Tag: Christian Nationalism

Theological Album Review: Until This Shakes Apart – Five Iron Frenzy

Five Iron Frenzy has put their time in lockdown to good use, bottom line, this is a must listen.

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

Release Dates: January 14th 2021
Rating: 9/10

It is true that I am very selective about what I review these days, when I was working for Altrocklive.com and even afterward I would occasionally review an album if it was sent to me or if I thought it worth while to review. One of the events in Christian Music I did cover during my time at Alt Rock Live was the return of Denver based Ska band Five Iron Frenzy after a ten-year hiatus from music. 2013’s return Engine of a Million Plots and its follow up EP Between Pavement and Stars should be hailed as two of the best comeback albums by any band in Christian Music (sorry Stryper). Now they have come back again, with their first full length album in 7 years, and it is a masterpiece. Since this is a Theological Review, I will only make brief comments on the album’s music context (how it fits with the genre, their other works, etc) though I will address those more traditional criteria. My interest here is addressing the theology of the album because that is where the albums strength lies as a critique of modern Christianity in America. It should be brought to the readers attention that I am going to quote some of these songs at quite some length and so this review will be slightly longer than most I have written in the past. Still, if you have not gone out and bought it Until this Shake Apart is worth the money and a place in your music library, even if it makes you uncomfortable.

Before we get to this album, I want to make why I chose this album to review clear. This year will be the ten-year anniversary of my summer in Denver as part of the Denver Urban Semester, a time in my life which no amount of brain scrambling will ever let me forget. That was the summer when my spiraling deconstruction found a bottom and reconstruction began. That summer living and working among the cities homeless population and taking classes on Urban Ministry, as well as with my encounter with God on the side of that Mountain in Evergreen were the catalytic events God used to make sure I would stay in the faith and teach me to love His church and His people again. During that summer I had the blessing of attending The Scum of the Earth Church which is the Church that Five Iron Frenzy founded in one of the inner-city neighborhoods of Denver. So, instead of just having a love and appreciation for their music, I have a personal connection with the band through my first real exposure to a truly multi-ethnic, organic church where the Dividing Walls of Hostility were torn down and the Gospel was preached.

The first and obvious thing the reader will notice is that this is not going to be your grandfather’s rock album. It is, from start to finish, a protest record worthy of some of the best Ska. The genre, which of course, is known for its protest anthems, even in Christian Music. To some extent, this has always been the lane which Five Iron has driven in, sharing a car with The OC Supertones, but this album goes beyond even the bands usual standards of what makes up their protests. The closest song in the Five Iron catalogue I can think of to this album is “God Hates Flags,” their devastating critique of Westboro Baptist Church on Between Pavement and Stars. Except for all but one song on this album, “Homelessly Devoted to You” the albums eighth track, this album levels a devastating critique of American Popular Christianity and the current Christian Political movement steeped in Christian Nationalism and other forms of what I have been calling Christianity+. It should be noted that there is no reason to believe that Five Iron is offering these criticisms from “the opposite side of the isle.” When I was at Scum of the Earth one thing that stood out to me was how they married “conservative” theology with a strong call for biblical justice in the public square. We should consider this a critique from the middle, another reason I am writing this review, as well as a critique from a friendly source, not a hostile one. While it is clear that Five Iron is fed up with the state of American Christianity, they are still friendly to it, as the albums concluding some reviews, but we will get there in a second.

I want to caution the reader against making foolish accusation at Five Iron of things like “Cultural Marxism.” That accusation would be as far from the truth as one can get, and it is an intellectually lazy one. To really seek to grasp the concepts in this album one must be willing to question their foundational beliefs and go through a good amount of Deconstruction. One should also familiarize themselves with the communitarian nature of Christianity that comes from the Margins. Many of the topics covered in this album will be “triggering” for conservative Evangelicals, but it should be noted that Five Iron is not advocating for a Liberal Christianity, but for a Christianity from the margins. So while they discuss gun violence, the debate over statues and confederate monuments, immigration, racism, Christian Nationalism, corporate greed and sexual immorality, they must be understood as speaking from the margins, not from the left or the right.

This critique starts from track one: “In Through the Outdoor” the title of course we recognize as a fun jab at the people at Wal-Mart who do not pay attention to the signs above the door, but the song is anything but. A critique of the restrictionist immigration policy that many Christians on the right have supported. The song begins by fleshing out how contradictory this attitude is when compared to Christian teaching: “They’re at the fences, They’re at the border, Your brand new gospel – Deny them any quarter You’ll want a blockade, You’ll draw your swords, God save your sovereignty, From syndicated crime-lords, Completely righteous, Save a little slandering, God blessed your district -, With lies and gerrymandering.” Believe it or not, this is not the strongest language in the song, the second verse takes us into Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: “To all the hungry, You locked the doors, You sunk the thirsty, Before their boats make the shores, To every stranger, You closed the gates, Your new gospel:, Spitting venom , Black with hate, You sold them out.” But they go on: “You were once a stranger on this soil, Serpents at your heart, will they now uncoil? Your brother’s at the door – bless the poor in spirit, Your sister’s in a cage – but you do not fear it.” While this may anger you reader, consider the point I heard made by Daniel Montanez of Gordon-Conwell: “A sovereign government has the right to make and enforce right and just immigration laws, it has the right to protect its borders, but it has to do it justly.” I made the point with a parishioner recently that these things are for governments to decide, but the Church, the Church is to make a place for the foreigner among us, to care for them and make sure their needs are met. That is a the proper interpretation of God’s commands concerning when foreigners come among Israel, and in the New Covenant Context, we are all resident aliens and so while we live in the confines of a sovereign nation, we are still bound by the biblical values of the Kingdom of Heaven and must show regard for the foreigner among us. Instead, as the song says, our sister is in a cage and we do not fear it. There are statistical and theological facts to back this up. According to a Pew Research study from 2017: “A majority of religious minorities entering the United States are Christians.” Further, The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell has discovered that: “The average Christian in the world today is a black or dark skinned teenage girl from the continent of Africa or South America. As for the second line, remember that Jesus tells us that how we treat the least of these is the same way we have treated him, and those who sent him away hungry, or thirsty or who rejected him, they go away into eternal punishment (Matt 25). Bottom line, the immigration policy Christians currently support on the right is a direct path to eternal punishment, not life. This may seem harsh, but it is the truth, the girl who is very likely a Christian is your sister and in her poverty is among the Least of These, Christians treatment of her is how Christ identifies their treatment of Him, that should strike fear in our hearts.

The next song I want to focus in on is the albums 5th track “Renegades” which deals with the issue of School Shootings (which they also touch on in track 3 “Bullfighting for an Empty Ring”) and the idolization of the 2nd Amendment among Evangelical Christians. As a kid growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s, the Columbine tragedy is still etched in my mind. And since the band hails from Denver, I am sure that what has played out in this country in the last twenty years has been a source of deep pain. The songs specifically reference Sandy Hook, an event that has deeply affected people I know and love. The entire song grabs the listener by the collar but for our purposes I will highlight two portions, starting with the second verse: “The congressmen are concubines, For lobbyists who feed them their lines, Who Frankentein some pantomime, Some crying over Columbine, Yes your capital, It swarms with cannibals, When some other people’s kids are shot, They chalk it up as an afterthought, They load their guns and reminisce, And tell us it’s just business, They hope we’ll overlook, The halls at Sandy Hook.” You can hear the frustration expressed by many teachers and students who have had to go through lockdown drills while nothing changes to prevent these things from happening. The sorrow behind this song is felt in the music, the anger comes through the lyrics, especially in the final line of the bridge: “You want your ledgers black; we want our children back.” It is important to note that what is at issue here is not the owning of guns themselves, but the laissez faire attitude towards gun violence and the dismissiveness that has been prevalent among many on the right, especially lawmakers, towards guns in general. While the second amendment is enshrined in the Constitution, it is not meant to be an idol, and to many it seems to have become such. For Christians who claim a “Pro-life” ethic, we should put that into practice by working to ensure the absolute safety of our kids from these types of Mass Casualty events like Columbine and Sandy Hook. We should not be so quick to trade in conspiracy theories or brand any preventative measures taken as a “violation of second amendment rights.” Again, the Bible is our authority well over and above the Constitution, the Bill of Rights is a document of laws made by man, the Bible is the authoritative word of God. The Centrist Christian view would be to take a commonsense approach to protecting our students that may mean minor inconveniences in our ability to buy and maintain weapons. Our priority should always be the life of image bearers, rather than our rights to own and do whatever we want. We also need to repent of the fact that this issue has become so politicized when it is an issue of human life.

I wish I could review every song on this album, but that would go on forever, if you’ll allow me to review two more.

The next is the power protest song: “While Supplies Last.” The title is ironic as it is a response to the ongoing Evangelical Culture Wars, over everything, including masks. This is reflected in the songs “Stream of consciousness” style like Jars of Clays “Oh My God” but with the punch of Kids in the Ways “Burt Rutan.” Since Conservative Christians led many of the “Anti-Mask” movement in 2020 the line: “Hiding behind, hiding behind your mask” is a shot of schadenfreude for the listener, as is the rest of the song. Most of these songs, as you’ve notices, generally use irony well, a line that jives with cultural Christianity is juxtaposed with a line from Scripture or a historic Christin teaching. In this song though, the gloves come off. Consider the songs ending stream:

Save some profits for your cadre of vipers, Because your God only favors survivors, If you vote to stop abortions, Damn the pregnant girls and orphans, Blame your decline on the LGBTQ, Offer platitudes not portions, Then your rancor is your fortune, And your poison is what’s poisoning you, You said “we all deserve this”, For not forcing kids to pray-, While your party loots the earth, And you tell us “Jesus saves”, You’re ignoring half the gospel, Wearing clothing made by slaves, You never “rendered unto Caesar”, Now you, now you fear the fever, Fear the bottom dropping out of your stocks, You voted for the devil, Let that narcissist embezzle, Put the hen-house in the mouth of the FOX

These words really should break our hearts, this whole album should. What is reflected here is the idea that all our culture wars, all our attacks and waring against those who our leaders have told us to “hate” has led to our decline. That the culture is not the problem the Church has, the Church is. I have told my congregation many times that Christianity is not a: “Might makes Right” faith but is instead a place where our weakness is made perfect in our weakness. I have also told them that while we can agree that abortion is a blight on our society and affirm traditional marriage, the moment we start demonizing the girl who had the abortion or the person who struggles with same sex attraction, we are not showing them the love of Christ, we are not “living the Jesus Life in the Jesus way” to borrow Eugene Petersons phrase. The fact is, the decline of the Church in America is not because kids “can’t” pray in school, but because of our reaction to the things a secular government has done. The secular disillusionment with Christianity does not come from our failure to pass legislation, but from Christians who do not live out the way of Jesus, but in fact, do the opposite. We have in fact seen the enemy, and he is us. Christian Leadership has done everything listed above and led the people into the pews into these things which are the opposite to the way of Christ. In doing so, they have fed us to the fox, or as I have said, to the wolves and fed those who do not believe to the wolves. If Christians are the opposite of salt and light in the world, should we be surprised when the world is tasteless and dark? No, we should not be.

At this point you might wonder if Five Iron is going to offer us anyway forward at all. Once again, it is important to remember that they are speaking from the Margins and for those in the margins. It also should not be lost on us that throughout the album there are glimmers of hope, like the rock Anthem “We Will Sing” and “Like Something I Missed” both provide a glimmer of hope. But the albums closing song: “Huerfano” may provide the most hopeful tones on the album. Following the story of a teen who has struggled with being bullied by his school mates for some unspecified reason. He talks about being hung upside down in a sleeping bag, punched, kicked, stuffed in a box, having their song stolen. But then the Chorus comes in: “Now fly you orphans, Here you belong, Welcome you wayward souls, Now lift your song.” This is similar to Children 18:3’s “Come In,” the point is that mainstream Christianity is far from what Christianity should be, given the thrust of the rest of the album it is safe to assume this bullying may have happened on the playground of a Christian School. But this is not what Christianity should be, Christianity should be a place where you can come as you are, be transformed by Christ, and belong. This is the message of Christianity on the margins, come as you are, Christ will transform you, and you will have a place to belong. While this may be the most hopeful song, it may also be the most offensive for mainstream Christians who have spent years curating what they think Christianity should look like and who they think should get into the Kingdom, this song speaks directly against that sort of pharisaic sorting and curating of the Church.

Now, this album does have some serious drawbacks, there are points where this album comes across with the same kind of Pharisaic attitude they are trying to denounce. This is the struggle that any band has who tries to address issues like this and Five Iron is not immune to that pitfall. The Album will also play very, very well to a niche audience, which is why I spent so much time explaining some of these points. If you have never experienced Christianity on the Margins, then you may not understand the perspective or even the incredible hope outlined in the Album. The album also lacks a definitive Gospel Message, though the justice issues they address are all Gospel issues, they make a veiled point about Christianity being a place where they belong. One wishes these themes would have been directly tied back into Jesus as Jesus proclaims about himself in the book of Isaiah.

Regardless, this album will be a good response to bands like Seventh Day Slumber who have been actively advocating for Insurrection and the preservation of Christianity+. As Christians, we represent a Kingdom that is not of this world and by wrapping ourselves up in the things of this world we lose the Gospel. Five Iron reminds us of the dangers of wrapping ourselves up in politics and this warning needs to be heeded across the political spectrum.

 

 

Until This Shakes Apart (2021)Five Iron Frenzy

  1. In Through the Out Door
  2. Lonesome for Her Heroes
  3. So We Sing
  4. Bullfighting for an Empty Ring
  5. Renegades
  6. Tyrannis
  7. Auld Lanxiety
  8. Homelessly Devoted to You
  9. One Heart Hypnosis
  10. While Supplies Last
  11. Wildcat
  12. Like Something I Missed
  13. Huerfano

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oRev. 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

Yes, I am Angry

Yes, I am Angry.

“I do not have a faith in Jesus problem, I have a trust in people problem.” – anonymous.

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

When I was in seminary I would get two critiques on my sermons, when I was gentle and soft in my presentation I would get praised and when I was admonishing or let my passion get the best of me I would get comments about how great the kind and gentle Jonathan was. I appreciated that critique but I think there are times when, while we always need to speak the truth in love and out of abundance of love, when you need to let people see your angry, especially if that anger has been coming up in your times of quiet prayer not as a distraction from prayer, but because you are praying. In my prayer times I have increasingly discerned that the Spirt is angry, that there is a righteous zeal burning in the heart of God for His church which Jesus demonstrated in clearing the temple that is burning now against the Church in America.

I have told my congregation that if we do face massive persecution in the coming days it will be one that we brought upon ourselves, that it will be a direct result of our failure to live a life that is found in and obedient to Christ. What Eugene Peterson called: “The Jesus life in the Jesus Way.” That failure consists of the idolatry that is Christian Nationalism, our unwillingness to hold our leaders within the Church accountable for their actions, be it their sexual immorality, their racism or sexism, lust and greed. Not just failing to hold them accountable but failing to call them to repentance and even justifying their behavior and defending them. It will be a result of our failure to have a nuanced conversation about oppression and injustice and our complicity in oppression and injustice which God hates. It will be because instead of teaching people to do “All” that Jesus has commanded us we have taught them to do the opposite.

Before you crucify me, consider this statistic memorized you should, the level of trust the public has in Clergy right now is around 15%….15%….the amount of trust in Christians is probably around that area. You can bet after this past five years it has only dropped. Tell me, how are we going to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus and teach people to do all that He has commanded us to do if we are not trusted by the people we are trying to reach? When non-Christians see rioters storming the capitol with Jesus Saves signs and giant crosses are, they going to think: “Wow, this Jesus guy must be really great, I wonder what he saves me from?” No, they’re not going to want anything to do with this Jesus we speak of, they’re going to further cement an already deep hostility to Christianity that has formed because of the ways Christians have acted for the last century. When they hear Christians talk about how great and awesome and powerful God is, and then turn around and say that if the Republican party loses power Christianity is going to disappear, are they going to believe that we believe that God is who He says He is? No!

Added to all of this is the fact that this weekend our brothers and sisters of color had to make a decision, do we meet and face the threat of violence or do we protect our people and go back to remote services because of this threat of white nationalist and white supremacist violence that is accompanied by and even empowered by a Christian Nationalist Heresy rooted in Idolatry and fear. It should not be lost on us that this day comes as we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. The great Civil Rights leader who so many of us quote but know nothing about or the context of his quotes. In allowing this, in not speaking out against all of this, we are violating scripture by allowing the “dividing wall of hostility which Christ tore down in his flesh, expressed through ordinances” to be rebuilt. In the context of the book of Ephesians that is both a wall between us and God and a wall between us and one another. Do you think people hear us making overtures to unity and love and peace and then see us fighting and involving ourselves in white supremacist violence turns people to the Gospel? Do you think the secular world wants anything to do with us? No! By no means.

Why, because what we do in this life and what we say matters, how we act in the public square matters. There are cliches that have developed like: “you are the only bible some people are ever going to read” because they are true, the only encounter some might have with the Gospel in their life is you and your life. But if you share the Gospel with them and then contradict it with Christianity+ you are going to drive them away, or, you will not have led them to saving faith, but deceptive destruction. So when we excuse the sins of our leaders in the Church and otherwise, when we fail to hold them accountable for their actions and call them to repentance and if we participate in those same sins unapologetically then why should we be surprised when chastisement comes for those who claim the name of Jesus. We do not believe in Cheap Grace, we believe in a bible that tells us that “If you are in him, you will keep his commandments” (1 John 2:1-6), where there is to be unfalsifiable evidence that you believe and have moved from in the world, to in Christ.

What the Church in this country is doing is only hastening our demise, we are in a free fall, as attendance plummets and Churches close, we find ourselves unable or ill-equipped to deal with the reasons why. We are likely headed to some kind of real persecution, not the cultural exclusion that we claimed to be experiencing during “The Culture Wars” (read: we were not being persecuted) but actual persecution similar to what Muslim’s in this country have faced since 9/11 where Churches are wiretapped to make sure they are not planning sectarian violence in name of an armed crusade. This is the kind of persecution a friend of mine in the military envisioned for the church going forward on a recent phone call. Not because our churches are places where we live a “Called out” life as the Bible shows us, but because we are involved in violent behavior designed to overthrow the government. No matter what this persecution looks like, the church is about to face a reckoning for our adherence to “Christianity+.” The Pandemic has already started this winnowing process and it is only set to continue as the secular forces in this nation turn against us and we come under judgment. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but this is where we have come, this is what Church History tells us is the next step in our journey as the Church in America when compared to the Church in Russia, in Germany, in England and everywhere Christian Nationalism has arisen.

In the by-line of this article, I used a quote from a Tweet that I came across a few weeks ago. I used it because it resonates with me. This has not been a crisis of faith for me, if anything, it has driven me deeper into the scriptures, deeper into my prayer life and deeper in Jesus. Similar to how the rise of Liberal Theology at Tubingen in the 1820’s and 30’s deepened the faith of the young Philip Schaff as he sat in classes with E.F. Baur. I have been forced to learn what Christ taught us about what the Jesus way is and how that is supposed to be lived out in our daily lives. This time has also helped me refine my historiographical method as I study History for how this has played out when it has been tried. To put it mildly, my credentials have been put to good use the last two years, thank you Gordon-Conwell.

But while my faith in Christ has been deepened, my trust in the people who were once instrumental in shaping that faith has been shaken. I have watched as, one by one, Evangelical Leaders have either bought into the lie or thrown their support behind these movements instead of calling their people to repent and return to Christ and Christ alone. I have watched as these people who were held up as great leaders to me as a kid have prostrated themselves before the god of earthly power and prestige and abandoned the people in the pews to be devoured by wolves. Which is exactly what I was concerned would happen way back in 2015, and it angers me that I am vindicated in what I wrote back then. I feel betrayed and abandoned and lied to and yes, I plan on working towards forgiveness and trying hard not to sin in my anger, it is burning and I am tired of all of this.

Church let me tell you something, the secular world may not be better than this, but the Church certainly should be. In fact, the blueprint has been set forward for us in scripture, along with the means, to being better, and instead of living out that radical third way we have openly embraced the ways and weapons of this world. Yes, we should expect a reckoning and we do not need revival, we need reformation that is rooted in the Word and Spirit of God. That is the only way forward for the Church and persecution may very well bring that about, as a necessity.

May God have mercy on all of our souls and call us back to himself.

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oRev. 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

Statement against White Supremacist/Nationalist and Christian Nationalist Violence in our Nations and State Capitols.

By the God’s Heart Team.

Dear Reader

In 2020 God’s Heart for Those adopted the Hashtag #FortheunityoftheentireChurch as the websites yearly Tag. It is in that spirit and as part of that ongoing effort to bring healing, reconciliation, and unity that we, in the strongest possible way, denounce any and all violence from white supremacist and white nationalist groups. We are saddened to hear that many of our Brothers and Sisters of Color are in fear for their lives this weekend and have decided to hold many services remotely instead of in=person if their church is in the state’s capitol. Violence is never acceptable for Christians and violence based on Skin color or Ethnic background is especially heinous. Unfortunately, this is something rooted in our history, a cancer that needs to be uprooted. This is not an issue of liberal’s verse conservatives, or woke verse unwoke, this is an issue of dehumanization, one group continuing the legacy of stripping the humanity from another.  God’s Heart recognizes that the Imago Dei is present in every human being from creation and conception and that the Imago Dei is fully actualized and restored in each person in Christ and that our actions towards other individuals should lead them to Christ Jesus, not away. In Church History, violence and dehumanization has never led anyone to Christ and in fact has hindered the cause of the Gospel and Church Unity. We also those who have covered for, failed to condemn and even enabled and empowered these groups to commit these acts of violence and hatred whether they be pastors or politicians.

We also strongly rebuke these groups for their use of Christian symbols and Rhetoric. There is nothing remotely “Christian” about these groups and their acts, their actions show that they are not in Christ nor have any interest in doing as He has commanded us in Scripture. Scripture is clear in 1 John 1 and 2 that these people are liars and the truth is not in them and so the their claim to Christianity is an illegitimate one. These groups do not act in the spirit of Jesus Christ but instead of “Antichrists in this world” (1 John 2:18-20. Their syncretism of Christianity and Nationalism or a Ethnic Identity is a violation of the Law of God as it makes an idol out of a nation or an ethnic identity. These things are blasphemous and carry the penalty of eternal death under the new covenant. This syncretism has led to the violence we saw at the Capitol on Wednesday and the death of image bearers and if not renounced condemned and curtailed will lead to more deaths in the future.

God’s Heart for those calls on anyone who has supported these groups, anyone who has propped them up, anyone who has actively participated in these groups to repent of this sin of Blaspheme, Spirit of Antichrist, sect and schism, Ethnic Nationalism and White Supremacy to repent of this sin against their brothers and sisters in Christ and against Christ himself and His Kingdom. Along with repentance there must be restitution made and evidence of a life transformed by grace marked by a willingness to accept the consequences of their actions and an understanding of the evil of their ways.

May God save us all.

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

 

SermonCast: Christianity+ and how we got here: 1 John 2:1-6, 15-17

Our sermon for Sunday, January 10th 2021 is a direct response to the riot at the Capitol on Wednesday the 6th. Here we look at the book of 1st John and his argument against syncretizing the world with Christian Faith as well as living out the Jesus Life in the Jesus way as the only way our faith  We will also address the ways the Church has failed in this and how that has led to where we are today.

Please note that the communion service that followed the sermon is retained so that you too can reflect on the call to repentance issued in the service.

Watch the entire service here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOI0rCCa1rk

The Historically Doomed

“Those who are unwilling to learn from History are doomed to repeat it” – Santayana…oh and make Idols 

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

It may come as a surprise to some, but there is a consensus among Historians, both of Church History and otherwise that the Crusades of the middle ages were a bad idea. Especially the fourth when in 1207 the western church sacked and sieged the eastern church all in the name of the Holy Roman Empire. The goal of the Crusades was to “restore the Holy Land.” That was done through whatever means necessary. The logic followed that since the early Christians set up these sites they had to be defended and taken back and there was no tool off limits to getting that done. This meant that rape and torture were often used to excess by the Crusaders. They did not have the historical understanding we do now, that those sites were set up centuries after the fact because the Early Christians had no need to set up geographical markers and memorials since God’s Kingdom was not of this world. In fact, some of these sites were established by the Crusaders themselves as justification for their violence and brutality. The early Christians changed and empire by service to God in the face of mass persecution, the Crusaders defended a power-hungry empire that eventually turned on itself.

The Crusades have always interested me because they seemed to be a direct contradiction to what Jesus tells Pilate in John 18:36. “If my kingdom was of this world, then my disciples would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish Leaders. But no my Kingdom is from another place” (NIV). This is the Divine Logos, the one with all authority in heaven and Earth, telling us that his people would not fight to prevent his arrest because his Kingdom was not an earthly one. Jesus had already told Peter to put his sword away in 18:11. The people of God were not to produce violence in the name of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven was meant to be a place where “swords are fashioned into plowshares” (Isa 4:2), not used for violence. Even in the Luke 22 passage that is often used as a justification for armament the context is Jesus fulfillment of what was written, not going out to start a war. If anything, Jesus promises us multiple times in the Gospels that we ourselves should expect the sword to be used against by those who think that by doing so they are serving God.

I am not talking here about Christian Pacificism, again, I do not believe in Christianity+, so no ist or ism words need to be added to Christianity (hint, hint, that means there is no Christian Globalism either). But I do think that there is a modeled pacificity in Jesus suffering that we are to model when the tides turn against us. When the world comes to our door and drags us out and beats us or the Governments of this world turn on us. The Early Christians modeled this, they did not return violence with violence but violence with quiet confidence in God and the fact that the Kingdom they were dying for was not of this world. In doing this, in following Jesus example, as Peter’s letters tell us we are meant to, the Gospel spread like wildfire. To borrow a quote from Robin Daniel: “The blood of the martyrs become the Holy Seed.” But these were not martyrs for an Earthly Kingdom with Earthly motivations, they were martyrs for a heavenly kingdom with the only motivation being making Christ known.

That is the difference between the early Church and the Crusades and us today. The Crusades were about power, about control of a geographical region “In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” They did not advance the cause of Christ or the Gospel, instead they hindered it and still hinder it today. If you do not believe me, ask anyone who has served as a Missionary in a predominantly Muslim country. Unlike the West, Cultural Memory and Oral Tradition are still valuable commodities in the East, and so the memories are long. In the west we want to move on from events, we refuse to see how events in one generation effect the next generation. That is why we cannot comprehend how we are still dealing with the Ghost of Slavery and Jim Crow, they make us uncomfortable, as they should, and so we want to move on and gloss over us. They scare us, and so we do not deal with them when we should.

So we fail to realize how what happened yesterday at the Capital is the culmination of three hundred years of Church History in America, a Church History that since the 1920’s and sought to fuse power religion with power politics, often choosing figures who are as far from Christ as they can get to represent them. I wont hash out the entire history here, but I strongly recommend you read John Fea’s “Believe Me”, Jamar Tisby’s “The Color of Compromise” and Kristin Du Mez “Jesus and John Wayne” as these are thorough treatments of the formation of the relationship between Christianity and Power Politics that we know today as “Christian Nationalism.” The idea that Christians should use the powers of government to enact a Christian Moral Code on our society. While I am all for Christianity’s moral teachings, often the tactics Christian Nationalists have used to make these things happen have backfired on the Church and the moral failings of the men who have led these charges have done even greater damage. Not that there is not room for Christian engagement in the politics of earthly kingdoms, but Christian Nationalism has contributed to, not stopped, the decline of the Church in this country.

It might surprise you to think learn that I do not think that patriotism and love of country are bad things. On the contrary, you want to love the place you live, and you want others to love it. I also have a great deal of respect for those who serve in the military. But what Christian Nationalism does is place at the center of Christianity the geographical kingdom of man not the unbound kingdom of God that is not of this world. It binds Christianity to a national identity and downplays points where the bible contradicts the actions of the leaders. It also forces Christians to ostensibly serve two masters. God and Country, as equals and Jesus is clear that we cannot do that without loving the one and hating the other (Mat 6:24).

The other glaring problem with this equaling of God and Country is that God wants our loyalty to Him and Him alone, there can be no other. When we elevate something to where He is supposed to be or try to set something alongside Him, we are making an idol of that thing. That is why, as you were watching yesterday you saw signs that said: “Jesus Saves” and “Jesus 2020” held by the people storming the capital building. They have decided to serve two masters and in service to one they have hated the other. In this case, in service to the president they have chosen hatred of God because they served the idol, the creation, rather than the creator. What we saw yesterday was in no way “Christian” and I doubt Jesus wants his name associated with it. In fact, I think he saw those signs as a form of Blaspheme, not devotion to Him. The Jesus Life is one of modeled and patient suffering, if the Son of God wanted to lead and armed uprising against Rome, he is the only one alive at the time who could have done so and succeeded. Every time Christianity has aligned itself with the powers of this world it has failed in its mission to be salt and light.

One of my former classmates said it best.

Christianity is, itself, the primary identity of a believer. I disagree with Mike that there should be Christian Progressives and Christian Conservatives, we are just supposed to be Christians and everything else is to be subservient to and informed by Christ and the Word of God, especially those things that the Civic Religion likes the make idols of. Let us also not try to deflect and make excuses of “Whataboutisms” or “This was actually Antifa.” What happened yesterday was organized in far-right and darkest corners of the internet and needs to be roundly condemned by Christians of all stripes. The second of those claims has been debunked by Capital Police anyway.

If you are a Christian and you do love your country, which again is not a sin unless you have placed your country on the same level as God, then what happened yesterday should shock and appall you because it was a direct attack on our institutions and the Constitution. Things that the conservative movement which I grew up in, claimed to love and respect. This was a heartbreaking day for us as a nation, whether you are a believer or unbeliever.

One final thing, one of the contributing factors in what happened yesterday was the elevation of one man far above where even our founding documents saw he should be placed. Christians have made a bad habit of that on both the left and the right. We look for functional saviors when Jesus is literally the only answer. Neither Donald Trump or Joe Biden can fix what ails the Church, to turn to either of them is to reject God. Yes, it is true that God appoints our leaders and places governments over us but he does so for two reasons outlined in Romans 13, to ensure our good behavior or to ensure that we behave like Christ, and the bring the power of sword as judgment when we do not. They are not to be confused with the Lordship of Christ and the Kingdom of Christ, because as Jesus said, our Kingdom is not a Kingdom of this world. We are a people of two kingdoms, plain and simple, perhaps we better learn to live in the kingdom of heaven first, so we can learn to live in this one.

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oRev. 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

Christ and Christian Alone

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.

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oRev. 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

The Heresy of Christian Nationalism

The Churches in Germany should be a warning to us, they should scream, “don’t do this, stay away from this.” But History is incredibly consistent and we find ourselves at the crossroads again when service to God, may mean being critical of our country.

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

Over the last four years I have had the chance to study the effects of the various nationalistic movements in history. One that I have had a unique opportunity to look at is the Church in post-war Germany. For those who do not know, Herman Goering thought it essential to co-opt the Church, both catholic and protestant, to ensure that the Nazi’s machinations against the Jews would not be met with opposition from the Christians. Georing did not have to try hard, as Bonhoeffer scholar Dr. Gordon Isaac of Gordon-Conwell points out, the ground was ripe in Germany for the type of Christianity fused with Nationalism that Goering needed to accomplish his subversion of True Religion. Germany had been going through its own nationalistic period since David Strauss in the mid-nineteenth century and both world wars were the inevitable outcome of such a spirit, the reason then that Goering had little trouble co-opting the church was because the Church already had adopted some of the tenants of nationalism, indeed, it had replaced the Gospel with them. Goering merely completed the transition. There is a picture of a Lutheran Church in Berlin lined with banners and flags all bearing that terrorizing symbol of the holocaust, the Swastika. Whenever I have had the chance, I ask people who have been or who live in Europe if the Church has ever recovered from this thorough alignment with Nazism and the answer I always get is a firm and resounding “No.” In fact, the churches that are thriving are the descendants of Bonhoeffer’s “Confessing Church” while the mainline churches are dead or dying. It has been almost 80 years since World War II ended and the churches where this played out are all but gone. After the war, Christianity fell out of favor precisely because it had sold out to the government and went alone with what Hitler and the Nazi’s were doing. It gave up its prophetic voice, the prophetic voice of the Gospel, to be the trumpeters of Nazi Propaganda. It is truly ironic in every sense of the word that Eric Metaxas has given the fullest treatment of the Nazi Theology that arose in Germany.

Hitler himself said in December of 1941 of the Churches:

“The war will run its course, and then I will see it as my life’s work to sort out the problem with the Churches. Only then will the German nation be safe. I do not care in the slightest about articles of faith, but I am not having my Clerics sticking their noses into worldly affairs. This organized lie has to be broken in such a way that the state becomes the absolute master. We need to get to the point where only Idiots stand behind the pulpit and only old women sit in front of it, and the healthy youths are with us.”

One of the rules of being a Historian is that you should avoid making one to one comparison’s whenever possible. Since Nazi Germany is not Modern America there are different social pressures and mitigating circumstances. But I do believe that in this case, a one to one comparison can be made to the Church in Germany in the 1940’s and the Church in America in the 2010’s. Just like Christians in Germany in the 1940’s, Christians in the United States have merged the tenets of nationalism with Christianity and reignited Christian Nationalism to a harmful and destructive extent. Like German Christians we are like the boiling pot of water with the frog in it. Christian Nationalism was first introduced in a subtle form by the Whig Party as a political platform (for those who do not know, Abraham Lincoln was originally a member of this party). Southern Democrats had their own version of it that also drove the division over Slavery. It is interesting to read pieces from the era from both the North and the South where the causes of both groups were framed in distinctly theological terms.

The nob got turned up again in the beginning of the twentieth century with the “Modernist/Fundamentalist” controversy where political language begins to get infused into the theological discourse, it is also around this time that revisionist history begins to give rise to the myth of a Christian Nation. The Temperature gets turned up again in the 1970’s with the rise of the religious right, again in the early 2000’s with George W. Bush’s election and again in 2016 when 81% of Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump as president and the church seemingly coalesced around one human being as the savior of Christianity, a view which I have recently written is completely absurd. Now we find ourselves in a boiling pot of water and we are, like the frog, internally self-destructing in a manner that is reminiscent of the German Churches.

This is how the enemy operates though, as Jonathan Edwards pointed out in the 18th century: “Any sign that could be a sign of a revival, we must remember that the devil can mimic these things.” He is crafty, running around like a lion dressed as a lamb, slowly slipping in one small error after another until we have a full blown heresy right before our eyes and we are so used to it we fail to realize it is heresy. That is what Christian Nationalism in any state, in any place, in any time is, pure and unadulterated heresy because it confuses the Kingdom of God with the kingdom of Man.

As my friend and fellow pastor Jess Joles said to me in a conversation: “We keep trying to make the Kingdom of man, the Kingdom of God and they are absolutely two different things.” The early Christians understood this, and instead of trying to remake the Roman Empire into the Kingdom of God, they set up resistance pockets in the catacombs where they loved their neighbors, enemies included, cared for the sick, enemies included, and served the poor and downcast, again, even their enemies. The result of this humble service for 300 years was a transformed empire, it did not go in reverse, they did not seize power and force Christianity on a society, they humbly and patiently grew into a formidable part of the population and when they did come into prominence through Constantine they continued, for the most part, the humble service to their neighbor. Historians like to talk about the Christianizing of Rome in terms of triumphalism, but that really could not be further from the truth. Even after they came into their own in the 4th Century, they had no illusions that the kingdom of God and Rome were the same thing. The Christendom model that is now dying here in America was a later aberration that has also been the victim of much triumphalist revisionism over the centuries starting with the Roman Catholic Church and continuing with the Protestant Church today. It actually bears little to no resemblance to what actually happened. Christendom presided over some of the deadliest wars in modern history and some of the worst atrocities, like the Holocaust, were committed under its watchful eye. Christendom, Christian Nationalism, Dominion Theology, they are all pieces of the same heretical puzzle that tries to make the kingdoms of man into the kingdom of God.

The result has led us to this new movement that the Washington Post reported about Monday called “Patriot Churches.” Groups that have, to couch it in Isaiah’s language, chosen to weary man and God (Isa 7:12) by placing their trust in man and asking God that their man be elected because he is the one who will save Christianity. The cross draped in the flag is unfortunately nothing new in modern Church History, it was the cross and flag that came to South America from Spain and decimated the people there. In fact, anytime the cross has come draped in a nations flag, Christianity has not been received well, but that is exactly the symbol these “Patriot Churches” are using, such as Liberty Baptist in Spokane, which a friend of mine who is an Anglican Priest lives down the street from. It should be obvious to us that this is contrary to the Word of God and the Kingdom of God which has no flag, but a cross, but it does not appear to be as the Post reported that “more churches are looking to join.”

The Heresy of Christian Nationalism is this: It confuses the kingdom of man with the Kingdom of God. The Kingdoms of God is no longer confined to a geographical location, it s a global kingdom within kingdoms and it is united not by a spirit of Patriotism which is a fleeting feeling, but with The Holy Spirit that is a real, living member of the Trinity who lives inside us and is not a fleeting feeling. Even Israel was not meant to keep God’s blessings bound up in a geographical location but bless the entire world with the knowledge and peace of God the Father. God may have chosen Jerusalem to dwell in, but now He dwells in 3 billion temples spread out all over the world. Each temple is organically fused to one another by that very Holy Spirit who lives within. Christian Nationalism reduces Christianity to what a nation thinks it is and it quite literally says: “what you think is Christianity is not really Christianity, we have the real deal.” The amount of ignorance in this position is easily recognizable, it says that God only always works one way in all places and any divergence to that way is not “true Christianity.” The bible, by the way, neither supports this position nor allows us think in those terms. The only “true Christianity” is a life that is totally wrapped up in Christ and Christ-Like in every way and any form of Christianity that no longer looks like Christ, as the world’s critique of Christian Nationalism goes, is no longer Christian. More and more in talking to unbelievers I hear Ghandi’s words to MLK: “I like your Christ; I dislike your Christians.” If Christ is not seen in Christians, we have ceased to be Christians.

In a Church History class I remember a Korean Student asking how the Church in Korea could avoid following the same pattern of the American Church. For those who do not know, Christianity in South Korea has exploded over the last 20 years but has evened out and even began declining. The answer every student gave was: “Avoid entanglement with Politics, when the culture takes your power and influence from you, do not fight for it back.” That was the sin of the German Churches, when the people in power offered them a seat at the table of influence they saw it as their chance to stop their decline, it only sped up that decline. The same pattern is playing out in America, the Religious Right was a response to increasing secularization, instead of graciously returning to a seat at the back of the room and waiting to once again be moved up at the banquet table. We started fighting foolish and ill-advised culture wars that intended to force Christian morality onto people who were telling us they wanted nothing to do with it. The fallout of that has been unpleasant and the Church has, sadly, contributed to the vitriol in our current political situation by fighting people instead of proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord. Again, this is a pattern in history, any attempt to force a Christian Utopia or a Christianized society has been met with fierce secular pushback that has done more and more damage to the name of Christ.

What we have done is syncretize the Kingdom of God to the Kingdom of Man and when you syncretize anything you inevitably remove what made both unique in their separation, to syncretize in religion is to compromise it. You are, in effect, saying: “That tenant of our faith does not matter because it conflicts with the tenant of the philosophy we are syncretizing it too.” Kenneth A Myers noted this in his 1996 Essay: Proclamation over Protest” where he notes that by syncretizing the Church with the Kingdom of Man we have lost what is unique about the church, we have turned ourselves into a mere “voting bloc” which man can then hold sway over. Instead of the sacramental people of GOD, united in baptismal grace and sharing in the same bread and cup, holding with organic unity by the Spirt and united in Creed and Deed, we have allowed ourselves to be blown about by the winds of the doctrines of man’s kingdoms. Once we give up our status as the “Called Out” people of God, we give up the ability to speak into the culture in any relevant or meaningful way. What Myers wanted Christians to do rather than act as a voting bloc who has to fight culture wars to have any influence, but move from protest to proclamation, to go from civic engagement as an aggressor, to go to civic engagement as a messenger of a different kingdom. This is a well tried and proven means of civic engagement where the Church keeps its total uniqueness and God’s word is proclaimed in the public square.

A Christianity that is allied so closely with nationalism cannot proclaim the way that Christianity is meant to be proclaimed because it carries with it the concerns of the national politic. It is also easily swayed to spend millions fighting against abortion laws while abandoning the children in the foster care system or the mothers who feel they had no other option then to get an abortion in the first place. It means we become “Pro-Life” in a political sense, making a “Pro-Life” ethic little more than an Idol, instead of honoring every life from the top down, from conception to the very end of life. The result of such a focus and limited concern is evident in the way many Christians have treated the COVID-19 Pandemic. Personal Freedom, a tenant of American Ideology, not Christianity, is touted as more important than the life that may be snuffed out because personal freedom was more important than loving our neighbor. Religious Freedom is another such case, despite the revisionists attempts, religious freedom is purely a western invention, is it influenced by Christianity? Absolutely, but it is an extension of man’s thoughts about Christianity and the bible, not the bible itself. Religious Liberty is granted by man and man can take it away. It is also a blessing from God, though not granted expressly by him in scripture (actually the exclusivity of Christianity may actually exclude it as a God given right, but that is another article). In scripture we do find that when man squanders the blessings of GOD, the blessings are taken away. When “religious liberty” becomes more important than loving your neighbor you are likely going to lose your religious liberty since you squandered a good gift from God. And if you do not believe, consider that this is the entire history of Israel and even Christianity. When the Church uses the blessings of God for good, it grows, when the Church tries to hold onto the blessings and makes idols out of them, bad things happen.

Christian Nationalism has also allowed us to settle for the Christian Libertinism that is endemic in the prosperity circles. “Love God and do what you please” does not mean love God and do what pleases your hedonistic pleasures, it means that if you truly Love God, what you will do is what pleases Him, if you Love God you will Love people because it pleases God when we love people and make disciples, it displeases God when we treat people with contempt who think differently than we do and tear them down. It displeases God when we act like the world and follow its pleasures and passions. The Apostle John warns us that: “Love of the world is enmity with God.” If you love the politics and pleasures of this world more than you love God, you do not love God but are at enmity with Him.

Because Christian Nationalism requires us to sell our soul to the kingdom of man, it is safe to say that in doing so we have made an enemy of God, we are in effect doing things in His name without a relationship with Him and Matthew 7 stands in condemnation over us. But we have gone a step further, we are doing things in His name that are contrary to what He has called us to do. The only recourse is repentance, turning 180 degrees, going in the opposite direction and letting God completely transform and renew us in the Gospel, to once again reform us into His image.

That is the stage where the European Churches have been for almost 80 years. After World War II the backlash against Christianity by the secular world was enormous, just as Jesus and Bonhoeffer predicted it would be. Why should we expect things to turn out any differently here in the United States? The answer is that we should not, we should expect the same kind of backlash whenever the secular forces gain full control over the society. We may be about 50 years away from hard persecution in this country if we do not repent as a church and return to the throne of Jesus. Christ will never return to the center of American Public Life until He returns to the center of the Christian heart, the center of the Churches heart and has had time to patiently ferment there, as he did in the lives of the early Christians. So, let us turn and repent and know that God will heal His church. Let us once again take up the mantle of proclamation, reclaim our uniqueness as the presence of God here on Earth and let God renew us by His Gospel so that His desire may be fulfilled. Let us become again, a Kingdom within Kingdoms and though it may be panful, the grace of God’s refining is that we enter into eternal rest at the end. Christian Nationalism is a heresy that leads to death, the way of Jesus leads to life.

Before you go, would you consider taking a stand against this Theological Heresy by sharing this article and signing the Statement Against Christian Nationalism

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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