"Christian" nationalism?

2024-06-03 · 6 min read

As a word person, I’m fascinated (and often frustrated) by the way words get co-opted, coming to mean the opposite of their original intent.

Take the current lingo that describes something really good as really “bad.” What’s with that? Good wasn’t good enough? American flag on cross

Or how about when someone says, ”Oh, that’s just perfect,” when what they actually mean is “that’s just wrong.” Again, what’s wrong with just saying wrong? Come on, people.

I think I was first sensitized to this phenomenon years ago by reading 1984, with its its description of doublespeak and the nonsense of sentences like “Love is hate.”

It seems to me something similar is going on these days with the term “Christian nationalism.” In my view, these two words should never be co-joined. The fact that they are increasingly in bed together has resulted in a host of illegitimate offspring, with names like Misogyny and Xenophobia.

To me, legitimate use of the term “Christian” would be limited to beliefs and behaviors reflective of the life and ministry of its namesake, Jesus Christ.

What might be the Top Ten words describing Jesus? Inclusion would surely be one. Compassion. Justice. Peace. Mercy. The Be-attitudes that open Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount are a great summary, and a guide for Jesus people (Matthew 5-7).

But these Jesus values are at variance with much of “Christian nationalism,” which seems often more about exclusion, power, and control. Some extreme expressions envision a more “muscular” Jesus whose Second Coming will set things in order, much like the Zealots in Jesus’ day who looked for a messiah to reign supreme with God’s elect.

But such power politics miss the point of Jesus’ “power with,” rather than “power over.” The Domination Systems of this world are now, and ever have been, at variance with the power of Love and the inclusive Kin-dom of God.

Also not to be overlooked is the fact that “Christian nationalism” is un-Constitutional. This nation was founded with a secular government, certainly informed by Christian beliefs, but with a Constitution intentionally designed with no direct reference to a Christian God, and prohibiting the establishment of any one religion in order to protect the religious freedoms of ALL.

So I’m inclined to abbreviate “Christian nationalism” and just call it what it is: nationalism, defined by American Heritage dictionary as ”Devotion, especially excessive or undiscriminating devotion, to the interest or culture of a particular nation-state; the belief that nations will benefit formatting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals.”

How about, in the spirit of un-co-opting, we just leave Jesus and Christians out of it?

Jim Hannah

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