In the realm of Big Eva in politics, Paul Miller is a rising star as the brands of David French become denigrated as a meme to evangelicals in the church. Miller is a neoconservative, ex-military and intelligence official from the late Bush and early Obama administrations. Miller was opposed to the Frankfurt Declaration, which was the international Christian statement against Covid tyranny and future medical tyranny from the State. Though Miller is adequately able to articulate Christian Nationalism, he published his book The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism as a treatise against it.
Writing for Christianity Today, Miller penned his column “Christianity Is Not Necessary For Democracy” to suggest that a democracy can survive without a Christian foundation.
A recent Pew Research report suggested that American Christians could become a minority of the population in less than 50 years. And for some, this has led to a fear that the decline of cultural Christianity in America could spell bad news for the prospects for democracy here.
When people discuss the impact of the Church’s decline over American society, the “democratic system” is not at the forefront of these anxieties. If anything, it is the answer to the question, “what type of nation will my children and grandchildren have?” The process of democracy is not the apprehension, but the outcome. If someone believes the bible, then they will know that the widespread degeneracy transpiring in present-day America is unsustainable and will lead to worse depravities— or what is commonly called, the slippery slope.
Because, while many people today are talking about how Christianity (especially when combined with nationalism) might be a threat to democracy, it is still more common to think that Christianity is overall good for democracy. In fact, many conservative evangelicals believe Christianity is necessary for a free society.
After recently publishing a book on Christian nationalism, I’ve given numerous talks, interviews, and podcasts and have had countless conversations with friends and colleagues in evangelical circles on the subject. And I have found that there is a possessive, proprietary attitude toward America and democracy—along with an insistence that a Christian culture is practically a prerequisite for democracy to survive.
To Miller, democracy is interchangeable with freedom, which is a persistent conflation throughout the column. An educated American ought to know that the Founding Father’s did not design a democracy, as Miller so ignorantly uses this term, but instead designed a republic. To quote Federalist 55, “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates; every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.” Democracy is mob rule, regardless to the makeup of the populace. But if one interchanges Democracy and Freedom, then the burden is on Miller to prove whether a society is freer apart from a Christian foundation.
The conversation goes something like this: Whenever I argue that it’s a mistake to look to the government to sustain a Christian culture, they counter that the government should have an interest in promoting Christianity because it is essential to sustain our democratic society.
It is more probable that the Christians are arguing that government ought to impose Christian culture via legislated morality than ecclesiastical morality, meaning they want laws against abortion, homosexuality, and the public schools to teach their values. Apart from Theonomist circles, it is rare to see anyone advocate a return of “blue laws” and mandatory church attendance.
Whereas Miller believes in neutrality, the people he is talking to likely recognize that the government drives immorality contrary to the duty of the civil sphere per Romans 13. People are looking to the State to stop Drag Queen Story Time and seek to upend the sexualization of children in public school. The parents protesting school boards are not thinking about democracy, they are thinking about their progeny. Therefore, they see the decline in Christianity leading to a decline in freedom.
For example, Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said at the National Conservatism Conference in September, “I am thankful to live in a society that is the inheritance of a Judeo-Christian civilization because it has established the very freedoms that we know.” So far, so good. Mohler is right that Christianity played an important role in shaping America and inspiring some of our founding principles.
But then he said, “Where else do we have access to any stable notion of human dignity? Where else do we have any access to the notion and defense of human rights in any substantial form?”
Al Mohler is the face of Christian Nationalism even though he should drop the “Judeo” prefix as Jewish values are not Christian or Biblical. Basically, Miller claims that Christianity serving as the foundation for some of America’s founding principles does not mean this is exclusive to nations with Christian heritage. He proceeds to rattle off a list of Asian and Third World nations to substantiate that there can be free societies around the world in non-Christian nations. Included on his list are Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and South Africa—all models of human flourishing apart from the West—not.
Japan’s current government is post WW2, and the population collapse of the Japanese people is hardly a positive development for Japan’s future, a common trend across Asian nations. South Korea is one of the most Christian nations in the world, but its “democracy” is still a biproduct of the West. Taiwan is much the same, though less Christian, but would not survive without the West. And South Africa is a joke to even include on this list as it is a corrupt failure of a state that weaponizes racial politics. To say the West was not responsible for the democratization of these nations is also disingenuous, but that is the claim Miller is trying to make when he excludes Western Nations from this list. Miller uses Freedom House to justify this ridiculous argument. Freedom House shows that Canada is a 98/100 on freedom versus America’s 83/100.
The point is that American freedom is not especially rare anymore and is certainly not limited to America, to the “West,” or to European Judeo-Christian societies. This should demonstrate that Christianity and democracy are indeed separable, but my arguments fall on deaf ears—many of my friends and colleagues still insist that Christianity and democracy are inextricably linked.
Why do so many people insist on the connection between Christianity and democracy? Why is it so important to affirm not only that Christianity helped shape America in the past but also that it must continue to do so if we are to remain a free society?
If one researches his point, they would disbelieve his conclusion that nations that arrests pastors and criminalizes “hate speech” are freer than America, where these things are only creeping threats. It is not that they would disagree on whether democracy cannot exist elsewhere, but that the freedoms that exist in America do not exist elsewhere, and they would be right to an extent as the freedoms in America are eroding.
The British and American republicans of the 17th and 18th centuries were essentially the first generation of Christians to argue that Christianity and self-government were compatible. As it happens, I think they were right—but it would not threaten my faith if they were wrong.
Supporting democracy is not the point of Christianity.
It probably does threaten his faith. Would Paul Miller accept a Christian Theocracy which produced and preserved a moral people or would he rather be ruled by a pagan democracy which promotes homosexuality as a human right? This entire article suggests that Miller would advocate democracy as necessary for freedoms even if the democracy was hostile towards Christianity, as is currently the case. The Christian would probably forsake immoral self-governance in favor of being ruled by, as Stephen Wolfe described, a Christian Prince. Though no form of government is perfect, today’s democracies have violated the freedoms of every citizen far beyond anything which occurred in Christendom. Government by the people is more involved in the everyday conduct than ever before. The question should be posed: is it antithetical to Christianity to oppose democracy?
It may be a happy side effect—after all, godliness “has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8)—and so it is entirely plausible that Christianity has positive, unintended consequences that makes sustaining democracy easier. But Jesus did not become incarnate to make possible the First Amendment or inspire the US Constitution.
Civic virtue is essential to sustaining an open society. But civic virtue is not the same thing as Christian belief, and Christianity is not the only source of it.
Again, this is his theological belief that democracy is inherently good. Civic Virtue is an ambiguous term. What China defines as Civic Virtue would be encompassed in their social credit system. Within Islamic nations, the practice of Shariah Law could serve as the basis of Civic Virtue. Like ethics, the notion of civic behaviors is defined by its underlying culture.
Again, Christianity is probably good for democracy—social scientists have argued that the Protestant emphasis on individual conscience, the priesthood of all believers, and universal literacy were contributing factors to the rise of democracy in the past two centuries. But God’s common grace allowed non-Christians (like pagan Greeks) to discover and practice the principles of political freedom long before we did.
It was John Adams who said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” If Christians represent the majority, then the democracy would flourish. This has not been the case for decades, and the fruit of this is exhibited in the excesses of the American government. To appeal to “common grace” in support of democracy is a theological argument unfounded in Scripture. The Founding Fathers warned against the direct democracies of the Greeks in advocating the US Constitution because America is not a democracy.
If it turned out that Christianity actually didn’t go well together with democracy, what then? Would that somehow disprove Christianity or shake my faith? Would it show that Christians have nothing to contribute to the world? Of course not. If anything, it would show that Christianity has an important role in speaking against the prevailing assumptions of our age.
In what nation does Christianity pair well with modern democracy, especially as the majority is increasingly hostile to the faithful remnant? Because Miller believes democracy is a moral good, it threatens his theology if Christianity should be destructive to democracy, which is why people like him and David French denigrate Christian Nationalism as a threat to democracy.
Insisting that Christianity and democracy must go together seems to give some people a sense of validation and relevance. It affirms us in the terms most cherished by the standards of our contemporary culture: We helped the cause of freedom, we tell ourselves, and thus Free societies need us to survive.
There’s a grain of truth in the claim, of course: It honors our tribe by highlighting an important historical contribution of our faith. But it is also a self-serving argument because it just so happens to conclude that our tribe needs to remain culturally predominant for the sake of our nation’s well-being and future.
Miller is conflating America with Christianity, though only because of the latter was America ever a force for freedom around the world. Unfortunately, this is the neoconservative mantra that led to endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, believing those people would adopt American ideas of freedom.
It cloaks an agenda of tribal prerogative in the language of selfless service. It is easy to convince ourselves that our power is intrinsically righteous if it turns out that our faith is the key pillar upholding America’s constitutional order.
And so, we keep telling ourselves that democracy will not survive without Christianity—because it is the myth behind every compromise we make to get or keep cultural or political power. To be clear, it is not wrong to seek or use political power; we do so every time we cast a vote. But Christians are sometimes faced with a choice between maintaining our principles and maintaining our power.
Miller is delusional to think Christians are compromising their faith for political power, which is a charge never-Trumper’s have levied at Evangelicals for the last decade. American Christians are the reason America is not Canada or Britain, or worse. It is the Bible Belt and Flyover Country which broke the Covid narratives of the bicoastal states. To many Christians, Trump was the only option willing to reverse this decline because for decades, their politicians bent over to the Spirit of the Age and acquiesced on every social issue. Miller has no alternative to fight back against America’s decline into Romans 1 depravity enforced by the State.
The myth tells us that the choice is illusory: that our power is inherently principled, that the survival of America itself is at stake, that our country will not survive unless we remain in charge, which compels us to do whatever is necessary to keep power.
It might be a comforting myth, but a myth it remains.
All of Miller’s false dichotomies are illusory. The US Constitution means whatever nine justices decide it means, yet regardless, the government can inflict unspeakable damage before SCOTUS is ever involved.
Christian Nationalism is about establishing a social fabric for our society. Principled Pluralism does nothing to resist the prevailing winds of immorality. All the Miller’s and French’s of the world have ever done is capitulate to the culture. The other side is not interested in moral neutrality; they want to impose their moral framework upon everyone, and they will not settle for anything but total compliance.
There is no negotiating with the democracy of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is Christ or Chaos.