Updated: Sep 27, 2022
I occasionally come across Christians (or people claiming the faith) that wave the American Flag, wave the Christian Flag, and preach a saving American gospel. Now there is nothing wrong with supporting and being proud of our nation and its long list of accomplishments. People have died and continue to die for our nation and all God has blessed it with.
In our current reality we have a voting bloc of people who identify as Christian Evangelicals, who use the symbolism of Christianity as sort of a mascot, a tribal identifier. They also push for things like immigration control, The Ten Commandments, prayer in schools etc.
There have been many studies of these issues and we can begin with the book: Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States Samuel L. Perry & Andrew L. Whitehead. In this analysis we see that we must separate the two, Christianity and Nationalism. This study determined that those who identify with Christian nationalism actually have very different beliefs and behaviors than people who are devout Christians.
Devout Christians can be defined as people who go to church, engage with their faith, and have a very forgiving attitude toward immigration and the other. Devout Christians also listen to and adhere to teachings in scripture about welcoming the stranger. Those people who identified as Christian nationalists did not have this point of view in fact, they have the opposite.
These then are generalizations and does not apply to everyone.
Yet the authors make a compelling case for American Christian nationalism as a Tribal identifier, “us versus them” in which the word Christian means “White people like us.” This identifier has nothing to do with being theologically and doctrinally orthodox, invested in your faith. Some citizens have adopted Christianity as the folk religion of American Whites. Is this true? It seems that some people have this viewpoint, and it becomes toxic in its application. Yes, and there may be Black people and Latinos with this same philosophy.
Perry and Whitehead produced theses six points that help define Christian American Nationalists beliefs.
“The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation.”
“The federal government should advocate Christian values.”
“The federal government should not enforce the strict separation of church and state.”
“The federal government should allow religious symbols in public spaces.”
“The success of the United States is part of God’s plan.” (Christian nationalism!)
“The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.”
So obviously we can see that most Christians if not most people in general would agree with theses, nothing new here.
Our past up until recently has included many Christian values and principles that were built into the system and institutions but as that has slowly been purged, we have what we have today.
Bad Christian Nationalism & Good Christian Nationalism?
So as in the past when sinful broken people decided there was such a thing as “Christendom” we find ourselves in the same sinful cycle that continues to lead humanity to ruin apart from Christ. Christendom can be a good thing or in the cause of the Crusades a bad thing. We as sinful humans like to pick and choose, and we see with Bad Christian Nationalism there is the problem of leaving out Christ specifically and orthodox teachings as well. We only need to go back to the Klu Klux Klan to find a group that claimed to be defending ‘White Christian America” against the Black people, Jews, and the like. Like the Crusaders the KKK members became Knights who lynched people and burned homes all the while claiming they were on a mission for God.
It takes no stretch of the imagination to see this plainly in the January 6th attack in Washington. Instead of Knights we have Patriots who are cheered on by an authoritarian dictator like figure. Killing people at the capitol becomes a God ordained an honorable action parroted by many politicians.
This is Bad Christian Nationalism!
So where do we go to find a good version of Christian Nationalism? Lets start with the Black Church in America and Martin Luther King. The church of the white people in America (and I speak in general terms) has become so secularized and diluted that it holds a low version of the faith. Whereas the Black Church in America (again I generalize) has for generations realized that we must be immersed in our faith and relationship with Christ, there is no other way. In contrast to many white evangelicals who are part time Christians or functional Atheists. I am not putting the Black church on a pedestal but just pointing to a reality.
If we view Christianity through the lens of what Martin Luther King and others were attempting to do at the time, we can see that they partly sought a relationship between Christianity and the government that was not always adversarial and toxic in outcome but functional and beneficial to us all.
Can we put aside our pride, politically toxic opinions, and other sins today as Christians and serve each other? Or have we succumbed to the God of this Age