A few days ago, I sent out a tweet on Twitter that said, “Nationalism and Christianity are mutually exclusive.” This is a concise statement (as they must be on Twitter) and deserves some explanation.
The first thing to be examined is definitions. Labels are useless unless clearly defined. Nationalism does not simply refer to love or devotion to one’s country. According to Marriam-Webster, Nationalism is: “loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.” Further, Merriam-Webster separates patriotism as being only the first part of the above definition. Loyalty and devotion to one’s nation is patriotism. Nationalism goes beyond patriotism. Also, I am not referring to duty. The Apostle Paul taught that Christians should respect the rule of civil authority and Jesus taught that people should perform their civic duties. So I am not stating that a Christian cannot love his or her country nor am I stating that a Christian cannot perform his or her civic duties.
Nationalism goes beyond love and devotion to a primary emphasis on the promotion of a nations culture and interests. The American Heritage Dictionary also includes this definition, “Devotion, especially excessive or undiscriminating devotion, to the interests or culture of a particular nation-state.” [emphasis mine] Again this is not simply devotion to a country but undiscriminating devotion.
Nationalism warps the good and edifying notions of civic duty and patriotism to become something else. The Nationalist will not discriminate, i.e. discern between nation and God. Nationalism asserts the nation as the highest good and thus, to the nationalist, identity is found in the nation, and what is best for the nation is the moral compass. This stands opposite Christianity in that to the Christian, God is the highest good and identity is found in Christ.
Thus, where civic duty and even patriotism are acceptable, and even encouraged, in the Christian life, nationalism has no place.
I do not bring this up because I think that Donald Trump is a nationalist per se. Such conjecture is not helpful. I do believe he is an authoritarian, a brand of leadership that nationalists generally favor. He does surround himself with people who are nationalists and his election has given rise to the voice of nationalists in what is being called the “alt-right.”
Despite its recent time in the spotlight, the “alt-right” is nothing new. Over the years, I have received emails from those who call themselves “Pro-Western Christianity.” They define Christianity as a devotion to God, Race, and Family. Back then, they were marginalized. Their hatred of adoption (particularly international adoption), their hatred of global missions, etc were hardly noticed. Now, they are finding a place in mainstream politics. Moreover, they have found a place in the party that many Evangelicals feel shares their values. The camel’s nose is well into the tent.
However, while Christians may love their country and perform their civic duties, Christians cannot ignore the fact that we are first part of a Kingdom which transcends nations and ethnic groups. Christians cannot ignore the fact that we are called to make disciples of all nations, and that our true home is not of this world.
The Nationalists are finding their place in mainstream politics. I urge those Christians who work within the GOP to stand against this. However, all Christians must now work to prevent nationalism from finding a place within our churches before it poisons our mission and our very faith.
Aaron Davis is the author of the novel Street Preacher and is currently working on a memoir, Baggage Claim. He is developing a speaking and coaching ministry to address mental health in the church and ministry. If you are interested in having him speak to your church or organization, click here for more information.
There is a lot of talk about how divided the United States is as a nation. This is nothing new. Every election cycle has shown pretty close margins for some time now. This most recent cycle was by far the worst. The candidates were soundly disliked by their respective parties and it seems that many voted simply to stop the other side.
Now it is decided. The refrain “not my president” would be heard regardless of the winner. The only difference is which side is saying it. So now we hear from the powers that be that we must come together.
That is a tall order. How does a country so divided heal?
I want to offer some advise to Christians. American Christians hold a dual citizenship. First is the citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven. That Kingdom transcends race, nationality, and time. After that, we have our citizenship in the US. Our role should be that of ambassadors, representing the Kingdom to the United States.
We find ourselves coming to our post amidst gloating and despair. We see people that feel like they pulled their country back from the brink and we see people that feel as though their country just fell over the edge. We see that both those sides have a lot of animosity for one another. As ambassadors of the Kingdom we must consider what we have; what we represent.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2, ESV)
The problem is that we do not yet have these fruits and we do not yet have this tree. The Kingdom is now and not yet. So what do we have now?
We have a role of healing. We have the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) which we are to use, enjoy, and give liberally.
And we have some basic instructions for living in this society.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, ESV)
I encourage you to go and hear why some are rejoicing and some are weeping. (note: hearing in person is far better than hearing on social media) Listen past the rhetoric and vitriol and hear the hopes and fears. Listen and respond in love and kindness and gentleness.
Listen, rejoice, weep, and heal.
Aaron Davis has served as a youth pastor, a pastor, and a church planter. He currently resides in Springfield, MO and is the author of the novel, “Street Preacher” and is currently working on The Baggage Claim Project. For a list of public appearances or info on how to invite him to speak to your church, business, or organization click here.
Note: I know I promised only one political post, but I recently stumbled across something I wrote several years ago, and thought it worthwhile. mea culpa
I once got in to a political discussion on Facebook and took some criticism for not standing by a “classic definition” of politics. I decided to look in to what exactly that person meant. I am not sure that I can get any more “classical” than Aristotle’s τα πολιτικά which is essentially “Affairs of the State” (literally, “having to do with the polis”).
The gospel, on the other hand is literally, “good tidings” or “good news.” Biblically, that good news is defined in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.(ESV)
"3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures..."
It is absolutely crucial to note that the good news is not simply an affair of the state. In fact, one could seek to bring Biblical principals to affairs of the state and still ignore the gospel.
This is not to say that a Christian should have nothing to do with politics. On the contrary, it is important that people who have embraced the good news of Christ bring this understanding to the affairs of the state.
The issue at hand is priority. When politics comes first, the gospel is lost. When the gospel comes first, politics are greatly empowered.
The difference in priority is important. It is as C.S. Lewis wrote: “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. ” Many have attempted to define the gospel as politics. They work feverishly trying to imitate the Kingdom of God in our society. This is nothing but a facade. The Kingdom of God is only realized through Christ.
The gospel; the good news of Jesus Christ: that He was crucified for our sins, buried, and raised again is key. Everything else falls in to place, but one does not have the kingdom of God without it.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you"(Matthew 6:33, NKJV).
Every time a presidential election comes around, there is a lot to say from lots of groups of people. None are more vocal than religious conservatives, of which I am one. This year, presents a challenge for such voters. On the left is a career politician with a track record of corruption and who stands almost directly opposed to most values of the religious conservative. On the right is a proud serial adulterer who defies the core belief of Christianity that one must be forgiven by God.
There is a pragmatist argument that goes something like this: Trump will pick pro-life supreme court justices so therefore we must, like it or not, vote for Trump. This argument holds little water since Trump is hardly a pro-life candidate. He claims a change in his views regarding abortion but he claims that no laws should be changed and that planned parenthood should keep its government funding. It is clear that his picks for supreme court will have nothing whatsoever to do with being pro-life. Further, he espouses nothing of constitutional conservatism but seems to approach every problem from the view that the president must solve it. This pragmatic argument is grasping at straws at best.
However, there is more to note for the Christian. The entire notion of the pragmatic argument is wrong. Can God use an unbeliever? Yes. He has. But the Lord has never called his people to seek what seemed practical over what was holy.
When I make my choice at the ballot box, I consider the two things Jesus ever said about politics. 1) Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and 2) (to Pilate) You have no power unless I give it to you.
This means that Christians do have a duty to their country and that God and God alone is the maker of governments (to our blessing or to our judgment).
Understanding this, I go to the ballot box not as a part of a caucus or voting block, but as a believer in prayer. I will do my duty and will vote for whom I wish God would put in power.
I urge Christians not to run in fear to the pragmatic argument, but to stand in faith and vote for whomever may be most pleasing to God
And pray. Pray for our country and let your prayers be the fuel for your spreading of good news.
Author, Parent, Husband, Christ-follower