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Ready for it or not, we are in the midst of a conversation about Christian nationalism.
The prominence of Christian symbols and messages intermixed in the Capitol insurrection was disturbing, but for many pastors and church leaders this was not entirely surprising. The photos and videos from Jan. 6 represented the most radical manifestation of one of the American church’s most cherished idols, one that has continued to snare individuals, churches and ministries in subtle and corrosive respects. This is the idol of Christian nationalism.
Christian nationalism is not patriotism, which arises from civic affection and responsibility. Yet more pressing in our perspective is the fact that it is not Christianity. Rather, Christian nationalism is a syncretistic fusing of the two. It interweaves notions of national exceptionalism, moral authority, and mandate into the Christian mission, rendering the two difficult to distinguish. In time, this proves corrosive to the Christian faith.
The belief that America enjoys providential favor or blessings above other nations is unbiblical, but it continues to animate elements of church life in America. Through emphasizing political and cultural victory using spiritual language, it incorporates national identity into the mission of the church. In doing so, it makes this national vision not only the lens by