Jan. 6, 2021, stands as an enigma. It was a day when self-proclaimed patriots attacked one of the most prominent symbols of democracy: the U.S. Capitol.
While TV pundits breathlessly debate the politics and reasons, everyday Americans must wrestle with what this means for our freedoms and nation.
As a conservative Christian pastor who voted for former President Donald Trump in the last election, I still struggle with the meaning of the events of that day. And I am troubled by the label assigned to any white, Jesus-loving, gun-owning conservative: Christian nationalist.
This troubling development must be addressed if we are to have any sort of meaningful political conversation with people who think and vote differently.
The Christian nationalist ideology heavily influencing our current political discourse calls for a defense of America through a mythological narrative connected to the view that America is a Christian nation or, at the very least, founded on Christian principles and ideals.
Many believe America is a city on a hill, called to be a light brightly shining for the world. So if that light is now dimmer than it once was, it is not surprising that many have fallen prey to some sort of Christian nationalism, or maybe a better term: Christian nation-ism.
However, God’s grace is not reserved for one specific nation, and there is no scriptural basis for suggesting that God has chosen the U.S. to be the savior of the world.
To wrongly connect God solely to one country while ignoring his sovereign claim to the rest of the world causes conflict between competing centers of loyalty.
If God is only concerned with the U.S., then Christian nationalism is proper, right and godly. But if God is truly sovereign and uses all nations to bring about his plan, can a Christian see his country as the only one that truly matters?
It is arrogant and foolish to think America is the only God-favored country in the world when it is clear he has a plan for all nations.
Christian nationalism runs the risk of viewing America as the only country God cares about. Thus, we must find a proper middle-ground approach.
I believe that is a biblically informed patriotism that respects both our love of America and God’s concern for all nations. A biblical understanding of patriotism centered on loyalty to our country, people and culture is a theologically accurate alternative to what many are calling Christian nationalism.
When rightly defined, a biblically informed patriotism offers Christians an opportunity to live as humble citizens exiled from their true heavenly home.
The American conception of patriotism runs deep into its spiritual and cultural heritage; as such, the church needs a biblical definition of patriotism if it is to be biblically faithful in our extremely divided culture.
The conversation about Christian nationalism is only going to continue. Therefore, we need to wrestle with the word of God and figure out how to properly respect, honor and love America while also understanding our true place in this world.
This biblically informed respect forms a true and healthy patriotism that does not necessarily lead to the toxicity and idolatry of Christian nationalism.
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