Are You a Christian Nationalist?
Are you a Christian Nationalist? Am I? How would we know? How could we tell? With the way the term is being thrown around like candy at a Halloween parade, it would be nice to know. That is, unless it’s nothing more than a thoughtless label, in which case it really doesn’t make any difference.
Is it possible to take this term apart, and see what it means? Probably not, but let’s try.
The first thing you have to be, to be a Christian Nationalist, is a Christian. So if you’re an atheist, or a Buddhist, or a Hindu, or a Muslim, no, you can’t be a Christian nationalist. Now, to be a Christian means that you have submitted your life to the Lordship of Christ. This is by His grace, by faith given by Him; none of us can become a Christian any other way. There are other Biblical parameters involved in the definition that we are prudent to consider, but for now we’ll entertain even broad interpretations, like those that show up in polling data numbers.
OK, so if you are a Christian, you’re automatically half-qualified to be a Christian nationalist. Presumably if you are a nationalist, you are a good one, since as a Christian you place high value and considerable effort toward honesty, love, biblical morality, justice, humility, etc. etc. This has been easy so far, but now we need to know what a nationalist is, and we get five different definitions from five different people.
Some people think that nationalism is best characterized by things like: “America is the greatest nation on earth, and if anyone does not cooperate with us we should simply attack them with our superior military”. A long time ago, but no longer, this was pretty much my way of thinking (remember what I said about God’s grace?). But by far, the majority of Christians who I know who have had “Christian Nationalist” lobbed their way are disgusted by our government’s use of military power by politicians of both parties for decades to kill and maim to “spread democracy” (with the resulting power and money always pretty much landing in the same live hands). The left used to be against this, but in their worship of government power apparently can’t resist it. Where are the liberals now that we need them?
Then there’s another semi-definition of nationalism. Its adherents think like this: “I live in a nation. I want my nation to be a good place. Therefore I expect our politicians to consider first and foremost what will make my nation a good place, and will do my part to help”. Now that sounds like Christian nationalism to me. It’s a good parallel to Jesus’ admonition to get the splinter out or our own eye before worrying about the log in someone else’s as well as His teaching in parables to use and multiply what we have that we may in turn bless others, as is taught throughout the Bible.
Here’s the problem. Neither of these definitions work because in the craze over “Christian nationalism”, the first one is not a really good fit for those on the receiving end of the barbs, and it makes no sense (at least to most of us) to use the second as a pejorative.
Now, here’s what I think. It’s a term that carries negative connotations without even being defined. You could call someone a warmonger and they might turn around and show you their resume of working for peace. But you can call them an undefined nasty-sounding name and the semi-interested onlookers “get the impression”. It’s a tempting tactic if you have that nagging feeling (or clear understanding) that your ideas won’t stand up to honest debate.
And as we finish, one more definition of “Christian nationalist”: “anyone who disagrees with me”. I think people can do better.
-Jim Mogel, September, 2022