FAQs on Christian Nationalism

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1. What is Christian Nationalism?

Christian Nationalism is the view that secularism is a hollow construct, now plainly revealed to be bankrupt. Additionally, CN is the belief that human societies require a transcendent anchor to hold everything together, and that this transcendent anchor should be the true and living God, and not a placeholder idol.

2. How are you defining Christian?

As the adjective Christian is being used here, the objective content of the faith would be the truths contained within the Apostles’ Creed, with those truths being accepted and received as the truth of God, by means of faith alone. In the American context, this would have a baseline of evangelical Protestantism.

3. What is your definition of nation?

Defining a nation is not like defining a triangle, and is more like defining an extended family. Extended families all have something in common, but there are also considerable variations of shape and size. At the same time, we all know what we are referring to when we say extended family, just as we do when we say triangle. We just have to be a little more flexible.

Adapting the definition given by Steven Bryan for ethnic identity (Cultural Identity and the Purposes of God, p. 43), we would define a nation as a group with a shared name, a shared language, a shared sense of place, a shared history, a shared sense of belonging or kinship, a shared set of cultural conventions and customs, and a widely shared set of beliefs and values. If we are defining nation, I would add to this an agreed upon pattern of governance and decision-making. With this understanding, America is a nation, and not simply an enterprise zone.

But just as an extended family might not have any second cousins once removed, so also a nation or ethnic group might not have one of the above features, or they might have an extra one or two. For example, the Jews had a strong ethnic identity before they returned to the land of Israel, and those who did not return did not thereby forfeit that identity.

4. Does Christian Nationalism therefore reject the idea of America as “a creedal or propositional nation?”

We would reject that idea in the main, yes. There are certain creedal aspects to our identity (e.g. “widely shared set of beliefs and values”), but that by itself is not what establishes a national or ethnic identity. For example, one of those beliefs is that we are “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights”—but an atheist can deny it and still be an American, while an Englishman can affirm it, and yet not be an American.

In a very large and heavily populated nation, such as America is, we would be one of the larger extended families among the ethnoi. But it is still recognizably a thing—although it was easier to identify when I was a kid as compared to now. Considering the long term agenda of the progressive left, this was not an accident.

Because of the shaping influences of place, and family lineage, and language, and music, and foods, it is not possible for a purely propositional nation or tribe to exist for any length of time at all. If a thousand people moved to an uninhabited island in the South Pacific because they were all supremely dedicated to the proposition that only quadrilateral trapezoids expressed the divine essence, this would mean the colony was established as a cult—founded on a distinct proposition. No one was allowed to join who did not believe it with all their heart. That proposition would be the only thing that mattered to them. Their ethnic tribe would be totally committed to that proposition. But if we left those people alone for five hundred years, we would come back to find a distinct people group, with a distinctive language, distinctive cuisine, distinctive marriage customs, distinctive physical traits, distinctive religious rituals (that would probably have a trapezoid in there somewhere), distinctive laws and customs, and so on. We would come back to a regular old tribe, the customs of which had largely swallowed the proposition.

So people who imagine that America can be a propositional nation are desiring something that can never be, We are a people, a nation, not a chess club.

5. Is Christian Nationalism simply a dog whistle for white Christian Nationalism?

No. The people who keep bringing this up are doing so because they have forgotten how to engage with arguments, but still need a stick to beat us with. If CN grows and spreads internationally, expanding into my Mere Christendom territory, some of those nations will be white. Shoot, Finland is white now. Some of them will be black, and others Asian. And some will be a color jumble, like America. That’s all good.

6. Does Christian Nationalism reject the “melting pot” metaphor?

As a practical matter, governed judiciously, no. Immigration is a good thing, but anarchy on the border can never be a good thing, And a massive influx of aliens is also not a good thing because that brings foreigners into the country in numbers too large to assimilate. And if they do not assimilate, then you are destroying the very thing that was initially attractive to the immigrants. But a sane immigration policy and practice is healthy and good.

There are two ways to destroy the melting pot. One would be the way preferred by the hard isolationist, who would simply reject all newcomers from this day forward. No more entries into the melting pot. That would be one way to end it.

But the other way to end the melting pot is the tactic being used by the progressives now. You cannot apply so much heat that the melting pot itself melts. If the melting pot loses its integrity and structure, then . . . no more melting pot. What is being done in this way appears to me to be clearly deliberate.

7. Are there different varieties of Christian Nationalism?

Yes, there are. But because the definitions are provided by a number of different observers, and because the situation is fluid and somewhat new, the boundaries between these varieties will sometimes be hard to identify with a high degree of precision. But with that qualifier, there are distinct varieties out there.

We can distinguish the political types who are Christian Nationalists (Marjorie Taylor Green, Michael Flynn), the political heirs of the magisterial Reformers (Stephen Wolfe), the populist Christian Nationalists (Andrew Torba, Andrew Isker), the small-r reconstructionists, who consider themselves heirs of Van Til, Francis Schaeffer, or Rousas Rushdoony (many within the CREC), normie conservative Christians who had the Christian Nationalist label assigned to them by the media because they think they are going to vote for Trump (the guy two doors down who sometimes borrows your lawn mower), and then we come to the guys who truly appreciate the cultural fruit of Christianity, but who still don’t like Christianity itself (James Lindsay, Richard Dawkins). Let’s just call Richard Dawkins a Christian Nationalist late entry. These are the kind of men Lewis talks about in Abolition, those who would remove the organ and demand the function. They are staunch in their love for apple pie, and equally hostile to the very idea of apple orchards.

But then last, we also need to rope in the radical trolls (a mix of the FBI guys, that misshapen frog thing, and actual antisemites—always to be distinguished from the ones in the ADL’s fever dreams).

Depending on the time, place, and issue, many within these groups can cooperate in various ways with one another. They can also irritate each other and/or get underfoot, but they all have less in common with the current regime than they have with one another. Except for the FBI guys, who are the current regime.

8. In your interview with Tucker, you said there is “no political solution” to the mess we are in. How does your reformation-from-the-bottom-up approach fit, if at all, with the we-need-to-be-willing-to-wield power approach taken by Stephen Wolfe and Timon Cline?

I want to say that this is largely a difference of emphasis and order, and not a disagreement proper. Absent reformation and revival a lot of good could still be done by Christian magistrates who simply had the courage of their convictions. Christians with authority should always use whatever authority they do have for good, whether or not the churches are full. But also absent reformation and revival we are far less likely to get such Christian magistrates. As Aragorn once put it, “men are better than gates,” which is true enough . . . but such men have to come from somewhere.

So the approach we have been taking in Moscow is not a quietist strategy of “let’s wait until the revival and then make our move.” We are responsible to do the right thing in whatever positions we find ourselves, regardless. But we are also very mindful of the fact unless the Lord builds the house, the one who builds it labors in vain. The first American religious settlement grew out of a Christian populace, a widespread Christian consensus, and reimposing that settlement on a pagan populace would be quite a challenge—like feeding greasy fried onions to a man with a bad case of the flu. If God gives us our reformation, then the men who want to rule like Christians will have a much more fruitful time of it.

9. So is the needed reformation a top-down or a bottom-up affair?

It is necessarily both. Eric Conn recently made the point that in Judges 6, God delivers the people from the Midianites in a real pincer movement. God delivers from both directions. The people cried out to God and He sent a prophet to the people, so that they might repent (Judg. 6:6-10), but then He also raised up a leader for them in Gideon (Judg. 6:11-14). God prepared the people to be led, and then He prepared a leader to lead them. Both/and.

If the people are pagans, any Christian prince would have a rough go of it. If the people are Christian, but they are led by men who do not have the courage ever to act on their convictions, the results would be a long series of dithering ineptitudes. So it is striking that someone who is not postmill, like Wolfe, is desiring the magistrate to act in a decisive Christian way regardless, and that what might be called the Banner-of-Truth postmills would never be willing for a magistrate ever to do anything distinctively Christian.

So we are laboring for a reformation of doctrine and morals among the people, and at the same time wanting God to raise up courageous leaders who will just go for it, doing whatever they can, regardless.

10. Does eschatology have anything to do with this different emphasis?

Yes, but it is a different emphasis, not actually a disagreement. I would agree with everything Stephen believes a Christian magistrate should do with whatever authority God has given him. But the reason for this difference in emphasis is, I believe, rooted in eschatology. Postmill CNs are playing the long game, and we believe that a time is coming when the earth actually will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, and we also believe that the root of Jesse actually will be the ensign of the people (Is. 11:9-10). I believe that Stephen’s concern is that believing magistrates today should stop making excuses and just do the right thing in the moment. I of course agree with that, but I also believe the sum total of all such faithful moments will contribute to the day when the Lord’s name will be great among the heathen.

“For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same My name shall be great among the Gentiles; And in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: For my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts.”

Malachi 1:11 (KJV)

So such an eschatological hope should serve as a great encouragement to those magistrates who are gearing up to do the right thing. This eschatological hope provides this duty with a reinforced teleology.

11. Given the differences between The Case for Christian Nationalism and Mere Christendom, why did Canon Press publish them both?

Stephen’s book is an important scholarly work that helped to precipitate a conversation that really needed to occur. And in that respect, it was a great success. I enjoyed reading it very much, and profited from it. My book is not addressing precisely the same issues, but I would regard the two books as occupying a similar space. There are no glaring contradictions between the books, although there are some differences. We do have some divergent assumptions at the tectonic plate levels, differences which result in some variations on the surface—Stephen is a Thomist and I am not, he is operating directly out of a tradition of political theology and I am more of a biblicist, and so on. Canon Press practices an evangelical ecumenicism on such issues. But it is worth pointing out that my general equity theonomy and the Reformed common law tradition have much in common, and differ largely in time and stage of development. The Reformed common law tradition is general equity theonomy after six centuries of maturation.

So if I sat in the back row with all my convictions, and watched Stephen and his minions take over and obtain all that they wanted, from my perspective this would be way better than what we are dealing with now. And I also think Stephen would feel the same if those positions were reversed.

12. What have been the most important contributions of Stephen’s book?

There have been two. It has successfully been right at the center of a much needed national conversation, mentioned earlier. That is one. The second contribution is that Stephen has been able to demonstrate that the modern curators of the Reformed tradition do not at all understand or represent the political theology of the Reformers. This has revealed them to be far more narrowly Calvinistic than they thought they were, and not really advocates of a full Reformed world and life view. But man does not live by soteriology alone.

13. Do you or any of the other “mainstream” spokesmen for Christian Nationalism take any responsibility for the radical fringe of Christian Nationalism? If not, why not?

No. We take responsibility for whatever we say or do, along with the actions of others in the movement with whom we are closely aligned. We don’t need to take responsibility for people who use the same label that we do, but in a reckless or irresponsible way. Of course, this is provided that our position on whatever it is (Jews, Ukraine, the southern border) is clear, unambiguous, and on the record.

In addition, we recognize that the red pill radicalization of many young white men has been the result of the widespread practice of woke progressives kicking them in the head for a generation or so. We don’t think it is time well spent for us to join in the kicking.

14. You say that you don’t want to “join in the kicking,” but haven’t there been occasions when you have attacked people on the extreme right?

Yes, and will do so again. I am willing to go after certain toxic leaders because they are leading people astray. I am not trying to start something right this minute, but for an example, I would be happy to collide with someone like Nick Fuentes. But I do not want to attack an out-of-work 28-year-old coal miner with a wife and three kids to feed, a man who is tempted to listen to Fuentes because nobody has ever listened to him.

I understand the angst of men in this position, and really do sympathize with them. But at the same time I believe that trying to run a movement on such angst almost guarantees poor leadership decisions. Demagoguery has a short shelf life, and is very easy for the regime to manipulate. So I take my periodic potshots for that reason, and also to irritate the FBI guys in their midst. That penultimate sentence there would be an example.

15. What about the separation of church and state? Doesn’t Christian Nationalism violate the principle of church/state separation?

No, it does not, because CN is not a church. And if there has been a more abused phrase in political theory than “separation of church and state,” I would be hard pressed to tell you what it might be.

Church and state are both institutions, so it is possible to keep them separated without category confusion. Apples and oranges are both fruit, and so you can put them in separate bowls. In fact, separation of church and state is a very good idea. I would even go so far as to argue that it is one of the tenets of a consistent Christian Nationalism.

What Christian Nationalism maintains is that it is impossible to separate moral considerations and state. In a similar way, it is also impossible to separate moral considerations from a system of morality, and impossible to separate a system of morality from ultimate claims about God, reason, truth, and justice. Human societies do not have the luxury of being “neutral” on how they define justice, or on how they articulate the necessary foundation stones of that justice.

Think for a moment. Do you really want to live under a government that is utterly detached from all moral considerations? That would be an emotional gut punch. The only other option is to set your “imagine there’s no Heaven” rafter firmly in the sky, and suspend a completely arbitrary moral code from it—a code that would be binding on absolutely no one, and also a code that your average sophomore could see was not binding on anyone.

16. Still, doesn’t Christian Nationalism violate the constitutional requirement of keeping a wall of separation between church and state?

No. The phrase “wall of separation between church and state” was a phrase taken from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists, reassuring them that the government would stay out of church affairs. This wall of separation metaphor did not really enter into our constitutional discourse until the 1947 SCOTUS case (Everson v. Board of Education), but at that time it entered our public life with a vengeance, not to mention upside down. What was intended to keep two governments distinct was as a consequence turned into an excuse to banish the foundation of all human dignity—the true God—from the affairs of government.

When that was accomplished, after the Second World War, our government became totalitarian in principle, although they were shrewd enough not to make their move immediately. We are living in the time when they have finally decided to make that move. If we are serious about resisting it, we must return to first principles. There is a God, and He commands earthly rulers to kiss the Son (Ps. 2: 12). If that is not the first principle, then there are no other principles. Good luck, everybody.

17. So what does the First Amendment mean then?

It means that as a federal republic, the Founders did not want Congress to establish a national church, such as England has in the Church of England, or Denmark has in the Church of Denmark. Congress was prohibited from establishing a Church of the United States.

If the United States adopts a national flower, this is not likely to cause conflict if a state adopts a different flower. But if the US adopted the Episcopal Church, and a particular state established a formal relationship with the Presbyterians, that is just asking for civic unrest and trouble. The Founders did not desire any trouble of that sort, and so they prohibited Congress from setting up a church.

18. So do you approve of church establishments at the state level?

No, we think that it is a bad idea. But even though it is a bad idea, it is not an unconstitutional idea. At the time the First Amendment was ratified, nine of the thirteen states had formal ties with a Christian denomination. Connecticut did not drop her relationship with the Congregational Church until the 1830’s. So the First Amendment did not prohibit Connecticut from having the Congregational Church as their official church. Good sense might prohibit it, but constitutional standards do not.

19. So if we are not to have an established church at the federal level, or established churches at the state level, in what way could America ever be considered a Christian nation?

This could be done in various ways. The president could issue a proclamation that acknowledged that Jesus rose from the dead, and Congress could authorize the funds to have that proclamation printed and bound, read in all the schools, and posted in all the federal courthouses. That could be fun. The Supreme Court could take up a new religious liberty case, ideally one with Jack Phillips in it, and in their decision they could reaffirm and reboot the decision of the Supreme Court in the 1892 Holy Trinity v. the United States case, in which the Court determined that the United States was in fact a Christian nation, and had been such from the beginning. Or the Apostles Creed could be incorporated into the Constitution. None of these actions would establish a particular Christian denomination as being the mascot of the government.

20. Are there any circumstances that might cause you to distance yourself from the term Christian Nationalism?

Sure. I have argued against secularism for decades, long before the term Christian Nationalism came into use, and if CN goes out of favor at some point in the future, I will continue to testify against the secular idols of the age. I will also continue to testify against the accommodation with these idols that has been endorsed by many of our erstwhile evangelical leaders.

So what could make the phrase Christian Nationalism unusable? Oh, there could be different things. Say that a band of CN misfits in propeller hats blew up the Washington Monument. That would probably do it. Or say that some bona fide antisemites somehow became the go-to spokesmen for CN, such that whenever any reporter wanted the CN take on anything, all he would need to do would be to log onto Jewspew.com.

“We should not have Aslan for a friend if we brought in that rabble,” said Trufflehunter as they came away from the cave of the Black Dwarfs. “Oh, Aslan!” said Trumpkin, cheerily but contemptuously. “What matters much more is that you wouldn’t have me.”

Lewis, Prince Caspian

But the most likely thing that would make Christian Nationalism ineffectual as a term would be moderate success. As soon as the thing became modestly successful, people would stop freaking out about it. After that, they would start lazily adopting it, diluting it with dollops of respectability. It could go the way of the Christian Democrats, and become something of a yawner. Nobody that I know of is all whizzed up over the Christian Democrats. But by that time I will be in Heaven, and far less interested in politics than I am now.

21. You have shown a picture of the American flag flying underneath the Christian flag. Don’t you think that many would find that disrespectful? Isn’t that unnecessarily provocative?

Yes, but many of the people who would claim to find that disrespectful have no trouble at all when people on the left burn the American flag, or pee on it. CNs have trouble understanding why our adversaries think that dishonor is acceptable and good while subordinated honor is considered outrageous.