I’ve grown weary of hearing/reading the many buzzwords, virtue signals, and phrases of offense being thrown around lately. It can be exhausting to attempt to live up to the standards and expectations of others.
Don’t mention critical race theory. People will say [ any number of things].
Don’t say that! They’ll think you’re “woke” or worse yet, that you’re “not woke.”
Don’t say that! You’ll sound like a racist or a white supremacist.
Don’t say that! It will make you look like a Christian Nationalist.”
We could play Buzzword Bingo with dozens of similar faux pas by scrolling through today’s social media feeds.
The Christian Nationalist
This week, in brief, I want to address the last of those mentioned above: Christian Nationalism (CN). I use upper-case on that intentionally, because CN is now less of a concept and more of an entity.
Indeed, in his endorsement of “social scientists” Andrew L. Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry’s book Taking America Back for God, John Piper characterized Christian Nationalism as “a force.”1 Christianity Today lamented that the scourge of CN has “proliferated white supremacy and patriarchy.”2 CNN commentators, Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon, tie Christian Nationalism to Donald Trump and thus conclude that adherence is “racist” by relationship. As Cooper said, “Not racial. Not racially charged. Racist.”3
Whitehead and Perry did [sarcasm]extensive research[/sarcasm] for their book by interviewing a whopping fifty Americans, asking each a total of six questions,(below) and observing four of what they characterized as Christian Nationalist events. The results of their research, if we can call it that, and observations drove them to the conclusion that all Americans (you and me included) fall into one of four categories.
We are a CN:
… and they lump 78% of those they view as evangelicals (whatever that even means) into either the Accommodator or Ambassador category and, as a result, tag us as promotors of racism, patriarchy, and heteronormativity. It brings me no pain or grief to categorically reject the above list and say, “I fall into none of those classifications and refuse to be pigeon-holed in that way.”
Those objecting to Christian Nationalism are objecting to what they see as a conflation of God and country and, without verbalizing it as such, see CN as a uniquely American problem.
Dr. Stephen Wolfe, author of The Case for Christian Nationalism would seem to disagree, viewing CN as applicable to any Christian (Protestant) nation.4 Wolfe views CN, in part, as a rise against gynocracy – the rule of women – asserting that America is currently governed by “feminine vices, associated with certain feminine virtues.”5
For many, the term “Christian Nationalist” can be equated with “Religious Right.” For living examples of those purported to be CN, or even embracing the CN label, think Marjorie Taylor Green who has a “Proud Christian Nationalist” tee shirt for sale on her web site, or representative Lauren Boebert ofColorado, a Trump ally and “God and guns” advocate.
A Better Approach
Long-time readers will know that I give little, if any, credence to labels, most often rejecting them outright. This case is no different. For the Christ-follower, the label “Christian Nationalist” is meaningless garbage to be rejected.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.
– Philippians 1:27, NIV-1978
At first glance, this passage may appear to have little to do with everything laid out above. Stay with me. It’s directly related.
The King James Version opens the verse above with the phrase, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ,” misleading many to see this verse as addressing speech. The Douay-Rheims Bible translates πολιτεύεσθε (politeuesthe) the same way – “conversation.” The New KJV updated this by translating the phrase, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ,” which is more in line with almost every other English translation.
What I find interesting is that out of the twenty-seven English translations I consulted, only three, I believe, capture the true flavor of the meaning behind πολιτεύεσθε – the New Living Translation, the Christian Standard Bible, and the International Standard Version. Here are their renderings:
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.
– Philippians 1:27a, NLT
Just one thing: As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ.
– Philippians 1:27a, CSB
The only thing that matters is that you continue to live as good citizens in a manner worthy of the gospel of the Messiah.
– Philippians 1:27a, ISV
Each translation above has accurately captured the essence of πολιτεύεσθε, a term of citizenship. It is a middle-voice derivative of polities, describing one’s behavior as a citizen. It is the administration of civil affairs, management of the state, adherence to laws, and it can even go so far as pledging one’s allegiance to some ideology or entity. Make no mistake, drawn from the root, politeuo, this is a highly political term the apostle Paul is employing.
Paul is charging followers after Christ to understand that we are live out our citizenship in a way that is becoming of the gospel of Jesus. The structure of the sentence leads me to believe that “only” (μόνον) is applied to the citizenship specifically. I might render it, “Your only citizenship must be lived worthily of the gospel.”
When we understand where our citizenship lies, the entire Christian Nationalist discussion becomes not only moot, but something of an absurdity, a political game in which I refuse to participate.
Do I love my country, and it is wrong of me to do so? Yes, I do. And no, it is not. But I have it clear in my long-view mind that this is an exceedingly temporary dwelling for me, and I will keep my eyes on the ultimate prize. I will live my life as an ambassador of Christ in a land that is not my own.5 That is our calling, and we are to walk in a manner of that calling with which we have been called.6
This is strong language from Paul, but a message communicated with depth of love. Do not take it lightly. Refuse to play in the world’s charade.
Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord.
– Philippians 4:1, NIV-1978
1. Sey, S. (n.d.) Christian Nationalism in the United States. Retrieved 11/29/2022 from https://founders.org/reviews/christian-nationalism-in-the-united-states/.
3. Boston, R. (2021). White Christian Nationalists: Who Are They? What Do They Want? Why Should You Care?. Retrieved 11/29/2022 from https://www.au.org/the-latest/church-and-state/articles/white-christian-nationalists-who-are-they/#
4. Hall, M.D. (2022) The 500-Year-Old Case for Christian Nationalism. Retrieved 11/29/2022 from https://providencemag.com/2022/11/the-500-year-old-case-for-christian-nationalism/
5. 2 Corinthians 5:20
6. Ephesians 4:1
The Research Questions from Whitehead and Perry
1. The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation.
2. The federal government should advocate Christian values.
3. The federal government should enforce strict separation of church and state.
4. The federal government should allow the display of religious symbols in public spaces.
5. The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.
6. The success of the United States is part of God’s plan.