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Christian Nationalism vs. Christian Stewardship in American Politics: A brief synopsis.

“The resolution is clear: In every arena, to shine as lights, preserve as salt, and stand as part of Christ’s church, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

“So, you’re a Christian nationalist, right?” Those were the slightly veiled, words that escaped the reporter’s lips during our recent interview. Despite her smile, kindness, and attempts to be unassuming and non-judgmental, there was an underlying presupposition about the kind of man, pastor, and public figure I must be, given my lack of hesitation to address political issues from the pulpit. The term “Christian nationalist” has sadly devolved into a derogatory label wielded by leftists and secular humanists to discredit any Christian voice advocating engagement in the public sphere or the American political system. The term “white” is frequently added, which is a sad commentary on how Critical Theory has saturated our culture, but that’s for another article. To be clear, Christian nationalism is a thing. However, its true definition, rooted in the eschatological perspectives of a small portion of evangelical Christians, has been overshadowed. The term has been weaponized, morphing into a broad brush used to criticize and deride anyone suggesting that the church bears a responsibility to speak into national policy. 

So, let’s delve into the important questions: “What lies at the core of Christian Nationalism?” “Does Christian Nationalism accurately depict every Christian who deems the Johnson Amendment unconstitutional, questions the misconstrued separation of church and state, and advocates for Christian involvement in public office?” and “Has Christian Nationalism been manipulated to distort and silence Christian influence in our culture?”

Christian nationalism finds its roots in eschatological perspectives known as Post-Millennialism and Dominion Theology. These frameworks posit that God’s kingdom must physically extend throughout the world, overseeing every human institution and culminating in the ultimate victory of Jesus ruling through the church on earth. Given these underpinnings, we can define Christian Nationalism as the theological belief that Christians must move into authority at every level and in every sphere of society in order to bring about the reign of Christ through His church. 

These theological ideas indeed have historical ties within American history and certain Christian movements that played a role in the nation’s formation. Within the historical tapestry of early America, there were indeed influential figures who embraced postmillennial eschatology. Among them was Jonathan Edwards, a prominent theologian and preacher during the 18th century. Edwards, a key figure in the First Great Awakening, is often associated with this view of God’s kingdom. While he didn’t explicitly identify as postmillennial, the undercurrents of hope and optimism in his writings reflected a belief in the ultimate victory of Christianity on society. Another figure of significance is John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister and Founding Father who played a vital role in shaping America’s foundation. As a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the sole active clergyman to sign the document, Witherspoon held postmillennial views. His conviction lay in the ultimate triumph of Christianity, foreseeing a future characterized by justice and virtue within society. Today, these views still persist within certain Protestant, evangelical, and Charismatic circles, and without question, are integrated into many of the “faith and politics” discussions happening today. Dr. George Grant, a prominent adherent to dominion theology, appropriately defines this system, stating, “But it is dominion that we are after. Not just a voice. It is dominion we are after. Not just influence. It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time. It is dominion we are after. World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.” This perspective often carries the title “reconstructionism” and seeks to institute theonomy and theocracy (state-enforced submission to God’s Old Testament laws).

While dominion theology and post-millennialism still resonate among adherents in today’s American church, the prevailing eschatological view among evangelical Christians in America leans toward premillennialism. In a 2011 NAE survey, 65% of Evangelical leaders associated with a premillennial eschatology, whereas only 17% held to a post-millennial or ah-millennial view. In this perspective, believers anticipate the return of Jesus to establish His physical kingdom on Earth in the future. It is essential to grasp the significance of this theological stance, emphasizing that our aim is not to advocate for a theocracy in America. Biblically, only two God-ordained theocracies have existed in human history—Israel and the church. For most of us, our intention is not to mold America into a forced Christian nation akin to historical England, where one’s Christian identity was inherited and compelled.  If your parents were Christians, you were a Christian. That idea of a Christian nation abhors many of us who follow Jesus today. True Christianity, we understand, is a matter of personal choice, a commitment that individuals must make in their hearts. You might be able to threaten or coerce someone into identifying as a Christian on paper, but you can’t force a heart, mind, and will to turn from sin toward God. While America may not be a Christian nation in the theocratic sense, it is undeniably the most Christianized nation in history, where a Christian worldview, biblical morality, and the ethical principles of Jesus Christ have profoundly shaped Western culture, values, and the American political system. To dispute this would be to deny historical reality.

As the United States came into being, a significant portion of its founding figures, from leaders to inhabitants, held, at the very least, a deistic perspective, acknowledging a distinction between God as the creator and man created in His image. Many were followers of Jesus Christ, heavily influenced by Puritan and Calvinistic theology. When the Continental Congress penned the Declaration of Independence, it reflected the prevailing theological sentiments of the time. The opening words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” set a tone that invoked “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” The document concludes by “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world” and expressing reliance on “the protection of divine Providence.” This language, far from being vague or unusual at the time, resonated with the majority of churches and citizens who automatically associated it with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even Thomas Jefferson, often considered a deist and skeptic, acknowledged in an 1825 letter that the Declaration “was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day…” James Madison, founding father and 4th president of the US, writing about the formation of the United States and its constitution, said, “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty Hand, which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical states of the revolution.”

A reasoned evaluation leads us to affirm that spiritually, our nation originated on the following foundational premises:

  • The acknowledgment of God’s reality and His involvement in the formation of nations.
  • The recognition that God has established principles to guide nations in determining their system of governance.
  • The belief that a nation, by honoring the moral and ethical principles of God in its governance, will experience His favor.
  • A recognition that England’s deviation from these principles included a denial of individual freedom, which is divinely ordained.
  • The understanding that our constitution was intentionally crafted to govern effectively a people characterized by religious and moral values.”

This brings us to the core motivation behind the engagement of many, myself included, in our political system. When we advocate for a Biblical worldview, moral laws aligned with God’s standards, and individuals with Judeo-Christian values running for office, it is not driven by a desire to compel everyone to become a Christian, enforce a theocracy, or silence opposing voices, cultures, or religions within the nation. So, what is the underlying purpose? In a single word: Stewardship.

There exists a clear distinction between asserting, “America needs to be a Christian nation that brings about the physical kingdom of Jesus on the earth,” and stating, “America should recognize and honor the God who played an evident role in her founding, so as to continue experiencing His favor and blessings.” Many American Christians, myself included, are motivated by the principle of stewardship. I firmly believe that God will require an account of how we managed all that He entrusted to us, encompassing both our spiritual gifts and our physical resources. As followers of Jesus in the American system, we bear the responsibility of stewardship, aiming to glorify God in all aspects of life. This “everything” extends to engagement in the political and public spheres of influence within our society.

When I encounter a fellow Christian expressing the sentiment, “The church should stay out of politics,” my immediate inquiry is, “Did you learn this from the Bible, or are you echoing sentiments from your upbringing or education?” In churches across the nation, we emphasize that God cares about every facet of our lives, including our souls, destinies, lives, futures, marriages, families, and finances. It perplexes me that when anything remotely political arises, suddenly the assertion is made that “God doesn’t really care about that.” I respectfully disagree; God does care. Throughout scripture, He holds nations accountable for their sins, injustices, and even their rejection of Him. God cares about the unborn and how a nation protects their lives or promotes their eradication. God cares about human sexuality and gender distinction and how a nation either discourages or promotes the perversion of God’s image in humanity. God cares about the poor and policies that either keep people in poverty and dependence or set them on a path to recovery and success. God cares about crimes, immorality, and injustice and how human governments deal with them. I have met many Christians (and have been one myself) who enjoy the freedoms we have in America and complain when infringements start to take place. However, they rarely connect the church’s general malaise, apathy, and attitude of indifference toward our political system as a contributing factor to the moral decline and decaying freedom that we are now experiencing.

How does this uniquely apply to the American Christian? Envision the God who orchestrates the rise and fall of nations, shaping kingdoms and governments for His divine purposes. He chooses a specific time and place in world history to establish a nation, declaring, “I will bring forth a people who, for centuries, will serve as a stabilizing force in a chaotic and godless world. I will bestow upon them unprecedented wealth and liberty, empowering them to champion inalienable rights, human equity, justice, righteousness, and prosperity for both their citizens and the world. From the very foundations of this land, I will fill it with my people—righteous, generous, courageous, and sacrificial—and entrust them to use their gifts for my glory. They will have the unprecedented opportunity to select their leaders and create laws based on what is good and right. I will elevate them to the highest positions of authority, maintaining a nation that serves as a beacon, allowing the gospel to be sent to every shore across the world. I will grant my people the chance to craft a society, culture, and government valuing every life, displaying righteous justice, and upholding what is good and right for humanity.” Then, God turns to you and me, asking, “Is that something you’d like to be a part of?’” And we respond, “Well, Lord, you know, separation of church and state. I made sure to include you in every area of my life—finances, marriage, family, work—but, Lord, I kept you out of my politics. I took pride in keeping your name from being lifted high in the highest seats of power and authority in the land. It was challenging, resisting the freedoms you granted us, ignoring the temptation to use my voice for righteousness, and convincing myself daily to avoid politics, even though it was easy for me to vote, support a godly candidate, or run for office. Lord, if you had placed me in Iran, China, or North Korea, it would have been so much simpler!”

Sadly, a form of what I’ll term “political gnosticism” has permeated the church today. Ancient Gnosticism embraced dualism, the act of separating the body from the spirit, marked by a division between physical and spiritual realities, justifying one while neglecting the other. Gnostics insinuated that actions in the physical realm are distinct from one’s true, spiritual self. When I refer to political gnosticism, I point to this dualistic notion; the separation of the spiritual from the political; an attitude of merely professing belief in the gospel instead of actively living out and applying the gospel to the tangible realities of how political truths and errors impact those around us. I align with the sentiments of the reformer Martin Luther, who declared, “If you preach the gospel in all aspects with the exception of the issues which deal specifically with your time, you are not preaching the gospel at all.” Rather than viewing our faith as detached from politics, should we not perceive it as influencing our political stance? Instead of regarding politics as opposed to the kingdom of Christ, could we not see it as an opportunity to sow the “leaven of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:33) as seeds that will yield fruit, bringing blessings?

In conclusion, as dissenting voices may arise, it is crucial to clarify a few key points. Firstly, my assertion is not that our earthly citizenship should overshadow our heavenly one. As dual citizens living in the tension of earthly existence and heavenly anticipation, the influence of heaven within us should permeate every facet of our earthly lives. It is a legitimate, godly desire for our neighbors to experience the blessings of residing in a nation that upholds righteous laws and safeguards the most vulnerable among us from evil. Secondly, my argument doesn’t propose that the church’s hope lies in politics or politicians. Our ultimate hope rests in Jesus, the conqueror of death and eternal ruler. However, as followers of a God who “So loved the world,” shouldn’t we be driven by love to see righteousness on the streets of our towns, cities, and states? Thirdly, I strongly reject the thought of the church being used as a political pawn of a party or platform. The pulpit should never be co-opted to serve the selfish ambitions of a political candidate or party. While Jesus transcends political affiliations, ruling parties in America do take stands on issues that align with God’s concerns. As a follower of the true King, the choice to support a party, imperfect as they are, aligning more closely with His values becomes a compelling consideration. As God’s word so frankly points out, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Lastly, my first earthly allegiance is not America, it’s the people of God. The church is in every nation, tribe, and tongue, and they are my first family. But the Bible is clear that God placed every person within their pre-appointed times the dwelling of their boundaries so they might seek Him (Acts 17:26). God created nations in the world for a reason, and every Christian should want God’s best for their nation.

Acknowledging the absence of a perfect nation or government until Jesus returns, the commitment remains to strive for the best, driven by the fear of God and the unprecedented freedom afforded to make a positive impact for God’s glory and the well-being of people. While “Christian Nationalism” is acknowledged as a real but not necessarily the best motivation, it’s not the sole driving force for Christians engaged in political involvement. The motivation stems from a desire to honor God as the giver of every good gift, including American freedom, and to steward this privilege responsibly. Christians must stand for truth, distinguish light from darkness, and differentiate between good and evil in society, all while avoiding the adoption of worldly methods. The resolution is clear: In every arena, to shine as lights, preserve as salt, and stand as part of Christ’s church, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

If you’d like to watch my full sermon on, “The Separation of Church & State” follow the link here.

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