Their Problem is with Nations, not Nationalism

It seems that Commonweal Magazine recently published an open letter against Christian Nationalism–or at least against Christians who are also nationalists. Unsurprisingly, given the source, much of it can simply be dismissed as “blah blah blah racism; blah blah blah Nazis; blah blah blah white supremacy.” The usual bugaboos of progressive sanctimony are on full display here and retain their usual measure of irrelevance. Nevertheless, not only do some of their points reflect confusions that extend beyond the SJW cult, they also reveal an ugly truth behind the globalists’ reaction to the rising nationalism in the West.

“2. We reject nationalism’s tendency to homogenize and narrow the church to a single ethnos. The church cannot be itself unless filled with disciples “from all nations” (panta ta ethné, Matthew 28:19). Cities, states, and nations have borders; the church never does. If the church is not ethnically plural, it is not the church, which requires a diversity of tongues out of obedience to the Lord.”

It’s hard to overstate how confused this point is. Certainly, the Church transcends nations, but how exactly does any form of nationalism change that–even Christian nationalism? If America recognizes herself as a Christian nation, does that somehow annihilate Christians in Spain or Africa or excommunicate them from the Church? Does the fact that Chinese congregations consist almost entirely of Chinese people somehow invalidate them as Christian due to insufficient ethnic diversity? If Saudi Arabia closes its borders, is there no longer a great multitude from every nation standing before the Lamb in Revelation?

Perhaps the confusion derives from mistaking Christian nationalism for a theological doctrine when it is, in fact, a political one. There’s a world of difference between saying that “America is Christian” and saying that “Christianity is American.” Only the first claim is inherent in American Christian nationalism–leaving the latter to the fever dreams of leftists and civic nationalists.

But wherever their confusion comes from, their intent to impose the borderless nature of the Church onto nations is ultimately an attempt to dissolve those nations. That is what brings us to their 4th point.

“4. We reject nationalism’s claim that the stranger, refugee, and migrant are enemies of the people. Where nationalism fears the stranger as a threat to political community, the church welcomes the stranger as necessary for full communion with God.”

Here we find a fairly typical confusion between the Two Kingdoms. The Church’s fundamental responsibility is to make disciples by baptizing and teaching what Jesus taught. Civil government’s fundamental responsibility is to establish a just peace by punishing wrongdoers and commending rightdoers. Those are two very different responsibilities, and so they are necessarily accompanied by different authorities–both established by God. These, in turn, require different vocations from Christians and citizens. When attacked, a Christian is to turn the other cheek. When attacked, a soldier is to fight back. When one man is both a Christian and a soldier, he is to obey God in both respects–to kill in his service as a soldier and to turn the other cheek outside of that service.

Now, it is quite true that the Church welcomes the stranger. But it is no less true that a national government must be wary of him. Neither of these truths gives way before the other. As is the case with the Christian soldier, the Christian who is also a citizen must fulfill his vocations according to the responsibilities and authorities inherent in them. When it comes to his civil vocations, it is his God-given responsibility to protect his neighbors against invasion; he has absolutely no right to set that responsibility aside.

But you’ll notice that amidst the confusion, the letter’s problem isn’t really with nationalism. After all, does an imperial government have any less of a responsibility to protect those whom God has entrusted to them? Was not Rome’s failure to defend her people from the Visigoths a true failure? Only a global government would be relieved of the responsibility of defending its borders. Of course, we used to have one of those, but it was God Himself who dissolved it and created the nations. It is precisely the persistence of this work of God which triggers their complaint.

“5. We reject the nationalist’s inclination to despair when unable to monopolize power and dominate opponents. When Christians change from majority to minority status in a given country, they should not contort their witness in order to stay in power. The church remains the church even as a political minority, even when unable to influence the government or when facing persecution.”

Initially, I found this objection to be the most curious of the bunch. This is, after all, a complaint in which they charge that American politics are becoming unchristian due to an increasing nationalism. If the authors of the statement want a perversion of the multiculturalism assigned to the Church at Pentecost to be imposed on their nation, do they not therefore want their own nation to be governed according to what they falsely believe to be Christian principles? Isn’t their attempt to paint nationalists as unchristian an attempt to leverage Christian witness in order to maintain the power of contemporary globalism? Isn’t their service as the middle guard of cancel culture an attempt to monopolize power and dominate opponents by maintaining the fiction that said opponents are akin to Nazis?

It seems like the height of hypocrisy until you realize they’re actually just projecting. It is not the nationalists who are desperate, but the globalists. This is why they’re talking about 1930’s Germany in the 2nd paragraph before admitting in the 3rd it’s not the same today, but golly gee, it sure reminds them of it. It’s why they raise the cries of “racist!” again & again and (without any Biblical warrant) mark it out as an especially grave sin. It’s why they try to swap out the Church as the Body of Christ and replace her with the “good guys” in their narrative of oppression. Globalists have had their way for so long that they have a hard time coming to terms with the prospect of a world without their ideology. Now that an alternative is beginning to bud, they are frightened. So they flail about with whatever indictments are ready at hand–and what’s closer than the demons which torment their own minds?

Here, then, is the ugly truth: The common thread in this entire confused mess isn’t merely an opposition to nationalism–a philosophy that places a higher priority on the nation than they deem proper–it’s an opposition to nations as such. It’s the nation rather than nationalism that interferes with their diversity worship. It’s the nation rather than nationalism that is responsible for defending its people from invasion. It’s the nation rather than nationalism that threatens globalism’s dominance in Western politics. Not only does this make them the enemy of every nation (including America), any self-proclaimed Christian who puts themselves in this position would do well to consider that the nations they seek to undo are the work of God.

All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
-Psalm 86:9

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2 Responses to Their Problem is with Nations, not Nationalism

  1. Dianne Plourde says:

    Great piece. I’ve often remembered that it was God who divided the people into separate tongues, and thus into nations, at the Tower of Babel – in order to prevent them from ‘uniting’ against Him. The globalist agenda is, at bottom, a godless attempt to control man and eliminate Christianity (or replace it with a mixture of religions in the name of ‘peace’).

    • Matt says:

      Thanks, Dianne. Yes, globalism is essentially neo-babelism: another attempt to be one people so that nothing we do is impossible for us. But you always have to do something with the people who don’t fit into the scheme, and Christians never will because our love of Christ mean enmity with the world.

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