If you’ve paid attention to the religious discussions about politics, then you have seen two developments. One of the developments is a grassroots solidifying of good ole’ conservatism—what some will call patriotism or nationalism. Recent history shows a close relationship between the emboldening of good ole’ conservatism and Trump’s administration—something that depending on your political worldview is either a helpful reinforcement of healthy politics or a digression into old bigoted patterns. The other development is a denunciation of good ole’ conservatism. In fact, the latter development perceives the former as denigrating to humans, to religion, and civilization. It is here that some clarity in defining our terms is crucial to advancing the discussion.

The latter movement, you might call it Christians against Christian Nationalism, has a series of claims and assumptions that are parroted quite commonly across the blogosphere. [1] Claim 1: Christian Nationalism denigrates other people groups. Claim 2: Christian Nationalism unfairly privileges one’s people over another. Claim 3: Christian Nationalism idolizes the state or a person of the state.[2] Claim 4: Christian Nationalism undermines one’s chief authority to God first. Claim 5: Christian Nationalism is violent.[3] Claim 6: Christian Nationalism is dangerously preoccupied with end time conspiracies.[4] Before addressing each one of these claims, let me first give a brief definition of nationalism simpliciter, then a more complicated definition when we conjoin Christian with nationalism.

Nationalism, as the term suggests, has something to do with the nation. Humans are not abstracted, but originate in a concrete context. In this concrete context, human identities are shaped and formed by natural ties and goods. The distinction between abstract humans and concrete humans is an important one. Humans exist in concrete places and by Divine design are given specific identity markers that are either good or bad. Nationalists presume that our natural ties are goods that are conducive to the preservation of humanity (e.g., familial ties, national ties).[5] Humans exist concretely by a pair of humans that are designed by God as a complimentary pair (i.e., male and female). Hence, the basic context in which all humans exist is in family. By implication, these families give rise to other natural ties in society and in a nation (i.e., when humans covenant together to govern themselves).[6]

Nationalism, then, is a commitment to one’s own nation as a natural good worth preserving. Patriotism is distinct, albeit related, in that one’s passions are directed toward one’s own people in an organized society. Patriotism is a passion or a love for one’s own people, country, or society, but it is insufficient without a rational ground that is rooted in natural or creational principles that order our priorities of what is good and worth preserving. If a nation is a natural product that follows from the most basic political unit, i.e., the family, then it is a good worth preserving because God has designed the world to function out of these basic identities. And these identities are givens of humanity.

By contrast, then, nationalists do not begin with an abstracted humanity (i.e., the ideal humanity, a dis-located humanity, a generic or neutral humanity) because we realize that humanity is designed by God in a conducive context of flourishing, which is reflected in the biblical material (i.e., family, society, nation). This context of goods prioritizes our commitments by bequeathing to us a set of responsibilities, loyalties, and processes for preserving ourselves. They are natural in the sense that they are the parameters in which we function properly. They are not artificial, arbitrary or easily discarded, but they provide the place for human flourishing that is given and not self-created.

Relatedly, religion is a natural product of human existence that occurs in social interaction with others. Religion is essential to who we are as humans. Religion is integral to our concrete living in the family, society, and the nation. In this way, religion and nationhood are both identity markers of humans. And they are mutually informing. This does not entail that they are identical or that one will replace the other, but rightly ordered one serves the other in an ordered hierarchy. Rightly ordered, then, there are certain responsibilities, privileges, and rights given by one’s people (in family and in nations) that are commensurate with one’s transcendent responsibility to the Creator in religion, and these are not incompatible sets of responsibilities (or allegiances), but mutually reinforcing and informing. They are complimentary.

When we come to the term Christian Nationalism, we understand that one can be both a Nationalist and a Christian if these two identity markers are distinct in a hierarchy. Christianity would be a natural good of societies and nations. And, in a nation that is rightly ordered, the principles bequeathed in a family and a nation mutually inform and reinforce one’s religious convictions and one’s religious convictions will inform one’s society, culture and nation and with this one’s own particular commitments, loyalties, traditions, customs and routines. The two are not incompatible, but mutually complimentary aspects of a people.

Going back to the claims listed earlier, there appears to be a misunderstanding of the term nationalism, and by extension Christian Nationalism that requires some careful nuance. Unfortunately, most of the claims made above are inaccurate descriptions of Christian Nationalism. Claim 2 may be true, in some contexts, but it needs careful nuancing in order to rightly understand it. Let us first consider claim 1. A recent statement by Christians Against Christian Nationalism succinctly states the original problem with Christian Nationalism. It states: “Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy.”[7] This is not the aim of any Christian Nationalists that I know or that I have read, and the framers advance no support for this claim. Instead, the ordering principles that govern who we are, our commitments, responsibilities and loves sees the relationship of religion and national identity, as stated earlier, as mutually complimentary. In this case, our natural ties to others in family and in our nation are not in tension with our religious commitments, but, instead, inform and reinforce one another in a hierarchy of authorities.

Claim 2, then, should be understood in the context of a hierarchy of authorities—first to God, then to the nation. In this way, privileging one’s own nation is the logical extension of privileging one’s own family. As we have a responsibility to our family first, so we have a responsibility to our nation first (before our responsibility to other nations). By parallel, as we have privilege granted by our family, and in extension our nation, those natural ties (by natural I mean good) take priority over other families, and in extension other nations. Understanding, in a Christian context, our responsibility to our neighbor, or by extension to the ‘foreigner’, is to occur in the context of our responsibilities and loyalties first to our family, and nation. There is a place for caring for the neighbor, and ‘foreigner’, but only on the presumption of caring for one’s own first (the same principle is presumed in the Christian Scriptures ‘take care of the household of faith first’). But disorder follows when one gives preference to neighbor over family and foreigner over national interests.

Claim 3 and 4, can be addressed together and not separately. The assumption that Christian Nationalism mixes loyalties by making the nation-state, or some leader of the nation-state, the priority misunderstands loyalties given to the nation-state prior to other nation-states. If one were, to make the nation-state one’s own religion, then it would not follow that it was Christian Nationalism, but a distinct religion altogether.

Claim 5, the claim that Christian Nationalism is violent is oft made in the context that Christian Nationalists have an agenda of conquering individuals and people-groups through political means and through war. However, this conflates Christian Nationalism with an imperialist agenda. The notion that I have a responsibility first to my nation and a privilege from my nation does not extend to other nations because there are natural principles at work that cause us to recognize that other nations function in a similar fashion. To impose my way of life, culture, and tradition on other nations, would undermine the natural order and ties that other people have in their families and to their nations.

Claim 6, there is a claim that Christian Nationalists are committed to a particular eschatology, which motivates a political means to a religious end. Some will claim that Christian Nationalists are committed to the notion that the U.S. is the new ‘Israel’, or the notion that America is the salvation of other nations, or that God has called some specific leader to lead the rest of the world. But consider that these ideas presume that there is one abstract humanity (namely, America) or one cookie-cutter expression of humanity that should be applied to all nations, which, in fact, goes against the descriptions advanced earlier about Christian Nationalism, as understood by those who use the name.

If you’ve read recent evangelical leaders, then you would think that nationalism was the embodiment of evil along with Trump and his supporters. This is an unfortunate confusion or an illicit political move. Instead, as I have shown above many supporters and authorities on the subject understand Nationalism, and Christian Nationalism, to reflect a right ordering of loves and commitments that flow out of the natural design of the world. It is these commitments to the foundations of a society that have taken shape, once again, and are emboldened under Trump’s administration.[8] [1] For a set of representative examples, see the following: https://www.christiansagainstchristiannationalism.org/statement


https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-is-christian-nationa_b_20989 https://www.premierchristianity.com/content/view/full/938323 [accessed on December 19, 2020] [2] This claim has been commonly made of Trump supporters. In fact, recently, the claim has developed into a kind of savior complex. See Dreher, . https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/what-i-saw-at-the-jericho-march/ [accessed on December 22, 2020].

[3] This claim has been made in several different ways, but most recently some have claimed that Christian Nationalists are militaristic. By that, they seem to mean not only that violence is encouraged by the ideology, but that violence is a means of bringing heaven on earth. Here’s one explicit example: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/christian-nationalism-patriotism/ [accessed on December 22, 2020]. d
[4] This claim has been made in various ways, but recently it has become quite explicit from the likes of Dreher, Horton, Kidd and others. https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/what-i-saw-at-the-jericho-march/ [accessed on December 22, 2020]; https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/cult-christian-trumpism/ [accessed on December 22, 2020]; https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/christian-nationalism-patriotism/ [accessed on December 22, 2020].
[5] My claim is not that all cultures or nations are on equal footing. There are cultures that embody vicious attitudes that need correction, but that is different than what we see taking place today in the outright dismissal of our natural ties altogether.
[6] For a representative sampling of literature that supports the basic or essential features of a description of Nationalism, see the following: Hazony, The Case for Nationalism (Basic Books, 2019). https://nationalconservatism.org/ [accessed on December 19, 2020]. https://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/the-case-for-economic-nationalism/ [accessed on December 19, 2020]. For theological defenses, see Rushdoony, “From the Easy Chair, War”. Pope John Paul II, see: http://www.hungarianreview.com/article/20200921_pope_john_paul_ii_and_the_theology_of_the_nation
[accessed on December 19, 2020]. https://www.christiannationalism.com/about-christian-nationalism/ [accessed on December 19, 2020].
[7] https://www.christiansagainstchristiannationalism.org/statement [accessed on December 24, 2020] [8] https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/11/evangelicals-vote-donald-trump-joshua-farris.html [accessed on December 22, 2020]