As most of you know I am an ordained minister and pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles. I have been a leader of church congregations across the county. I have been in music ministry, a teacher, and have been a praise leader in a number of places. I have been saddened over the past several years, culminating in the last four, by the actions of many of my Christian brothers and sisters who have, in my opinion, under the cover of the cross, advocated racism and hate. In their advocacy they have repeated the assumption that this nation was uniquely established by God and that we have strayed from God and it was up to them to re-establish our relationship with God as a Christian nation, by any means necessary. For me this all came to a head on January 6, 2021.
The attempted insurrection that occurred in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021 by an angry, wild, and violent mob included many, in the mob, who carried Christian signs and banners. There was even a prayer to God made by a person in the Senate chambers asking that God bless the rioters and their attempt at an overthrow of the United States government.
Christian Nationalism (This Should Sound Very Familiar)
Once upon a time there was a nation founded by Christians, established on Christian principles and ideals, in order to be a Christian nation. A city upon a hill; a new Jerusalem. God smiled on this nation and placed His hand of providence on her. He led her and helped her grow. Soon, she became the greatest nation on the planet and took stands against moral evil and political tyrants. She came to the rescue of other nations and fought against the spread of godless ideologies.
But then, that nation turned away from God, chose leaders who didn’t honor God, passed laws that didn’t honor God. That nation gave herself over to sin and deception. It soon went from a new Jerusalem to a new Sodom and Gomorrah.
As a result, God took His hand of blessing off of her, waiting for her to repent and once again turn to Him. To once again elect the right officials, pass the right laws, do away with accepting sin and immorality, and again become the Christian nation she was established and intended to be.
Since then, good, God-fearing, country-loving Christians have had a singular target on the wall: to get their country back to being a Christian nation through any and every means possible. Doing it from the top down through the political process. In other words, get a Christian in office—or at least someone who will stand for and vote for Christian values.
Does that story sound familiar? It should. It’s the essence of “Christian nationalism,” and it is marking Christians as never before as tragically evidenced in the recent assault on our nation’s capital (not to mention countless less sensational ways).
The idea of “chosenness” and “special blessing” from God has been a constant theme throughout the history of the United States, beginning with the Puritans.
Historian Conrad Cherry writes:
“Throughout their history Americans have been possessed by an acute sense of divine election. They have fancied themselves a New Israel, a people chosen for the awesome responsibility of serving as a light to the nations.... It has long been... the essence of America’s motivating mythology.”
So, are the ideas behind Christian nationalism true? Let's take a look
Is it True Historically?
If you consider Scripture early America was not unique or even predominately Christian. This doesn’t mean there were no Christian values in American history. There has been a great deal of Christian belief, practice, and influence in the history of the United States and the colonies that formed our country. Christian goals and aspirations were part of the settlement of North America. Christian factors contributed to the struggle for national independence. Christian principles played a role in the founding documents of the United States.
However the truth was that we were a religious country, but not necessarily a uniquely Christian one. When our forefathers and foremothers were attempting to flesh out Christian principles, they weren’t always very consistent. For example, when you think of the Puritans of the 1600s, do you focus on their desire to establish Christian colonies and live by Scripture, or do you focus on the stealing of Native American lands and their habit of displacing and even murdering those Native Americans when it was convenient?
Is Christian nationalism true biblically? Yes, Israel enjoyed a special status as a nation under God but, since the coming of Jesus, Christians have disagreed as to whether the modern state of Israel remains special as a nation to God, much less whether the Jewish people are still God’s chosen people. So, is it appropriate to look at the United States as unique among the other nations of the world as the special province of God and agent of God?
Let's look at some Scripture.
When Israel entered Canaan it became clear that in order to conquer the nation they had to first take the city of Jericho. God had something unique in mind. To demonstrate that the Promised Land was going to be His gift and His doing, He told Joshua through an angel to march around the city seven times, blow his horns and then the fortified walls of the city would miraculously fall down.
However something happened just before the angel delivered that message. When Joshua first engaged the angel, before being told of the marching plan, they had an interesting conversation:
Joshua 5:13-14 NKJV And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “ Are You for us or for our adversaries?” So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?”
In essence the angel said "I am neither for or against you". No sides were being taken. The angel only told Joshua what to do. Helping Joshua was not about taking a side in human governments. There was a greater redemptive drama at hand.
You find similar political distancing in the life of Jesus.
Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. (emphasis mine)
John 18:36 NKJV Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
In fact, making His mission about the kingdoms of this world – about ruling and nations and politics – was one of the temptations Satan put before Jesus at the start of His ministry. Jesus resisted.
Matthew 4:8-10 NKJV Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”
Is it True Culturally?
Is Christian nationalism true culturally? Is it the best way for Christians to work for the Kingdom in our day? Let’s be clear that politics do matter. We are to be salt and light, and that includes being salt and light politically. How we vote matters—there are values we should work to uphold. Who is President, who is a Senator or Representative, who is on the Supreme Court their values, worldview, decision making matters.
Is the ultimate goal a Christian nation or a nation of Christians?
The ultimate goal is a nation of Christians which will make the nation more decisively Christian than anything that could ever be legislated. If we had the same passion for sharing the message of Jesus as we do for sharing our political views, this truly would be a changed world.
Most people who embrace the idea of Christian nationalism truly care about their nation and want to see it turn to Jesus. But the truth is that you can’t legislate morality. You can’t pass a law that changes a human heart.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in his book, The Gulag Archipelago:
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts.”
As much as people want to make politics the way that the United States reflects a Christian nation, the thing that we should strive to be is a nation of Christians.