Now, before you read in to my choice of titles, yes, I am distinguishing between Patriotism and Nationalism. Though I think Patriotism is suspect for Christians and I certainly don’t think churches (outposts of God’s Kingdom) should be flying the flag of any Empire, much pledge any allegiance. But those are thoughts for another day. For now, let’s start by defining our terms:
Let’s define Patriotism as “National pride; a feeling of love or even devotion to one’s country.
And let’s define Nationalism as: “elevating one’s own nation, even to the exclusion or detriment of other nations.”
I know that there is more nuance to this discussion than these initial definitions hint at, but I also think that they are adequate enough for us to begun a discussion of why Nationalism is antiChrist. Just to clarify, when I use the phrase “antiChrist,” I am not referring to the biblical figure known as “THE AntiChrist”. What I mean is something/someone who promotes the Spirit of AntiChrist: teachings antithetical/opposed to the teachings of Jesus. Bonus points if you can masquerade the whole thing as somehow actually being “Christian.” Pardon me, my cynicism is showing.
God exists outside of time in a never-ending circle of Community. The Father loving the Son loving the Spirit loving the Father. Needing nothing and no one. But out of the overflow of God’s love, He created and invited humanity to participate in that circle of community with Him. God invites us to commune with Him. And God is Love. This is the basis of God creating humankind; that we would find our Identity in Him and them live in such a way that we show the world who He is and what He is like.
Since true community always involves trust, God told humanity how to flourish. Don’t eat that one fruit. God held out His hand holding the question: Will you trust me? But like a child who must touch the stove to find out four ourselves, our representatives did not trust God. They believed the lies and cast themselves and everyone to follow outside of communing with God in the Garden. They thrust themselves and everything else into slavery to sin, death, decay and destruction. Mistrust overtook trust.
As the population increased, the world divided into nation states with borders. God worked within this paradigm for a while as He set apart a people for Himself in the outward form of the nation-state of Israel. These were Abraham’s descendants and recipients of God’s blessing so that they would be a blessing to others (Genesis 12). But Israel was not just an ethnic community, as anyone could become an Israelite at any time. And the New Testament later tells us that the “Nation” of Israel was not “true Israel,” at all (Romans 9:6-8). Even as they existed as a nation, God’s people were to be a “kingdom of priests,” acting as mediators between God and the nations; demonstrating Who God is and What He is like. They were to expand God’s rule to the ends of the earth.
God’s people no longer exist in the form of a nation-state but as the universal, border-free church. But Christianity has always been radically political. As God continued to reveal Himself, the message of Redemption, the “Gospel,” the “Good News” of the Kingdom is that “Jesus is Lord.” If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not. Christianity demands that our allegiance is to (as Derek Webb said once) “A king and a kingdom.” Not a nation. No matter which nation. No matter if that nation claims to be “Christian.”
Patriotism is being proud of one’s country. Nationalism promotes one’s own country even to the detriment of others. This is antithetical to Christianity. Christians are called to care for culture, being “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-16), irregardless of national borders. Our allegiance is never to country but to Christ and we are never to adopt a philosophy that is willing to pursue one’s own interests to the detriment of others.
I’ll leave it to you to understand what it means in light of all of this that Trump has openly identified himself as a Nationalist and yet retains overwhelming support among those who identify as American Evangelicals.
In order to understand a bit more of what’s going on here and how we got it, I suggest reading my other posts: