With the events of the Capitol still reeling in the minds of many Americans, Christians in particular are trying to figure out the best way to distance themselves from the ungodly acts of violence that unfolded.
Unfortunately, when situations like this arise, Christians oftentimes overcompensate by allowing dishonest distortions to dominate the narrative. This is becoming incredibly prevalent in the numerous discussions and articles that are appearing online in discussing this idea of “Christian Nationalism.”
Whereas “nationalism” initially was more a synonym for “patriotism,” the cultural marxist’s twisting of terms has turned it into more a synonym of white supremacy and racism. So when “Christian Nationalism” is being discussed, it is inextricably interwoven with the ideas of whiteness and American Christianity’s supposed inherent racism.
From the New Yorker, to the Atlantic, to the Washington Post, articles are showing up everywhere to discuss this problematic fusion of “Trumpism” and conservative Christian values. But what does Christian Nationalism actually mean? And what do the cultural marxists mean by Christian Nationalism?
Before diving in deep, it must be noted that political violence should be denounced by all Christians, regardless of which side committed the violence. A riot at the Capitol is no more acceptable than a BLM rally that devolves into a riot. The oft miscontextualized quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., that riots are “the voice of the unheard,” need not apply in any case.
With that said, what is Christian Nationalism actually? Pastor Jeremie Beller states, “Christian nationalism is the intertwining of the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of men. In the American context, it is often displayed by describing America through language reserved for the Kingdom of God. … The marriage between patriotism and righteousness further blurs the line between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world.”
The concept of Christian Nationalism certainly deserves some criticism. Oftentimes, Christians can become so invested in a particular political candidate, that they often speak of the candidate as having some sort of special anointing. This has been true of Trump in some Christian circles, although the Bible clearly states that all people in authority have been put there by God’s ordaining (Romans 13:1). Throughout Israel’s history, God allowed obedient and disobedient kings to rule. Nebuchadnezzar and Pharoah are also prime examples of rulers that did not recognize God, but were used for God’s glory. So the tendency of some evangelicals to despair when their party loses does lose sight of God’s providence regardless of who is in charge.
John Cooper had some additional poignant criticisms of Christian Nationalism on his podcast. In addition to conflating certain leaders as the only way God’s will can be brought to America, seeing America as the same as Israel, God’s chosen people, has no Biblical basis. As Cooper points out, America is a vehicle for good and certainly was inspired by Christian principles (many of the founders were Deists and Christians) but that does not make it necessarily the vehicle of bringing God’s salvation to the world. That is the job of the church, and the church is the individual men and women within it (1 Cor 12:27).
So keeping in mind that there are genuine criticisms against Christian Nationalism, this isn’t to say that Christians can’t be patriotic. John Piper has an excellent discussion of this on Desiring God. The key point is that as Christians, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). Our allegiance to God and heaven should inform our allegiance to our earthly home. We should vote for politicians and laws that support our values, but we must remember that our hope is in Christ first, regardless. We must also pray for “the other guy” as we are called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). So long as our patriotism does not overshadow our true allegiance, there is no harm in the idea of a “patriotic Christian,” or even a Christian who seeks to bring about Christian policies in our nation, such as pro-life legislation.
However, when cultural marxists critique concepts, the words they use do not mean what they traditionally mean. This is called “semantic overload” and it is often used to silence or limit discourse on certain topics. An example would be the phrase “black lives matter,” which on its face is absolutely true but carries with it the undertones of that particular organization and its messaging.
So when cultural marxists write about Christian Nationalism, they are implying that it embodies ideas of racism (patriotism to America automatically embraces the past history of slavery and Jim Crow) and xenophobia (nationalism now means keeping the country pure which means white). So a Christian Nationalist, per a cultural marxist, is anyone who denies or questions “systemic racism” or waits for details of police shootings, or someone who has any issue with illegal immigration.
Why then is Christian Nationalism being so widely discussed all of a sudden? The intention is to lump in conservative Christians with an incredibly small minority of people that attacked the Capitol, thinking they were somehow performing the will of God in their actions. This lumping in is patently untrue, but because of the loaded nature of the term “Christian Nationalism,” the ability to discuss it is so incredibly weighed down. In writing this, a great deal of time had to be spent simply in defining terms and this is nowhere near an exhaustive list of what is behind each term. So because there are certain parts of Christian Nationalism that ought to be criticized, one is expected to deny everything outright, including any sort of patriotism, agreement with conservative policies, or Biblical principles that don’t fall into progressive Christian’s definitions.
What, then, is the response?
Knowledge is key. Knowledge in knowing what these terms have historically meant and what the writers of these articles and Twitter posts. We also must always start back at the Bible. Romans 13 is a great chapter about Biblical authority. The book of Phillipians 3 also deals a great deal of the idea of looking heavenward. We must not paint with the broad strokes of cultural marxists either. Oftentimes, cultural marxists insist on throwing out the baby with the bath water. There are certainly things in America’s history that are abhorrent such as slavery and Jim Crow. However, acknowledging these problems does not automatically mean throwing out the entire American system in pursuit of a more equitable system that rights all history’s wrongs.
Christians must stand firm in speaking the truth, regardless of the cultural points lost or gained. Our allegiance is to Christ first, but we must not be blind in this attempt to silence Christians from the political realm completely in fear of being called a Trumpist or a Chritian Nationalist. Truth remains truth, so we must not back down from what policies we want to see enacted, while at the same time speaking out when certain people warp the Bible, statistics, or history to suit their needs. So do not flee from a love of country, speak truth as an ambassador of the One who loves the people of this country and wants them to hear the truth.