I am taking the next few days to share some essays on Christian Nationalism that I wrote some time ago. This is a bit of a departure from my usual format, but I hope here to share my heart and concern about a phenomenon that serves neither our country, nor our faith well.
I am a Christian, and I love God, especially as he is expressed in his son, Jesus. I am an American, and I love my country. I am not, however a Christian Nationalist, as I understand that term.
I am disturbed by the gradual melding of “Christian” with “American”. One can be a devoted Christian without being American, and one can be a devoted American without being Christian. Some Christians in America have blurred these devotions, giving the impression that to be a good American is to be a good Christian. That to be a good American Christian entails a certain set of allegiances that mimic conservative values.
Sometimes, however, those values are not consistent with Christian values. Our track record with immigration over the years, for example, has not reflected the values of Jesus. Our track record with people of color and Native Americans is a legacy to be repented.
Of course, no country is perfect, and America has shown itself to be a bastion of freedom and democracy in a world that needs such freedom for people. We have much to be proud of as Americans, but a sober look at our imperfections is part of healthy awareness and growth.
Our very political system has been raised as a standard for the world as a way to give voice and opportunity to people heretofore unknown. Yet that very system carries the seeds of its own destruction if not held by people of integrity.
Our elected officials have pandered to their political bases without regard to what is best for the country. On the issue of abortion, for example, it has been easy for some conservative politicians to jump hard onto draconian measures to limit abortion. Please understand that I am very much anti-abortion and pro-life. The principle that government should step in to protect the most vulnerable of its population, the unborn child, is close to my heart. Yet, politicians who espouse some anti-abortion measures often are simply pandering to a constituency that will sound the dog whistle with their single-issue voters. Their understanding of the nuances facing difficult decisions about abortion, in my opinion, has often given way to cheap vote fishing.
Cloaking political power in the language of Christianity is, to me, both subtle and repulsive. Clearly, our founding fathers envisioned an America of limited government powers, and freedom of individuals to express their opinions, including religious beliefs, without harassment.
Has God given America a bountiful blessing? Yes, of course- abundantly so. We have been protected geographically, for much of our existence, by two great oceans which kept us from invasion and interference from potential international enemies. We have the gifts of expansive plains, great agricultural soil, mineral resources, and many more blessings too numerous to mention.
Yet we also have a hubris that the rest of the world struggles to understand. We take for granted those blessings, then assume that God endowed them to us and made us special- that our country has been earmarked as the special agent of preserving Christianity.
The truth is, the fastest growth of Christianity in the world is found in Africa. Our brand of Christianity, and that is what it has become in America, a brand, is not necessarily the faith that Jesus brought to earth centuries ago. His radical love transcended political and governmental power, and turned religion upside down. Our attempt at codifying faith into a religious system is simply our human attempt to understand the power of a Holy Spirit who infuses the God-breath into humankind.
So, we must beware of the insidious growth of Christian Nationalism which seeks to justify Americanism as a faith in and of itself. Beware of buzz words which sound like a defense of faith. It may just be a defense of a political persuasion.