Christian nationalism is both unchristian and unbiblical. In fact, it is the most prevalent perversion of the Christian faith in the United States, today. As such, Christian nationalism poses a grave threat to the witness of the Church and the maintenance of a democratic/republic form of government. Therefore, professing Christians must understand what Christian nationalism is, and how it is radically different from true Christianity.
In their book, Taking America Back for God, sociologists Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry define Christian nationalism as “a cultural framework – a collection of myths, traditions, symbols, narratives, and value systems – that idealizes and advocates a fusion of Christianity with American civic life.” According to Whitehead and Perry, Christian nationalism contends that America has been and should always be distinctively “Christian” from top to bottom – in its self-identity, interpretations of its own history, symbols, values, public policies – and aims to keep it that way.
Many Christian nationalists in America are a part of a cult of personality. Former President Donald Trump is the figurehead of this cult. The following acronym gives the key attributes of this cult:
C- Controlling Leadership
U- “Us” Versus “Them” Mentality
L- Lying and Falsehoods
T- Total Loyalty
There are 10 things that are unchristian and unbiblical about Christian nationalism:
- It uses images of a white Jesus to enshrine white supremacy.
Some may say, “It doesn’t matter what color Jesus is.” Though, on the surface, such a statement sounds plausible, it doesn’t account for historical accuracy. The Bible and historical records are clear; Jesus is not white. The Word became flesh in a Jewish body darkened by the shining sun.
In Jesus’ genealogy, recorded in Matthew 1, it lists 5 women. Four of these women were of African descent: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. It was by Bathsheba that King David bore a son (Solomon) who would be heir to the throne of David. Moreover, it was to Egypt (in North Africa) that Mary and Joseph took the Christ Child to hide from King Herod (Matthew 2:13-23). If Jesus were white, ancient Africa would be the last place one would take Him to hide.
Also, to say, “It doesn’t matter what color Jesus is” trivializes the power of visual images and symbols relative to our spiritual formation. We live in a racialized society where whiteness has always been the ideal against which all races and ethnicities are measured. To intentionally portray Jesus as white in this context reinforces white supremacy. This has done tremendous psychological damage to members of racially oppressed groups who are seen as inferior to whites. That said, Christian nationalists revel in mythological images of a white Jesus.
- It wraps the Cross and the Bible in the American flag.
The conflation of Christianity and Americanism is a phenomenon that has gripped all regions of the country, not just the “Bible Belt.” It happens in various ways. For instance, one can purchase a cross painted with the American flag at certain retailers or Christian bookstores. This sends the message that Americans can claim sole ownership of the Christian faith. Yet, the Bible references a house of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:7; Mark 11:17).
Every Independence Day weekend, all over the country, churches host “patriotic” worship services in which flags are waved and American exceptionalism is pushed. In fact, during one “worship service” at First Baptist Church- Dallas, Texas, a very large choir honored Trump with the singing of the “Make America Great Again” anthem. From what I could tell, there were no persons of color in the choir. This is quite telling.
In 2021, the “God Bless the USA” Bible was slated to be released. It featured a patriotic song, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the like. However, to many people’s disappointment, it was announced that the release of this product was canceled.
- It idolizes guns and militarism while glorifying toxic masculinity.
Christian nationalists worship guns and see any comprehensive gun safety legislation as part of a “liberal agenda” to take their Second Amendment rights away. It is largely because of Christian nationalists that more comprehensive gun reforms have not been passed into law, even in light of the recent barrage of mass shootings.
Christian nationalists overwhelmingly support preemptive war, torture, and the expansion of the military-industrial complex. Additionally, the traits of “toxic masculinity” are held up as desirable among Christian nationalists. These include the use of violence, control, and the domination of women and “weaker” men.
- It reveres colonizers, slaveholders, and Confederates.
Christian nationalists hold men like Christopher Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, and other slaveholding founding fathers in high esteem without any critical examination of their mistreatment of fellow human beings.
When Confederate statues began to be removed around the country, Christian nationalists were among the loudest protestors. They complained that “our” history was being removed, without any consideration for people who were emotionally harmed because of the presence of such statues.
- It idealizes American history while longing for “the good old days.”
The 1619 Project, which is intended to give a more accurate and complete treatment of American history, has been vehemently opposed by Christian nationalists. They wish to propagate a sanitized narrative that censors honest discussions about slavery, segregation, and systemic racism.
They would love to go back to a time when America was whiter and less culturally diverse.
Furthermore, the manufactured hysteria over what is labeled as “Critical Race Theory” has been fueled largely by Christian nationalists. In fact, they are behind many of the state laws banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory.
- It centers America in God’s plan for humankind.
Christian nationalists believe America plays a central role in God’s sovereign plan and the “end times.” Never mind that the United States is not alluded to once in the Bible. Yet, in the minds of many, America constitutes “God’s chosen people,” much like the Jewish people in the Bible.
- It assumes wealth and prosperity are indicative of God’s favor.
Matthew 5:45 says, “[God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Christian nationalists often point to America’s wealth and prosperity as evidence of God’s favor. Such people will not concede that America’s wealth and prosperity was made possible by the free and forced labor of enslaved Africans.
- It removes the wall of separation between Church and State.
Christian nationalists want a country in which their heretical version of Christianity is favored above all other religions. When they talk about “religious freedom,” it is freedom for “me,” but not for “thee.” Christian nationalists also want a country in which Church and State are bedfellows that conspire to accomplish their narrow political agenda. Christian nationalists have a sense of entitlement. Simply put, they don’t care about the common good.
- It relegates those who are not white and/or Christian to second class citizenship.
While the Bible emphasizes welcoming immigrants or “the other,” Christian nationalists are invested in hegemony and maintaining ethnonational “purity.” They promote the most restrictive immigration policies. Such policies are dehumanizing to people created in the image of God.
- It justifies the use of intimidation and violence in pursuit of political power.
James Watterman Wise purportedly said, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” This quote provides a poignant description of what happened on January 6, 2021. A violent and organized effort to overturn a free and fair election and stop the peaceful transfer of power was fascism, pure and simple. Christian nationalists were front and center during this despicable act.
What was especially troubling to me about the insurrection was to see a “Jesus Saves” banner displayed alongside Trump signs, and Rebel flags, while police officers were being brutally beaten. The same people who claim to be fully supportive of law enforcement were engaged in lawlessness they believed was sanctioned by God. All this was done in pursuit of political power.
In summary, Christian nationalism is neither Christian nor biblical in its orientation. True Christianity is not about allegiance to a political party, but a singular Person: JESUS. It is not about allegiance to a particular nation-state, but to the Kingdom of God. For the Apostle Paul said, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
By Joel A. Bowman, Sr.