Is Christian Nationalism a Problem for the Church?

Is Christian Nationalism a problem in the church? That’s the question I want to take a look at today.

A friend of mine, who is also a co-worker, recently asked me about Christian Nationalism. Now, I’ve been hearing more and more about the term lately, and told him that I knew *something* about it. However, I had to admit that I wasn’t an expert on the subject.

A little research on the issue helped bring me up to speed. Actually, it’s interesting, back in Aug 2014 I had blogged about the concept on my website. Now, at that time I had never heard of the phrase “Christian Nationalism,” but in a sense that’s exactly what the subject was in that article.

Before I begin let me say that I’m taking a look at the topic from a Christian’s perspective, not a political one. And I think there is probably a very difference. 

Let’s start with a definition of Christian Nationalism. However, as you will see, that’s not really easy to do since it’s more of an ideology than an organizational structure. We can’t go to their website and click the ‘about me’ link, or call their corporate office and ask for a copy of their bi-laws.  So, I’m going to begin with a quote from Dr Michael Brown in an article that he had written on the subject. He seems to give a pretty good definition that I think we can start with. He wrote, “You are a Christian Nationalist if you merge Christian and American identities.”

Now, I’m going to tweak that just a bit because it’s not abundantly clear what he means there. In one sense it would be impossible not to merge your Christianity with your identity. For example, I could say that I’m a middle-aged white Christian. That would be true. I can say that I’m an American Christian of German descent – and that would be true as well. But those mergers of adjectives only describe my ethnic background or current age category. They don’t necessarily describe what I believe.

A Christian Nationalist would be someone who merges, not just profile data, but ideologies – with their Christian belief. And that’s an important distinction.

The synchronizing of non-Christian beliefs with Christian beliefs is not a new phenomena.  Possibly as early as the late 1st century, Christianity saw an attempt to mix Gnosticism with Christianity. Early Church Fathers have left us with written works against those efforts. Ever since then there have many attempts made by a lot of people to somehow blend Christianity with a particular belief system that someone is favorable to. 

Whenever there is a blending of Christianity with any other ideology, there is always an unavoidable weakening of Christianity from its purest form. 

When you mix creamer with coffee – and I don’t know why anyone would ever do that – you get something that isn’t exactly coffee and isn’t exactly creamer anymore. The same goes when you try to blend the Christian faith with any other belief system. It isn’t exactly Christianity anymore. And it doesn’t matter how wonderful the other ideology is, you’ve fundamentally altered Christianity.

Now, Christian Nationalism isn’t the blending of two religions, per se. Rather, it’s the blending of Christianity with a certain political view. This isn’t the first time that that’s been attempted. Many have tried to blend Christianity with socialism, for example, insisting that they see certain threads of socialism taught in the Scriptures.

But, in any event, Christian Nationalism is the blending of the Christian faith with US nationalistic pride, or patriotism. While taking pride in ones country is not necessarily a bad thing, I do object to anything being blended to Christianity. As I’ve pointed out, It will always weaken it from its purest form.

Christianity is supposed to permeate the hearts of humankind, but should not be permeated by anything else.

Since it might be difficult for me to describe everything about Christian Nationalism, let me instead talk about how I understand the Christian faith. You know, occasionally I will be asked about a particular cult and what they teach. I have to admit that there are so many different cults and world religions out there that I can’t learn about them all in detail. Therefore, I always recommend that one just study the Christian faith very closely so that you can more easily recognize where it might be transgressed upon. There’s a story told by preachers that federal agents don’t study counterfeit bills, they study the real ones so they can recognize the fakes. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it seems to illustrate very well what I’m talking about here.

The Kingdom of God as described especially in the New Testament, is not some far away galaxy. Rather, it’s God’s rule here and now. In the opening pages of the Gospels were told that John the Baptist preached that the Kingdom “was at hand.” Meaning, it was near. You could practically touch it. Though many were expecting a political Kingdom, with the Messiah literally sitting on David’s throne, it becomes clear right away that that’s not what Jesus had in mind. 

In fact, on occasion people tried to lure him into political discussions but he wouldn’t take the bait. In Luke 13 when Jesus’ listeners told him about how Pilate had apparently killed some Galileans in the temple, apparently hoping to get Jesus involved, He just turned the political conversation into one of faith and told them that if they didn’t repent the same thing would happen to them.

And, in John chapter 6, we read that a movement had begun in order to make Jesus their king by force. As soon as Jesus had recognized it he got out of there. That’s because the Kingdom of God is not a government like you and I are used to understanding a government to be. The Kingdom of God is NOT a political movement. It’s a faith whose purpose is to change the hearts of people from any earthly allegiance to allegiance to God alone. Period.

A politician might be a Christian, but a Christian does not automatically become a politician, or by nature necessarily become involved in politics. It simply means that that person’s allegiance belongs to God. 

The Kingdom of God has no capital city here on earth. It has no geographical boundaries, no walled gates, no land holdings. We have no relics to defend. We have no sacred buildings or plots of land that we must face during prayer. The Kingdom doesn’t care about oil or other natural resources. It is completely disinterested in capturing lands, countries, or continents.  We who belong to the Kingdom have beaten our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. My brothers and sisters are scattered throughout and across the globe. They are North Korean, South Korean, Chinese, Dutch, German, and Eskimos. They are black , white, red, and every other color imaginable. They are anyone who has bowed their knee to King Jesus. If you love Jesus then you are a fellow citizen of mine in the Kingdom. This Kingdom is not a democracy. It is ruled by a monarch. We have no voting rights, and are not represented other than having a high priest who was in all points tempted as we are. 

And to move your citizenship from any earthly kingdom to the Kingdom of God you must simply surrender everything. One cannot be a disciple of Jesus unless you first hate by comparison your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and yes – especially your own life. You cannot become a member of this Kingdom unless you decide to pick up the cross – a surrendering of your rights – and follow Jesus. You cannot expect citizenship in this Kingdom unless you first are willing to give up everything that you have. You surrender your political identify, your sexual identity, your vocational identify – yes, even your religious identity. As Paul wrote, “from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view …If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.

Amongst the protestors who stormed the capital on Jan 6, were those who bore Christian signs and Christian flags. In one video reel I even saw someone rushing in while holding a copy of the Bible up high.  In my opinion, they were doing exactly what Jesus would have cautioned against. We don’t rush buildings, cities, or capitals in Jesus name.

We don’t seek to occupy those places with flags and banners in Jesus name, because He is completely disinterested in those physical places. 

Instead, we preach a gospel of love because He wants to inhabit the hearts of mankind, not brick and mortar buildings. Our weapons are not pepper spray and zip ties, “for though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God…”

The Kingdom of God only advances by His foot soldiers who see suffering as essential, who choose not to vindicate oneself, who are willing to divest oneself of personal wealth, who accept that they may be rejected by family, who absorb insult and injury, and who expect no rescue in earthly tribulation.

So, is Christian Nationalism a problem for the church? You tell me.

Dane Cramer is a backpacker, follower-of-Jesus blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmakerPodcast host, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us , and has worked as an investigator for over 35 years.



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