Christian Nationalism Old and New

Christian Nationalism Old and New December 20, 2023

Christian Nationalism Old and New

I am now on an email list to receive messages from Christians Against Christian Nationalism. I don’t remember signing up for that list. I think someone else put me on the email list.

Here is all that I want to say here: Christian nationalism is not new; it has been around since before the War of Independence. But it has had different “faces” from time to time.

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.

When I was growing up in an extremely conservative form of Christian life in America I was taught that America’s greatness lies in its freedoms, especially religious liberty and democracy. American governments, government leaders, were often criticized when they seemed to fall short on those ideals and themes. Especially when they seemed to compromise with communist leaders (for example Nixon going to China and the US voting to admit the People’s Republic of China to the UN with expelling Chinese Taiwan from the UN).

Yes, we believed that America was raised up by God as a “city set on a hill” to show the world the better way to live, rooted in basic Christian principles of the dignity of every individual, the sacredness of all human life, and the right of everyone to believe and worship without interference from the state. We did not think America had ever lived up to its God-calling perfectly, but we believed the ideals of the founding fathers were God’s ideals for communal living within a nation-state.

We did not idolize America; we knew and said that God is over America and watching America, and that if America ever strayed from God’s plan for it (as described above) God would judge it harshly.

I now realize that there were strains of rhetoric among us that leaned in the direction of extremism. But that contemporary MAGA extremism of today’s American Christian Nationalism was foreign to us.

As usual, I want to nuance things in a contemporary context where nuance is almost never enjoyed. Today’s media-portrayed and real American White Christian Nationalism is both continuous with and discontinuous with the Christian Nationalism in which I was raised and indoctrinated.

Where lies the discontinuity? In idolatry of the nation-state called The United States of America and in an uncritical near-worship of an obviously deranged and malicious narcissist as its rightful leader. Get me right. The Christian Nationalism of my childhood and youth still exists, but the extremists among us (e.g., the few members of the John Birch Society) have virtually taken over the Republican Party and defined America in a way that elevates it to a near-divine status. They have toyed with ideas akin to Fascism that the Christian Nationalism of my youth would not have countenanced, although we were so afraid of Communism that we ignored the threat of Fascism.

*Note: What I said above about the John Birch Society is my opinion, based on my close working relationship with a leader of the Society years ago. I mean no insult to the character of the Society or its members. I thought they were extremists then, but have not kept up with the Society’s more recent beliefs if they have changed. My colleague back then insisted that Eisenhower was a “dupe of the communists” and that America should use nuclear weapons in both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. I consider the beliefs he shared with me as a leader in the state chapter of the JBS extreme.*

I am not a Christian Nationalist in the contemporary sense, especially as that is being defined now by left-leaning academics and much of the media. I don’t remember ever calling myself a Christian Nationalist and I don’t remember that term being embraced by our spiritual leaders. But I know we were that in some sense of the phrase. It was a mixed bag of good and bad and, unfortunately, our leaders tolerated the bad among us.

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 affect on God except to grieve him even if it is his judgement.

I do believe that America has by-and-large abandoned God and become secular and pagan that so far, anyway, tolerates real Christianity. But I believe the ideals of America’s founding fathers were rooted in Christian teaching about every human individual being created in the image and likeness of God and therefore deserving of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” including human right. That is not to say America ever lived up to those ideals perfectly; it certainly has not especially with regard to minorities and, too often, peoples of other countries.

But contemporary white Christian Nationalism has gone off the rails and mixed a kind of fascist ideology of “Americanism,” a religion, with Christianity in an idolatrous way.

*Note: If you choose to comment, make sure your comment is relatively brief (no more than 100 words), on topic, addressed to me, civil and respectful (not hostile or argumentative), and devoid of pictures or links.*

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