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?