The 2022 midterm political cycle has given rise to an emboldened class of political candidate. The era of electability is over in the conservative movement. No longer are voters enamored by moderates or establishmentarian politicians who piece together impotent majorities. They have seen what men like Ron DeSantis have done in Florida and want that implemented within their state and locality. They want the bravado of Donald Trump that they have failed to receive for decades from career politicians as their country degraded. They watched weak men who professed God acquiesce on salient cultural issues in violation to God’s Law and sacrifice self-evident, God-given rights protected by our constitution over a cold. There is an appetite for faith-based firebrands. They are patriots who unapologetically love their country and embody the Make America Great Again motto, which by implication asserts that America is in decline and requires reformation.
In a recurrent attempt to amalgamize social conservatism with historic fringe movements of white nationalism, the left has dubbed this movement Christian Nationalism. This is in part due to the association of bold Christian voices being platformed by this movement as well as the emphasis on issues rooted in Christian ideology. The left believes that the “Culture War” is a myth used to rile the right to vote in elections, all while their movement actively deconstructs historic norms for post-modern ideologies predominantly rooted or adjacent to Marxism. Empirically, they might be correct in this assertion, only so far to claim that the Republican party has done little in the cultural front apart from guns. The American culture has normalized abortion and promiscuity, promoted and celebrated homosexuality, redefined gender, and rehashed racial grievances. Until the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the left has been dominating the culture, leaving a minority remnant in opposition that was a generation ago the super majority. As the weak hands have been shaken, the remaining dissidents are unafraid of the left. In their electoral triumph, the leftist apparatus has noticed, seeking to squash or denigrate Christian Nationalism out of the political discourse back to the fringes.
What is Christian Nationalism? Within our lexicon, the term has loaded connotations depending on whom the question is asked. Is it theocracy? Is it theonomy? Does it idolize America First over God?
The New York Times on Christian Nationalism
In her article “The Far-Right Christian Quest for Power: ‘We Are Seeing Them Emboldened’” Elizabeth Dias sets out to define Christian Nationalism from a liberal standpoint. While there are many other articles on the subject from liberal media, Dias, to her credit, practices some fairness in her prose, even though she interprets the facts through her liberal presuppositions. Coincidentally, Apologia Church commended her candor when she reported on their End Abortion Now ministries. To the pagan who is enemies with God, it cannot be expected that they would accurately represent matters of faith, but there is some truthful substance buried underneath the spin.
Mr. Mastriano’s ascension in Pennsylvania is perhaps the most prominent example of right-wing candidates for public office who explicitly aim to promote Christian power in America. The religious right has long supported conservative causes, but this current wave seeks more: a nation that actively prioritizes their particular set of Christian beliefs and far-right views and that more openly embraces Christianity as a bedrock identity.
The rise of Doug Mastriano serves as the impetus for this article and she finds shocking that Mastriano would prioritize Christianity at the forefront of his campaign as opposed to other issues like gas prices or the usual talking points.
Many dismiss the historic American principle of the separation of church and state. They say they do not advocate a theocracy, but argue for a foundational role for their faith in government. Their rise coincides with significant backing among like-minded grass-roots supporters, especially as some voters and politicians blend their Christian faith with election fraud conspiracy theories, QAnon ideology, gun rights and lingering anger over Covid-related restrictions.
Their presence reveals a fringe pushing into the mainstream.
Dias defines Christian Nationalism being the blending of conspiracies, guns, anger, and Christianity. She would go on to define QAnon as a conspiracy regarding “a Satan-worshiping, child-sex-trafficking ring,” which is an overstatement to their reality. While the satanic cult is unconfirmed, there are sex trafficking rings which the left acknowledges whenever they attempt to associate Epstein with Trump. While Dias and the mainstream media will never relinquish the election narrative, there has likewise been proof of fraud. Later in the article, she would rope Replacement Theory into the conspiracies embraced (more accurately acknowledged) by Christian Nationalists.
Aside from that, she asserts the myth of “separation of church and state,” which is based on Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, as an American principle. This separation was meant to be one way, but this misconception persists, nonetheless. American elections are held on Tuesdays so that voters would attend church in the days preceding our elections. This is without elaborating on the displays of faith practiced by Congress since its founding.
Dias would largely constrain Christian Nationalism as a fringe movement. Much of her column details failed candidates, most notably Kandiss Taylor. These instances are employed to suggest the movement is extremist and numerically insignificant.
The ascension of these candidates comes amid a wave of action across the country that advances cultural priorities for many conservative Christians. The most significant is the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and end the constitutional right to an abortion — on top of its recent series of decisions allowing for a larger role of religion in public life, such as school prayer and funding for religious education. States have also been taking action; many have instituted abortion bans. A Florida law prohibits classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in early elementary school, and Texas has issued an order to investigate parents with transgender children for possible child abuse.
In short, the left is acknowledging that there have been political or earthly victories for Christian Conservatives, which has thus bolstered them. Within their ideology, they are sensing the atmosphere better than many “Third Way” proponents. She would eventually connect this to the “ultraconservatives” who want to punish women for abortion.
The fight over Christian power in America has a centuries-long history, dating to the country’s origins, and it is again in sharp relief as the makeup of the nation shifts. For generations, the United States has been made up mostly of Christians, largely white and Protestant. In recent years, Christianity has declined at a rapid pace, as pluralist and secular values have risen.
From here, she will attempt to connect Christian Nationalism with White Nationalism. Ironically, while she labels Replacement Theory a conspiracy, the statement “as the makeup of the nation shift,” is in direct reference to socio-demographic changes.
To her credit, there is a tactic to framing Christian Nationalism as extreme and racist, to which brandishes the movement and scares voters away from voting for Republicans like Doug Mastriano. Regardless of the cycle, the left would do this to any candidate with an R next to their name, as they did with Romney in 2012. If anything, it demonstrates that the left better understands this movement than those in Evangelical circles.
Big Eva Defines Christian Nationalism
Paul Miller is a foreign policy consultant who previously served in the Army and CIA before being White House staffer in the latter years of the Bush Administration. Politically, he has war hawk tendencies and is a Never-Trumper. Within evangelical institutions, he has written for Christianity Today and is a research fellow at the ERLC. In 2022, he published his book, The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism.
In the Dispatch, a neoconservative outlet, he published an excerpt his book. Miller discussed Trump’s prominence to white evangelical voters, of whom 81% voted for Trump. He would contend that the movement is not new but has been embedded in America for centuries through ideas like American Exceptionalism.
American Christians have long merged their religious faith with American identity. In the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, Americans regularly described the United States as a “new Israel”; in the twentieth century, as a “Christian nation.”
Though not by name, he does more or less criticize the puritanical ideology of John Winthrop who famously preached that the Massachusetts Bay Colony would be a “City on A Hill,” which is in reference to Matthew 5:14. When he penned “A Model of Christian Charity” in 1630, Winthrop believed he was in the early stages of forming a Christian society. The puritans were about to embark on an experimental mission where many of their people would die. What Miller characterizes as a “new Israel” is really his misunderstanding or ignorance of Covenant Theology whereby the Church fulfills Israel.
After linking Christian Nationalism to Trump, he then defines it in the following:
Christian nationalism asserts that there is something identifiable as an American “nation,” distinct from other nations; that American nationhood is and should remain defined by Christianity or Christian cultural norms; and that the American people and their government should actively work to defend, sustain, and cultivate America’s Christian culture, heritage, and values…They do not advocate repeal of the First Amendment, but they do favor a strongly “accommodationist” interpretation of it in which the government is permitted to favor religion over irreligion, and even favor America’s historically predominant religious tradition (i.e., Christianity) over new or different ones. Christian nationalists believe that the American nation was, is, and should remain a “Christian nation”—that America’s identity as a Christian nation is not merely a historical fact but a moral imperative, an ideological goal, and a policy program for the future, which also means that defining the nation’s religious and cultural identity is rightfully part of the government’s responsibility.
While he minimizes America’s Christian heritage, Miller is correct in that Christian Nationalism seeks to cultivate a Christian culture for American society. Though undefined in this excerpt, the “policy program for the future” is really returning to norms that predate post-modernist ideology, specifically pertaining to gender, race, and sex. Where Miller’s logic is flawed is that he fails to comprehend that all legislation effects morality. Government drives the morality of the people. Therefore, the Christian Nationalist, in understanding this, seeks to implement Christian morality through the state. Failure to do so will result in other ideologies filling this void.
Miller contends the need for a social compact but ignores the foundations of the social compact that undergirded America. Moreover, he disregards the liberal efforts to deconstructed the social compact. He critiques Christian Nationalism without offering Christians a solution, something liberal Christianity Today writer Bonnie Kristian noted in her review of his book.
Kristian quotes the following from Miller’s book:
Which is more important: republican institutions, or Christian culture? Having a free and open society, or having public symbols of respect for Christianity? Christian principles, or Christian power? Political liberty, or political victory? Christian nationalists would reject the framing of these questions as a false choice because they say the two sides must go together, while Christian republicans would be far more comfortable advocating for republicanism with or without a Christianized culture.
First, none of these questions are dichotomous nor entrenched in truth. America does not have a free and open society unless it is acknowledged that rights come from the Creator, nor does it really have political liberty anymore. Covid proved they former to be true and recent actions by the FBI confirmed the latter. Removal or prayer in schools has descended to punishing employees for prayer.
Second, what does republicanism without Christ mean? The state can transgender children by force because the legislature declared it so. Sexualizing children is the state’s responsibility. Abortion on demand is a human right. Hate speech is not free speech. Defend the borders of other nations over our own. Health emergencies justify the suspension of civil liberties. Individual bodies belong to the state or one’s employer. Tax credits and favors for the donor class by majoritarian vote.
He places a high value on the republican form of government, but it must be asked: is is better to have a Christian monarchy or a pagan republic? Both a monarch and republic are capable of tyranny. Moreover, as the world has turned towards liberal democracies, we have seen greater government encroachment into individual liberties.
To Elizabeth Dias, abortion is a constitutional right. That is her moral declaration. She believes this morality (or immorality) should be protected and funded by the state. Meanwhile, Miller would prefer a facade of cultural neutrality with “classically liberal Christian republicanism” which has objectively failed and been replaced by the Christian Nationalism he detests. He basically is advocating Conservatism without Christ, which conserves nothing.
When the Left defines Christian Nationalism, they do so knowing the underlying threat working against them. The left is aware to the Red Wave likely to be realized in the midterm cycle. They know the political class of this cycle is producing fighters and gangsters, not controlled opposition. Paul Miller does not understand the hour or the stakes.
Should Christians Embrace Christian Nationalism?
Whether one personally adopts the label or not is of little relevance. This is the term being used. Christian Nationalism might not be the proper label for this movement, but it is in the lexicon. Other terms like Based, Paleo-Conservative, America First, or even Christian Conservative are all approximate terms that can identify this same movement. Contrary to Miller’s presuppositions, it could be more accurately labeled Christian Patriotism, as the Christian Nationalism movement is not jingoist, which is to say they do not support endless wars in the Middle East. My primary objection would be that it is a label ascribed by the opposition that has been positively coopted by its adherents, much like Deplorables. It would be better for the movement to define itself rather than be defined, but that is not the current situation.
The real question goes back to whether Christians should engage in the politics to which the short and long answer has and always will be YES.
The notion that Christians should not impose biblical morality within their society is new and unjustifiable by scripture. The Romans ended the games in the Coliseum because Christianity proliferated and eventually overtook the previously pagan culture. The masterfully engineered Pantheon became a church. After the fall of Rome, there arose an assortment of Christian kingdoms who collectively created and encompassed what we call Christendom. Christendom imposed biblical morality upon nations that were previously barbarian and pagan. This is not to claim these were perfect iterations, but it remains precedent. The English Common Law, which is foundation of the American legal system, was a product of Christendom.
A millennium of work comprising of generations of men who were faithful remnants in their eras has been deconstructed. The Reformation was based on men like Luther and Calvin fighting to restore Christianity against centuries of permeated unbiblical doctrine and the stench of the corruption within the Catholic Church. The great irony is that Christian Nationalism seeks not something new, but a return to what was. The rate of moral decay does not require the invention of new policy, simply a return to the previous standard inherited from a Christian worldview. The Christian Nationalist is not fighting for the culture because America is some idol, but because it is their home in this world where they raise their family.
Being a City On A Hill is something to strive for, not disregard because of pluralistic, secular trends. We should understand that a community of Christians living according to God’s commands will be a light to the world. Most importantly, if our culture abandons God, then the worst will follow. The choice is simple: Christ or Chaos.
We need more articles with such clarity.
Good concise article, and the best I’ve seen from you, Fava.
Evangelicals (which I’m not one) need to especially wake up to the fact
that the Republican Party does not have their
The only nationalism permitted for American Christians is Ukrainian, Israeli or black nationalism.