“Christians Nationalism” Is Anti-Christian

 “Christians Nationalism” Is Anti-Christian August 11, 2022

Quinn Dombrowski: Nationalism And Religion / flickr

Christian nationalism is one of the greatest distortions of the Christian faith being promoted in our present age. It has Christians absolutize and eternalize relative, conventional distinctions, using them to cut humanity apart, setting up segments of humanity as being superior to the rest. Once a particular group, established as a national entity, is set up in this fashion, it easily is turned into an idol, after which, it is worshiped. Without surprise, those who follow Christian nationalism tend to idolize their own national identity.

While Christianity can recognize the logical distinctions used to establish nationalistic identities, and in doing so, see the good in them and the cultures which develop from them, it must also recognize that there is an overriding unity which connects all humanity together, even as it must dismiss any and all claims which indicate some peoples are inherently superior to others. Its focus, moreover, should be to bring people together as one in Christ, recognizing that these and other similar distinctions vanish when people are brought to him. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28 RSV). Early Christians recognized this fact; as people came into the Christian faith from a wide variety of national groups, their baptism was seen to elevate them above and beyond the petty rivalries and distinctions used to establish such national boundaries, making Christians no longer beholden to particular nations but rather to the whole of humanity. Origen could and did speak for them when he said:

For we are not a nation; a few of us from this city have believed, and others from other cities. We are in no way a nation. In the sense that the Jews were a nation and the Egyptians were a nation, in no way were Christians a nation, but gathered here and there from the nations. [1]

St. Maximos the Confessor, a few centuries later, furthered this line of thought in his theological reflections, saying:

For numerous and of almost infinite number are the men, women, and children who are distinct from one another and vastly different by birth and appearance, by nationality and language, by customs and age, by opinions and skills, by manners and habits, by pursuits and studies, and still again by reputation, fortune, characteristics, and connections: All are born into the Church and through it are reborn and recreated in the Spirit. To all in equal measures it gives and bestows one divine form and designation, to be Christ’s and to carry his name. [2]

Christian nationalism denies the unity and equality of humanity; instead, it tries to validate and preserve various distinctions in order to suggest some people are inherently superior to others. In doing so, they undermine basic Christian anthropology and eschatology (for Christian anthropology looks to the universal norm of human nature, and eschatology looks to the common, unified destiny of humanity). Christians are called to engage non-Christians based upon their anthropological awareness, which is why it is foreign to the Christian way of life to discriminate and abuse anyone based upon relative distinctions such as race or gender:

The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion. On the contrary, following in the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, this sacred synod ardently implores the Christian faithful to “maintain good fellowship among the nations” (1 Peter 2:12), and, if possible, to live for their part in peace with all men, so that they may truly be sons of the Father who is in heaven.[3]

So-called Christian nationalism, such as is found in the United States or in Europe (like in Hungary), represents a Satanic counter-faith,  It is trying to take-over the Christian faith, replacing the Christian spirit of charity with a radical anti-Christian spirit; this means Christian nationalism does not represent Christ, but rather, an anti-Christ. It teaches racial supremacy contrary to the Christian recognition of the equality of all humanity; and, with the way it creates specific identities which it elevates as being superior to others, it creates a prideful, egotistical ideology which readily employs violence. The radical, prideful attachment to a particular nationalistic identity requires the denigration of others in order to promote such superiority. When a nationalist does not get what they want, they easily embrace violence, following along the lines of Tsong-kha-pa’s analysis of how the attachment to a particular form of self leads to hostility and violence towards the non-I (which, in the case of nationalism, is a plural-I):

When the view of the perishing aggregates apprehends a self, discrimination arises between self and other. Once you have made that distinction, you become attached to what is associated with yourself and hostile toward that which pertains to others. As you observe the self, your mind also becomes inflated. You develop a belief that this very self is either eternal or subject to annihilation. You come to believe in the supremacy of a view of the self and the like, and you also come to believe in the supremacy of the detrimental practices associated with such views. [4]

St. John Paul II recognized this was happening with the rise of nationalism in his day, and as a response to it, he reinforced Christian anthropology, and with it, the equality of all humanity:

From bitter experience, then, we know that the fear of “difference”, especially when it expresses itself in a narrow and exclusive nationalism which denies any rights to “the other”, can lead to a true nightmare of violence and terror. And yet if we make the effort to look at matters objectively, we can see that, transcending all the differences which distinguish individuals and peoples, there is a fundamental commonality. For different cultures are but different ways of facing the question of the meaning of personal existence. And it is precisely here that we find one source of the respect which is due to every culture and every nation: every culture is an effort to ponder the mystery of the world and in particular of the human person: it is a way of giving expression to the transcendent dimension of human life. The heart of every culture is its approach to the greatest of all mysteries: the mystery of God.[5]

Christians must resist the rise of Christian nationalism in the world as they would resist any and all usurpers who claim to represent Christ to undermine Christ and Christ’s ways. Christian nationalists engage idolatry, worshiping, as it were, themselves, thinking they represent the greatest good found in humanity; they end up claiming that anyone who denies them and their ideology are heretics who should be made to pay for their blasphemy. This is why violence is inherent within such nationalism, and why we see Christian nationalists are more and more willing to engage their inclination to violence to get what they want, as represented in the events surrounding January 6, 2021. As they perceive their group, their nationalistic entity, as superior to all others, they believe themselves to be victims when they do not actually possess the supremacy they believe they should have in the world, and with continued visions of persecution and victimization running through their narratives, they become more and more unstable until the violent undertone of their rhetoric becomes more than mere rhetoric as it is acted upon.[6] This promotion of violence for the sake of some form of Christianity should make all Christians shudder, for Christianity must be the religion of peace and reconciliation, not violence and division. When such nationalism is embraced instead of denounced by the churches, Christians who follow Christ become quite confused, indeed, many of them end up leaving their churches, sometimes leaving the faith itself, because they think the reality of Christianity differs from what Christ taught [7]

Certainly, nationalism forms its basis on some truths, but it does so in a perverted fashion, causing the fullness of the truth to be lost so that a partial truth, mixed with errors, can be absolutized. There is, of course, a variety of peoples in the world, a variety of cultures, and each of them have good in them which can be and should be recognized by the rest of humanity. Each of them have something to share with the rest, and the common good is promoted when they work together. This is why, if people embraced their cultural or national background as aa way to bring about the common good, sharing the good they have to raise up everyone else, instead of undermining the common good,  we could see them possessing a “positive” nationalism, one which is understands the relative role of nationalities, but if this does not happen, then it is all negative and idolatry would follow, as Vladmir Solovyov explained:

The more a certain nation is devoted to the universal (supranational) idea, the stronger, the better, the more significant it is itself. Therefore, I am decidedly an enemy of negative nationalism or national egoism, the self-deification of nationality, which in essence is just as disgusting as one’s own self-identification. I take the second command unconditionally: do not make idols for yourselves, neither any likeness, etc. [8]

Christian nationalism is a heresy as it rejects the integral unity of humanity, but also because it rejects the natural, equal dignity of every human person. Christians must not put their particular nation, their particular tribe, over the good of others, to make themselves as if the group they identify with is superior to others. Certainly, they must not seek power as a way to promote such a sense of superiority, for that power is always the power of violence.  Christians must realize that their real citizenship is with the universal kingdom of heaven:

We would not be citizens of His world and His land if we remained merely citizens of our own land. We would not feel around us everywhere this vast expanse, this Divine vault of the Father’s House, open for us all. We would not know that we ourselves, each of us, harbors this possibility – to be simply a human being, a son of God, living among our fellow man – if we always remained surrounded by those of our own tribe. And in the Kingdom of God there will be this great joy for every nation under heaven. [9]

Christians must look for and embrace the good of others, and do what they can to promote that good. To do this, they must die to the self, including nationalistic self-identities; they must, that is, embrace the cross, and with it, the way of love. Anything which speaks contrary to this must be rejected, and when it is spoken in the name of Christ, must be recognized as a representation of the spirit of an anti-Christ, promoting an anti-Christianity to go along with that spirit.


[1] Origen, Homilies on the Psalms: Codex Monacensis Graecus 314. Trans. Joseph W. Trigg (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 2020), 79 [Homily 1 on Psalm 36].

[2] St. Maximus the Confessor, “The Church’s Mystagogy” in Maximus the Confessor: Selected Writings. Trans. George C. Berthold (New York: Paulist Press, 1985), 187.

[3] Nostra aetate. Vatican translation. ¶5.

[4] Tsong-kha-pa, The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. Volume One. Trans. Lamrin Chenmo Translation Committee. Ed. Joshua W.C. Cutler and Guy Newland (Ithaca: NY: Snow Lion Publications, 2000), 300.

[5] Pope St. John Paul II, “Apostolic Journey to the United States. Address to the United Nations.” Vatican translation.  (10-5-1995). ¶9.

[6] See Miles T. Armaly, David T. Buckley, and Adam M. Enders, “Christian Nationalism and Political Violence: Victimhood, Racial Identity, Conspiracy, and Support for the Capitol Attacks” in Political Behavior 44 (2022). Found on SpringerLink.

[7] See Tess Owen, “Christian Nationalism Drove These People Out Of Their Churches” in Vice (7-18-2022).

[8] Vladimir Soloviev, The Karamazov Correspondence. Letters of Vladimir S. Soloviev. Trans. and ed. Vladimir Wozniuk (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2019), 66[ Letter to Alexander A. Kireev 1883].

[9] Sergius Bulgakov. Spiritual Biography. Trans. Mark Roosien and Roberto J. De La Noval (Brooklyn, NY: Angelico Press, 2022), 153, [22.V/4.VI.1925].

 

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