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So What’s All This Talk About Christian Nationalism, Anyway?

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The subject of Christian Nationalism has risen to the forefront of the current discourse on religious and political affairs, its very mention inciting a firestorm of passion and disagreement not unlike the tempestuous controversies that plagued the late pop icon, Michael Jackson. Though his trials and tribulations have come to pass, the discourse surrounding Christian Nationalism shows no signs of abating, instead only growing in intensity.

On the overtly conservative Christian side of this debate, we have, of course, those who would have this nation no other way. After all, most of the founding fathers of this nation would lay claim to some version of Christianity or at least give a nod to a higher being. What is absolutely clear is that these men would have nothing to do with the notion that the government should, in any way, restrict the right to worship God freely as one sees fit. This is evidenced in the Constitution which expressly states that “Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise.” And for some, to extend that tradition carries the connotation that Christian Nationalism is the only way forward.

Yet, on the anti-Christian left, the very thought of Christian Nationalism sends shivers of trepidation through the bones of those who see in the notion of Christianity as the moral compass of this nation, an ominous portent of a bleak and oppressive future. How, then, would the LGBTQ movement “flourish”? Would nothing but straight, white, cisgender, Christian men be the ones “making decisions about women’s bodies”? Oh, the horror.

But what exactly is Christian Nationalism? Whoever you ask, you’re going to get a different answer, and it’s a valid question being that it is front and center of our national debate. In a nutshell, Christian Nationalism is the belief that the United States is, or should be, a Christian nation. The term encompasses a wide range of political and social beliefs, but it is generally characterized by a strong sense of nationalist identity, coupled with a belief in the centrality of Christianity to that identity.

The two ends of the spectrum of Christian Nationalism are the theocratic and the civic forms. The Theocratic Christian Nationalism holds that the United States should be governed as a Christian theocracy, in which religious laws and teachings are the basis for government policies and laws. Under this form of Christian Nationalism, government officials would be religious leaders, and the laws of the country would be based on religious doctrine or creed. Additionally, religious leaders would have direct control over government decisions and be responsible for implementing policies that reflect the teachings of their religion.

On the other end of the spectrum, civic Christian Nationalism holds that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and that the country’s heritage and values are grounded in Christianity. However, this form of Christian Nationalism does not call for the fusion of church and state. Instead, it advocates for the preservation of Christian identity, culture, and heritage in society, but not necessarily in government. This means that there is a separation of church and state, but citizens of the nation are encouraged to maintain Christian values in their personal lives. Additionally, this form of Christian Nationalism may advocate for the protection of religious freedom and the inclusion of religious symbols and teachings in public life. It also may support laws and policies that reflect the values of Christianity, such as traditional views of family and marriage, for example.

And while most conservative Christians who hold to a belief in Christian Nationalism fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, it should be easy to see where the problems lie on the far Theocratic end which begs the question: what “version” of Christianity would then rule the nation? Would it be Theonomy? The Reformed Presbyterians? Southern Baptists? Catholics? As such, most Christian Nationalists, despite the flections of the left, would reject that form of governance and fall somewhere closer to the civic end.

The concept of the separation of church and state is often a topic of debate and disagreement. Despite some people’s objections, it’s important to understand that the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution does not actually implement the idea of separation of church and state as it is commonly understood by some modern leftist individuals.

Instead, the First Amendment simply guarantees that religious citizens have the freedom to practice their religion without any interference or obstruction from the government. Furthermore, the government is prohibited from endorsing or promoting any particular denomination of Christianity.

It’s worth noting that when the framers of the Constitution wrote the Establishment Clause, they primarily had the goal of protecting Protestant Christianity from the powerful and oppressive influence of the papacy and Catholic governments aiming to ensure that the government would not unduly interfere with or restrict the religious practices of Protestant Christians. It was never meant to restrict Christian influence in the government itself.

So then, is Christian Nationalism bad? While we as Christians recognize that our primary citizenship is in the Kingdom of God and that Christ Himself sad that His Kingdom is not of this world, there is no denying that this nation, and nations around the world, are under the judgment of God for turning their backs on Him and partaking in some of the most egregious and rebellious acts of wickedness known to God and man. From rampant abortion to the outright rejection of God, who made us in His image male and female, to the selfishness, greed, and corruption of every thought, God ordained the institution of civil government to restrict these evils.

Yet, we must also recognize that no matter what extent we implement a Christian Nationalist form of government, and to what extent we enforce the morality set forth by the nature and character of God revealed to us in Scripture, it is but by Christ alone that hearts are changed and turned back to Him. Otherwise, all good works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and do nothing to make one right with God.

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So then, to what extent should we embrace Christian Nationalism? That’s a debate worth having, but it must be understood that the law of God is good, right, and moral, and modeling our nation’s laws after the nature of God most certainly could not hurt usβ€”it could only help. Following God’s righteous requirements would have both temporal benefits and eternal ones. Temporal in the sense that it would protect the innocent and punish the wicked leading to a more civilized and orderly society, and eternal in that it would bring to light God’s moral character and contrast it with the wicked deeds we perform, further highlighting our need for an advocate to stand before us on that day of judgment.

While Christian Nationalism won’t save anyone, for those who actually believe the eternal word of God to be right and true, one can only recognize that the influence of God in any particular area of society can only be a good thing, for both the believer and the unbeliever. After all, could it be any worse than flying the religious flag of the LGBTQ movement over the nation’s Capitol building? Probably not.


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