Measuring Christian Nationalism, Parts 5,6: God’s Plan

Measuring Christian Nationalism, Parts 5,6: God’s Plan May 1, 2024

Measuring Christian Nationalism, Parts 5,6: God’s Plan

Great Seal of the United States. God’s Plan for the Ages?

In this post we’ll look at…

5. America is God’s plan

6. Prayer in public school

5. “The success of the United States is part of God’s plan.”

BCN. Black Christian Nationalists are critical of the history of oppression in America, so they aspire to the equivalent of a two-state solution. “BCN works to create a new independent Black political structure capable of focusing maximum political power in support of the interests of the Black community as defined by BCN” (McIntosh, 2021, pp. 71, Cleague’s words).

BCN. Although not technically in Cleage’s BCN tradition, Jemar Tisby, in his contribution to Christian Nationalism and the January 6, 2021 Insurrectionembraces an African American form of patriotism that differs markedly from WACN patriotism.

“In contrast to white Christian nationalism, Black Christians have historically tended to embrace a kind of patriotism that leads to an expansion of democratic processes, the inclusion of marginalized people, and a call for the nation to live up to its foundational ideals.”

January 6, 2021. Insurrectionists prepared a hangman’s noose for Vice President Pence, a committed evangelical Christian.

CACN. Amanda Tyler, writing the introduction to Christian Nationalism and the January 6, 2021 Insurrection, is able to dismiss belief in divine providence on behalf of the United states as “mythology.” ACNers belief in myth.

“Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism relies on the mythological founding of the United States as a Christian nation, singled out for God’s providence in order to fulfill God’s purposes on earth.”

Worse. Allegedly, ACNers provided the masterminds for the January 6, 2021 insurrection. At least according to Andrew Seidel, also writing in Christian Nationalism and the January 6, 2021 Insurrection, “Yes, the groups were diverse. But it was the Christian nationalism that united them that day.”

Are evangelicals united by ACN? On January 6, 2021, insurrectionists prepared a hangman’s noose for whom? For Vice President Mike Pence, a committed evangelical. Why would ACNers spew a death threat at a celebrated evangelical if they are themselves evangelicals?

ACN. Back to ACNers themselves, the Christian Liberty Party refrains from baptizing American pride let alone a crude nationalism. America needs a spiritual reformation.

“If it is to avert destruction, America needs more than political reforms. It needs more than isolated revivals within the church. America must undergo a fundamental shift in the way her citizens think and live; in the way they view the role of the family, the church and the civil government; in the placement of their faith and hopes for the future. Until the hearts of the people turn back to God through Christ – until a genuine Christian reformation has permeated and transformed every aspect of society – America will continue on its journey toward destruction.”

EV. Evangelical spokespersons roundly renounce defining America as a Christian nation. Kristen Kobes DuMez reports how Os Guiness, a popular spokesperson in evangelical circles, dubs ACN idolatry. “For Christian reasons I have always appreciated George Orwell’s useful distinction between patriotism (positive) and nationalism (negative). Christian nationalism is therefore a form of idolatry and anathema for Christians.” Did he say, “idolatry”? Yes. Please note: this is an evangelical spokesperson renouncing ACN for idolatry. We might also conclude that for evangelical Christians patriotism is good whereas nationalism is bad.

EV. In a Patheos post, “Christian Nationalism Old and New,” evangelical systematic theologian Roger Olson describes ACN according to this metric.

“The one unifying theme of all American Christian Nationalism is the belief that God raised up America as a light to all the nations, to show the dignity of the individual with human rights, and to spread religious and other freedoms around the world by example and testimony.”

Olson nuances this belief as held by traditional evangelicals and by ACNers. While eschewing ACN, the evangelical need not give up the idea that America is in God’s plan.

“I am a Christian Nationalist ONLY in the sense that I do believe America was part of God’s providential plan for the world, but I do not believe it is the only country in the world God has called and used in his plans. And I do not believe God depends on America; should America fall, cease to exist, that would have no effect on God except to grieve him even if it is his judgement.”

EV. How could an evangelical declare the United States to be a Christian nation when it is so engulfed in sin? “America has always been fallen. Because humanity has always been fallen”(Alberta, 2023, p. 103), writes Tim Alberta quoting Southern Baptist Convention leader Russell Moore when battling the Trump faction.

CACN. Does Angela Denker belong in the CACN camp? Denker is author of  “Red State Christians:  A Journey into White Christian Nationalism and the Wreckage it leaves behind. Denker is upset at what looks to me like the dynasty set up by the televangelists of the 1970s and its co-optation by the Republican Party in the 1980s.

My clear analysis of the distortion of the gospel in American Christianity posed a threat to the right-wing white Christian empire of wealth and power, an empire encompassing publishing houses, TV networks, churches, colleges, universities, and schools….biblical Christianity — forged in the cross, humility, and poverty — has been at war with a co-opted Christianity that forgets Jesus’s gospel of liberation and instead seeks to use his story to entrench wealth and power in the hands of a few white men”(Denker, 2022).

Denker excoriates the “white Christian empire of wealth and power.” And “a few white men.” Are these white men also white supremicists?

Where to gus fit in God’s Plan?

CACN. What we don’t like about ACN applies broadly to evangelical Christianity, according to Patheos columnist Daniel Henderson. “American evangelical Christianity has already sold its soul to the devil….Pretending to be doing God’s will when it is your own goal and objective you are chasing is idolatrous.”

Perhaps ACNers sold their souls to the devil at a discount. But I hesitate to think that evangelical Christians at large, who think of their souls as having infinite value, would squander their heavenly treasure so cheaply.

SACN. Is it legitimate to paint ACN grafiti on the white walls of Evangelicalism? Maybe it’s ambiguous. “White Christian nationalism is not synonymous with white evangelicalism per se, even if there is considerable overlap” (Gorski & Perry, 2022, p. 9). So, what should we believe? Are virtually all of America’s evangelicals ACNers? Or should we believe that white Christian nationalism is “not synonymous” with white evangelicalism?

This is where we need to clarify the discourse. The actual target for liberal or progressive attack should not be ACN nor even evangelical Christianity. Rather, the real target should be the Republican campaign to put Donald Trump into the White House.

“Trumpist America would not be Hitler’s Germany. But it would not be so far removed from Putin’s Russia either. And like this and other populist and kleptocratic regimes, it would be characterized by governmental incompetence accompanied by gradual economic decline. Ironically, a serious attempt to make America great again would probably end up making it chaotic and poor” (Gorski & Perry, 2022, p. 127).

  1. “The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.”

CACN. Angela Denker lists prayer in public schools for evangelicals who are also ACNers. “American conservative Evangelicalism’s greatest hits,” she says, include “abortion, prayer in schools, and even a discreet generational assault against younger Americans, who tend to vote Democratic” (Denker, 2022, 23).

CACN. “Multi-state campaigns to legislate prayer and Bible study in public schools seek to undermine freedom of religion and to make non-Christians feel like second-class citizens,” Brian Kaylor said during a webinar hosted by Christians Against Christian Nationalism.” Source: Baptist News Global. 

CACN. “Christian nationalists often point to two Supreme Court cases from the 1960s, Engel v. Vitale and School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, to claim that the government ‘banned school prayer’ or ‘took God out of the schools’. These are harmful misrepresentations. These cases didn’t ban the free exercise of Christian worship. They banned mandatory Bible readings and prayers written by the government. It should not be controversial to oppose government-dictated religious practice. Source: Amanda Tyler cited by RNS.

Ku Kux Klan. God’s Plan? Flag and Cross.

CACN. Kristin Kobes DuMez insists that evangelicals are demographically white and, by implication, white supremacists. “Although white evangelicals like to point to the existence of black evangelicals to distance their movement from allegations of racism and associations with conservative politics, black Christians themselves have attempted to draw attention to evangelicalism’s ‘problem with whiteness’, and to white evangelicals’ inability or unwillingness to confront this problem” (DuMez, 2020, p. 6). This puzzles me. Over recent decades I have visited numerous evangelical churches and schools which were racially integrated. Evangelical churches are far more likely to be racially integrated than they are in my own denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA has recently been taken over by progressive leadership; yet it is statistically the whitest denomination in America. We progressive Christians may have shed our racial prejudice but not the racism in our institutions.

EV. Paul Miller at CT again: “Some [ACNers] have advocated for an amendment to the Constitution to recognize America’s Christian heritage, others to reinstitute prayer in public schools. Some work to enshrine a Christian nationalist interpretation of American history in school curricula, including that America has a special relationship with God or has been ‘chosen’ by him to carry out a special mission on earth.”

SACN. Without specific reference to prayer in public schools, it seems to me that the larger concern has to do with the public co-optation of religion. Writing in Christian Nationalism and the January 6, 2021 Insurrection, Katherine Stewart observes that ACN is actually a political movement, not a form of the Christian religion. Don’t look for ACN in the churches. Look for it in politics. Yet, the Republican Party fakes religion in such a convincing fashion that ACN looks attractive.

“At the conferences and presentations I have reported on over the past year, audiences were told, heatedly and repeatedly, that America is and always has been a Christian nation, that the Bible is on the verge of being outlawed, and that the 2020 election was corrupt. This is part of the reason why the hold of Mr. Trump on this wing of the Republican Party has been so hard to break: because Christian nationalist gatherings generally don’t involve open debates about facts or policy, but rather displays of fidelity to a message and loyalty to the leaders who have managed to identify themselves with that message.”

It’s the MAGA-Moscow wing of the Republican Party that makes ACN able to fly.

Are Trumpism, Evangelicalism, and Christian Nationalism all the same thing?

Have you listened to Church of God Pastor Loren Livingston’s sermon? His denunciation of the Trump Bible is what we expect from even our most revivalistic and Pentecostal evangelical leaders. So, why are CACNers so anti-evangelical?

Is Trump part of God’s Plan?

The reason CACNers are anti-evangelical, I surmise, is that CACNers are actually anti-Trump. What CACNers don’t like about Trump they displace on to evangelicals.

In her book mentioned above, Red State Christians, Angela Denker recounts a telling historical moment when some evangelicals tried to foment rejection of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. Russell Moore, editor of the premier magazine of evangelical theologians, Christianity Today  (founded by Billy Graham in 1956), fired Tweet shrapnel at presidential candidate Donald Trump. I like Moore’s acerbic humor. Here are some one liners.

This would be hilarious if it weren’t so counter to the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Trading in the gospel of Jesus Christ for political power is not liberty but slavery.

Politics driving the gospel rather than the other way around is the third temptation of Christ. He overcame it. Will we? Being faithful to the wife of one’s youth is succeeding in real life.

“With such vocal criticism coming from highly placed Evangelicals,” avers Denker; “many assumed Trump could never carry the Evangelical vote and thereby the presidency. Still, months later, on May 9, 2016, Trump responded” (Denker, 2022, 152).

“Russell Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!”

Who gets to define “Evangelical”? Donald Trump? Is “Evangelicalism” equivalent to “Trumpism”? I do not think the two should be equated. Nor do I think we should equate without remainder evangelicalism with ACN.


Perhaps you recall my working hypothesis in the Patheos series on Ressentiment and Compassion: progressive Christians Against Christian Nationalism (CACN) are displacing their anger at Donald Trump onto evangelicals by painting evangelicals with the colors of Christian nationalism. That is, CACNers blame white evangelicals for Christian nationalism. Perhaps measuring Christian nationalism by the six criteria have demonstrated that begriming evangelicals seems more prevelant than ACNers speaking for themselves.

Great Seal of the United States reverse. God’s Plan for the Ages?

In our next post, we’ll examine gender and race for measuring Christian nationalism.

Does the United States belong within God’s Plan? At the founding of America as a nation independent from England and initiating a new adventure in democracy, belief in divine providence was commonly held. Perhaps universally held. Both devout Christians and deists affirmed that God has a plan for America. Everyone affirmed divine providence, not just proto-ACNers.

Look at the three Latin phrases on the United States’ Great Seal. E Pluribus Unum (“Out of many, one”), Annuit cœptis (“Providence has favored our undertakings”), and Novus ordo seclorum (“New order of the ages”). Look on the back of your dollar bill. It says, “In God We Trust.”

Should the venomous anger now being spewed out by progressives against White American Christian Nationalists lead to the removal of annuit coeptis from the seal?

PT 3235 Measuring Christian Nationalism, Parts 5,6, God’s Plan

PT 3230 Measuring Christian Nationalism, Part 0

PT 3231 Measuring Christian Nationalism, Part 1: A Christian nation?

PT 3232 Measuring Christian Nationalism, Part 2: Christian values?

PT 3233 Measuring Christian Nationalism, Parts 3,4: Church-State Separation?

PT 3235 Measuring Christian Nationalism, Parts 5,6: God’s Plan?

PT 3237 Gender and Race in Christian Nationalism, Parts 7,8: Gender and Race?

PT 3238 Roger Olson on Christian Nationalism

Ted Peters

For Patheos, Ted Peters posts articles and notices in the field of Public Theology. He is a Lutheran pastor and emeritus professor at the Graduate Theological Union. He co-edits the journal, Theology and Science, with Robert John Russell on behalf of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, in Berkeley, California, USA. His single volume systematic theology, God—The World’s Future, is now in the 3rd edition. He has also authored God as Trinity plus Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society as well as Sin Boldly: Justifying Faith for Fragile and Broken Souls. See his website:


Alberta, T. (2023). The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism. New York: Harper.

Butler, A. (2021). White Evangelical Racism. Chapel Hill NC: The University of North Carolina Press.

Cleage, A. (1972). Black Christian Nationalism: New Directions for the Black Church. New York: William Morrow.

Cooper-White, P. (2021). The Psychology of Christian Nationalism: Why People Are Drawn In and How to Talk Across the Divide. Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press.

Denker, A. (2022). Red State Christians: Understanding the Voters Who Elected Donals TrumpMinneapolis MN: Fortress.

DuMez, K. K. (2020). Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. New York: Norton.

Gorski, P., & Perry, S. (2022). The Flag and the Cross: Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McIntosh, S. (2021). Memoirs of a Black Christian Nationalist: Seeds of Liberation. New York: Merill Publishing.

Peters, T. (2023). The Voice of Public Theology. Adelaide: ATF.

Whitehead, A., & Perry, S. (2022). Taking Back America for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wolfe, S. (2023). The Case for Christian Nationalism. Moscow ID: Canon Press.




About Ted Peters
For Patheos, Ted Peters posts articles and notices in the field of Public Theology. He is a Lutheran pastor and emeritus professor at the Graduate Theological Union. He co-edits the journal, Theology and Science, with Robert John Russell on behalf of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, in Berkeley, California, USA. His single volume systematic theology, God—The World’s Future, is now in the 3rd edition. He has also authored God as Trinity plus Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society as well as Sin Boldly: Justifying Faith for Fragile and Broken Souls. See his website: ▓ You can read more about the author here.

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