Why Christians Should Not Seek Political Power

Christians worldwide, but especially those in the US, are deeply engaged with, active in, and vocal about politics. Concerned, often fearful, that our nation has lost its bearings, and is now heading in a dangerous direction, they feel morally compelled to plunge into the political fray, lest we lose our country to the forces of evil. (This is a shared perception irrespective of one’s political persuasion. Both sides of the political divide claim the moral high ground.) While the motivations for political immersion are understandable, that methodology, seeking and exerting power is, for Christians I think, not only unscriptural, it is perilous. Here’s why.

When Jesus began his ministry, his goal was to change the world. He wanted to bring truth and life to every person. He came to usher in his Kingdomhis nation, a holy nation. Now, Jesus, being God in human form, could accomplish this goal in any way he wanted.  When choosing a means to change the world, like most American Christians today, political power was certainly an option for him.  He could have participated in politics, he could have worked his way into governmental authority, he could have run for office, he could have stormed the imperial palace, but he chose not to do so. In the end, he chose a different way, a way that aligned with his Father’s heart and will and nature. Refusing the route of Roman political power, Jesus chose a radically different path, one in which he actively rejected all political power. And, he rejected political power every single time he was tempted to obtain it.(1) (He rejected religious power, too, by the way.) He spoke to power. He did not seek it. 

Just as Jesus was about to start his ministry, Satan tempted him with political power—not just political power over Rome—but political power over all the nations of the world. ‘The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the nations of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and glory; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” Luke 4:5-8

In wielding all the political power of every nation on earth Jesus could have made a huge difference. He could have established the wisest and most just laws known to humankind. He could have outlawed abortion and euthanasia, and capital punishment in every single nation on earth.  He could have forbidden military intervention and war between peoples and countries. He could have mandated economic justice and ended poverty the world over. Pretty tempting stuff. But,  Jesus rebuffed Satan’s offer of power- in its entirety. 

Why? Because Jesus knew that Satan’s offer of political power was a temptation (Luke 4:1-2). A temptation implies that something is wrong. But, what was wrong with obtaining political power? Look at all the good he could do, all the changes he could make if only he had political power. Unlike Adam though, Jesus saw the trap! He could see that the actual temptation was not worship. It was power. The offer on the table, the bait in the trap was political power. And, that was the snare. The desire for power was the vehicle Satan wanted to use to compromise Jesus, irrevocably. That was how Satan planned to maneuver Jesus exactly into the place he wanted him; seeking power.  ‘I will give you the governance of all the nations of the earth.’ Jesus knew, and Satan did too, that whatever tantalizes us, consumes us, captivates us, drives us, and directs us is what we actually worship.

Satan wanted Jesus to wield political power. Let that sink in for a minute. Satan, not God, wanted Jesus to have political power. (If Satan wants us to have something, that alone is cause enough to avoid it.)  But, Jesus did not fall for it, not for a second. He utterly spurned any ambition or justification for securing even an iota of political power. 

What about us? Do we, like Jesus, see the trap that’s laid for us? Do we understand that Jesus repelled the temptation to acquire political power, and that he expects us to refuse the desire for it, as well?  Jesus did not participate in politics. He did not engage it. He did not argue with it or about it. He did not organize around it, or against it. He did not post about it. He did not vilify the evil, very bad Caesar. He never said anything remotely approximating, “If only we could vote a Christian into the Palace (or White House!), we would have the power to change the nation.” Jesus knew better than to fall for that lie! He fought that precise battle in the temptation in the wilderness. And, won! How? By denying any appetite for political power or influence, and the appeasement with, and the absorption in the world that desire truly is. Instead, he declared and demonstrated his now present kingdom. He singularly gave himself to his Father’s work, to his Father’s kingdom, to his Father’s way of love, mercy, service, sacrifice, goodness, meekness, humility, gentleness, care of the poor and the suffering, surrender, obedience and death – and he changed the world.  

If only we could see that. If only we could see him, and do the same. We are facing our own temptation in the wilderness. Jesus had to overcome his temptation before he could launch his public ministry. So do we. Christians often pronounce a coming revival. Not so fast buckaroos. We have to make it through our wilderness temptation, too. You know, the one we’re in right now. What if Jesus had taken the bait? What if he had sought political power? What makes us think we are any different, or that the scenario is any different? Well, it isn’t. So, I urge Christians to reject the temptation to entangle themselves with political forces, causes, parties, and powers. We’ve been shown a different way. We should follow it. 

1.Note: (You may remember that after feeding the 5000, the people wanted to scoop up Jesus and make him king. What did he do? He took off and hid in the hills. John 6; And, again during  the entrance into Jerusalem on what we call palm Sunday the people wanted to make him king. Palms were a symbol of Jewish nationalism with its origins at the time of the Maccabees. Instead of entering on a war stallion he chose a little donkey. Instead of ascending to an empirical throne he laid himself on a cross.)

Why Are We So Divided?

And, what does religion (of all things) have to do with it?

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably noticed that we, as a society, as a people, as a family are fiercely divided, emphasis upon fiercely. Recounting the depth and degree of hostility, anger, fear, vitriol and animus, one toward another, is unnecessary because it is so overt. We all know the division is chasmal, the emotional temperature boiling, and the apparent prospects of reconciliation bleak. Where, one might justifiably ask, has the reason gone? Into what abyss has the dialogue, mutual respect, and empathy so necessary for a healthy society vanished? And, why is religion exacerbating, even creating, the very conditions it was designed to ameliorate?

Wait! Did I just ask a rhetorical question? Did I just suggest that the cause of our division and dysfunction is religion? Yes, yes I did. Let me explain.

While often supposed to be political in nature, our divisions are actually caused by our religious differences, I think. Our vastly diverse interpretations of, and understandings of the role that religion should play in a society, more specifically in the governance of that society, seems to be the basis upon which we so vociferously feud.  For Christians there exists a wide expanse of beliefs about the degree of influence religion should exert within or over a society, ranging from little to none other than perhaps inspirationally, all the way to the establishment of a complete Christian caliphate. How we frame the relationship between ‘The Great Commission’ and good citizenship determines and directs our attitudes, our behaviors, our ideals and ideologies, our choices, our relationships, and our activism, or lack thereof. Both of the aforementioned positions represent the extremes, from passivity to militancy, but both are present within the Christian ethos, and one of them is growing in scope and scale, in adherents and devotees, even, surprisingly, among Catholics. Therefore, it warrants some scrutiny. Which one is spreading like kudzu?  Well, to be sure, we are not fruiting pacifists.

Christians in large, and ever growing numbers want the United States to be a Christian nation, a quasi theocracy. They believe America was founded as a theocracy, and should return to its theocratic origins.  Based upon the particular belief many Christians hold about God’s prophetic design for America, they are highly motivated to establish (or re-establish) the US as a christian nation. They believe that God ‘set apart’ the US for a divine, prophetic and eschatological purpose and that the US must be a ‘Christian’ nation so that God’s purpose for his creation can be fulfilled. The kingdom of God, they believe, must find its fulfillment in the United States of America so that the kingdom reign of Jesus can advance to other nations of the earth. And, then Jesus can return to rule over the remnant, the precious few who will remain faithful. The theological term for that belief, or set of beliefs is dominionism. It is dominionist theology that gives rise to Christian nationalism, and to the certitude of those who hold those views that any person, or any group, or any institution, or any organization, or any entity that disagrees with them is deceived by, beset with, if not overtaken by, evil. In their belief system, as dualistic as it may sound, everything in life can be reduced to the conflict between good vs. evil, the godly vs. the diabolical. On a cosmological level that is true, but as an incarnational people we must allow for repentance, redemption, reformation, and renewal.

But, before I go too far it would be helpful, here, to define our terms.

Dominionism: aka Christian Reconstructionism Dominionism is the theocratic idea that  Christians are called by God to exercise dominion over every aspect of society by taking control of  all political and cultural institutions. It celebrates Christian nationalism, believing that the United States once was, and should be again a Christian nation. Thus, dominionism promotes christian supremacy, privilege, and power. Viewing other religions as unequal and inferior, dominionism marginalizes non christian citizens. Further,  dominionists endorse theocratic visions, insofar as they believe that the Ten Commandments, or “biblical law,” should be the foundation of American law, and that the U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing biblical principles.

One of the now ubiquitous heralds of dominionism is Gary North. His words concisely explain this theocratic impulse: 

“We must use the doctrine of religious liberty,” Christian Reconstructionist theorist Gary North declared in 1982, “to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

North believes that the Constitution generally, and specifically the proscription against religious tests for public office included in Article 6, are “legal barrier[s] to Christian theocracy.”  He envisions a day when biblically correct Christians gain enough political power to be able to amend the Constitution to limit access to the franchise and civil offices to “communicant members of Trinitarian churches.” Gary North, “The Myth of Pluralism”

Christian Nationalism: Christian nationalism is the belief that the American nation is defined by Christianity, and that the government should take active steps to keep it that way. Popularly, Christian nationalists assert that America is and must remain a “Christian nation”—not merely as an observation about American history, but as a prescriptive program for what America must continue to be in the future. America is defined by its “Anglo-Protestant” past and that we will lose our identity and our freedom if we do not preserve our cultural  and religious inheritance. Christianity Today, 2021

Patriotism: Quite simply, love of country.

The Christian Right: It is a religious coalition with political aims that is mainly comprised of evangelicals and conservative Catholics. The coalition unites around common causes such as anti-abortion activism, opposition to the rights of LGBTQ people and sex education classes. They also speak out in favour of the promotion of prayer in schools and the teaching of creationism (or intelligent design), the fight against euthanasia and the safeguarding of what they call religious freedom.

The agenda of the Christian right can be summed up essentially as promoting the idea of a Christian nationalism in which the establishment of Judeo-Christian “values” is the foundation of the country’s law.

To achieve its objectives, the Christian right has adopted what is called a dominioniststrategy, where Christians are called to exercise power and dominate the world, according to their interpretation of a passage from the book of Genesis (1:26-28).

This idea is framed in terms of “social transformation” and presented as the Seven Mountains Mandate. The Conversation, International Academic Journal

Theology v Religion: Simply stated, one can define theology as the “study of God’s truth,” and religion as “the practice of God’s truth.” Theology is concerned with what people believe, while a person’s religion refers to one’s conduct—how they behave. It is orthodoxy v orthopraxy.

Dominionists are at war with evil, and, as well, with those who they believe are being used, exploited, deluded and manipulated by evil, or who are intentionally in concert with evil. The primary battlefield upon which they have chosen to fight this cosmic war is politics and government. (Identified as 7 Mountain Dominionism, there are 7 institutions in society that they believe constitute the entire theatre of combat, each of which must be subdued and Christianized: education, religion, family, business, government, entertainment, and media.) God, they believe, raised them up to fight for America against an unseen enemy specifically upon these 7 societal mountains, and he raised up a mighty warrior on their behalf whom he anointed, ordained, and ‘mantled’ to engage and defeat the evil that so pervades all strata of society, especially government. The means and methods of this warfare need not be particularly Christian because the goal is to promote, preserve, defend and advance Christianity.  War is messy. And, God’s chosen vessels have not always been portraits of probity, anyway. So, in this war, character and virtue, integrity and decency, meekness and gentleness are irrelevant. The attack of Jan 6 on the capital is an example of that principle. 

The societal, and personal implications of that theology are enormous. And, I think, devastating. Dominionists sincerely view those who disagree with their theology, eschatology and nationalistic fervor as naive to evil at best, or complicit with evil at worst. Certainly obstacles to God’s plan for Christian domination. In the case of institutions such as government, media, all the sciences, the medical establishment, education, other religions, the judicial system, the military (its leadership), technology, law enforcement (FBI, CIA, capitol police), churches (non dominionist), politicians (non aligned regardless of party), entertainment, family, and business dominionists believe that those spheres of culture have already succumbed to the forces of evil and are being used by the devil to thwart God’s prophetic purpose for America. Dominionists, and by extension Christian nationalists, believe that they must destruct these institutions so that they can construct God’s kingdom on earth, and rule it, hold it, advance it and hand it to Christ when he returns. (That is post millennial eschatology) They further believe that the US is the foundational nation (cornerstone) in the building blocks of that universal kingdom. 

As chilling as all of that sounds, dominionists, many of whom do not even know that they are espousing an ideology/theology of supremacy, are quite good people at heart. There are, to be sure, radical, violent, and militaristic dominionists, but for now those extremists represent a fringe element. The overwhelming majority of dominionists are decent, loving, generous and faithful, albeit highly politicized people. As such, I decided to listen to them, to read the literature they are reading, and to give attention to the sermons they hear in their churches. I eliminated Q-anon conspiracy blurbs because not all dominionists are Q adherents. (They are vulnerable, I think, to conspiracy theories, but are still reasonable.) My exploration raised many questions for me, and I assume for you, as well. And, I drew some conclusions. Below I posed questions that I had, and ones you might have, too. Based upon my research I offered answers that I think reflect dominionist thinking and theology. The Q&A format is presented in no particular order and is not intended to be a comprehensive representation of ‘all’ dominionist thought. But, I hope it is a fair and broad reflection of this theology.  

 Q. What is the dominionist view of government?

A. Government is given to us by God and should reflect the dominionist/evangelical understanding of his nature and desires for humanity and all of creation. This is especially true of the US government since the US was essentially founded upon Christian laws and values for eschatological purposes. Where the government has strayed from those principles, it requires correction, and must return to its Godly foundation, or suffer the consequences of its defection.

Q. Why are dominionists so engaged in politics? At times, angrily, even violently.

A. In their view, America is in need of a spiritual revival, a return to a Christian God. The soil in which the fruit of revival will grow is the government.  Without Godly government the harvest will not be produced, America will miss its prophetic destiny, and will be relegated to the waste bin of other once powerful empires. They are exercised because, to them, the stakes are so high.

Q. Why do dominionists dismiss the opinions of others?

A.Because others are so glaringly wrong. They are woke, deceived, sheep-like, brainwashed, propagandized, and frankly, foolish.

Q. Why do anti maskers utilize Nazi symbols (swastikas) when they protest mask mandates. Don’t they know how hurtful and offensive that is? Don’t they know it trivializes the extermination of 6 million Jews?

A. Yes, they know that. They use swastikas as a warning. They believe that the spirit that led to the rise of Nazism is the same spirit behind the mask mandates, and that the mandates are the ‘camel’s nose in the door of the tent.’

Q. Why won’t the anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers listen to the science? Are they that selfish?

A. They believe that the scientists are lying about COVID, the vaccine, the infection rates and the death numbers. The scientists, they believe, are in league with big pharma, the deep state, and an international cabal aligned to rule the world. Compliance of the population is phase 1 of the cabal’s quest for control and masks require compliance. They are not intentionally being selfish. They are ‘the resistance.’  On a continuum they range from skeptical to suspicious to disbelieving to defiant.

Q. Why can’t I reason with people who hold views different from mine? Why do they become so angry?

A. They are not debating or arguing about your or their views on any particular issue. They may actually agree with you on many of them. Those issues are merely the vehicles used to express a far deeper vexation. Theirs is a theological urgency. Religion, by its very nature, is not reasonable. It is a matter of faith in the unseen. They are angry because they perceive a threat that you are oblivious to. They believe they can see what you do not, making you a significant, albeit ignorant, contributor to the problem, therefore, dangerous.

Q. Why do they hate gays?

A. They do not hate gay, trans, queer, or bisexual people. They believe that a nation that approves of and codifies those behaviors cannot be blessed by God. Quite the contrary, a nation that affirms those behaviors will be judged by God, a consequence they wish to avoid.

Q. Why is abortion the only life issue they talk about? What about the death penalty? What about hunger and starvation? What about bombing civilians? Are they pro-life or just anti-abortion?

A. They care about all the issues that pertain to life to varying degrees, but view abortion as foundational, because the unborn are first life. So, if you are wrong about the unborn, your judgement is questionable on everything that follows.

Q. Why do they admire Trump so much, a man who is so very flawed?

A. They acknowledge, but minimize or excuse his flaws because they believe God anointed him to save America from the diabolical forces destroying it. King David, they explain, was also flawed, but greatly used by God. Again, a theological mindset.

Q. If they are Christians, why are they so mean?

A. Christianity has a long and tragic history of brutalizing the ‘other’ in the name of God. Usually that has happened when people lost sight of and belief in the authentic teachings and person of Jesus. It is difficult to believe that turning the other cheek, loving one’s enemies, and overcoming evil with good actually produce change. Christians have often thought ‘they were doing God a favor’ by taking things into their own hands (or twitter feeds) and attacking, rather than blessing, their perceived enemies. This present period in Christian history, while not the horrors and sadism of the Inquisition, nonetheless shares too many similar sentiments.

Q. What is their end game? What do they want and why do they hate me for not sharing their enthusiasm for Trump, or other of their political heros?

A. They want a Christian nation because they believe God wants a Christian nation. The US has for decades been sliding into apostasy, immorality, and hedonism, in their view. It has become less and less what God intended and more and more what the devil orchestrated. They fully believe that Trump and others like him were sent by God to reverse the collapse of morality, and the inevitable economic and social catastrophe sure to follow. They do not hate you. Pity or exasperation are more descriptive because you do not appreciate the consequences of America’s moral decline. They believe that America’s spiritual revival will be inaugurated in the political arena. So, God raised up a media and business mogul and made him a politician. In rejecting Trump, you are rejecting God’s chosen vessel, and therefore, rejecting God. 

Q. Why do they call everything socialism?

A. Without needing to know what socialism is, it is an easy target as it has been a long held threat ensconced in the American psyche. It sounds anti-democratic. So, labeling practically every public policy initiative as socialism may simply be intellectual laziness. Clearly, however, some existing and proposed government policies could accurately be characterized as socialistic. Some they would keep and enhance like Social Security and Medicare. Some they would discard or curtail like AFDC or Section 8 rental assistance.

Q. Why do they hate immigrants?

A. They do not hate immigrants. They actually have compassion for their plight, the truly desperate ones, that is. But, they do not believe that the US should have an open door (or border, in this case) policy. It is not a lack of mercy from them, however, as they wish they could help more. It is a mathematical and economic calculation. They also believe that Democrats want large numbers of immigrants added to the voting rolls for obvious reasons.

Q. Are they racists in disguise? For example, the resistance to voting rights, and the changes to voting accessibility appear to be directed against minorities. 

A. They do not mean to be racist. And, most are not racist. They firmly believe, though, that the last election was stolen and that safeguards need to be built into the system. They also see the demographic makeup of the electorate changing and that causes no small degree of consternation, given their ethnocentric, anglo/saxon preferring theology. They support interventions that would slow the progress of the effects of that demographic shift, like gerrymandering, but believe that all eligible voters should have access to the process. Perhaps a bit grudgingly so, but they support the right to vote.

Q. What are they so afraid of?

A. Losing their American identity and culture and America losing its prophetic destiny. Although, they would strongly reject the notion that they are afraid. Motivated, not afraid.

Q. Are they willing to destroy our democracy in order to save it?

A. They would reject that notion, too. They believe that they are saving democracy. Many, if not all, of the corrupted institutions within the republic must be dismantled and rebuilt. It is true that they often seem like the man who discovered that his house had termites so he burned it down. But, they would say that they are exterminators, not arsonists.

Q. Why do they hate Democrats?

A. I think they would suggest that hate is too strong a word, but they deeply distrust Democrats who represent and promote so many policies that they deem unGodly. They seem convinced that if Democrats were left to their own devices they would destroy the country. Therefore, their visceral reaction to, and rejection of Democrats is intense, but does not rise to the level of hate. They contend.

Q. Are they White Nationalists?

A. Not exactly. But, the overwhelming percent of Christian Nationalists are white. That is why the theology is most often referred to as ‘white christian nationalism.’ Only a tiny fraction of minority individuals identify themselves as christian nationalists.

Q. Are we going the way of Rome and other once great empires, headed for destruction, unless we turn to Christianity?

A. Dominionists do seem to believe that theory, but history does not support it. Rome, after all, was by decree a christian nation when it met its demise, with the Pope the most powerful individual in the empire, and the Church its wealthiest institution. In the case of Rome  Christianity did not prevent the empire’s collapse. It probably accelerated it. Many factors led to the eventual decline of all once formerly great and powerful empires.

Q. Are they correct? Should America be a Christian nation? Was it founded as such? Does America have a prophetic destiny? Should Christians assume dominion over every strata of society? 

A. Well, they would declare a resounding Yes! to all of the above.

Q. Do I personally agree with them?

A. No. I believe that their entire foundational premise, that America was established as and must remain a Christian nation in order to fulfill an eschatological plan of God, is incorrect. It is historically in error. And, it is theologically in error. Dominionism does indeed animate their political activism, but is, I believe, Biblically unsound. In other words, I view their theological house as having been built on sand. Nations and empires do not have divine mandates. God’s people do. Nations host God’s people, and good nations provide liberty and resources sufficient to allow God’s people the unfettered ability to follow His will and his ways. A nation was not charged with the Great Commission. A people were. Disciples were. And, when Jesus returns we will not hand him a kingdom built by our own hands. We will hand him our crowns, earned through faithfulness, service, sacrifice and love. We are not here to rule, but to serve. “For even the Son of Man did not come expecting to be served by everyone, but to serve everyone, and to give his life as the ransom price for the salvation of many.” MK 10:45

If Jesus Were President

Since so many Christians want the US to be a Christian nation, it only stands to reason that Jesus would make a good President. But, in actuality, if he were to abdicate his throne, abandon rulership of his kingdom and assume the presidency of a worldly empire, (something the devil offered to him) he would quite likely be impeached in very short order. His policies and governance which include things like loving one’s enemies, caring for the poor, doing justice in our dealings with others, practicing non-violence, disarming citizens like he did Peter, respecting all life thus eliminating the death penalty, euthanasia and abortion, war, and genocide, expressing equal concern for the entire world including each and every person on earth, putting ourselves last thus becoming servants to everyone, living in generosity rather than greed, extending dignity to all people, welcoming immigrants and refugees, caring for the earth, loving sinners, overcoming evil with good etc, etc. would ensure his quick removal from office. He would be frustratingly unpatriotic and unnationalistic because he would love and provide for all peoples everywhere without favoritism. That alone would warrant impeachment. But more, Jesus would do all that Beatitudes, when I was a stranger, good samaritan, the least of these, turn the other cheek, feed the hungry stuff, too. Noble ideals, but you can’t rule an empire with them. 

Jesus’ message and manner of life are just not practical in the real world. In the real world you have to fight for your freedoms and rights, and you have to be first and you have to be great. Right? Unpresidentially, for example, he said  that the last would be first, and the least would be the greatest. How incongruous is that statement for a superpower? Jesus, as a president, would simply be too gentle, too humble, too forgiving, too just, and too loving toward everyone to run a powerful, wealthy country successfully. He would appear weak. Like he did at Golgotha. (I know! That apparent weakness worked out pretty well for us, but just because he did it that way doesn’t mean that we have to follow his example.) He’d be impeached for sure. 

So that leads me to think that maybe those who say they want the US to be a Christian nation don’t really want that after all. At least not the way Jesus would govern it. And, since we can’t transform a worldly kingdom into the Kingdom of God, anyway, maybe we ought not try to do so. Since Jesus utterly rejected worldly power, maybe we should reject it too. Maybe we could fully and faithfully live our kingdom’s principles and let the kingdom do what it does ala the mustard seed, the leaven in the dough, the farmer’s seed. The kingdom of God spreads and grows, by Divine design, when it is lived.

Christian Nationalism

I wish Christians would engage in a thoughtful, and thorough dialogue about christian nationalism. Religious nationalism is the belief that nations should be governed by, directed by, and ruled by the laws of a particular religion (in this case, christianity). And, some christian nationalists further believe that in order to preserve what they view as the prophetic destiny of a nation (in this case, the US), extreme measures may be necessary to protect that nation from diabolical forces determined to destroy it. Believing that, they are highly motivated to engage in political, and sometimes militaristic, activism. That credo frames the seminal question regarding christian nationalism. How involved should christians be in forming, guiding, and controlling governments and nations? For christian nationalists the answer is intimately. For, others, such as myself, the answer is only inspirationally. 

Routinely accepted as a part of our faith, a christian nationalistic ideology finds its origins in the Roman Empire post Constantine. The very immoral, very cruel and corrupt, very militaristic and materialistic Roman Empire was slickly rebranded by the newly amalgamated Church and State, and in a stroke of PR genius monikered The “Holy” Roman Empire. There was nothing holy about the Roman Empire (or any worldly empire, for that matter), but the church lent a kind of sanctity to the empire’s egregious practices, at least in name. Since that time christian nationalism has emerged intermittently in various nations, but each time it has done so to the detriment of the kingdom of God, the witness of our Lord, the love of neighbor, and, as well, to the nation states in which it arose. As a motivating principle, christian nationalistic ideation is quite prevalent in the US, and bears, I believe, some responsiblility for the level of the anger, division, rancor, vitriol, and even violence we are experiencing, a consequence consistent with its history. 

Having said that, it should be noted that christian nationalists, per se, are not neo-nazis, white nationalists, white supremacists, domestic terrorists, racists, insurrectionists, anarchists, seditionists, would-be assassins, or participants in violent mobs. Members of those aforementioned radialized hate groups often identify themselves as christian nationalists, as they did at the Capital on Jan 6, and as christian nationalists share many of the aims and attitudes of those groups, there is an understandable conflation of, and confusion over the two. Christian nationalists are deemed guilty by association. But, they are, in fact, distinct. Hate groups are not fighting evil. They are evil. Christian nationalists, on the other hand, have adopted a theo-political ideology whose prime directive is to offer fulsome resistance to malevolence in government, as they define malevolence, for the purpose of establishing a Godly government, as they define Godly. Labeling all christian nationalists as hateful, therefore, is unfair. Most are profoundly fearful that they are losing their country to evil, believe that they have a divine mandate to safeguard their country for God, and are reacting in ways concordant with those emotions and beliefs. I would suggest that their underlying propositions and subsequent motivations are incompatible with the Gospel, but that is precisely the conversation we should have.

Before we blindly and blithely absorb christian nationalistic ideology into the body of our faith, we might do well to examine its theology, its history, its morality, its methodology, and its fidelity to the teachings of Jesus. We should ask ourselves if Jesus did not, in fact, show us a different way, a meeker way, a more loving way to accomplish his (not our) goals. We might do well to ask ourselves Who is charged with establishing the government of God (It is not us). Is our aim conquest or conversion? Does CN promote love and reconciliation, unquestionably Gospel imperatives? Are we willing to use violence or calumny to achieve our ambitions? Would Jesus?