The subject of Christian Nationalism has been at the forefront of evangelical and secular conversations ahead of the 2022 midterms and the looming 2024 presidential election. The issue of the debate is that there is absolutely zero consensus when it comes to a proper definition of what, exactly, Christian Nationalism is.
Improper Definitions of Christian Nationalism
If you were to follow the mainstream media or woke-adjacent Christian leaders, you would be led to believe that Christian Nationalism is the second iteration of Nazism among white American Christians. Their alleged idolatry of Donald Trump, most commonly harped on by The Dispatch’s David French, is the sin above all sins that have sent MAGA Christians into the depths of America First hell. They would have you believe that any Christian who is to the right of 2008 Barack Obama is Hitler in the flesh hoping to reinstitute Gilead, the fictional militaristic-style government from the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale.
NBC News even took time to travel to Moscow, ID to interview Pastor Douglas Wilson of Christ Church in a half-hour-long feature entitled “Theocracy Rising.” Towards the end of the feature, the NBC panelists couldn’t see their own blind spots because they seemingly couldn’t determine if this muscular Christianity was some fringe idea or if our country was on the brink of Christian “insurrection.” (Wilson’s Canon Press publishing company is soon releasing a book, “The Case for Christian Nationalism” by Stephen Wolfe.)
Russell Moore, the Editor in Chief of Christianity Today, refers to Christian Nationalism in its purest form as Vladimir Putin calling upon the Russian Orthodox Church to bless their invasion of Ukraine.
Pastor Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church contends that Christian Nationalism is the ideology that kept black Americans enslaved for centuries and is inherently racist.
“Asking African American Christians to embrace so called Christian Nationalism, is tantamount to asking Jewish people to embrace Nazism,” McKissic wrote on Twitter. “In both cases you’re asking minority groups to embrace the very ideologies that sought to wreck havoc among the people groups they represent.”
An Operating Definition from Self-Described Christian Nationalists
In steps Andrew Torba and Andrew Isker. They are the co-authors of “Christian Nationalism: A Biblical Guide for Taking Dominion and Discipling Nations.” Torba is the founder of the social media site Gab and Isker is the pastor of 4th Street Evangelical Church in Waseca, MN.
The authors approach Christian Nationalism by refuting any idea that they intend to govern with an iron fist and root out any dissenting opinions. They are Christians. They are not going to stone homosexuals, and they are not going to subjugate women to bonnets and being renamed “Offred” (the stylistic married names given to women in The Handmaid’s Tale as they’re now married women, and thus “Of Fred” in a property sense).
They contend Christian Nationalism is the natural outflow of the Great Commission given to Christians by Christ himself.
Because all authority on Heaven and on Earth has been given to Christ, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
“No longer do Christian Nationalists in America seek to establish official state churches or religions, but rather we seek to reestablish states that recognize Jesus Christ as King, the general Christian faith as the foundation of state government, and state laws that reflect (in every way possible and reasonable) Christian morality and charity,” said the authors.
That does not sound very unreasonable to me. I mean, after all, if all authority is Christ’s, and “the government shall be upon his shoulder” (Isa. 9:6 ESV), then government cannot exist or have any authority to begin with, without God first ordaining such an institution.
And if God ordains all government and the civil magistrates are God’s deacons on earth, then why shouldn’t the civil spheres proclaim the risen Savior as Lord? Rather, “shouldn’t” is not even the right question. It is a command. They must proclaim Christ over Washington D.C., state capitol buildings, city councils, county commissions, and everything in between. Otherwise, if Christ is not proclaimed, then the civil spheres blaspheme the very God that gives them breath.
Historic Protestant States
The authors contend that America’s history and founding is truly Christian, but with explanation. True, there is no established religion in the Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution. However, “These United States of America are a Union of different states, and not a ‘country’ in the proper understanding of the word.”
“Rather, the states themselves are countries, according to the proper understanding, each consenting to delegate some of their own sovereign powers to the federal government for the sake of forming a Union,” the authors state.
Meaning, the federal government is downstream from the Union of states, not the other way around. This idea is backed by Timon Cline’s piece Our Distinctly Protestant States in American Reformer where he shows that the overwhelming majority of colonies-turned-states during the American founding had doctrinal and theological tests in order to be elected to state and local public office.
Meaning, once again, that if someone were to be elected to the federal government, they would have already passed the upstream theological examination to prove they were men of high repute and Christian confession.
How does all of this play out? The authors are postmillennial in eschatology which means they believe Christ’s millennium reign has already been established and the gospel will go forth like yeast and slowly grow and the corners of the globe will be Christianized.
This sounds very odd in 21st century Tim LaHaye-influenced American evangelicalism. But this has been a respected theological perspective handled primarily by the Reformed tradition, and even before then. Notable theologians like Jonathan Edwards and John Calvin were either outright postmillennialists or hinted at this version of eschatology.
Since postmillennialism views Christ’s kingdom as already being established, defenders of this perspective, including Torba and Isker, advocate for a biblical Christ that is slowly conquering hearts, minds, and societal systems unto the law of the Lord by the preaching and teaching of the gospel. All the nations are Christ’s, and all are commanded to bow before him. For a nation to not proclaim Christ, they are abdicating their own authority to govern righteously.
This book is not a work of systematic theology. It is written like a pamphlet during the time of the American War for Independence. Evangelical elites have had a field day blasting the authors because the book does contain typos, has large font, and is between 130-140 pages long. They viewed it as a joke, but the point of the book was never to become a work rivaling that of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.
On a recent Canon Calls podcast, Isker reiterated that their goal was to provide a book for the blue-collar Christian written in ways the layman would understand. It is a book for people who are already Christian Nationalists and are wondering if they are the only ones who think this way about Christ and the nations.
In all, I am currently working through where I land on the spectrum between Christian Nationalism or a historic magisterial Protestantism in the Burkean tradition. There is a distinction between the two, but most Americans likely do not have the time to learn all the underpinnings of the differences. Regardless, America is Christ’s, and we have a duty to uphold our end of the covenant. Not because we are any special nation like ancient Israel, but we have abandoned the faith of our fathers for secularism.
Torba and Isker accomplished their task, and I would have no issue with jumping on board their brand of Christian Nationalism.