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God & Country Review: The Rise of Christian Nationalism

a still from the film God & Country, with people clapping

God & Country utilizes typical documentary techniques, but its look into Christian nationalism makes the film important for this moment in history.

God & Country: The Rise of Christian Nationalism begins with several shots of churches throughout the United States. Bishop William Barber II quotes Martin Luther King Jr.: “What kind of people worship there? What do they care about?”. This new documentary, directed by Dan Partland and produced by Rob Reiner, among others, seeks to answer those two questions, and the answers may be surprising and terrifying.

Christian nationalism can be defined as a movement seeking to forcefully “impose” (a word frequently used in God & Country) onto the rest of the nation using the power of the government. The film tracks the history of Christian nationalism and why this rise is potentially troubling for the country. It does so not by placing the spotlight on antagonists of Christianity, but by highlighting the concerns of prominent voices in the evangelical community. Phil Vischer (the creator of Veggietales), theologian and preacher Russell Moore, author Kristin Kobes Du Mez, and other key Christian figures join various political commentators and historians to demonstrate how this mixture of religion and politics came to be radicalized, culminating in the now infamous January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. The film also points to important figures from the movement, ranging from famous pastors like Jerry Falwell to political figures like former President Donald Trump.

The movie excels in revealing how Christian nationalism represents a perversion of the Christian message, and how the hatred and bigotry associated with radical far-right politics are not based on the values of the Christian gospel. It unpacks certain myths regarding America’s founding and how Christian nationalists have blended secular ideas with Christian doctrine. The film does an excellent job of showing how leaders of this movement often do not speak or act in a true Christlike manner (including a screaming pastor telling any Democrats in his church audience to “get out, you demon!”). Flashing images of January 6th, the 2017 Charlottesville, North Carolina white supremacist attack, and church leaders saluting the Third Reich back in Nazi Germany offer sobering and horrifying reminders of how dangerous this ideology truly is.

a still from the film God & Country, shining a light on Christian Nationalism
God & Country (Oscilloscope)

God & Country discusses weighty, interesting topics, even if its presentation of those topics might be somewhat bland. The film utilizes the “talking heads” approach, common among documentary endeavors. While this film needs to utilize this approach to showcase how many who identify as Christian strongly repudiate the Christian nationalist ideals, the film’s most powerful moments – the images and footage of Christian nationalism at its worst – can get lost in. the film’s 90-minute runtime in a sea of “talking heads.”

Religious studies scholar Reza Anslan gives a warning during God & Country: “I think we’re about to find out how big of a problem it is.” While this documentary tackles heavy, pessimistic subjects, it ends with some hope. The Christian leaders featured in the film plead with America, and those who call themselves Christians, to get back to “loving the least of these,” as Jesus said. The ending calls people to action, or rather non-violent means of change. Bishop Barber II says that “if we do this right, what a country we will be.”

Get it on Apple TV

God & Country was released in US theaters on February 16 and will be available to watch on demand from March 21, 2024.

God & Country: Trailer (Oscilloscope)

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