Christian Nationalism – A Contradiction of Terms

23 03 2021

During the terroristic attack on our nation’s Capitol back in January, at least one of the insurrectionists was seen carrying a sign that read “Jesus saves.” And for many of us who witnessed the attack on national tv, it was that distorted display of the Christian faith that led us to take a long hard look at this thing called “Christian Nationalism.”

Christian Nationalism is a form of patriotism that claims Christianity as it’s source! It is rooted in the belief that there is an inextricable link between an allegiance to Jesus, and an allegiance to America.  But as much as we all feel an allegiance to our country, and as much as we all love this land called America, we can never allow ourselves to be blindly led to believe that our, or any, nation has been Christened as the arm of God in this world! Because any and every form of this kind of religious nationalism – which will always view actions to defend a state as something blessed by God – will invariably lead people to a form of radicalization that is void of the characteristic that is central to all world’s religions: namely, love!

History has taught us nothing, if it has not taught us this. Consider the admirable evangelistic zeal of the Church in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries.  At first glance, we see signs of great spiritual devotion. But in the end, that zeal, which was just as much about seeking to expand a waning Roman Empire as sharing Jesus with those who did not know him, led to the evil known as the crusades.  People of other lands and of other faiths were tortured and killed unless they professed a faith in Jesus; and it was all because of a nationalism that distorted a peoples’ faith by vanquishing it of love. 

Similarly, we can celebrate the Christian faith of many of our nation’s founders, and their desire to practice that faith freely, in a new land.  But when they landed in Jamestown back in 1607, they brought more than just a desire to freely live out their individual beliefs. My family lived less than a mile from Jamestown Settlement before moving to Alexandria in 2013; and we celebrated the 400th anniversary of that landing as much as anyone.  But the faith that those founders sought to practice had been warped by nationalistic ambitions which would eventually lead them to build a society that was void of the love that Jesus calls us to have for all people. Thus a nation was born that would oppress the land’s native people and that would enslaved of millions of black and brown bodies for generations. And all the while we would continue to think of our ourselves as a city set on a hill, and a beacon of Christ for all the world to see!

Further, some might go so far as to say that the Roman Church’s statement on gay marriage released this past week, is also so void of Christ’s love that is must be challenged and condemned. And while the motivation of Pope Francis may be less nationalistic than my first two examples, there is never the less an institutional commitment to Rome that continues to blind adherents to one of the major branches of the Christian Church, to Christ’s call to love those on the margins of our society.         

And how else does one understand the violence being perpetrated on the AAPI community today? . . . violence that has risen 149% since people began calling the COVID-19 pandemic the ‘China virus,’ or ‘Kung flu?’ Surely it is because of peoples’ twisted understanding of what it means to be an American, as well as a neglect of the Gospel value which calls us to let the world know that we are Christ’s disciples by our love for one another.

The love that we see in Jesus, as well as the love that Paul wrote about in the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians, point to one of the central disciplines of our faith: namely, Christ’s call to love one another! And when that discipline is absent, evil wins!  Which is why so many pastors have recently signed a statement rejecting Christian Nationalism. We sought to make it clear that . . . “just as Muslim leaders felt the need to denounce a distorted, violent version of their faith (after 9/11), we feel the urgent need to denounce this violent mutation of OUR faith (today)!”

Nowhere is there a clearer sign of ungodliness, than in the rise of Christian Nationalism in America. And it’s all because of the absence of Godly love!  So like any movement within a society or the Church that is void of love, it needs to be rejected, and denounced.

Voltaire once said that “those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”  I would add that faith without love is the height of absurdity, and when we fail to see that, and when we allow people in the Church to neglect the call to love as Jesus loved, atrocities will only continue.     

It is impossible to be a Christian, and a nationalist. Our allegiance is to one or the other. So we have a choice to make, and as for me and my house . . . well . . . you know the rest!



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