The Idolatry of Christian Nationalism

The Idolatry of Christian Nationalism April 20, 2023

Christian Nationalism is an attempt to spread Christian values through legislation and force, thereby expanding the Kingdom of God. There is only one country in the world where this is a serious movement, and that is the United States. I want to demonstrate that Christian Nationalism is a sin, an idol, and the antithesis of the Gospel.

 

When Jesus was seized by the mob in Gethsemane, Peter attacked, cutting off the high priest’s servant’s ear. Jesus’ rebuke is revealing. Matthew 26:52-53

 

‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

 

And before Pilate in John 18:36

 

Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’

 

The first statement shows that Jesus had the option of an angelic defence but chose not to call on it. Violence and force cannot bring about the Kingdom of God – the surrendering of power, even of Christ’s own life, was the radical choice which ushered in God’s Kingdom.

 

The second statement reveals why Jesus refused to let his disciples defend him – because his kingdom is not of this world. It cannot be established, maintained, or expanded through force, though so-called Christian powers have attempted to do so throughout the ages, slaughtering those of other faiths in bloody crusades.

 

Today we see Christian groups trying to expand the Kingdom of God (and thereby corrupting and falsifying the Kingdom of God) through legislation, politics, and even violence. The most emotive example is legislating to ban abortion. Personally, I do not believe the Bible is anywhere near as clear on the issue as many seem to think. That said, even if I thought abortion was 100% wrong on each and every occasion, I would not support legislating to enforce a religious view on a diverse populace.

 

The danger of religious legislation

 

Look at Afghanistan for an example of religious legislation at work – since the Taliban reclaimed power, women have been subjugated, losing their jobs, careers, and freedoms, and girls have been removed from school, their education over. Under Sharia Law, rights Westerners perceive as universal are often disregarded, resulting in the marginalisation, mutilation, and even death of those who don’t fit the mould.

 

I want to be clear that Sharia Law is interpreted differently by different groups. Much like Christian thought, there is debate and variance, and more liberal groups work hard to make human rights part of the equation. Christianity cannot afford to point the finger at Islam when both religions are on the same journey, albeit in different places. I reference harsh applications of Sharia Law only to highlight a clear example of the dangers of religious nationalism.

 

A Christian nation?

 

I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state. On a purely human level, it is the height of arrogance and inconsideration to force Christian prayers on non-Christian children in school. Though the US has a large Christian population, that group is swiftly diminishing while other religious groups are on the rise. Around 30% of the population identify as having no religious affiliation at all, making it impossible to call the US a Christian nation or for that definition to carry any weight. I can understand why these trends arouse a sense of alarm and drive the Christian Nationalist agenda, but that is a fearful and entirely inappropriate response.

 

The church would be better off asking why Christian numbers have dropped so significantly in recent decades, and look at improving its own offering. The church can be a profoundly unwelcoming place for suffering souls, minorities, and those on the fringes of society. Jesus is as beautiful and gracious as he’s always been; it’s we who are missing the mark.

 

Those who feel compelled to back the drive for Christian Nationalism need to deal with Jesus. If the Saviour of the World, the Son of God, and the Author and Perfector of Faith refused to let his disciples defend him by force, who are we to pick up Peter’s sword? If Jesus declared that his kingdom is not of this world and wouldn’t even defend himself before Pilate, why is it okay for us to seek to legislate our way to the Kingdom of God? To give that kingdom borders and laws, to force on others what can only ever be a personal choice?

 

I believe that Christian Nationalism is an idol – a false kingdom that bears none of the hallmarks of the Kingdom of God, which is a kingdom of peace. We build and shape it from worldly resources, paint it in political colours, and worship it in place of Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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