Earlier this week, USA Today published a provocative editorial titled, “Christian nationalism is a threat, and not just from Capitol attackers invoking Jesus.”
Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), our guest on today’s broadcast, was singled out by the essayist and falsely accused of being one of those dangerous individuals who uses his faith for political purposes.
It’s true the senator is a devout believer in Jesus Christ and a strong defender of his country – but that doesn’t make him a religious nationalist – that is, someone who fuses his love of God with his country in idolatrous fashion.
Many of us cringed when we saw Christian symbols and signs inside the Capitol melee of January 6th. It seems some individuals even invoked Jesus as justification for violence. It was a corruption of the faith. Senator Hawley has repeatedly denounced the mayhem that cost lives.
But words mean things, and lately, many on the left have been affixing the “Christian nationalist” label to people like Senator Hawley. They’ve been aggressively exploiting that horrific January 6th attack and lumping all conservative Christians into one faction.
I believe it’s a calculated move done with the hope of silencing those who follow Christ.
With deceptive websites like Wikipedia, and willing press that perpetuates the myth with misinformation or sloppy reporting, it’s no wonder many on the left or in the middle think mainstream evangelicals are part of the fringe, violent edges.
Wikipedia states that “Christian nationalists actively promote religious discourses in various fields of social life, including politics, history, culture, and science … have encouraged evangelism and have urged families to have more children … support the presence of Christian symbols …school prayer and the exhibition of nativity scenes during Christmastide or the Christian Cross on Good Friday.”
By that definition, I suspect many of us would plead “guilty” – but there’s much more to the story. That’s not Christian nationalism.
Properly understood, Christian nationalism is dangerous. If you think government and God are co-equals, you’ll be motivated by the wrong things and might even be susceptible to being swept up into violent mobs like we saw in Washington last month.
Conversely, good Christians are good citizens who have an obligation to serve the Republic. We engage our civic duty and privilege out of our love of neighbor.
Christian nationalism is putting love of country (and our self-interests) over love of God.
But you know what?
We sinfully and mistakenly put many loves over God – our jobs, money, sports, hobbies – even our families. It’s always wrong to do such a thing.
So, what’s the proper understanding and blend of patriotism and faith? My friend and former Focus on the Family board member Dr. Al Mohler recently observed:
“Our ultimate allegiance, our ultimate identity is in Christ to whom, by faith, we have been united, and under whose Lordship, we gladly serve, and that includes, most importantly, our identity within the church of the Lord, Jesus Christ.”
“It is about the church, not any nation that Jesus said, ‘Upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ There is no such promise to any nation, and as a matter of fact, the Christian biblical worldview makes very clear that every earthly nation is eventually going to disappear. Every single empire will fall. Everything that is not part of the church of the Lord, Jesus Christ and a part of the new creation in Christ is that which will burn and that which will be consumed.”
That doesn’t mean we can’t be good patriots. In fact, as I mentioned, we should.
By God’s favor and the wisdom of our founding fathers, Americans of all faiths – and no faith – are entitled to a voice in the public square.
As those on the left find their footing and grow more aggressive in their actions in the coming days, be mindful of those who want to censor or squelch your ability to express your convictions in the public square. Don’t allow them to bully you into silence—exercise your rights as citizens, and do so as Jesus modeled, full of grace and truth.
Just a few miles from my office here in Colorado Springs, Katharine Lee Bates was so inspired by Pikes Peak – a mountain that hovers over our city – that she wrote the song, “America the Beautiful.”
“America! America! God mend thine every flaw,” she penned. “Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law.”
That was true 128 years ago – and it remains true today.