Time to ruffle some feathers 😬. I’ve been working on a comprehensive book that deals with spiritual warfare, and recent events have brought back to mind part of chapter I wrote last year about the “leaven of the Pharisees and Herod.” I will save those remarks for the end.
I am increasingly concerned about seeing sincere followers of Jesus becoming sucked into what can only be called the poison of “Christian Nationalism.” What is it? For starters, what is it not? It is NOT everything the media says it is. It is NOT about enthusiastically voting for your candidate of choice (like Trump), or about being involved in the political sphere and attending political marches on the left or right. It is NOT about wanting to see a nation, like America, draw closer to Judeo-Christian values that reflect/return to the principles of our founding fathers. It is NOT the belief that America has had a unique, Christian heritage and been a force for good at times. It is NOT being anti-vaxx (which many secularists are too). Nor is it the belief that a conspiracy of collusion defrauded your candidate of an election (as many democrats insisted for 4 years when Hillary lost, and now many republicans are insisting to explain Trump’s loss). All of that is understandable passion merging with grief that may or may not have a provable, evidential basis. But it is not the point of this post to explore that.
That being said, we are in new territory–unproductive territory. All fair-minded people should have a legitimate concern that Trump’s divisive rhetoric emboldened fanatical, zealots on the right to storm the Capital to overthrow a congressional vote (the soil of revolution), and that media/tech companies are now over-reaching in their suppressive response and emboldening fanatical zealots on the left to tolerate ONLY what they deem tolerable and intimidate all outliers (the soil of totalitarianism).
All of these issues are worthy of consideration, but they are outside the scope of “Christian Nationalism.” Before defining it, one more distinction needs to be made. I am not talking about national pride per se. Patriotic nationalism, in and of itself, is not necessarily wrong. In point of fact, in WW2 it was “British nationalism” that enabled the patriotic Brits to stand strong and weather the unrelenting blitz of nightly bombing raids from Nazi Germany–without surrendering.
So finally, what is the poison of Christian Nationalism? In short it confuses the kingdom of God with nation-states. It is the unbiblical idea that God wants us to “christianize” nations (like America) through political revolution and power, instead of expanding the kingdom through heart repentance and revival. Even worse it is the idea that the 2nd Ammendment of the US constitution overrides the New Testament and gives you the right to ignore Christ’s command to “love and do good and pray for those that persecute you because of Me.” To be sure, if you think biblical admonitions like “fight the good fight of faith” and “faith without works is dead” have anything to do with a “Christian militia” preserving your religious liberty, or violently bringing about political change in America, you have fallen prey to Christian Nationalism. It is as Satanic a lie as anything! Resist it. Flee from it! EVERY time the Church jumps into bed with a political marriage partner to establish a theocratic trajectory for a nation, we ALWAYS lose the kingdom of God as Jesus preached it and lived it. There are ZERO exceptions in history.
Jesus spoke directly to the poison of merging His kingdom with political power. He once gave a warning to his disciples that many have failed to consider: “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15).
The leaven of the Pharisees is RELIGIOUS HYPOCRISY. The leaven of Herod is using religion for POLITICAL POWER. To avoid both is wise. To merge both is utterly destructive. Church history is stained with irredeemable events when professing Christians ignored Christ’s warning and reached for such toxic leaven—“baking” it into what they thought was God’s kingdom.
To the degree the Church biblically pursues the kingdom of God first, is to the degree the Church will always glorify Christ in the earth. Sadly—criminally even—Church history is chock full of examples where professing followers of Christ departed from seeking first the kingdom of God and sought to build national kingdoms to their liking— earthly kingdoms that PREYED on enemies instead of a Christlike posture that PRAYED for enemies.
The name of our Lord and Savior has been so thoroughly maligned and trampled underfoot by a callous indifference to the kingdom of God as Jesus preached it and lived it, that only a radical reorientation and re-commitment to deny our self-centered idols and pick up our cross for the sake of Christ can restore what we have lost. We are living in an age where the greatest threat to the kingdom of God advancing in the earth is not coming from OUTSIDE the Church but WITHIN its walls—from the left and the right.
Overly right-wing Christians live out their faith before an unbelieving world AS IF their first loyalty and allegiance is to their own national flag and political self-preservation. Overly left-wing Christians live out their faith as if biblical morality is obsolete and optional and therefore needs to be updated in accordance with their natural desires and self-interest. Both have fallen into unbiblical compromise with the world.
As Christians we may well face persecution in a future American society that restricts a free expression of Christianity that offends the totalitarian sensibilities of others. Jesus did not say to resist it, but to EXPECT it. He said, “If they hate and persecute the Master they will also hate and persecute his servants” (John 15:20).
The point is, those that seek to follow the Son of God, who said, “My kingdom is NOT of this world, for if it was, my servants would fight” (John 18:36), will never be justified in fighting to “christianize” America through political power.