Why Christian Nationalism Isn't Christian

Growing up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist wing of the Church, I was fed a steady diet of misinformation about the "war against Christianity" in America. 

We were repeatedly told that "the world" was against us, and we were also told that this should fill us with a sense of pride.  To be hated by the world was what we should strive for because we were called to be different. 

The key verse for this philosophy came from Jesus in John 15:18, which reads like this: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you."

So, suppose you are a biblical literalist who refuses to dig any deeper into what Jesus was saying here in John's Gospel. In that case, you have what is essentially carte blanche to be as controversial and awful as you want as long as you drape it in a Christian flag. 

If anyone disagrees with you or reacts negatively to you, you are covered.  Their offense simply proves your worthiness. 

But a simple perusal of the Greek used by the author of John's Gospel indicates that Jesus was speaking directly into his own context.  He was referring to the present reality of the antipathy the religious and political leaders of his day had towards him.  

Jesus warned his followers this antipathy would also be extended to them, which is precisely what happened.  Every single one of the twelve disciples died a martyr's death.  

Further, when Jesus referred to "the world," he was actually calling out a system of belief that denied the image of God in others and acted in the exact opposite way that God would have us act as human beings---devoid of mercy, love, and grace.  

Ironically, those leaders in my former churches who perpetuated the mythology that Christians should strive to be hated by "the world" were actually placing themselves squarely on the receiving end of Jesus' rebuke of it. 

Their beliefs, teaching, theology, and interpretation of the Bible set them in opposition to the love and grace of Christ.  They became "the world" they imagined they were railing against. 

Sadly, that kind of mythology still exists within Christianity and has grown far beyond the bounds of the fundamentalist churches of my youth.  

A majority of Evangelical Christians in America hold to the belief that they are being persecuted because of their faith.  They firmly believe that there is an anti-Christian bias at work against them. 

Far too many Christians believe this even as they do everything they can to offend, marginalize, ostracize, and exclude anyone who disagrees with them or dares call them out on their hypocrisy. 

Some time ago, I read a wonderful quote from Russell Moore, who once was an executive in the upper echelons of leadership in the Southern Baptist Church--until he was essentially cast out for criticizing President Trump. 

Moore had this to say: 

Someone with an unhealthy craving for controversy can always convince himself that he's a warrior for Christ--instead of a captive to his passions. 

There's truth in that quote for all of us, no matter where we land on the continuum of what constitutes Christianity in America.  

We should always ask ourselves when trying to figure out where to stand on the significant issues of our day: "Where would Jesus be standing?"  

Would Jesus be standing with the rich and powerful or with the poor and marginalized?  Would Jesus be standing with the religious elites who reveled in their "rightness" or with the doubters and those who have been excluded by those same elites?

All you need to do is read the Gospels, and you'll have your answer to those questions and more.  Jesus always took the side of the downtrodden.  

And there's also this... 

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letters to the early Church that followers of Jesus should do everything they could to be at peace with everyone around them.  He also taught that followers of Jesus didn't need to walk around rebuking and reviling anyone who wasn't a Christian.  

Paul's message of God's unconditional and far-reaching love was often too much for people who didn't want to see God that way, and it got him into a lot of trouble. 

Paul had a group of early Christian "fundamentalists" who followed him around, telling everyone that he was preaching and teaching heresy.  They refuted his teachings on how God was for everyone and that anyone could follow Jesus.  

Funny old world, ain't it?  

This leads me to say that the rise of Christian nationalism in America is probably one of the greatest threats to Christianity since it became co-opted by the Roman Empire.  

The early Christians were persecuted because they believed in love and sacrifice.  They were accused of being unpatriotic and lacking family values.  They were also admired by many because of the way they served one another and their neighbors.  

All that began to change when Christianity became the religion of the Empire. The persecuted far too quickly became the persecutor.  

The ground of our being as followers of Jesus is Jesus himself.  Jesus is the great Unifier, the One who brings everyone to the table to be fed through his body and blood.  Jesus is the great Example of how we should live and move in the world. 

Jesus alone.  

Jesus didn't come to found a religion.  Jesus didn't come to spark a nationalist movement.  Jesus came to "seek out and rescue" those who have been excluded and lost.  

And so should we.  

May we learn what it means to share and live this great truth and to do so in courageous and winsome ways.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.  


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