James Gibson
Rabbi Emeritus

Against White Christian Nationalism

I, along with dozens of my fellow religious leaders throughout the Pittsburgh area, strongly oppose the movement known as “White Christian Nationalism” and all those who advocate for it.

The principles of this movement are antithetical to our own religious faiths and our role as citizens under the US Constitution.

It claims that our country was explicitly founded as a Christian nation. It “assumes that being Christian is the standard of American life, and everything else or everyone else is a deviation from that,” according to Brock Bahler, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

These sentiments are at odds with our country’s founding and subsequent history. These beliefs have caused their supporters to spew hate and commit violence against Blacks, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Christians who disagree with them.

White Christian Nationalists have attacked minorities repeatedly in recent years.  The murderer in the Tree of Life/Or l’Simcha-Dor Hadash-New Light synagogue massacre in October 2018, was motivated by these ideas.

The founding fathers were God-fearing and enlightened enough to understand the peril of religious intolerance and religious violence. It is not debatable that our nation’s founders refused to install a state religion to prevent government from enforcing religion on any of America’s citizens or residents.

White Christian Nationalism is a direct threat to the physical safety and spiritual well-being of the vast majority of Pennsylvanians who do not believe as they do.

We will work tirelessly in interfaith and inter-racial coalition to defeat any candidate for public office who promotes these views directly or indirectly.  We will call out and defeat any attempt to hide behind “dog whistles” or “plausible deniability”. White Christian Nationalism is a danger to the lives of Pennsylvanians and a clear threat to our democracy.  We and our communities will oppose it and its adherents with all of our faith and strength. We have unwavering appreciation for religious freedom and our great Commonwealth.

I am a proud representative of ‘Pittsburgh Jews United Against Extremism’, a grassroots group of concerned citizens.

If you would like to encourage your community to stand with us against extremism, here are some action items to consider:

  1. Use your voice to educate your community about the dangers of extremism. Please feel free to use my words above in any communications.
  2. The surest way to make sure that extremism doesn’t win is to persuade everyone to vote. We have partnered with ‘The New PA Project’, a nonpartisan Get Out The Vote organization that encourages civic participation in traditionally marginalized communities across Pennsylvania. Please consider working with them to plan community events or to coordinate efforts for door knocking or phone banking in your neighborhood.
  3. Please consider creating or encouraging groups of concerned citizens in your neighborhood to build an independent movement against extremism. We have a taskforce of volunteers ready to jump in and help you to adapt a plan in a timely manner. Please email pghjewsuniteagainstextremism@gmail.com for more information.
About the Author
I was raised in New Jersey and Minnesota, going to college at the University of Michigan and receiving my rabbinic ordination as a Reform Rabbi in 1983. I served as a congregational rabbi 5 years in Wausau, Wisconsin and 32 years in Pittsburgh PA. I am a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and a Rabbinic Fellow of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. I have created bridges between the Jewish community and Christians, Blacks, Muslims and Hindus. I was recently appointed Lecturer in Jewish Studies at St. Vincent's College in Latrobe, PA. I continue to live in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood where the 10/27 attack on the Tree of Life complex took place. I am married, with 3 sons, a daughter-in-law and 2 grandchildren. I am now the Emeritus Rabbi of Temple Sinai, where I served as Senior Rabbi since 1988.
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