The surprising reason “Christ is King” was trending

The surprising reason “Christ is King” was trending April 5, 2024

As Holy Week began on Palm Sunday, “Christ is King” began trending on X (formerly Twitter). That such a statement is controversial in our post-Christian nation is a given.

The reason for the controversy, however, may be surprising.

Politicization of a fundamental truth

Since the January 6 Capitol attack, fears of Christian nationalism have led many to look askance at anything resembling the ideology, including declarations of Christ’s lordship. However, the most recent controversy concerns allegations that “Christ is King” is being used as an “anti-semitic dogwhistle” rather than the proclamation of God’s sovereignty it is intended to be.

At the heart of the dispute is a falling out between conservative commentators Candace Owens and Ben Shapiro over the Israel-Gaza conflict. In an exchange on X in November of 2023, Owens tweeted “Christ is King”, evidently in response to Shapiro’s criticism of her coverage of Israel’s involvement in Gaza. Owens’ motives for using the declaration have come under suspicion, given that she was recently fired from the conservative network Daily Wire for reported antisemitism.

Fears of antisemitism behind the declaration have accompanied its trending status.

After the phrase began trending on X, Daily Wire host Andrew Klavan expressed concern that the phrase was being used “to mean that God has abandoned his chosen people, the Jews . . . and that he has broken his promises” to them. Declarations that “Christ is King” by non-Christian figures like Andrew Tate have raised eyebrows along these lines. Tate, an influencer controversial for his open embrace of misogyny, converted to Islam several years ago and has derided Christianity as weak, leading many to question why he would echo the foundational truth of the faith he disdains.

Christ is King. But what motivates our declarations?

Despite the online firestorm over the statement, “Christ is King” remains fundamentally true. Philippians 2:9–11 tells us that “God exalted him to the highest place, and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.” But weaponizing this truth as a way to deride the Jewish people is antithetical to Jesus’ mission.

Jesus, Israel’s promised Messiah, came to save “the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). To mock Jewish people with the gospel meant for them is an affront to God, and if we speak the truth without love, we are nothing but a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). The gospel is not meant to alienate the Jewish people from Jesus. On the contrary, it is “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).

Beyond rumored antisemitism, the self-focused nature of social media platforms like X creates a potential problem when it comes to sharing our faith. Chris Martin, author of The Wolf in Their Pockets, cautions that social media “rewards divisiveness” and can lead us to worship ourselves. When we’re more focused on curating our online presence than we are on honoring God, statements like “Christ is King” can easily be misappropriated for personal gain.

Responding to the statement’s trending status, Twitch streamer Kangmin Lee warned against using Christ’s name as a way to gain popularity or social clout. “‘Christ is King’ should be proclaimed for His glory, not our own,” Lee wrote. “If you say it for your own gain, you crown yourself as king over your life, not Christ.” In fact, Jesus rebukes those who use his name in this way: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8).

What to ask yourself when sharing God’s truth online

At the end of the day, we can both rejoice that the gospel is being preached and resist the world’s attempts to dilute or pervert it. In Philippians 1:18, Paul rejoices that “whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” Regardless of the motivations behind its trending status, “Christ is King” spreads the central message of the gospel to those who may never have heard it. Commentator Allie Beth Stuckey echoed Paul’s sentiments while pointing out the need to call out selfish ambition where it exists.

As Christians, everything we do should be done in love, including sharing the gospel online (1 Corinthians 16:14). When we declare Christ’s lordship on social media, we should examine our own hearts.

  • Are we seeking God’s glory or temporary internet fame?
  • Are we speaking in love, desiring a lost world to know his kindness, or are we throwing “Christ is King” around for public approval? Or, worse, to hurt others?

Just as God loved the world by sending his Son (John 3:16), we should do the same by spreading the good news without “selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:3).

We should always put others’ interests ahead of our own—especially when something as serious as salvation is at stake. As we spread the good news across social media, let’s follow Jesus’ example and do all things in love.

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