Negative Nationalism v. Biblical Nationalism

I hear a lot of criticism of what gets dubbed “Christian nationalism” or “white nationalism.” Some of what I believe is being thus labeled is indeed worthy of some thoughtful constructive criticism. However, the more disconcerting occurrence is that people are eschewing the theology of nations altogether throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. If we do not have a healthy theology for nations, we cannot rightly judge unhealthy theology or praxis. It is just as dangerous as witnessing greed within capitalism and jumping over to socialism losing the theology for personal property in the process. We can reject ugly behavior or the wedding of religious zeal to politics without rejecting good theology. We do not have to reject patriotism, or the Pledge of Allegiance, or our national anthem because of the overzealousness of some. Our flag raised high with the great red, white, and blue should catch in our hearts as Americans as this is home. This is the near and dear place that we are to steward as people who are citizens of this nation and not a different nation.

Saying we are not of this world and our home is in heaven too often becomes gnostic escapism. We are citizens of heaven. We do live from another Kingdom. But that Kingdom has everything to do with the world we inhabit physically and the nation we call home. The same is true for those whose nation is not America.

America enjoys unique liberty, but not because she is one of the two special God ordained nations of the world. America’s liberty comes from the Bible applied to political and social practice within the context of nationhood. That application has been imperfect, and we have paid and still pay dearly for where we did not apply God’s truth rightly. America is Christian not because she is always good, but because that is our national operative worldview as opposed to any other religion. It is precisely why we have freedom of religion.

It is Christian to be organized into nations, not pagan empires. It is Christian to have personal property. It is Christian to have liberty, justice, equality. These ideas do not come from any other source than the Bible. And if we give that a derogatory label of “Christian nationalism” we are exchanging good theology for an inferior substitute. We ought not reject nationhood because of some of the ill-tempered and unwise rhetoric of those who are diehard American Christians. We ought not reject good theology because of those who have lost the line between what is American and what is Christian.

The very idea of “nation” is Jewish and Christian. But I understand there is something else that we use the wrong words to label that needs weeding out. I do a lot on my website to try and pull some of the weeds. And yet I would rather the zeal for America that gets so labeled than anti-patriotism, anti-capitalism, and anti-nation theology. I think, perhaps, there is a way forward that exudes the patient self-control of nuance. But we also need understanding that there are those who are doing the best they can with the theology they have to wade into the discussion without having the discipleship necessary to do better on either side of the polarized extreme.

Instead of engaging the extremes, we need to work to develop sound nuanced theology that people can get behind to show a better way that protects the outworking of good theology embedded in nations, capitalism, and patriotism.

We are not spectators waiting on a sovereign move of God to heal our nation. We, as Christians, are the salt and light in the world who walk out the Kingdom of God in such a manner that the darkness is overcome. That manner is ever so important. It is not political might that will transform our nation (and yet government matters and we need good theology for it). It is discipling in truth in all areas of society one day at a time partnering with the generations who have gone before and the generations to come until the Day that all things are made new.

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