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37. GOD, COUNTRY, AND CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM

Kelsey Reed • 09/20/2023
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Kelsey Reed
Hello, welcome to Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast from WORLD Radio and God’s WORLD News. We’re here to come alongside you, learning and laboring with you as you disciple kids and students through culture and current events. My name is Kelsey Reed. I’m here with Jonathan Boes.

Jonathan Boes
Hello!

Kelsey
Together, we really enjoy having conversations that we hope you will also have at home, and modeling some of the tools that you might use at home or in the classroom. As ever, we’d love for you to record or write in your questions. Send them to newscoach@wng.org. And one more thing: If you would rate, review our podcast, maybe share it with somebody who could use this at home or in their classroom, that would really help us out and get it to people who can use the material that we are seeking to create to serve.

Jonathan
Yes. We have a review on Apple podcast from the handle GuysGirlKnits. It says:

It’s easy to get flustered about current events. The hosts of this podcast are calming and thoughtful and make a point of framing topics in relation to what God says about the world He created. This show helps me to stay grounded when my inclination is to get carried away.

Thank you so much for that kind review. That is so encouraging to hear. We love hearing feedback from our listeners. Any questions, if you have any feedback, send them our way.

So today we are talking about a term that you, your kids, your students have almost certainly heard in the news, or maybe even from the pulpit, or on Christian blogs, just—it’s kind of everywhere in the discussion whenever you see an intersection of politics and faith. Christian nationalism. Big topic. Big, unwieldy subject. What even are we talking about when we talk about Christian nationalism? It seems like nobody can agree. But this is something that is in the conversation right now. And it’s all over the news. And so we want to take some time today to unpack that, explore exactly what is Christian nationalism? Where did it come from? What does it do? What effect would it have? What effect is it having?

Kelsey, I’m interested to know, because this is a topic so related to faith—us as Christians, we often encounter it in personal ways—maybe you even remember when this term came into your consciousness. What’s your background with this subject? What are you bringing to today’s discussion?

Kelsey
Well, most proximate to today’s discussion, it’s definitely been in the conversation through convention season. It’s not been that far since we had that very intense, lovely season where, those conversations, we get to have them more in-person, get to hear what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling about life. I think that, when I first started hearing the idea of Christian nationalism, it actually hasn’t been that long ago. For me, I don’t know whether I just had my head down, whether theological study for me was so concentrated on those teaching and learning aspects—I think it was in the water and in the air around me at seminary. I heard people talking about “two kingdom theology.” I’m not even sure if that applies, honestly. It makes me think that it might apply. But lots was going on around me that I was not as aware of, so it’s really only been coming into focus for me in the last several years, as we’ve noticed cultural trends, political trends, and the increased intensity of emotion with which we’re engaging the political process as believers, but as people in general in the United States.

Jonathan
That emotion is huge, because this is a term that again, can bring so much emotion to the table, whether it’s fear or anger. As always, with this podcast we want to bring to these news subjects clarity and peace. We don’t want to stop at that emotional level or just respond immediately. We want to build a biblical response.

This is also a term for me that, it wasn’t that long ago that it popped into my consciousness. But I’ll say, growing up in the church—you know, I’m one of those people who has been a Christian really as long as I can remember. I grew up in a Christian household, I was homeschooled, I’ve always been around the church. And I would notice, as I became a teenager, as I started learning more about the history of the church and a theology of government, what God has called us to—I started noticing things in some spheres of Christianity that made me a little uncomfortable, places maybe where it felt like symbols of our nation—you know, I love America, but sometimes it felt like symbols of America were being put into a place of worship that maybe should be reserved for things of God. Or I would see people bringing a lot of anger to political discussions and putting Christianity in almost a militant place in discussions of politics—a sense that we should, you know, “take our nation back for God.” Maybe that’s some of the verbiage I’d hear. And as somebody who grew up Christian, those things made me uncomfortable, but I didn’t really have a category for them. And when Christian nationalism started popping up more and more in the conversation, whether that’s coming from church leaders, or from newscasters—some people hear that term and feel like it’s just a scare word or something made up. For me, it actually gave me the language to talk about something I had been observing, but didn’t really have the categories for. And so we can get more into that as we go. But that’s kind of my background on this topic. It kind of helped me find language for something.

Kelsey
Even as you discuss it, you’re helping me find contrast in my own experience, and flesh out a little bit more why that wasn’t a clear term for me, or why it struck me maybe later in my life. And I’m realizing that time spent overseas, where I was even learning, you know, the history and politics of a completely different country and culture, that that was already juxtaposed with my own background as an American. I was in a situation where my family, we were missionaries. And so the splintering of those things from one another had to happen as we lived out our faith in a different culture, as we sought to see how our Christianity is something that’s transformative of all nations, not just one particular nation. And so there was maybe a lack of a national identity to my Christianity from the time that I was pretty young, because of going back and forth overseas from the time I was eight years old.

So how interesting to think about the opportunity to have different categories and different framework, allowing us to look into a discussion and to breathe more space into it, to find more of those nuances as we seek after definition, which—that’s kind of a good segue into what we’re going to be talking about.

Listeners, you have gotten so familiar with some of our tools, some of our terms, that you’ve begun to ask for them by name, which makes us so glad that they are transferring well into your thinking and into your practice. We usually use SOAR. You guys are getting so familiar that, you probably remember that stands for Survey, Observe, Analyze, Respond. We’ve been talking a little bit more recently about the Five Common Topics, which come out of Aristotelian educational process. These are known as the Five Topics of Invention. They’re related to the dialectic learning method, all of which has to do with conversation. So Jonathan and I get to practice conversation. We are excited when we get a chance to expand that to other people. We believe we’re welcoming you guys into our conversation. So we wanted to look at tools that help us to broaden how we speak on any subject area.

Jonathan
And if I’m right, that begins with definition.

Kelsey
It usually does.

Jonathan
But I think we wanted to do something a little different today?

Kelsey
I think we do. Part of the reason why we usually do it with definition is because we’re hopping into a specific way of making sure our conversation works. And we definitely need to go quickly to definition to make sure that those mechanics of our conversation work well. We want to be on the same page with one another. But part of the reason why I want to start with a different one of the locations for our conversation, which is known as circumstance, is because I think being acquainted with the context in your own lives—just like what Jonathan and I just did kind of with our own thinking—how is our thinking contextualized? What are the circumstances around our thinking regarding this idea of Christian nationalism? So I want to pose the question to you, listener: What are the circumstances that you bring into this conversation? What has formed your thinking about this? What have you been experiencing of even other people in your community regarding this idea of Christian nationalism?

And one of the other questions that I want to pose, whether we answer it or not, I think is worthy of being answered at home or in the classroom, is: What makes Christian nationalism attractive as an idea in the current season of our cultural life as Americans? I think maybe it is worthy for us to think about. What makes that even attractive right now?

Jonathan
Absolutely. I think part of it comes back to the emotions that you were talking about. But it’s also, I think, more than that. You know, you have to look at the realities of our time, and especially here—we’re, again, speaking out of American culture—we do live in a rapidly secularizing culture. The moral norms of Christianity are no longer the moral norms of our country. We’re increasingly seeing the normalization of different sexual ethics, all sorts of things that, in the public square. no longer match with our religious beliefs, where—you know, there have always been problems in America. There has always been sin in America. But in a very public way, in a very nominal sort of way, Christianity and American culture are out of step in a way it feels like they really haven’t been before. And with that, there can be a whole range of emotional responses. There can be a fear, there can be an anger, but even out of a more righteous place, just a sadness to see the moral deterioration of a nation, to see the moral deterioration of a culture. There’s a legitimate—I guess I’ll say there’s a legitimate grievance. There’s a legitimacy to those feelings of loss. And they long for some kind of response. And I think Christian nationalism, as we will go on to define it, it offers a response to that legitimate grievance.

Kelsey
That is a really good take on this. We are viewing progressively secularized culture. Those terms, they’re worthy of just highlighting again. I’m repeating things that you’ve said. Maybe we want to say—secularization, where we’re stripping away all kind of religious foundation. Specifically in this situation, we’re talking about how Christian moral standard is not only not the norm anymore, I’m even hearing such a high degree of just wanting to silence that—a real pendulum swing away, or a seeking to stifle those things that come from Christian tradition. That’s what progressive secularization looks like in our culture, is even a silencing of some of those norms. And of course, those emotions. You’ve named that kind of emotional backlash that comes from feeling we no longer have a voice, or we are no longer contributors to society from our place of conviction. Yes, emotions are high.

So I think we said secularism as one of the things we might want to talk about—I think I defined that a little bit—but also that idea of progressivism. We’re talking about progress in society but that is for progress’ sake, when we’re talking about progressivism. Anything that’s an ism, it’s like it’s an amplified version of itself.

So I thought it might be worth, you know, just kind of pointing to those terms lightly. You might want to do some more unpacking of those things at home or in the classroom. So moving on from lightly touching on those terms of secularization and progressivism, I think we need to move into now the focus of these terms here, which we want to maybe define what they’re not, define what they are, and even split them apart. So let’s start with “What isn’t Christian nationalism?”, I think is best.

Jonathan
So we’ve been in the topic of circumstance following our Big Five. We’re now in the topic of definition, starting with kind of these negative definitions.

So I think the thing that makes conversations about Christian nationalism so hard is that so few people can agree on exactly what it means. But it does have a meaning. It’s a somewhat loose meaning, but there is a thing that we’re talking about, when political theorists talk about “nationalism,” that has a specific definition. This is an idea I get from Paul D. Miller, who writes on this subject. Nationalism isn’t just this blank slate that we can fill with whatever meaning we want to, but it really does have a historical meaning. But before we get to that, I do think it’s helpful just to look at some of the ways this term has maybe been misused.

So the first thing Christian nationalism is not: It’s not just a media scare term for any Christian action. It’s often used that way. That’s something I observed, to bring in one of our SOAR terms. I see that, often, whenever Christians do anything politically, like just the overturning of Roe v Wade, you see a lot of people crying “Christian nationalism!” But that’s not technically Christian nationalism.

It’s also not simply being a patriot and a Christian. I think this kind of comes as a response when the media does look at any Christian action and cry “Christian nationalism.” There’s a tendency to want to say, “Yeah, I’m a Christian nationalist! I’m a Christian, and I love my country.” And those are good things. Definitionally, they’re not Christian nationalism. I would say that, you know, patriotism is good. Paul Miller again, points out that patriotism can even be something that inoculates us against nationalism. When we truly love our country, and we want to see its good, that can actually help prevent nationalism.

Christian nationalism isn’t just a scare term. It’s not simply patriotism. It’s also not the same as white supremacy. You’ll often see the terms paired, you know, “white Christian nationalism.” If we are being precise in our terms—you know, you can see those things mesh together. I think when you see white supremacy there’s often a flavor of Christian nationalism in that. But Christian nationalism is not necessarily driven by that sort of racial motivation. That’s something that again, I think often news sources like to conflate. It gets our emotions going.

And the last thing—and this is something that I’ve been learning more, and the thing that I think is maybe the hardest distinction in some ways—is that Christian nationalism isn’t necessarily theonomy. So theonomy would be when you have a system of government where the laws are set by God, or believed to be set by God. So if we’re talking about Islam, for example, the Sharia law, that would be like a theonomic system, where the power of the law actually comes from what they believe to be God. This again, goes hand in hand sometimes with Christian nationalism. I think Douglas Wilson would be a current Christian writer who would consider himself a theonomist. That would be his flavor of Christian nationalism. But Christian nationalism doesn’t necessarily mean you believe that America’s laws should be the same as, like, the Old Testament law. “Theocracy” is another term you hear thrown around in here. That’s the idea that God Himself is the governing authority and priests or whatever religious authorities themselves have the governing authority. That’s also not the same as Christian nationalism.

So I think those are important distinctions because, at least for myself, I’ve seen all of those misconceptions out in the world. But for the actual definition, I’m again going to go to Miller, who pulls from a lot of different proponents of Christian nationalism to come up with what he finds to be the most common definition. And this is a little bit academic, so bear with me. We’re going to unpack this. But Paul Miller, in his book, The Religion of American Greatness, he defines nationalism as “the belief that humanity is divisible into mutually distinct, internally coherent cultural groups defined by shared traits like ethnicity, language, religion, or culture; that these groups would each have their own governments; that one of the purposes of government is to promote and protect a nation’s cultural identity; and that sovereign nations with strong cultures provide meaning and purpose for human beings.”

And when you plug Christianity into that idea, when you bring the Christian aspect into Christian nationalism, what you get is an idea that our government, our nation, should be defined by a shared Christian identity and by shared Christian values, and that the government should play an active role in promoting and privileging Christianity as a religion. That is, I think, a more precise definition of Christian nationalism—the idea that our nation should be fundamentally based on, and promoting, a Christian culture that shares Christian values, where other religions aren’t necessarily outlawed, but where the government should be promoting Christian symbolism, explicitly promoting Christian values as Christian values, specifically privileging Christianity as a religion—the idea that, instead of having a diversity of religious cultures under one national roof, we are primarily a Christian culture under our national roof.

Kelsey
Even as you read those definitions, I’m making observations, because I can’t help but ground my thinking in what I’m seeing there. As I look through that definition of nationalism, I recognize that the United States of America doesn’t function that way. It is not a single ethnicity. It’s not a single culture. There’s reason why we call it a united nation and it’s the “United States.” There are multiple different entities in this union. It is a union amidst diversity. And so first observation, that really the United States of America doesn’t fall under the idea of nationalism. As a nation, it doesn’t operate that way.

Jonathan
I feel like we might naturally be transitioning into another one of our topics, of comparison.

Kelsey
We are, when we do that. And so we’re starting to talk about some comparison when we make those observations, for sure. So observing that in the definitions, pulling out what’s there and comparing it to what actually is. Yeah, that’s a great way of talking about that. Similarly, I want to—just observing, it’ll be drawing out some of these comparisons—observing that Christianity affirms diversity, it affirms unity admits diversity, the unity that we are brought to in the Spirit, being united to Christ as our head, but that it is many diverse members of that one body, which is Christ. So those two things like as I observe those things, they seem already in contrast to one another. And we can compare and contrast maybe a little further through some of the materials that you gave. I’m also going to mention that we’re going to use some material from the Gospel Coalition writer Patrick Shreiner, and we’ll post his excellent article in the show notes, for you to draw out further, compare/contrast between nationalism and the values and purpose of Christianity. So take us away. Take us into compare.

Jonathan
Yeah, we’ll have a lot of resources to share in the show notes. Because again, this is such a huge topic, and there have been a lot of writers who have tackled this in ways that have informed our thinking.

But comparison, definitely, to the values of Christianity. Also to the values of the American government. Because whenever we’re talking about Christian nationalism, we kind of have a foot in two different realms—one realm of Christianity, where we’re talking about, what does a Christian worldview say about our relationship to our neighbors, our relationship to the government? And another foot in the camp of, what is America founded on? What does our constitution say? How should a government function in comparison to Christianity?

And my mind goes to the example set for us in the New Testament, that the apostles were given the Great Commission to “go make disciples of all nations.” But it didn’t say “go make the disciples a nation.” They functioned within a government that was openly hostile to Christianity. But it never seemed to be the concern of the New Testament teachers—from Jesus Himself to Paul to Peter, whoever—none of them seemed very concerned with changing the Roman government. Of course, that would happen eventually with Constantine. But in what we actually have as the canon of scripture, I don’t see a lot of concern for transforming the government to conform to scripture, but rather conforming our individual selves and our churches to live faithfully, even in a government that isn’t faithful.

Kelsey
You’re pointing out, when you say this, exactly what biblical teaching is—the scriptures that reinforce that we’re meant—intended—to submit to whatever governing authority is in the land. In fact, that in our submission, that we’re doing something Christlike. We’re becoming servants within a culture, and living out our conviction in a very different way than trying to transform that power and that authority into something that we like. And that continues to uphold our way of thinking,

Jonathan
I think I would actually push back a little bit on that, Kelsey. Just, I don’t know, I want to add the shade that there is a proper way to live as faithful citizens and seek to transform the government, that I don’t think is the same as Christian nationalism. I feel like there’s a difference between working within our democratic system to vote for the things that we know to be true, to vote for people who we know to be faithful, versus wanting to transform our government entirely into something different that privileges our perspective.

Kelsey
I think you’re right. And I think that’s great pushback, which just requires me to be really diligent to parse out my thinking. So I’m talking, just like you were saying, the New Testament church, you know, what was the circumstance in which it lived? So we’re talking about that historical context of the New Testament Church, which was being ruled by Rome, and the teaching the apostles gave to all the churches was: You submit to the governing authority. So in that context—and so you’re actually keeping us in certain topic areas when you say, wait a minute—in that one particular context of the New Testament, we’re talking about Roman rule. And it was a very uncomfortable rule for believers. I mean, uncomfortable is probably a little bit too much of a . . .

Jonathan
Almost too mild.

Kelsey
Yeah, that’s too mild of a world right word right there.

Jonathan
But that’s a good word for that. I mean, it was not a system in which you could comfortably practice your religion.

Kelsey

Exactly. So then we’re actually moving into a different context, when you’re talking about democratic process, which is really great. You’re giving us the opportunity to parse out the different contexts and what it means to have civil engagement as a believer, and to seek for the transformation of culture. Absolutely.

Jonathan
There’s a quote from John Piper, and I think we’ll also—we can link to this in our show notes as well. To me, this adds great clarity to this distinction in a democratic system. John Piper writes:

The state may indeed teach, defend, and spread ideas and behaviors that Christians support—and support for explicitly Christian reasons (and that non-Christians may support for different reasons). But that is not the same as the state’s taking on the role of advocacy for the Christian faith as such. It’s the latter, not the former, that the New Testament opposes.

So the difference between the state doing things that, as Christians, we would affirm, “Yes, that’s godly. It is good to take away laws that would lead to the death of the unborn.” But to not have the state specifically using the power of the sword to enforce the views of one religion, even if we know that to be the true religion.

Kelsey
That’s exactly what I was thinking. we were speaking with. Dr. Merriam of Patrick Henry College, who spoke on the justice system. And the “power of the pen” is what’s been held by the justice system in our country. But by contrast, a different branch of our government has the power of the sword. And when we’re talking about nationalism, Christian nationalism specifically, we’re talking about wielding that power to seek dominion in the land, or to transform culture, by the centralized power of the nation. And that led me back to actually a different observation, in your original definition of Christianity. That is another very diverse thing in our nation. We think often about certain core ideals of Christianity, but there are a lot of open-handed issues, where we differ in our various denominations. And so I think we brought this question up in another episode, you know—which denomination, which version of Christianity. We would not be able to really centralize that, make that unified thing of nationalism within Christianity itself, because it is so diverse in its nature.

Jonathan
Something again, Paul Miller in his book does very well, is point out the fantasy of the idea that you could truly have a nation made up of a single culture. All over the world, we see single nations have a diversity of cultures within them. And if you tried to straighten that all out, the results would be kind of crazy. And even within Christianity, we see a diversity of culture. You know, that gets me to thinking about the creation of our nation, the people who first came to America from Europe, fleeing religious persecution, wanting to be able to freely exercise their religion, which is then something that is enshrined in our Constitution. But what were they fleeing from? What was the threat to their practice of religion? It wasn’t a secular nation. It was a nation tied to a different form of Christianity. They, in a sense, were fleeing another form of Christian nationalism, so that they could freely practice their Christianity.

Kelsey
That’s so good. And I’m getting excited because I’m thinking about what we’re doing here in this conversation right now in a structural sense, and I feel like a juggler. We’ve added the different areas of topics and we’re juggling them now, kind of intertwined at the same time. So the balls that are in the air as we juggle right now, we’ve got definition, which we’ve been moving in and out of a little bit as we go. We have circumstance. We just started getting into relationship, the cause and effects of history. And we’ve also been talking about comparison. So I think, what is that? Four? Five of our—no, we’re at four of our five common topics right now. Four of the Big Five are in the air. You good at juggling, Jonathan?

Jonathan
This is not a visual podcast, I need to let the listener know that, for the entire time, Kelsey has been mimicking juggling.

Kelsey
Yes, very exciting.

Jonathan
We are definitely juggling between topics. I have strayed into relationship when we were talking about the history, especially. But to bring it back even a little bit into comparison—again, we’re juggling—I’m brought to the constitutional aspect of this and the way America’s government was set up at its founding.

If you grew up in the circles I grew up in, you know by heart that the “separation of church and state” is not a concept in the Constitution. I think that comes from a letter by Thomas Jefferson. There are legitimate reasons to make that distinction, for sure. But we need to remember that what is in the Constitution is the Establishment Clause. I don’t have the specific text in front of me, but the government cannot establish any one religion as the national religion. And that is there not only to protect the government from religion, but to protect religion from the government, to protect the government from coming in and telling you what you can preach, as much as it’s there to protect the government from being run by any one religious power. And so the idea of the government explicitly promoting or privileging one religion, I think—one true thing you can say about any definition of Christian nationalism is that it does directly upend that part of the Founding Fathers’ intention. It does pretty explicitly upend the establishment clause. So as you’re comparing Christian nationalism and America’s government, you know—even if Christian nationalism isn’t as extreme as some of the kind of scary headlines make it seem to be, it does even in its more modest definition, undo or at least damage a pretty significant part of the Constitution.

Kelsey
And you framed it well with history in talking about the relationship, the cause that effected that Establishment Clause was these folks who were coming over from the Old World where Anglicanism had been established as a governmental entity. The head of the church was the king or the queen. So moving into how our country was defined, that was very causal to those definitions of our country.

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts about the political tensions of the now.

Jonathan
I think the political tensions of the now, as we touched on at the top of our conversation—we are becoming a more secular culture, where the symbols and values of Christianity are no longer prominent in the public square. We see things kind of falling apart. There is great disunity right now. I think that’s a part of the circumstance we didn’t bring up before. It’s a big part of that, that we look out at American culture, and a lot of cultures all over the world right now, but specifically American culture—it seems like we are so disunified. And so some people, sticking to our definition of Christian nationalism, they’re looking out at this culture and saying, “Maybe a nation made up of multiple cultures just doesn’t work. Maybe, in order to sustain democracy, maybe for the American experiment to actually succeed, we need to return to the cultural circumstances of America’s founding.” Because when America was founded, there was a much greater Christian cultural consensus, or—even the people who wouldn’t have called themselves Christians had a somewhat more Christian-esque worldview. Again, there was a lot of sin. I’m not saying—you know, we had lots of problems with slavery, the way women were treated, obviously the way the indigenous people of America—all those huge problems. But in a nominal, symbolic sense, in a general moral sense, there was a greater agreement that, yeah, the things the Bible says are good things we should follow.

And so that’s kind of the culture that bred the American experiment. You have people now looking at the disunity in America and saying, the only way to fix this is to bring that back, to sustain that. And for that to happen, it’s going to take the government to explicitly promote those Christian values, to explicitly promote the Christian religion, to return us to a cultural circumstance that can sustain and preserve American democracy.

Kelsey
And that’s really where an author, Stephen Wolfe I think, has had a lot of influence, this idea of the “Christian Prince” to come in and lead out on that new return or revolution even. And I don’t think he uses those words. But this renaissance, might be a better way to say, of Christian ideals, promoted from government in a very aggressive sense, like from a position of power—we’ve mentioned that before. So his ideal is the Christian Prince. And I found, as I read some reviews of his work, some great critique in another post that we’re going to share from The Gospel Coalition. One of our opinion writers, Kevin DeYoung, has an excellent and long review of his actually quite long book that helps you to explore some of his ideas and see what’s lacking in them, from a Christian perspective. So it’s an excellent critique that we’ll also include in the show notes.

Jonathan
Yeah, because Stephen Wolfe’s book was The Case for Christian Nationalism that I know, at least in the circles I see online and around me, that it made quite a splash, that book when it came out. I think it was last year, possibly, that book came out, I need to double check that.

I think the only topic we haven’t explicitly touched on, if I’m right, is authority.

Kelsey
And it’s a great place to engage, because we’re talking about now this idea or ideal of a Christian prince, and it ushers us into that discipleship response. What should our thinking be about how culture is shaped by Christianity? Does it need to be from this position of authority? Or what has the Lord called us to in this time of the already but not yet? And, when I use that language, I’m talking about Kingdom language, capital K, Heavenly Kingdom language. It was inaugurated in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. His kingdom has come and is coming. And the difference here being that He is the head of that kingdom and no other. And He’s left behind His people, the Church, to be servants in the world, to cause a gentle reclaiming of the ground for Him through a very upside-down way—that servanthood, instead of the top-down leadership that we have this tendency of craving. And it’s just as we saw Israel craving, from Samuel, the days of the prophet Samuel, where they asked for a king to be like the other nations. We’ve mentioned that in some of our other podcasts. Israel wanted to have a powerful king, even though they had the most powerful capital K king in the Creator, the one who had called them and reclaimed them from slavery and made them His own. But that wasn’t enough. They wanted an earthly king.

And then, as they awaited Messiah, they continued to think of Messiah as someone who was bringing an earthly kingdom and connecting them, restoring them back to the land from which they’d been exiled. So even our thinking so often lines up with Israel’s thinking, because we’re human, like them. We’re made of the same matter as the land and we want to be returned to the land. We want it restored to us. But that is a part of the “not yet.” And it’s even better than just being restored to the land, because Heaven is coming down, and with it, all of the goodness and all of the presence of the Lord.

Jonathan
That brings us back to our Redemptive Narrative, that we’ve explored in other episodes, that the day is coming when we reach the fourth part, the last chapter of the Redemptive Narrative, that restoration of God’s kingdom here and now. Right now, though, we’re in that third place, the already-but-not-yet, the redemption, where God has the victory, where we are making the world look more like the kingdom, but it’s not yet that perfect consummation. And it’s a period of grace, where God has not yet come with his judgment. He has given time, in this place, for repentance. In a sense, He’s given us space to be wrong for a season. And so I guess maybe the question is, can we give that same space to our neighbors, in our nation? The space to explore and be wrong and not have to externally conform to any one religion, but come to it themselves freely through our discipleship, rather than through the tools of government?

Kelsey
What a beautiful picture. I’ve heard what you just described summed up by one of our authors that I think we read for today, as “It’s the time of choice.” All men can be in that process moving towards a final conclusion to come to Christ, not, you know, convinced on the tip of a sword. But what does that mean then for our work in this meantime, this time between times, this time of choice?

I’m going to quote from the article I mentioned by Kevin DeYoung here:

But if we must say something about a strategy for national renewal, it’s multifaceted and rather ordinary. We need confidence, courage, and Christlikeness. We need faithful churches, gospel preaching, and prayer. We should contend for the faith. We should disciple our churches and catechize our kids. We should create new—and steward existing—civic, educational, and ecclesiastical institutions. We should love our neighbors and share our faith. We should press home the truths of natural and revealed religion in the public square and get involved in the political process. Where possible, most of us should get married and have children (the more the merrier).

(This coming from a man who has nine.)

Our “strategy” is not one thing. It’s many things. It’s cultivating the virtues of prudence, justice, wisdom, and temperance (and understanding how each virtue needs the other three). It’s building bridges and building walls. It’s speaking the truth and offering grace. It’s striving to grow in every fruit of the Spirit. It’s asking that God would give us every virtue of grace. It’s modeling an alternative culture as the City of God, and it’s trying to be salt and light among the City of Man.

Jonathan
I love that quote from Kevin DeYoung, and I believe another thing he brought up in his review is that, again, one of those driving circumstances, emotions behind Christian nationalism is a desire for a strong response, when it seems like maybe some Christians are kind of wishy-washy or wanting to just conform or concede to the sin in our nation. The response of Christian nationalism seems strong. And I think Kevin DeYoung reminds us that our response can still be strong. We do not need to lean into Christian nationalism to strongly oppose evil and to strongly proclaim good. I think, instead, it’s thinking about—what does strength look like in Christ? Because again, you brought up what we expected of the Messiah versus what Jesus actually did. Israel wanted a Messiah who would come and wreck shop and set up a political kingdom. That was their idea of the strength that the Messiah would bring. Instead, the strength that Jesus brought was the strength to reach across boundaries to people that the culture considered unclean, was the strength to speak the truth when it angered not just the national authorities, but the religious authorities. Jesus embodies incredible strength. But He was not a nationalist who brought the strength of the sword.

Kelsey
He brought children into His lap, and He washed stinky feet. And that is the work that I think He gave straight to us, as parents. And you know, as parents, we don’t do that maybe as well as we ought. And sometimes we are tempted to respond in strength, or in those things that feel strong, like anger. And we have plenty of reason to repent, and to do so in a way that models a different way for our children. And so we hope that, with our words today, we’re helping to cultivate a sense of that different way. And we want to bring a couple scriptures to mind that help with that cultivation. So Jonathan and I are going to read some of these as we close.

Jonathan
The first one we have is from John 18:36. “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’”

Kelsey
Then from Hebrews 11. This is related to that great Hall of Faith. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”

Jonathan
And lastly, from Revelation 21: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’”

Kelsey
Amen. Parent, teacher, mentor of kids and teens, this is the story that equips you in how you engage those children before you. He has equipped you for the work.

Show Notes

Christian nationalism. You’ve heard it in the news. Maybe you’ve heard it in the pulpit. What makes this term so hard to pin down? And how do we teach our kids about the relationship between God and country?

Check out The Concurrently Companion for this week’s downloadable episode guide including discussion questions and scripture for further study.

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We would love to hear from you. You can send us a message at newscoach@wng.org. What current events or cultural issues are you wrestling through with your kids and teens? Let us know. We want to work through it with you.

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Today’s episode is sponsored by Covenant College.


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