“When evangelicals embrace an America-first nationalism, the gospel is co-opted and betrayed.”
“… Nationalism gives pride of place to ourselves, to regional or national assertions of primacy and the quest for power and success, control and dominance, legitimizing violence and pressing for victory. Nationalism reveals that we have mis-ordered worship. Religiously motivated nationalism simply turns God into our “godling,” a deity subject to our bidding.”
President of Fuller Seminary
Naturally enough, there can be no “Nationalism” without the idea of “Nation.” So, just to make sure we are all working with the same definitions I offer some textbook definitions of “Nation” to begin.
Original Word: ἔθνος, ους, τό
Part of Speech: Noun, Neuter
Phonetic Spelling: (eth’-nos)
Short Definition: a race, people, the Gentiles
Definition: a race, people, nation; the nations, heathen world, Gentiles.
KJV Dictionary Definition: nation
NATION, n. to be born
1. A body of people inhabiting the same country, or united under the same sovereign or government; as the English nation; the French nation. It often happens that many nations are subject to one government; in which case, the word nation usually denotes a body of people speaking the same language or a body that has formerly been under a distinct government but has been conquered, or incorporated with a larger nation. Thus the empire of Russia comprehends many nations, as did formerly the Roman and Persian empires. Nation, as its etymology imports, originally denoted a family or race of men descended from a common progenitor, like tribe…
Having established what “nation” means, I offer here a definition of “Nationalism.” Nationalism is a proper love for one’s own people and for one’s own place.
In this article, I intend to take issue with President Labberton’s conclusions regarding Nationalism. I am convinced this needs to be done so because the love of people and place (i.e. — Nationalism) has taken it on the chin lately as seen in the recent MLK-50 conference as well as sermons and postings by various putative leading light evangelicals. “Nationalism,” like “racism” is become a pejorative to sling at people in order to shame them, fill them with guilt, and ultimately shut them up.
To my knowledge, no Evangelical has ever used the word “Nationalism” to describe their beliefs as President Labbereton has used the word “Nationalism” here to describe the beliefs of Evangelicals who self-identify as “Nationalists,” and who thus embrace “Nationalism.” As such, Labberton’s description above of “Nationalism” to define Evangelical Nationalists has no objective meaning apart from its intended work as a polemical sobriquet. If no Evangelical Nationalists embraces for himself the definition of Nationalism given by President Labberton and if further President Labberton’s definition is only attached to a construct (Nationalism) that is inherently wicked per Labberton, then the word and definition is only intended to be a kind of verbal biological weapon that is intended to poison the well before a conversation on Nationalism can begin.
Having noted the above it can be conceded that there have been many rancid and un-Christian examples of Nationalism, particularly in the 20th century. One only needs to consider the Nationalisms which combined with Marxist social theory to give us Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany, and Allende’s Chile. However, all, because Nationalism has been abused in practice, doesn’t mean that a proper Nationalism is inherently wicked everywhere and at all times. There are numerous examples of bad marriages but that does not prove that we need to denounce marriage as an institution. Similarly, all because Nationalism has been perverted that doesn’t mean we need to rid ourselves of a proper Nationalism where there is a proper love of our people and a love of our place.
Vis-a-vis President Labberton and his assault on Nationalism we agree with an older Christianity as expressed by Rev. Hugh M’Neile, in his 1839 sermon “Nationalism in Religion,’
“We cannot agree in that cosmopolitan view of Christianity which undermines the particularities of our National Establishment, any more than we could agree in such a cosmopolitan view of philanthropy as would extinguish domestic affections, in all their vivid and constraining peculiarity of influence.”
Christianity without Nationalism cannot be Christianity if only because the only other option left is Christianity as Internationalism or Cosmopolitanism. Such a creature is nowhere envisioned in the Scriptures, though to listen to many prominent clerical voices of “Christian” modernity the only option possible for Christianity in terms of social ordering is an Internationalism that finds all nations, and all colors, in the words of that famous theologian, Bono, “bleeding into one.”
Christian Nationalism is everywhere seen in the NT. Indeed, there is no evidence anywhere of any such thing as Christian Cosmopolitanism or Christian Internationalism. Christ teaches Nationalism when He teaches, “other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring.” Christ teaches Nationalism when He said that he originally was going only to the lost tribes of Israel. Christ teaches Nationalism when He calls a foreigner a “dog” and says that “it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Jesus teaches Nationalism when He says “before Him shall be gathered all nations.” In a less than flattering fashion, the New Testament teaches Nationalism when the inspired Apostle says, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons,” and then more positively when he laments, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” Paul supports Nationalism in the Galatians controversy when he resists Peter’s Christian Internationalism which required the Gentiles to become cultural Jews before they could be considered Christian. Nationalism is given Christ’s imprimatur when, in the great commission, He commands His men to go forth and disciple the nations. And the success of that work of the Church is testified to in the book of Revelation when we read that the nations in the new Jerusalem will walk by the light of the glory of God and when John the Revelator writes, “and the leaves of the trees will be for the healing of the nations.” So central are Nations to the Biblical mindset that the inspired St. Paul could write, “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth.” The importance of Nationalism is testified to by the genealogical lines in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. Jesus had to be a blood son of David from the tribe of Judah.
At Pentecost, those who were in Jerusalem heard the Apostles speaking in their own National tongue, not in a Gnostic Esperanto. The Church always took shape in particular cities (Colosse, Ephesus, Phillip) particular nations and among particular peoples. So nation minded is the New Testament that Paul in Acts 16 receives a call not from an Internationalist man but from a Macedonian man. From this plea of the Macedonian man, the most momentous event in the history of the nations of Europe and the West came to pass, to wit, the coming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the sons of Japheth and the eventual creation of Christendom. Nationalism is God’s gift to mankind and apart from a Biblical Nationalism, there can be no Christianity.
Indeed, historically, the enemies of Christ have understood this very point even if modern putative Evangelicals do not. The enemies of Christ have written that their intent is to destroy the whole concept of nations. I offer just a few, mindful that the careless attacks by President Labberton and many other putative Evangelicals are really doing the devil’s work,
1.) ”What will be the attitude of communism to existing nationalities?
The nationalities of the peoples associating themselves in accordance with the principle of community will be compelled to mingle with each other as a result of this association and hereby to dissolve themselves, just as the various estate and class distinctions must disappear through the abolition of their basis, private property.”
~ Frederick Engels in “The Principles of Communism”, 1847
2.) “The equality of races and nations is one of the most important elements of the moral strength and might of the Soviet state. Soviet anthropology develops the one correct concept, that all the races of mankind are biologically equal. The genuinely materialist conception of the origin of man and of races serves the struggle against racism, against all idealist, mystic conceptions of man, his past, present and future.”
—Mikhail Nesturkh, Soviet anthropologist, 1959
“The Origin of Man” (Moscow)Mikhail Nesturkh, Soviet anthropologist, 1959:
3.) “The aim of socialism is not only to abolish the present division of mankind into small states and end all national isolation; not only to bring the nations closer together but to merge them….”
The Rights of Nations to Self Determination — pg. 76
4.) “… Just as mankind can achieve the abolition of classes only by passing through the dictatorship of the proletariat, so mankind can achieve the inevitable merging of nations only by passing through the transition period of complete liberation of all oppressed nations, i.e., their right to secede. “
The Rights of Nations to Self Determination
5.) “Even the natural differences within species, like racial differences…, can and must be done away with historically.”
6.) “Full-scale Communist construction constitutes a new stage in the development of national relations in the U.S.S.R., in which the nations will draw still closer together until complete unity is achieved…. However, the obliteration of national distinctions and especially of language distinctions is a considerably longer process than the obliteration of class distinctions.”
It has gotten to the point in the Evangelical and Reformed world that when one listens to lectures and sermons on social ordering one finds themselves wondering if they are listening to the mouthpieces of God or the mouthpieces of Gramsci.
Usually, at this point, the great Galatians 3:26 objection arises in order to authoritatively end any talk of the glories of a Christ-centered Nationalism,
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Briefly, let it be said that there is no fluid nationality suggested in this text any more than there is fluid gender; no more is a trans-nationality or uni-nationality implied by “neither Jew nor Greek” than feminism or sodomy, or transgenderism is implied by “neither male nor female”, nor is a universal declaration of human rights implied by “neither slave nor free.”
Nationalism is the biblical a-priori — the great presupposition of all the New Testament. This is so true that any and every attack on Christian Nationalism is an attack on the very foundations of Biblical Christianity. On this point, we agree with the 2oth century Reformed Christian Theologian, Dr. Francis Nigel Lee,
“One of the very reasons that Paul desired that the Gentiles become Christians was not only so that the Gentiles themselves may be blessed but also so that the Gentiles, then as Christians, may proceed to provoke his own Israelitic nation to jealousy and thereafter to faith in Christ. Accordingly, I think we must judge that every Christian who does not love his own nation is either an ungrateful cosmopolitan rascal and a rebuilder of the tower of Babel or otherwise is woefully ignorant of Scripture. And, I am sorry to say that the world is full of these kinds of people today.”
Eliminate the nations and you will eliminate Christianity because
1.) Nationalism is but the next concentric circle of familialism. One can not destroy nations without also destroying the family. Does anyone really want to argue that God intends families to integrate into oblivion?
2.) Christianity cannot take root in a petri-dish of Internationalism and Cosmopolitanism due to its covenantal nature. Even the promise of the Gospel is predicated upon nationalism as Peter says on the Day of Pentecost, “The promise is for you and for your children, and for as many who are afar off as the Lord our God may call.” But even those afar off who were called were called in their families as seen by the household Baptisms.
3.) You make void one of the earliest Gospel promises,
Genesis 22:18 “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed My voice.”
How can it be the case that all the nations of the earth will be blessed if one insists that we “imagine there are no countries?”
All of this is why Dr. Pierre Courthial can say in his book, “A New Day of Small Beginnings,”
“In giving the Church a mission to the nations, Jesus does not diminish the importance of the individual… At stake is the salvation, well-being, and peace of the nations, that is, societies as God would have them. The Son of God must ‘rule all nations’ (Rev. 12:5). The nations must bow down before the Lord and come to walk in His light (Rev. 15:4; 21:24). These nations, with their cultures, traditions, and religions turned away from the God of Holy Scripture, are called to be converted to a sure salvation. This conversion of a nation does not happen apart from the individual lives of faithful Christians, but precisely through the influence of such lives. Moreover, each nation’s conversion is to reflect the uniqueness of that nation.”
Nations, and by extension, Nationalisms are foundational to Christianity. God’s well-known intent to save the whole cosmos (world) happens via the saving of the Nations, which per Courthial, are converted consistent with their uniqueness as nations.
This warfare against nationalism in favor of cosmopolitanism/ Internationalism that we are currently living as witnesses through, such as is being waged by those bearing the ironic names of “The Gospel Coalition” and “American Vision” is giving us nothing but pure Cultural Marxist paganism claptrap wrapped up in Jesus talk. All of it goes quite against what the Dutch-American Reformed Theologian Dr. Geerhardus Vos wrote,
“Nationalism, within proper limits, has the divine sanction; an imperialism that would, in the interest of one people, obliterate all lines of distinction is everywhere condemned as contrary to the divine will. Later prophecy raises its voice against the attempt at world-power, and that not only, as is sometimes assumed, because it threatens Israel, but for the far more principal reason, that the whole idea is pagan and immoral.
Now it is through maintaining the national diversities, as these express themselves in the difference of language, and are in turn upheld by this difference, that God prevents realization of the attempted scheme… [In this] was a positive intent that concerned the natural life of humanity. Under the providence of God, each race or nation has a positive purpose to serve, fulfillment of which depends on relative seclusion from others.”
God still deals with people as being members of nations, peoples, and races. This is a very unsavory truth for the modern Evangelical with their love affair for the erasure of all the creation distinctions God created us with. God has not given up on Nations anymore than He has given up on Families from where nations arise. When St. Paul wrote, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel,” the Spirit of the living God was teaching Nationalism. When Jesus, from the Cross, cared for His own Mother entrusting her to His kinsmen, John, Christ was teaching Nationalism. In Romans 9 where we hear St. Paul weep over his special love for his kinsmen the Holy Spirit is teaching Nationalism.
Nationalism is really a very simple idea. We have been redeemed by Christ with the intent that we should take on the image of Christ just as Adam was made in the image and likeness of God. And, like Adam in the garden, we are now restored to being Priests, and as Adam was a Priest of God tasked with the responsibility to guard and cultivate his family and land, so we now, as restored Priests under sovereign God take up the task of guarding and cultivating our God-given people and our God-given land. This is Nationalism.
If we will not have Nationalism, neither will we have Christianity.