By Rev. Paul Graves

Recently, a friend reminded me of an old story usually attributed to Cherokee folklore about a grandfather sharing some wisdom with his grandson. The elder describes a fierce good vs. evil battle between two wolves within oneself. When the child asks which wolf wins, the grandfather responds, “The one you feed!”

The story is helpful in so many contexts, isn’t it?

Today, let’s plop it down in the middle of what – for a large majority of people – is the feeding of a dangerous political trend: White Christian Nationalism. A February 2, 2024 article by Politico identifies some allies of Donald Trump brazenly planning to inject Christian Nationalism into all of American culture if Trump is elected president.

One of their strategies is a destructive grab for political and economic power through “Project 2025”, developed by The Heritage Foundation.

For those who strongly believe in the separation of church and state and the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, this prospect is both dangerous and likely illegal. It could also seriously damage the spiritual foundations of our cultural traditions.

The Christian Nationalist movement is determined to impose a toxic and exclusive form of Christianity into the fabric of our federal government. Many “true believers” see their version of Christianity as a mandate for them to exercise domination over all aspects of American society.

Further, they believe America was founded as the “Promised Land” for white European Christians and that the founding fathers meant to create a Christian nation. (“Axios Explains: Christian Nationalism on the March,” June 24, 2024) They base their passion and determination on a fundamentalistic interpretation of the Bible and American history.

A distressing extension of this Christian Nationalism effort happened on June 19, 2024. Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry signed into state law that public schools must display a poster-size copy of the Ten Commandments in each classroom. “If you want to respect the rule of law, you gotta start from the original law given which was Moses. … He got his commandments from God,” Landry said.

Gov. Landry’s conflating of Old Testament theology with New Testament Christian theology is simplistic and naive. This law could also damage Louisiana children’s and teenagers’ long-term view of Christianity as a viable, welcoming faith tradition.

Not surprisingly, on June 24, 2025, nine Louisiana families filed a federal lawsuit against their state’s education department and their local school boards to challenge the constitutionality of this new law.

The families are Jewish, Christian, Unitarian-Universalist and non-religious. Two plaintiffs are clergy: a Unitarian-Universalist (whose husband is Jewish) and a Presbyterian pastor.

All assert that the new law “substantially interferes with and burdens” the parents’ First Amendment right to raise their children in whatever religion (or non-religion) they want (NBC News report). I encourage us all to see how this lawsuit plays out.

Which wolf do you want to feed when the challenge facing you is about how your religious liberty may well hang in the balance in our country?

One wolf seems hungry to impose one form of religious indoctrination and uniformity on what may be deceptively called “religious liberty.” The other wolf desires to be nourished by the religious diversity and personal and social freedoms that keep our society stronger.

Our American culture is far from perfect, and our journey toward a “more perfect union” is far from over.

But the nourishment we need to continue that journey seems clear. We can’t afford to feed the wolf who devours our freedom of religion. We must feed the wolf who nourishes those freedoms!

The Rev. Paul Graves is a retired elder member of the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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