This article is not meant to be a thorough treatment of Christian nationalism (in the context of America), but only to present a brief description of it and how it conflicts with biblical Christianity — particularly as it’s been lived out in our country the past few years. I don’t claim to be an expert on this subject, but I’ve done enough reading about it that I now have a good understanding of it.
From the start I want to be clear that there is a difference between Christian nationalism and being patriotic as a Christian. They are not the same thing. Each person will need to determine before the Lord which category they’re in. However, I believe most Christians land on the side of simple patriotism. Those are the ones who vote for their chosen candidates, and then go about their lives resting in the Lord — although I may not agree with their votes, which I touch on briefly at the end of this article. In that regard, those differences between us will always exist. My primary concern is with the other side.
Since this is a rather recent development in America (although closely associated with Dominionism), there are numerous understandings and descriptions of Christian nationalism, but the following definition is as good as any:
Christian nationalism is a political philosophy that has an America-first mentality that seeks to force a Christian national identity via political power — because those involved believe that this is their national heritage and they want to keep it that way. It’s an extreme and dark form of American patriotism. It’s normally associated with white evangelicals in America.
That’s it in a nutshell. To elaborate, it’s a mindset; a dependence; it’s a focus of one’s trust for answers to shape America; it’s a goal to reach by way of political establishment or governmental rule; all in the name of, or for the good of, Christianity. The outworking of it in one’s life will vary from person to person. Many will be directly involved, while most will endorse it and promote it in their own sphere of influence.
Christian nationalism is both anti-Christian and ant-gospel. Christians are to have a Kingdom-first mentality (devotion) – a kingdom perspective and focus – that seeks to advance Christ’s kingdom via His message to the world. We’re to leave the results to God to change lives and shape nations as He sees fit. That includes America. That doesn’t mean we stop caring about our country. That doesn’t mean we don’t call for and vote for candidates of honorable character—who represent the positions that are important to us. That doesn’t mean we don’t volunteer to run for political offices. That doesn’t mean we don’t pray for our country and ask God to intervene according to His will. That’s being responsible and patriotic.
However, to try to force a Christian identity upon a nation via politics, and to focus our energy in that arena, is outside the scope of what Christ has called us to. There’s a place for political involvement, but not to the point of fanatical occupation or activism where we lose sight of our primary purpose, which is to “make disciples of all nations” through the saving gospel of Jesus Christ (Matt 28:18-20). Seeking political power to protect and advance Christianity is not our mission in life. Today this dark and extreme form of American patriotism is associated with Donald Trump. Again, to be clear, not all Trump supporters fall into this category.
Christian nationalism is cultish. In the last few years it’s developed and revealed itself in the following manner: It latched onto a charismatic political leader, as though he were some sort of savior to the nation, and with undying allegiance — as though sent from and approved by God Himself. It’s a culture that creates a false sense of reality, where their leader can do no wrong and everything he says is the truth, where everything he does is good for the country and good for the Christian faith, where severe character issues are either accepted or ignored or excused — and worst of all, imitated by many. All who oppose him are viewed as the enemy, with an anti-America and ant-Christian agenda. Followers are given to conspiratorial thinking. This describes the past four years. But the reality is, these types of leaders, with their political agendas, provide a false hope.
Characteristic of Christian nationalism is that American patriotism is treated as though it were a tenet of the Christian faith, where the American flag is elevated to a place where it doesn’t belong. We have to be really careful that we have a proper view of America and the American flag (1 Jn 5:21). Many churches even have “Patriotic Sunday,” where the American flag is proudly displayed — perhaps standing right next to the Christian flag. Some churches go to great lengths and put on a major production, even wearing 1700s uniforms. This to me is entirely improper in a place where we’re to honor Christ and teach His Word and His mission to the world. It’s not a place to give honor to our country or to our flag. Furthermore, not everyone in our churches are going to be from America. Christianity is a worldwide citizenship.
This is a movement that opposes the cause of Christ, our true Savior and King. It’s a “spirit of antichrist” (1 Jn 4:1-6) that diverts attention from the mission He has given to His people. It seeks to gain a foothold in the political realm to advance its own agenda, rather than the program of God through Christ and His message to the world. Not only is Christian nationalism the wrong focus and the wrong approach, it creates the wrong image, which creates barriers that hinder the true work of the Lord. We must seek a proper balance between patriotism and this extreme form of involvement that seeks to force and maintain our so-called “Christian heritage” as a country through political domination. One of my guiding principles in life is balance in all things. I avoid the extremes, because God’s will is not normally found at either end.
I think there were “Christian leaders” who were complicit in this movement the past four years, and have led many Christians astray. Christian nationalism has led to many destructive conspiracy theories in regard to the presidential election and the so-called deep state that is supposedly working to take control of America. Humility, grace, wisdom and reasonable thinking have given way to these bizarre notions. And even if they’re true, we’re to exercise wisdom and wait for it to be proven as true. Otherwise, we look like a bunch of kooks. How does that honor the name of Christ? It doesn’t. Instead, we should be discerning and level-headed in all things, and be recognized as such. We must be mindful at all times of who we represent.
What was brewing for four years during Trump’s presidency, finally came to an ugly and tragic climax on January 6th, when thousands of unconditional Trump loyalists rallied together to hear their MAGA leader rave on about the so-called rigged and stolen election. His speech inspired and excited the crowd. With emotions soaring, they all marched to the U.S. Capitol, which of course led to the storming of the Capitol building, where many people were injured and people died. Sadly, many Christians were among those thousands. How many actually went into the building, we’ll probably never know (hopefully none). It’s a disgrace for Christians to be identified with a political movement that could have such catastrophic results. It’s this type of mentality and accompanying response to events in our country that harms our testimony for Christ, which hinders our highest calling. Consider this, who’s going to listen to us in that context?
Let’s be clear about this, nothing honorable could ever lead to the type of disaster that the world witnessed on January 6. Nothing like that could ever be inspired by a leader of noble character and noble service. Yet, Christians have flocked to this type of movement and this type of leader. And indications are, most remain loyal to both. This is completely out of harmony for those who profess to be followers of Christ.
Also associated with this movement are false prophets and false prophecies about Trump getting re-elected. This is highly shaky ground and has a really bad record. It needs to be rejected from the very start, because we end up losing our credibility as those who profess to have the truth. Let us, rather, place our trust in the written Word of God, which is our strong foundation of truth.
We need to realize that Christian nationalism, where there’s an America-first focus, where believers are obsessed with politics (and political leaders) and anxious about the state of our country, where we try to drag America into harmony with Christianity by way of political power, is contrary to New Testament teaching. To allow ourselves to be drawn into this extreme, dark side of American patriotism, can cloud our judgement, which can lead to senseless and harmful courses of action — whether directly involved or give approval of such. This is not God’s way. God is not in this.
As Christ-followers, we must allow Him to shine His light into this dark world through us. Which means we must be committed to carrying out the Great Commission that Jesus has tasked us with (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). This is the only hope for humanity and the only hope for America. We must stop trying to create a Christian culture through political advantage. The politicalization of Christianity is not the way of Christ, and has badly hurt the Christian witness in America. Christianity is apolitical. We must be faithful to carry out the work the Lord has called us to, and leave the results to God to change hearts, to change lives, and fashion America according to His own will and purpose.
As I study the Word of God, I know there’s absolutely nothing more important than these two things: having a wholehearted allegiance to Jesus, who is our true King; and having a testimony that honors the name of the King we serve. Let’s be careful to represent Him well, not only in character, but by avoiding radicalism and foolish behavior. Let’s be careful that we’re doing His will, and not getting side-tracked by our own interests and passions that hinder Christ’s work through us.
These types of situations, such as what we experienced these past four years, are a test of our faithfulness as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). Are we going to align ourselves with and place our trust in ungodly leaders who provide a false hope? Or are we going to be true to our actual calling? As I discussed in the beginning, this includes supporting candidates of honorable character — people who are decent, who exhibit humility and grace and known for their integrity. If there are candidates who fit this description, who also profess Christ as Lord and Savior, then all the better. These are the types of people we want to align ourselves with.
While this is the right thing to do, we must always bear in mind that our true hope is in our Lord and His message to America and to the whole world. We must allow the politicians to do their jobs, while we rest in God’s sovereignty and care. Meaning, we don’t allow politics to become an all-consuming focus and concern, but to keep our eyes squarely on Christ and His kingdom, of which we are servants (Col 1:13) — being careful to do everything for His glory.
Lastly, I realize that for many Christians, political positions are more important than character. This is an area of disagreement between us, because I believe it all starts with character. I’ll repeat what I said earlier, that “nothing honorable could ever lead to the type of disaster that the world witnessed on January 6. Nothing like that could ever be inspired by a leader of noble character and noble service.” Honorable character leads to honorable leadership and honorable decisions, which leads to good things. This is not merely my opinion, but based on the words of Jesus Himself in Luke 6:43-45. In our support of such people, it provides an honorable testimony, which opens doors for the gospel message.
I hope and pray that this movement is short-lived. Exclamation point.