Christian Nationalism is a syncretistic religious movement that merges the scriptural imagery of Christ’s kingdom with worldly ideals of citizenship. This hot topic has recently filled headlines and created deepening political and spiritual divides among American believers, making it vitally important for Christians to understand the truth about the subject.
What Is Christian Nationalism?
According to Christianity.com, a Christian is “a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.”
As contradictory as these two terms seem, Christian nationalism attempts to fuse the standards of Christianity with the ideals of nationalism. This movement is founded on the belief that God has bestowed a unique privilege and responsibility upon a particular country to represent Christ. Therefore, Christian nationalists consider it their duty to promote and defend the tenets of the Christian faith at all costs and in every public arena.
American Christian nationalism has been a constant theme throughout our nation’s history, beginning with the Puritans. The movement saw a modern resurgence during the Cold War era when many evangelical leaders characterized America as God’s chosen victor against the Soviet communists. The idea of America being “God’s elect” grew over time and has been perpetuated by those who feel a moral obligation to preserve that chosen status—through governmental, social, and political activism.
Is America a Christian Nation?
American Christian Nationalists believe that our nation is, and always has been, a God-ordained Christian nation. History provides ample support that Christian ideology has played a vital role in our country’s origin story. The Constitution of the United States was written with a clear Judeo-Christian worldview and designed to govern its citizens with laws inspired by biblical standards, while allowing freedom of religious expression.
The Declaration of Independence mentions God four times, directly connecting each reference to New Testament ideals. One need only review the political speeches of our Founding Fathers, filled with biblical quotes and references, to realize that our nation bears a distinctly Christian heritage.
While history proves America’s Judeo-Christian roots, it does not suggest that our Founders sanctioned the establishment of a “Christian nation.” The second clause of the First Amendment expressly prohibits Congress from adopting any form of a national religion:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the exercise thereof.”
Although Christian nationalists don’t reject the First Amendment, they interpret it as inconsequential to their presumed privileged rights as “Christians.”
What Does the Bible Say about Christian Nationalism?
Scripture does not support the idea of Christian nationalism. Any people-group that claims their nationality places them under Jesus Christ’s favor and blessing deny the Gospel’s truth. Any citizen who places their devotion to Christ on the same level as their allegiance to their country is guilty of idolatry.
Born-again believers in Christ understand that this earthly world is not our home. “For he [Jesus] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). We may physically reside on planet Earth, in the United States of America, but our true citizenship is not of this world (Philippians 3:20, John 18:36).
As citizens of Christ’s Kingdom, temporarily living in this foreign land, Christians are called to fulfill our King’s mission. Part of His mission includes submitting to earthly leaders (Romans 13:1). Christian Nationalists believe that they have the God-given right to usurp any governmental power, even to the point of violence, if that power does not align with biblical principles. But scripture refutes this stance. Throughout history, God has appointed leaders and rulers to govern His people. Some of those leaders have been evil—some good. God has used all of them to accomplish His divine purposes.
When Christians forget that this world is not our home, that this life is not our own—our old nature’s yearning for autonomy can be confused for a righteous cause. Our old nature values its own rights and its own way above all else. The enemy of our soul knows this. He prowls about, ready to deceive us into believing our “fight for freedom” has not already been won by Jesus.
Submission to earthly authority doesn’t mean that Christians should passively immerse themselves in the flow of an ungodly culture. As Dr. James Emery White explains, “we are to be salt and light, and that includes being salt and light politically. How we vote matters—there are values we should work to uphold. Who is president, who is a senator or representative, who is on the Supreme Court—their values, worldview, decision making—matters.”
However, any Christian’s civil action—exercised apart from the Lordship of Jesus and the instruction of God’s Holy Word—runs the risk of marring Christ’s image and repelling the lost from their only hope of salvation.
When civil unrest threaten our lands, we can either join in the chaos or stand firm. We stand firm not on any worldly institution, personal conviction, or righteous cause. We stand on the only foundation that lasts.
“For this is contained in Scripture: ‘BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED’” (1 Peter 2:6).
How Does the Bible Say We Should Treat Others in this Earthly Home?
As citizens of Heaven, how we view this temporary world matters. What we think and believe about our nation determines how we behave. Suppose we view the world and its inhabitants through a lens of spiritual superiority or prejudice. In that case, it will be impossible for us to treat others in a manner worthy of our Christian calling.
The night before Jesus was crucified, Jesus prayed for all believers, asking God to equip us for our time here on earth.
“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:14-18).
Our king did not desire believers be removed from this sin-fallen world. Nor did He mandate that we work, fight, and advocate to transform this world—or our nation—into a replica of His Heavenly Kingdom. He asked the Father to protect us from the evil one and sanctify us with the truth so that we, His children, could fulfill His purposes on earth.
While on earth, Jesus had one goal, to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). We are called to proclaim “the mighty acts of Him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Christ has supplied His citizens with everything we need to succeed in that goal. Through God’s Word, we get our marching orders, and through His Spirit, we’re equipped to complete that mission in His strength and power (Philippians 2:13).
God has sovereignly led people across our paths, people who need to know Him. Do we have eyes to see past worldly concerns and view the unbeliever as someone for whom our Christ died? Although our king has called believers to be set apart and Holy like He is Holy (1 Peter 1:15-16), that doesn’t mean we should view unbelievers as our enemy. The true enemy of our souls, Satan, “has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Only when our mind is on our King’s mission can our eyes, ears, and hearts engage in our true calling.
While we’re on earth, our loving Father has given us the privilege (and also the responsibility) of communing with other kingdom citizens. Together, we are His Body. Christ fits us together like puzzle pieces to accomplish His goals. Neglecting that fellowship undermines our God-given provision to fight loneliness and discouragement. Together we are stronger. Our love for fellow believers speaks to others.
No matter where we plant our flag, or pledge our allegiance, our love and devotion to Jesus should shine so brightly that it becomes the beacon, guiding the perishing world to their true home in Christ.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Photovs
Annette Marie Griffin is an award-winning author and speaker who has managed and directed children’s and youth programs for more than 20 years. Her debut children’s book, What Is A Family? released through Familius Publishing in 2020. Annette has also written curriculum for character growth and development of elementary-age children and has developed parent training seminars to benefit the community. Her passion is to help wanderers find home. She and her husband have five children—three who have already flown the coop and two adopted teens still roosting at home—plus two adorable grands who add immeasurable joy and laughter to the whole flock.