Christian nationalism: The civic idolater’s religion.

by K.W. Leslie, 13 June
NATIONALISM 'næʃ.(ə.)nəl.ɪz.əm Belief a nation—a particular group of people—should be congruent with the state, or be supreme within it; and the state’s native identity must share this nation’s characteristics.
2. Exalting one nation above all others; promoting its culture and interests above (or against) those of other nations or multinational groups.
[Nationalist 'næʃ.(ə.)nəl.ɪst noun.]

Most of us think of nation is just another synonym for state. It’s not. Usually not at all.

A nation is a people-group. When you see “nation” in the bible, that’s what it means: A people-group like the Israelites, Edomites, Moabites, Amorites, Philistines, or Egyptians. They’re people united by common ancestors, a common language, a common history and culture, and usually a common religion. Whereas a state is a political entity—the government which rules a particular land, regardless of how many different nations are within that land. (And sometimes nations have multiple states, like when Israel had separate kings in Samaria and Jerusalem.)

Quite a few states have many people-groups within ’em. Empires are an obvious example: The Persian Empire, Greek Empire, Roman Empire, British Empire—all of ’em conquered vast territories of many nations. These empires, by the way, allowed anyone from these nations to become citizens of their empire. Anyone. Citizenship wasn’t limited to the original nation which founded the empire; anyone could become Persian, Greek, Roman, or British. Many did. Paul of Tarsus was even born Roman—because anyone, even Cilician Jews like Paul’s ancestors, could be Roman.

Nationalism loudly objects to that idea, and stands against it. It’s the belief, as I defined above, that the nation and the state oughta be the same thing. Anybody who’s not part of their nation is an undesirable and needs to either conform so much to the nation that we can’t tell the difference (if that’s even possible), or go back to where they came from.

Yeah, nationalism is racism. It’s not just extreme patriotism, like some of the lousier dictionaries define it. It’s the belief the country oughta be all one race. Not just one culture (which is a nationalism-lite variant); one race. Indian nationalists want all the non-Indians and non-Hindus out. German nationalists demand their country be solely Aryan, and you might remember they got really murdery about it in the 1930s. French nationalists want any French citizen who isn’t of European descent (namely the Algerians) to go back to where they came from—even if their family has been in France for a century, and know nothing about where they originally emigrated from.

The United States has its nationalists too. Which is weird, ’cause we’re a diverse country of immigrants: Shouldn’t our nationalists be indigenous American Indians who want all the white people gone? (Such people totally exist, y’know.) But our nationalists are largely white people, descendants of immigrants with various definitions of “white” and “white culture,” who mainly have in common that they want fewer nonwhites, if not none; that America will only be “great again” once white supremacy rules the land once again. (If that’s not what you mean by “Make America Great Again”: Okay. But the guys who coined that phrase have very different ideas than you do.)

A big part of their “white culture” would be Christianity. That’s the part I wanna get to today: The Christian nationalism. Not so much the racism, but make no mistake: Nationalism is racism, so Christian nationalism has racism deeply embedded in it. Deeply.

“Make America Christian Again.”

I grew up among Christians who heavily promoted civic idolatry: They felt the United States was founded by Christians, and as such it has a special relationship with God. Not necessarily a full-on covenant like the LORD had with the Hebrews… although some of ’em weren’t entirely sure we don’t have just such a covenant. Didn’t the early colonial governments make various promises to God in their charters? Didn’t the colonists bind themselves and their posterity to God in an assortment of ways?

(And of course there are those people who think Anglo-Saxons are descended from Israelites deported in the Assyrian conquest, and therefore both Britain and the British colonies are bound by that covenant… but it’s a profoundly stupid theory, and let’s not go down that rabbit hole today.)

These are the folks who taught me there’s no such thing as separation of church and state, ’cause those words aren’t in the Constitution; they’re just in some letter by Thomas Jefferson, who was a heretic y’know. Whereas our Lord actually gets a mention in the Constitution:

done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independance of the United States of America the Twelfth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names, Article 7

Yeah, it’s to indicate the year, but “our Lord” is still in there. Ergo he’s America’s Lord. It’s constitutional!

So there is no such separation, they insisted. Congress opens with prayer. The Supreme Court opens with “God save the United States and this honorable Court.” Presidents swear their oaths on bibles and hold prayer breakfasts. We have “under God” in the pledge of allegiance. Our national motto is “In God We Trust.” Thanksgiving Day is a federal holiday. Our government name-drops God in all sorts of ways, which proves our national religion is at the very least a monotheistic one, but that reference to our Lord implies he’s the God of our Lord; the Father of Jesus.

So what’s the First Amendment about?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion… Amendment 1

Well, I was told, “religion” back then didn’t mean religions, like Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and so forth. It meant the particular way one practiced one’s faith. How one was Christian: Were you following the Church of England’s customs, or were you Quaker, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Mennonite, or any of the other Christian sects? Basically Congress wasn’t allowed to muddle in the ways you could be Christian. But you were generally expected to be Christian.

So the myth, according to Christian nationalists, is that the United States was founded to be Christian… and by and large has actually been Christian. Yeah there have been aberrations, like the Unitarians and Mormons and Transcendentalists and the occasional atheist. But everybody else—all the good people, who wanted to fit in with respectable society—were Christian. You know, like in the Bible Belt. We only elected good Christian presidents, we only appointed good Christian generals (even on the Confederate side!), and our businessmen and civic leaders were for the most part good Christians. That’s what America was… till the 1960s, when the Beatles got into Hinduism and all their fans followed suit. Man, they had a lot of fans.

I kinda knew that last part was bogus. Dad’s parents were pagan, and raised their kids to believe nothing. Three became pagan; one became Christian; Dad became atheist. I was also a history buff, and the more I read about American history, the more I realized Americans have likewise been mighty pagan when it comes to God: They sorta believe in God, but not necessarily in Christ, and our history demonstrates they largely didn’t follow him any. How else could Billy Graham win so many of ’em to Christ?

But Christian nationalists insist we’ve always been Christian—and the reason for America’s various problems today, is we aren’t. So we need to go back to being Christian. We need to elect good Christians to public office, and have ’em ban abortion. We need to put prayer back in the public schools. And we need to push back against religious pluralism: The United States is a Christian country, and if you emigrated to America you need to adopt our religion. Your weird foreign religions need to go back to where they came from—and if you won’t convert, you oughta go back with it.

Yeah, it’s hypocrisy.

As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, obligating everybody in a country to be Christian doesn’t make ’em Christian. It makes ’em hypocrites. I’ve seen this every time Christianity was expected or mandated, whether at Christian schools, Christian workplaces, or towns were everyone was presumed to be Christian: They’d put together a Christian façade, which they’d display as much as they could to the leadership and the tattletales. The rest of the time, they were pagan as ever. Sometimes more so, out of spite.

That’s what you also see throughout American history. You see people joining secret societies, like the Freemasons and Klan, which permitted them to be as unchristian as they pleased in private. You’d see their “civil” and “Christian” behavior completely collapse and vanish whenever there was a war, as people committed vengeful atrocities towards their enemies just because they could. You see some of the must outrageous leaps of logic, and grievous violations of the biblical text, take place in order for people to justify whatever they wished in their hearts to do to people of other races.

Since I’m already bringing up the racism: You also see a lot of this “Christian nation” talk tend to evaporate whenever we’re talking about Christians of color. Whether it’s historically black churches, or Roman Catholic parishes which are predominantly Hispanic, Christian nationalists generally treat the people of these churches as if they’re not real Christians. Partly ’cause race. Usually ’cause they don’t vote the same way racists do: If you’re in any way part of the Christian Left, or preach “social justice” in any form (especially the antiracist forms), they insist you can’t be a true Christian. Hence Christian nationalists want all these folks either drawn into joining a true church, by which they mean a white church (and if they attend, they need to act a lot more white)!—or deported.

The nationalists who want America to be Christian again, don’t really want it to be all that Christian. (Mostly because true Christianity is gonna condemn their racism!) They want the façade: They want America to look Christian, and in so doing, alienate foreigners. The version of Christianity they want is the old medieval form of Christianism which murdered Muslims and Jews; that’s a Christianity which serves their racist purposes. They want a Christianity that antagonizes strangers. Certainly not one which offers the kingdom of God to absolutely everyone.

The reality? The United States is post-Christian. And back when “it was Christian,” it wasn’t really. Christians lived in it; many really devout Christians too. But most of the Christians who coveted and sought political power, promoted a superficial, namby-pamby Christianity which looked the other way when a whole lot of sins took place. That’s why over the years, people rejected this civic Christianity as the hypocrisy it is. Many still equate Christianity with hypocrisy because of them.

That’s why we need to quit being hypocrites—quit claiming we’re Christian when we’re just as fleshly as any pagan—and follow Jesus instead of trying to put back up the same old façades which needed to be torn down. Christian nationalism violates God’s will of a gospel for every nation, Rv 14.6 and a kingdom which includes every nation. Rv 5.9 Its promoters need to be rejected as racists, and dupes of racists. It’s gotta go.