In The Case for Christian Nationalism, Stephen Wolfe hopes to “enliven in the hearts of Christians a sense of home and hearth and love of people and country out of which springs actions for their good.” (5)
Christian nationalism has been a part of the national conversation ever since the riot at the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. It is almost universally condemned by Christians and non-Christians alike. But is this condemnation fair? Wolfe thinks not and seeks to make the case for it.
For the next few weeks, I will be working through Wolfe’s book and offering a response. Others have addressed some of the more controversial takes in the book—I will not duplicate their work. Instead, I want to engage the sentiment behind it. Parts of the book are very well-written, and I suspect it will have lasting appeal. While I reject Wolfe’s vision for Christian nationalism, I want to highlight the positives and offer an alternative path forward to loving a place well.
Important to Wolfe’s case for Christian nationalism is the premise that Christian nationalism is simply nationalism modified by the adjective “Christian.” Wolfe defines nationalism:
“Nationalism refers to a totality of national action, consisting of civil laws and social customs, conducted by a nation as a nation, in order to procure for itself both earthly and heavenly good.” (10)
In other words, nationalism refers to nations establishing laws and expectations that promote their own well-being. Thus, Wolfe defines Christian nationalism:
“Christian nationalism is a totality of national action, consisting of civil laws and social customs, conducted by a Christian nation as a Christian nation, in order to procure for itself both earthly and heavenly good in Christ.” (9, emphasis mine)
In other words, Christian nationalism refers to Christian nations establishing Christian laws and expectations to promote their own well-being in Christ. You can see from the bolded text above that Wolfe adds the adjective Christian to the word nation and then adds the qualifier in Christ at the end.
This gets to the crux of my objection to the book: What if the adjective “Christian” is incompatible with the noun “nationalism”? Doesn’t that make “Christian nationalism” logically self-defeating, like a “square triangle”?
There are certain “isms” that, by their very nature, are incompatible with the modifier “Christian.” Social Darwinism is one example. We can’t imagine “Christian Social Darwinism.” Is nationalism one such “ism”? Does Christian theology preclude nationalism, so that the phrase “Christian nationalism” is logically self-defeating, like a “square triangle”?
In the next few posts, I will explain why I feel that Christianity is incompatible with nationalism, so that “Christian nationalism” is logically self-defeating.