Years ago, a Roman Catholic friend lamented to me that he had to go to an evangelical church to hear “good old blood hymns.” He found it inconceivable that a church structured around the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Mass would be so reluctant to sing about blood.

He shared, though, that it was getting harder even at evangelical churches to hear bloody music. “Your churches get successful enough where they find it gauche to sing about being washed in blood, so they go with songs more spiritual and abstract,” he said. “But when you find the poor and the hurting evangelicals, that’s where you hear it: power, power, wonder-working power, in the blood of the Lamb.”

He said, “I know you all want to reach people—but it seems to me, when you’re choosing between comfort and blood, too many of you are making the wrong choice.”

I think of that conversation often when I think of the way many of us have grown alarmed by what’s sometimes called Christian nationalism—either in its more common and less virulent strain of “God and country” civil religion, or in the more explicit and terrifying ways we have seen Christian symbols co-opted by demagogic and authoritarian ethnocentric or nationalist movements.

Yes, this degrades the credibility and witness of the church. It grants delegated legitimacy to what the Bible itself denounces, and it turns the church into a captive servant to what can only be called an idol. What we often miss, though, is that what these nationalistic movements trade away is blood.

There’s a reason we see an American church riven apart by resurgent heresy trials. These inquisitions are far less likely ...

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Onward
Russell Moore
Russell Moore is Christianity Today's chair of public theology and the director of the Public Theology Project.
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