You can’t impose Christianity through political action — not authentic Christianity. But that seems to be the aim of those joining the growing “Christian nationalism” movement.
Christianity Today defines Christian Nationalism this way.
“Christian nationalism is the belief that the American nation is defined by Christianity, and that the government should take active steps to keep it that way. Popularly, Christian nationalists assert that America is and must remain a “Christian nation” — not merely as an observation about American history, but as a prescriptive program for what America must continue to be in the future. “
While creating or maintaining a “Christian nation” sounds good on paper, it’s a project doomed to fail.
Theologian David Lipscomb argues that Satan ultimately controls all human governments. Their roots go back to Babylon and they exist under Satan’s dominion. We catch a glimpse of this when Satan tempts Jesus by offering him “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” (Matthew 4:8-10). Satan can’t offer what he doesn’t own.
Satan reigns as the god at the center of the death cult that is the state. The world’s kingdoms won’t be redeemed. They’ll be destroyed.
“Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. — I Cor. 15:24
Only God’s authority will remain. Trying to squeeze Babylon into some kind of Christian mold will end in failure.
But that’s exactly what a lot of naive Christians want to do.
One can understand their frustration living in a society that they view as increasingly flouting holiness. They see the decline of culture and yearn to fix it. The frustration is palpable in this social media post.
Setting aside selective outrage, the person isn’t fundamentally wrong — life without Christ does devolve into chaos. But the question remains: how do you solve this problem?
The path to godliness winds through the process of discipleship. Only as people follow Jesus will they stop conforming to the world as their mind is transformed and renewed (Rom. 12:2). You can’t expect people with unregenerated minds to reject all of the precepts of the world. That’s not to say unbelievers can’t live morally “good” lives. But they won’t lead Christian lives. The only way out of the chaos is to make disciples.
But we know that not everybody will respond positively to Jesus’s call to “take up your cross and follow me.”
You can’t make disciples by compulsion. God doesn’t force us to him. He draws us to him. Theologian and political philosopher John Locke highlights the non-coercive character of God’s relationship with humankind in “A Letter Concerning Toleration.”
“If, like the Captain of our salvation, they sincerely desired the good of souls, they would tread in the steps and follow the perfect example of that Prince of Peace, who sent out His soldiers to the subduing of nations, and gathering them into His Church, not armed with the sword, or other instruments of force, but prepared with the Gospel of peace and with the exemplary holiness of their conversation. This was His method. Though if infidels were to be converted by force, if those that are either blind or obstinate were to be drawn off from their errors by armed soldiers, we know very well that it was much more easy for Him to do it with armies of heavenly legions than for any son of the Church, how potent soever, with all his dragoons.”
God doesn’t bend us to His will using violence, coercion and force. He bends us to His will by loving us to the point of his own death – even to death on a cross.
But the Christian nationalist would try to impose the kingdom of God through politics. If we’re going to have this mythical Christian nation, it will become necessary to force people to comply with “God’s law.”
There is no doubt that Christian nationalists could seize political power and force people to behave according to their dictates — to some degree. But it still wouldn’t be a “Christian nation.” Power and force only go so far. You can punish people for sexual immorality. You can outlaw divorce. You can crack down on all manner of “unchristian” behavior. But you can’t compel somebody to love their neighbor. And you can’t beat somebody into loving God.
Focusing on outward behavior and imposing some type of theonomy might make society look different. But you will ultimately end up with a whitewashed tomb.
The Kingdom of God stands apart from the kingdoms of this world. The “Christian nation” is the church universal — not America, or Germany, or even Israel. Christian nation-building is not a political project.
If you want a Christian nation, make disciples.
Michael Maharrey is communications director of the Tenth Amendment Center, managing editor of the SchiffGold blog, and founder of GodArchy.org. This article was republished from GodArchy.org.