Two years ago, I started to write my outrage and feelings about white nationalism and the “January 6th” riot. I never published them. My mind was putting it all together. Christian nationalism is another way of saying white nationalism. And while I know some Christian nationalists are people of color, the standard is evangelical protestant. The “Europeanism” and especially anglophilism involved is white no matter the color of the speaker. Fundamentalism is the tragedy of American Christianity. The re-labeling of it as “evangelical” is newspeak. And the destructive power-seeking is evident to anyone who has been part of a mainline church. What exactly makes this movement heresy?
White Nationalism Heresy
The nation-state is a European invention. States existed prior to the modern era. But defining the state with language, culture, and ethnicity developed with Protestantism. But the two are not dependent upon one another. The United States separated the state and the church to avoid the centuries of nationalist/religious wars of Europe. But the attitude of white-supremacy and Protestant-supremacy infected Enlightenment thinkers in America. Immigrants, indigenous people, and African slaves were viewed with a mixture of contempt and suspicion. Yet, Europeans of any faith were more likely to find an easier path into American society. Irish and German Catholics did so very quickly.
Heresy is about division and separation. Early Christians identified attempts to separate and divide communities of believers as heresies. Forming a new sect based on new doctrines was the easiest way to determine heresy. If I come in with a new idea, say requiring all believers to be circumcised and keep the torah of Moses, then I become a disruptive person. I would not be considered a heretic until I insisted beyond reason everything be done my way.
Heresy and Doctrine
We often identify heresy with teachings. But heresy is nor merely erroneous doctrine. It is the insistence on the doctrine to the separation of the body of believers. Here is where I found my own anger and outrage over January 6th was linked to the destructive actions of people attacking my denomination. Is it possible that I conflated Christian nationalism and Trumpism to the attitudes of fundamentalists in the UMC? It did not help that many affiliated with the Wesley Covenant Association were also Christian nationalists. The irony is how the WCA accuse the leaders of the UMC of heresy when they are putting it into practice. Lying, gaslighting, and undercutting ministries mirror those actions of the defenders of the January 6th rioters. But are the two truly the same thing?
The Christian Nationalism Heresy
Nationalism is an ideology with many different forms. Economic nationalism, for instance, is one form. Gandhi was a nationalist. But there is a point where it becomes untenable. I could, for instance, call myself a Tennessee nationalist. But it would make no sense. Like all ideologies it has limits. And like many ideologies, nationalists often forget those limits. But there is more involved in nationalist thought in Europe and America. It is the heresy of Anti-Semitism.
Christian fundamentalism is inherently Anti-Semitic. It is more than just placing Jews among all the other non-Christians. All fundamentalist apologists demonstrate Jesus fulfilling prophecy after prophecy in the “Old” Testament. There are different counts to how many Messianic prophecies that Jesus fulfills are. I recall one teacher claiming 330 separate prophecies or more. Obviously, so much evidence that Jesus is the promised Messiah means Jews are willfully ignorant of their own scriptures or denying Jesus despite the evidence.
Watching Steven Spielberg’s The Fablemans, I realized it was not that long ago all evangelical Christians followed these ideas to their logical conclusions. Anti-Semites in churches today tend to be more circumspect in their expression. But, as we know from January 6th, not all are hiding their colors.
The New Testament Does Not Help
St. Paul relied on Roman citizenship. Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God. But nowhere is the concept of a Christian nation considered. Silence, unfortunately, cannot be argued for or against anything. Both Jesus and Paul speak as though the world would end in their days. The Revelation condemns the violence of imperialism. But nationalist ideas, as we see above, would be anachronistic to the New Testament. All we can argue from it is the condemnation of violence and inherent universalism of the gospel is enough evidence against white Christian nationalism.
The New Testament does not help make direct arguments when you are dealing with people who claim they need a “Thus saith the Lord” plain statement. Nationalism will disappear after this final gasp. Fundamentalists tend to destroy what they cannot dominate. It is the same violence of imperialism. Healing is the need now.