Imagine a Roman calling themselves a “Christian Romanist” and how that would have been received?
Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner
I will not budge on the idea that there is not justification for any definition of “Christian Nationalism.” There is no definition, no way of working it together or defining/redefining terms that makes adding any adjective to the term “Christian” that can justify it. Even if you try to reduce it to the lowest possible definition, as “A Christian Political Movement based on recovering Christian values and morals in our nation” there is no justification for it. If that means we have to say there is no biblical justification for western Christendom, than we have to say that.
Why do I say this? Why am I bucking 300 years of Christian Consciousness in America and 1400 years of Christian Consciousness in the West? Because while Christendom may have been used as a tool by God as a means to spread the Gospel throughout the world, its excesses and obsession with “Power Religion” have nearly undone all those advances in western civilization to the point that Missiologists have called for a change from “the west reaching the rest to the rest reaching the west.”
As a historian I recognize that part of the Development of Church History is that Christianity became such an influential religion is so little time that it overwhelmed the Roman Empire and created something that has never been duplicated outside the West, but which, by clinging too we are now undoing much of the advancement of the faith which it encouraged.
This is what happens when something reaches the height of its decadence, when it has become so fat and comfortable that it must invent fights and new enemies to keep its power and position which it would not have lost if it had not created the fights and new enemies. As with the Roman Empire, Decadence often hides the internal rot that will eventually lead to the downfall of the empire or nation. Jonathan V. Last of The Bulwark has made the same case for the United States of America, that the fact that we are even having the fights and debates we are having in our society, the massive partisanship, underscored by hatemongering and fearmongering, are the result of internal rot covered by decadence. It is a privilege to be able to have the fights we are having in our society right now.
I have said this before about the Church, In the 19th Century there were entire theologies built around the idea of schism and some of those were important and needed debates, such as the debate between Abolition and Slavery which should have corrected the injustice against the slaves. Some of these debates should have corrected theological error, such as the debate over the nature of the church between Mercersburg and Princeton. But once these debates were considered “settled” (I respectfully submit they were not and that everyone lost) we moved on to other things. Eventually we turned our attention to “Creeping Secularism” to the point that we began neglecting internal affairs and allowing internal rot to form, meanwhile, our decadence allowed us to fight with each other, to be segregated and sectarian. Decadence gave us the privileges of looking at everyone to blame for the decline of Christianity while we ignored segregation, sexual assault, injustices of every kind for every reason, the plight of the poor and many other things. Decadence allowed us to focus on Abortion, an important topic, but also to ignore the rest of the life of the mother or the child once born. Decadence allowed our preachers to fight with one another and our congregations to attack their pastors. Now we see even our decadence slipping away as the Church slides ever faster into cultural exile in America and we think adding an adjective and founding a movement is going to bring that decadence back. Christian Nationalism, being a Christian Nationalist, is a means to try to reclaim that decadence. It has been tried numerous times in the West and once in the East, by numerous people groups, and each time it has failed to do anything but send the Church into exile as the internal rot is exposed.
Imagine, if you will, as the Roman Empire declined, and the Goths and Visigoth’s were sacking and pillaging closer to Rome and the Christians decided to add the word: “Romanist” to their name. I am a Christian in the name of Rome, and I am going to retore Rome to her decadence, to a time gone by. You cannot, because the early Christians understood that the empire was temporary and that the power structures of the world would shift and change. If there was a major Christian Nationalist movement at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire it was not widespread enough, except for under Emperor Valentinian II who promised to restore Rome to her glory days. His actions, however, hastened the decline of Rome, they did not slow it down. The Early Christians did not understand themselves as “Empire Buildings” they understood themselves as alien residents whose primary citizenship was a kingdom not of this world.
See, here is the thing, the bible is clear that we live in a backwards, upside down kingdom as Christians. That is, Christians are not to participate in the way the world gets and keeps power. That is, we are not supposed to clamor for the best places an top positions. Jesus tells his Disciples as much in the Gospel of John. The last are going to be first and the first last, so it is with little eternal reward that we clamor to be on top, to be the most influential. The Gospel has never succeeded in this manner, it has always succeeded from the margins of society, when it brings light to the darkness. “But aren’t we doing that?” We ask when we stand against Abortions and general immorality. Maybe, but if it is done in such a way that it adds to the darkness, rather than brings light and life, than we are not spreading the Gospel, just our own agenda. I hate abortion, I think it is a terrible moral ill, but it is just as great a moral ill if I demonize the girl who goes to get an abortion rather than be a light to her by providing another way, a third option that she may not be able to consider. Be that adoption of the child she carries or providing the means for her to raise the child herself. I believe in the traditional view of Marriage, I do believe the bible speaks against and calls homosexuality a sin. But if I dehumanize my brothers and sisters who are struggling with this sin, if I fail to treat them as Christ would have me treat them, I am adding to their darkness, not showing them the light and love of Christ. Sexual Immorality is evil, adultery, rape, incest, ect, they are moral ills, but if demonize the sexually immoral or if I dismiss and mistreat their victims in favor of their abuser, I am adding to the darkness in their lives, not showing them the light and love of Jesus Christ. If I participate in injustice of any kind, be it racism or anything else, then I am not showing them the light and love of Christ. The ways and isms and ists of this world are ways of darkness, when they are added to Christianity, they align Christianity with the darkness, they do not bring the light and love of Jesus into the world. When I apply the world’s philosophies and titles to Christianity, I have lost Christianity. Because I have effectively said that Christ is not enough, I need that ism or ist to make Christianity work. Christianity doesn’t “Work” because of man, because of you and I, but because of the name applied to the beginning of the word: “Christ”ian.
Therefore we reject Christian Nationalism and do not call ourselves “Christian Nationalists” Because anything that is “Christianity+” loses the gospel and becomes just another avenue for the darkness of this world. The Christians of ancient Rome understood this, John’s prologue to his Gospel was written as a reminder of this very thing, that there is no one and nothing else that compares to Christ and that Christianity has no need for additions or subtractions to make it “work” because it is eternally tied to the person and work of God himself. It is through Christ and the way He has shown us to live that we will influence the world, not through demanding that the secular world adopts a morality it clearly does not want.
You want to have influence on our society Christian? Take up the towel and cross of Christ, live the way He has shown you to live and do so without adding man’s philosophies and titles to it. Christianity can stand on its own, it has stood on its own for 2000 years in places where one could be put to death for proclaiming the name of Christ. We do not need these isms and ists at the end, we need Christ and Christ alone. And we had better repent because of Christ, before it is too late.
Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northern Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center