political and religious climate attests to these realities.
Until we are able to lean into that which is dying and allow it to die, new life will not emerge. This is true in nature, in our spiritual life, and in our nation. There’s really no way around it; we can only go through it, trusting God is present as much in the dying as in the resurrection.
 Stephen Jenkinson. Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul. (Berkley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2015) 32.
 Ibid., 32-35.
 Andrew L. Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry. Taking American Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2020) ix-x.
 Ibid., 15.
 Ibid., 5.
 Ibid., 152.
 Ibid., 22, 30-31, 34-37.
 Ibid., 44-50.