Should Christians Be Against Christian Nationalism?

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

August 12, 2019

First and foremost, I am a Christian. I am someone who believes (based on evidence) that God exists and that He raised Jesus from the dead. I also contend that if one claims to be a Christian, then they strive to follow the teachings, commands, and example Jesus Christ provided. Simply put: I love Jesus and try to live according to His teachings (John 8:31; 14: 21-24).

I am also a proud patriot. In fact, I consider myself to be a “nationalist” (depending upon how one defines that word). To clarify: I believe America, although far from perfect, is the greatest nation to ever exist on the face of the planet. I felt that way when Barrack Obama was president, and I continue to feel that way under Donald Trump’s presidency (I will provide further clarification below).

Apparently, however, not all Christians feel the same way. Over 5,000 self-affirmed “Christ followers” have signed a recent document opposing something known as “Christian Nationalism.”

I agree with some of the points in the document. However, after reading said document, I reject others. Therefore, while there is a little truth to be found within the document, I will not add my name to the list of endorsers. I will explain why I reject the statement by examining it in a step-by-step manner while providing commentary.

Christians Against Christian Nationalism

As Christians, our faith teaches us everyone is created in God’s image and commands us to love one another.

Amen to that! The first chapter of the first book of the entire Bible makes it clear that all humans — both male and female — are created equal in the image of God. Jesus affirms God’s creative intent and design plan (Mark 10:6-8) and goes on to make it clear that humanity was created on purpose and for a specific purpose. Jesus summarized the entire purpose of human existence in two simple and easy to remember commands in Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39:

1- Love God first!
2- Everybody love everybody (from your neighbors to your enemies)!

Jesus even hammered his second command home by offering the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) as an example of how humans ought to make sure an individual of a different “people group” thrives and flourishes (even though these different people groups were previously hostile to each other).

The salient point is this: If Jesus was right, then all humans have rights! Humans should always be treated with LOVE.

The Declaration of Independence (America’s foundational document) echoes this fact:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”

Notice the “Creator” with a capital “C.” This is where objective, unalienable, and equal human rights come from – not from a government comprised of humans! This is why we ought to treat everyone with respect — and why it is objectively wrong, even for a government comprised of humans, to violate a fellow human’s objective and “unalienable” rights.

The statement continues:

As Americans, we value our system of government and the good that can be accomplished in our constitutional democracy. Today, we are concerned about a persistent threat to both our religious communities and our democracy — Christian nationalism.

Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy.

The form of government in which America was founded ought to be valued. We are a republic whose Constitution is based on The Declaration of Independence. America’s founding documents affirm the fact that all humans (no matter their gender or color of skin) are equal and possess certain unalienable and objective rights granted to us by our Creator.

Of course, this does not mean that if one is not a Christian, then he or she is necessarily “un-American.” What it does mean, however, is that if one holds a worldview which is logically contradictory and opposed to the words of the Declaration, then one holds an un-American view.

Christianity (the teachings of Jesus), while not necessarily exclusive to America’s founding documents, is definitely consistent with them. Indeed, it could be argued that the worldview best explaining the truths espoused in The Declaration of Independence is biblical Christianity.

The document continues:

Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian.

As just noted, the word “must” (“necessarily”) does not belong. Be that as it may, certain worldviews and religions are necessarily opposed to the Declaration of Independence. If one rejects Christian theism, and then goes on to offer a worldview logically supporting the Declaration’s affirmations, then a non-Christian could still be a “good American.” The salient point not to be missed, however, is that Christian theism does make logical sense of the intent of America’s foundation — not to mention equal, unalienable, and objective human rights.

The document continues:

It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation.

This odd assertion seems to pop out of nowhere. That is to say, no explanation has been offered as to exactly how “white supremacy” would logically follow from a view affirming that all humanity is created equal with objective and unalienable rights granted to every person by God. If anything, the exact opposite seems to follow.

This is why my friend and colleague, Adam Coleman, and I get along so well. Adam is an African American with really cool dreadlocks and I am a white guy with a shaved head. Why do we love each other as brothers? Why are we ministry colleagues? Because we both know that what makes humanity equal has nothing to do with physical characteristics. Humans are equal because we are each created in the likeness or “Image of God.” When one understands this biblical concept, then the Declaration of Independence makes perfect sense. Indeed, the reason why I am proud to declare myself a “patriot” and/or a “nationalist” is because America’s founding document got this objective truth exactly right. It has allowed us to correct many other mistakes along the way.

As Michael Brown aptly noted:

“It is because of these biblically-based principles that we were able to break free from the horrors of slavery and push back against the evils of segregation. And it is based on these principles that we can continue to fight against injustice, oppression, racism, and whatever other evils remain present in our country.”

The document continues:

We reject this damaging political ideology and invite our Christian brothers and sisters to join us in opposing this threat to our faith and to our nation.

What ought to be rejected is any idea or worldview that violates equal, objective, and unalienable human rights. Even though all humans are equal, not all ideas held by all humans are equal (it is a logical fallacy to equate a human and an idea a human possesses). Not all worldviews, however, are equal. Some are consistent and affirm the truths espoused in The Declaration of Independence. Other worldviews oppose America’s foundational philosophy.

The document says:

As Christians, we are bound to Christ, not by citizenship, but by faith. We believe that:

  • People of all faiths and none have the right and responsibility to engage constructively in the public square.

What exactly is meant by “constructively?”

What are those in the “public square” constructing? Is it something approximating to the foundation of America (The Declaration of Independence), or is it something opposed to it? Is it not impossible to construct something opposed to the foundation upon which it is constructed?

If, for example, a person holds to some weird and non-Christ-like worldview affirming white supremacy, should he or she be allowed into America’s “public square” to join in the “construction process?” I contend that this racist individual is un-American, and thus, should not be allowed to “construct” anything in America.

Similarly, what if one holds a worldview which disagrees with the Declaration of Independence and declares that humanity was not granted equal, objective, and unalienable rights by our Creator? Such individuals stand opposed to America’s foundational beliefs and thus, are un-American. Should they be allowed to help construct anything in America’s public square?

The document exclaims:

  • Patriotism does not require us to minimize our religious convictions.

That depends upon one’s “religious convictions.” For example, if one were convinced that Islamic Sharia Law (which is incompatible with The Declaration of Independence) should replace Constitutional Law, then this worldview would be an un-American idea.

  • One’s religious affiliation, or lack thereof, should be irrelevant to one’s standing in the civic community.

Not if the “civic-community” is based on the ideas affirmed in the Declaration of Independence. For example, if one’s “religious affiliation, or lack thereof” entails that it is objectively good to murder those in the LGBTQ community, or that there is nothing objectively wrong with those who persecute homosexuals, then these individuals are the epitome of what it means to be un-American. Indeed, this is anything but “irrelevant.”

  • Government should not prefer one religion over another or religion over nonreligion.

If America is based on the idea that all humans are objectively equal and possess unalienable rights granted to us by our Creator, then anyone holding an un-American worldview or religion opposing this foundational idea should not be “preferred” by a government based upon the Declaration of Independence.

  • Religious instruction is best left to our houses of worship, other religious institutions and families.

This might generally be true, but it might be good for public American schools to teach about America’s Declaration of Independence. Moreover, educators ought to teach students to think critically and realize what worldviews are logically compatible and incompatible with America’s foundational philosophy.

The document declares:

  • America’s historic commitment to religious pluralism enables faith communities to live in civic harmony with one another without sacrificing our theological convictions.

Religious pluralism is great, but if it is an “American” view we are discussing, then each religion must affirm the objective truths espoused in The Declaration of Independence. After all, does a Satanist, who thinks it is acceptable to sacrifice young virgins on the altar, going to be accepted in America’s “pluralistic” society? Pluralism is great — but this does not mean any and all views are compatible with America’s foundational philosophy. This becomes evident when one studies the core ideas and beliefs of different worldviews and religions. Not all worldviews and religions affirm that humanity ought to “coexist” (See, To COEXIST Is a Biblical Command).

Virgin-sacrificing, for example, is clearly un-American. Thus, any “religion” promoting the sacrifice of virgins ought to be rejected by Americans.

  • Conflating religious authority with political authority is idolatrous and often leads to oppression of minority and other marginalized groups as well as the spiritual impoverishment of religion.

Sure, one ought to be careful not to conflate the two, but Christians are completely justified in opposing political candidates who do not recognize certain unalienable human rights — like the right to life.

  • We must stand up to and speak out against Christian nationalism, especially when it inspires acts of violence and intimidation—including vandalism, bomb threats, arson, hate crimes, and attacks on houses of worship—against religious communities at home and abroad.

If a view logically leads to “vandalism, bomb threats, arson, hate crimes,” and the like, then it has nothing to do with the teachings of Christ. Since a Christian is, by definition, a follower of Christ, then “Christian Nationalism” would not lead to these atrocities. Jesus commands his followers — Christians — to love all people from their neighbors to those who consider them as enemies.

Whether we worship at a church, mosque, synagogue, or temple, America has no second-class faiths. All are equal under the U.S. Constitution. As Christians, we must speak in one voice condemning Christian nationalism as a distortion of the gospel of Jesus and a threat to American democracy.

Not all worldviews or “faiths” are equal. Some command the murder of homosexuals, some command the killing of “infidels,” some might require the sacrificing of young virgins, others entail that there is nothing really wrong with murder. A few “faiths” (like Christianity), on the other hand, teach that all humans are created objectively equal and that we ought to love all people all the time.

Conclusion

This is why I am a proud patriotic Christian American. I also affirm the label, “American Nationalist” (as opposed to the evil of “white nationalism”) because I believe the philosophy of America — which is not necessarily “Christian” — and the teachings of Christ go hand-on-hand. With that said, I am happy to “construct” the American “public square” with anyone who sincerely believes and affirms the same “self-evident” truths espoused in America’s foundational document.

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),

Tim Stratton

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim is currently enrolled at North-West University pursuing his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics, history, and biblical data.

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