In the movie The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya calls out Vinzini’s use of the word “inconceivable” when he says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” When it comes to the word nationalist, I think I agree with Inigo Montoya’s assessment.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, a “Nationalist” is an “advocate of or believer in nationalism.”
“Nationalism” as defined by the same dictionary, is “loyalty and devotion to a nation.” Yet somehow in our culture, much like many other terms, the definition has seemed to be changed in order to fit a particular narrative. You know, nationalism, like Nazi Germany; and nationalists, like followers of Hitler. Sound familiar?
It seems all to common in the aftermath of the political storm we have come through and are still sifting through, to hear in the 24/7 news cycles as well as podcasts, blogs, and even religious websites banter about “Christian nationalism” and its dangerous affect on culture, the Church, and the saints of God.
As a matter of fact, I’ve read several articles, and listened to as many podcasts, of those who have seemingly been quick to criticize individuals and groups, who with much fervor and conviction, have vocally and visibly supported President Donald Trump and the policies he champions.
One contributing writer to a well-known Christian website even coined the phrase, “the cult of Trumpism,” giving a more specific picture of what Christian nationalism looks like. I am sincerely curious, though, as to how Christians are supposed to respond toward any political candidate or leader with whom they agree. Is supporting the platform and policies of a political party or group, or one who leads such a platform and implements such policies, sinful? Well, if it’s idolatry then yes. But again I’m perplexed as to how this specific pastor and contributing writer can accurately judge the hearts of those whom he does not know. Perhaps his assessment is more general than qualified, which can be very dangerous in this “guilty-til-proven-innocent” culture we live. I wonder, as well, if another article might be written soon about the cult of Bidenism, you know, professing believers who overlook the murdering of pre-born children by trying to justify a modified version of pro-life, the normalization of gender neutrality, the censoring of biblical truth because it is deemed to be hate speech and inciteful, and other issues that are excused for the sake of tolerance and “unity.” For true followers of Jesus who have embraced such things that Scripture expressly addresses wrong, seems more cultish in my view.
Beth Moore, who is a popular evangelical teacher, seemed to join the chorus when she claimed that the greatest threat to the Church, or the saints of God, is Christian nationalism. Her exact words were, “I do not believe these are days for mincing words. I’m 63 1/2 years old & I have never seen anything in these United States of America I found more astonishingly seductive & dangerous to the saints of God than Trumpism. This Christian nationalism is not of God. Move back from it.”
It could be possible, I suppose, that these views are nothing more than a caution, and admonition, out of sincere concern for those who have been labeled the religious right or christian nationalists. However, it seems to be more of a strong rebuke than a caution. Perhaps, if more conversations were had with individuals as opposed to a general labeling, some might come to realize that 1) there are those who are Donald Trump supporters who are not followers of Christ, and 2) those who are followers of Christ and who realize that their King is Jesus, not Trump (or any other political, social, or cultural icon) may have supported President Trump because they do love this country and believe that the policies and platform he implemented were for the good of this nation, not the demise.
And it could be that there are those who believe that the founding of this nation was actually based on a Judeo-Christian ethic, unlike any other nation with the exception of Israel. Our nation, like every other nation, has had its flaws; it still does. But below the surface of our country’s founding, there is undoubtedly the strong and vast roots of Christian principles. I’ll speak to that in just a few moments.
Call me crazy, and some will, but haven’t we seen similar support for past Presidents? I remember, even as teenager, a growing wave of patriotism and love for country when President Ronald Reagan became our 40th president. Our country had just endured the dismal days of President Carter’s administration, and with a sense of renewed national fervor that seemed to be ignited by an unknown group of amateur hockey players on the U.S. Olympic team who upset the seemingly unbeatable Russians that became known as the Miracle on Ice, a wave of patriotic spirit became almost tsunami like. And it was a good thing. People were proud to be Americans. Even Bruce Springsteen got in the mood.
Many people who voted for Reagan were Christians, and there were many who weren’t. For some reason, I don’t recall hearing the phrase “Christian nationalism,” or “The cult of Reaganism.” I wonder why?
When 9/11 happened, President George W. Bush’s approval rating skyrocketed. There was a sense of being united as a nation during a time of national crisis. People filled churches. There seemed to be a renewed sense of love for country; love for God. Although it was short lived, I don’t recall hearing the phrase of “nationalism,” or “Christian nationalism.” I wonder why?
In 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected as the first African-American president, it was a great day in the history of our nation in the sense that it revealed how far our nation had come, although we still have further to go. President Obama was elected by a cross-section of demographics. There was a fervor expressed by those who visibly and vocally supported him as well. President Obama had a large following, and in many ways was untouchable when it came to honest critique.
However, unlike other past administrations, the tone, course, and discourse of our nation seemed to go a different direction. Instead of American exceptionalism, the belief that our nation is unlike any other, the rhetoric became American deconstructionism; the belief that America as it was needed to be deconstructed systemically.
For some, I know that what I’ve just said will not rest well; sometimes the truth doesn’t. But the facts bear witness of this shift. According to the Pew Research Center, “Barack Obama campaigned for the U.S. presidency on a platform of change. As he prepares to leave office, the country he led for eight years is undeniably different. Profound social, demographic and technological changes have swept across the United States during Obama’s tenure, as have important shifts in government policy and public opinion.” For more research, you can find the Pew Research Center’s study here:
For eight years, when religious liberty had not only been threatened, but in many cases deemed discriminatory; when apology tours to countries led by dictators were becoming common; when the biblical and traditional view of marriage was not only challenged but demonized; when abortion was championed and cheered; when the two primary political parties became even more divided and divisive; and, in my opinion, when our country lost its sense of national identity, many Americans were desperate for something different. There was a desire for a change of direction.
Enter a new President who broke the succession of political insiders. Donald Trump, who was laughed off by the media pundits who would become, and still are, his most ardent antagonizers, shocked the world with his election as the 45th President of the United States. Clearly his character was not much different than many of his predecessors, and his rhetoric was less than diplomatic. But if there is anything that 75-80 million votes during this past election reveals, it is that over the past four years many of President Trump’s policies worked and were undoubtedly reflective of many of the values and ideals that America had been founded upon, and that a vast majority of Americans still embrace.
Personally, I haven’t necessarily been a fan of his personality or his verbal attacks, but I have been supportive of a good number of his policies. As with other Presidents, there have been decisions made, and a great number of comments made, that I disagree with wholeheartedly. If there is anything, though, that history teaches us it is that personality doesn’t shape a free republic, policy does. And if you don’t think that is true, just wait and see what takes shape over the next four years.
No, in my opinion, I don’t think the greatest danger is the cult of Trumpism, or Christian nationalism. I believe the greatest dangers as a nation may be willful ignorance and indifference: ignorance regarding our history as a nation that has been founded upon Judeo-Christian principles, and indifference toward how we are to steward well what we have been entrusted.
Sadly, many professed Christians seem to have a “hands off” approach when it comes to difficult topics that on the surface seem hard to reconcile, such as politics and religion; just let life happen and trust God. And to that I say, yes, trust God but again don’t forsake what God has entrusted to us like freedom and a responsibility to steward well, not just this planet, but also everything else He has given us.
Dr. Mark David Hall, who is the Herbert Hoover Distinguished Professor of Politics at George Fox University, in his article “Did America Have a Christian Founding?” writes,
“History is complicated, and we should always be suspicious of simple answers to difficult questions. As we have seen, there is precious little evidence that the Founders were deists, wanted religion excluded from the public square, or desired the strict separation of church and state. On the other hand, they identified themselves as Christians, were influenced in important ways by Christian ideas, and generally thought it appropriate for civic authorities to encourage Christianity.
What do these facts mean for Americans who embrace non-Christian faiths or no faith at all? Although the Founders were profoundly influenced by Christianity, they did not design a constitutional order only for fellow believers. They explicitly prohibited religious tests for federal offices, and they were committed to the proposition that all men and women should be free to worship God (or not) as their consciences dictate.
Yet it does not follow from this openness that Americans should simply forget about their country’s Christian roots. Anyone interested in an accurate account of the nation’s past cannot afford to ignore the important influence of faith on many Americans, from the Puritans to the present day.
Christian ideas underlie some key tenets of America’s constitutional order. For instance, the Founders believed that humans are created in the image of God, which led them to design institutions and laws meant to protect and promote human dignity. Because they were convinced that humans are sinful, they attempted to avoid the concentration of power by framing a national government with carefully enumerated powers. As well, the Founders were committed to liberty, but they never imagined that provisions of the Bill of Rights would be used to protect licentiousness. And they clearly thought moral considerations should inform legislation.
America has drifted from these first principles. We would do well to reconsider the wisdom of these changes.”
NATIONS, KINGDOMS, AND KINGS
Look throughout Scripture and you’ll see that God has established nations, kingdoms, and kings. That must mean something significant. As a matter of fact, listen to God’s word:
“He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;” Daniel 2:21
Daniel, charged by God to reveal the dream to Nebuchadnezzar, said, “You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.” Daniel 2:37-38
I could go on and speak of the multitude of verses in Scripture that speak to how God has ordained nations, kingdoms, and kings for His work and for His glory. The point is that these matter, and our nation matters. As I mentioned earlier, we are to be stewards of what God has entrusted to us. That’s not nationalism, that’s obedience.
I can hear it now, those who like to quote the verse when Jesus put the Pharisees and Herodians in place by saying, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Mark 12:17 In that verse, however, are two implications: 1) we have a responsibility to our governing authorities, which means we must steward well and rightly that for which we are responsible, and 2) God rules over all, even our governing authorities. (Romans 13; 1 Peter 2). With that being said, it seems as though it matters to God.
Without exception, there is only one King. And Beth Moore is right, it’s not Cyrus. But I would add it’s not Obama, or Trump, or Biden; it’s King Jesus. Any king we exalt above King Jesus is an idol, and is sin. Any nation we set above allegiance to King Jesus is an idol, and is sin. But devotion to a nation, or a leader isn’t necessarily idolatry.
Based on how some have defined Christian nationalism, I would have to think that David’s mighty men would have been accused and considered Israeli nationalists. They supported King David and were with him to the death. As a matter of fact, they were, and are, God’s chosen people. There’s much more that could be said about that and unpacked, but not in this podcast. Being God’s chosen people, I would guess, could carry with it the perception that Israel, the Jewish people, considered themselves as superior to other nations. I’m sure there were those who did. But God, in His sovereignty, chose Israel as His people to be a light to the nations. There was a bigger cause than nationalism. And in the same way, although certainly not taking the place of Israel, I believe that God has sovereignly ordained America to be a light to the nations. As I mentioned earlier, no other nation has been founded upon such principles and ideals as was this country. There is a purpose for why we are the most advanced nation in the world and considered the leader of the free world, and it most definitely wasn’t because of any person, leader, or political party.
No, I don’t believe the greatest danger to the saints of God, the Church, is Christian nationalism. I believe the greatest danger is Christian secularism; or Christian materialism; or Christian narcissism; or Christian woke-ism; or to put it more succinctly, Christian progressivism.
Not once have I read where Jesus warned the Jewish people against Jewish nationalism. When I look at Scripture, and Jesus’s warnings, I do, however, read much about His warning against false prophets and teachers, the Pharisees and other religious elites, greed, pride, and deception.
What this comes down to is not political affiliation, but rather worldview. How do you view the world in which you live, and what are the lenses through which you will look that shape your perspective? The Scriptures aren’t meant to be an additional lens, or attachment, but rather the one lens which is to be superimposed over all others. It is the corrective lens for an astigmatic soul.
It would be much easier if life could be compartmentalized into categories (religious, social, political/governmental, economical, biological, vocational) that we could choose to engage in or not. But having a biblical worldview, which I believe is the correct worldview, means that we look at these through the lens of Scripture, not culture alone. God’s word doesn’t just shed some light on these, but it gives us clear vision as to how we are to live and respond in each of these overlapping realities. I don’t believe this only speaks to America, but to the world. Scripture is true at all times, for all people, in all places. And Scripture should inform every area of our life, not all except politics.
To my brothers and sisters who are in Christ who may think that politics and religion should never meet, that’s like saying to God, “You can have every area of my life except my view of politics.” That’s not what a life surrendered to God looks like.
All of Scripture should inform all of life, especially in the life of a Christian. If you disagree with that, and can qualify your belief based on the word of God, I would genuinely love to have an honest conversation.
But truthfully, I believe that is where the disconnect is. It is not a secret that the Church, generally speaking, has become woefully illiterate when it comes to the Scriptures, both in knowledge and application. The truth is that it is impossible to be literate in anything without knowledge or careful study.
Because of the lack of knowledge of God’s truth, it is no wonder why many professed Christians are accepting the deceptive teachings of progressive Christianity. In the book of Hosea, the prophet who spoke on God’s behalf to the people of Israel said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge . . .” Hosea 4:6 God wasn’t referring to general knowledge, but rather a knowledge of Him and His ways. When there is a void of God’s truth in your life, Satan is quick to fill it up with lies.
When the foundational truths of the dignity and sanctity of life; the sacred institution of marriage between a man and a woman; the fall of mankind and that all have sinned against God; the wrath of God poured out on sin; and the grace of God provided in His great salvation, that we find in just the first eleven chapters of Genesis, when these are abandoned and replaced with progressive theology, the result is false teaching that leads to a distorted worldview and spiritual destruction.
What is most dangerous to the saints of God, His Church, is abandoning the truth of God’s Word and justifying as good what God has called evil. Although it may seem good and noble, and even Christ-like to speak love, and peace, and grace, and unity, it is never to be at the expense of the truth of His word and His righteousness. It is because of Christ’s righteousness that we can know and display true love. It is because of His righteousness that we can know and have peace. It is because of God’s righteousness that we can experience grace that leads us in hot pursuit of His holiness. It is because of His righteousness that we can know and experience true unity.
I do believe that the vast majority of people, followers of Jesus and those who are not, desire unity and peace. As for me, I certainly do. I will continue to pray for our national, state, and local leaders that they might lead rightly. In the book of Proverbs, God’s word reads, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” Proverbs 29:2 The word used for “rule” in this text speaks to those who rule in a position of authority as over nations or any other entity. We should pray that righteousness would increase, and that God would expose the evil that grieves the heart of God and causes all humanity to groan.
I pray Joe Biden will come to understand his need to repent of that which is sinful, and turn to Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. I pray that he will acknowledge that every person is created in the image of God, by the One true Creator God, and will do what is right in honoring the sanctity and dignity of all human life, from womb to tomb; that he will affirm the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman; and that he will protect and affirm religious liberty for all people. Just as I have prayed, and do pray, for Mr. Trump, I pray for Mr. Biden.
As the true follower of Christ, I would ask you, what is the reason you are here in this nation, in this world, and at this time? It’s no different a reason than those who came before us had: we are to live in such a way so as to make much of Christ by living lives set apart for His glory, and in doing so point others to the hope and life that is found only in Him. We weren’t created to establish a utopia here, which in reality is futile, because God has promised something far greater. While we are here, however, the footprints of our lives should lead to Christ, and as we sojourn in this life it should be our aim to leave it better than we found it. That is why I seek to make much of Christ and hold fast to His word. It is also why I seek to speak up for that which is right and good, and noble when it comes to every area of life, be it religious, political, or any other sphere of influence that we are called to steward well.
As Jesus told His disciples, which includes every follower of Christ, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
We are the light of the world because Jesus is the true light who dwells in every true believer. And because we are called to be in this world, but not of it, every sphere of influence needs the light of Christ lived out through the light bearers we are called to be, including government and politics. That’s not Christian nationalism, that is the Kingdom mentality.