A Case for Christian Nationalism – Part 2

In the opening post from our series reviewing Christian Nationalism (CN), we laid the groundwork by looking at some of the uses of terminology related to the movement. As pointed out, it’s a bit messy with respect to defining what it is and who associates with it. We concluded by observing that a political, patriotic, and conservative movement already existed, generally related to the Make America Great Again (MAGA) crowd. Politically affiliated, liberal organizations and media branded them as CN. More recently, especially in social media circles, a religiously motivated crowd embraced the CN label and subsequently backed into the name, providing their own definition as they did. In this post, we want to begin our review of the book that has been championed as providing a definition for CN, Stephen Wolfe’s book, A Case for Christian Nationalism. While our efforts will be primarily focused on the introduction, we want to begin with an overview of his definition before moving to his methodology. As we noted, Wolfe’s book has become a sort of CN manifesto and has been considered the go to work for those wanting to understand more about what CN means and where it hopes to go.

In the introduction of his book, Wolfe recognizes the need to define the term he’s working with. It should be noted that Wolfe, as we saw in our first post from this series, mentions CN is “word of derision used against groups of white evangelicals and Pentecostals in America. Few agree on what it means, though all agree that whatever it means, it is most certainly bad.” (TCCN, p. 5) Further, he adds, “It is no surprise that ‘Christian Nationalism’ is used in the context of the 2021 riot at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Associating the term with a widely condemned event gives the accusation of Christian nationalism tremendous weight in rhetoric. The term has socio-rhetorical power. The connotation is far more useful than its possible denotations.” (TCCN, pg. 6)

Wolfe’s reference to January 6 is a likely due to Congressional hearings and published reports linking January 6 and Christian Nationalism. In a hearing by the House select committee tasked with investigating these events, “District of Columbia police officer Daniel Hodges told the House select committee tasked with investigating the insurrection that ‘it was clear the terrorists perceived themselves to be Christians.’ Further, Hodges added, “It was clear the terrorists perceived themselves to be Christians,” Hodges said. “I saw the Christian flag directly to my front. Another read, ‘Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president.’ Another: ‘Jesus is king.’ … Another had crossed rifles beneath a skull, emblazoned with the pattern of the American flag.” (Ref 1, Ref 2) Congressman Adam Kinzinger added, “Had there not been some of these errant prophecies, this idea that God has ordained it to be Trump, I’m not sure January 6 would have happened like it did.” Kinzinger is referring to several popularized “prophecies” that were spread among the MAGA movement, specifically within elements of the Q/anon movement (most notable this from Kim Clement). Additionally, a February 9, 2022 report entitled, “Christian Nationalism at the January 6, 2021, Insurrection” was an effort by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), delineating the role Christian nationalism played in last year’s assault on the U.S. Capitol. If one were to do an internet search of J6 and Christian Nationalism the results linking the two would be legion. This particular version of CN, that Wolfe referenced and that we’ve laid out in the citations above, is the political wing of the movement that pre-dates Wolfe’s embrace and popularization of the term. This variety is essentially patriotism with a general, perhaps even deistic, embrace of God. The conservative right has for decades been intertwined with evangelicalism going back at least to the Moral Majority of the 1980’s. During election seasons, evangelicals become a political voting bloc, so naturally appeal is often made to their platitudes and talking points. The liberal left, pretending for a minute there is not a uniparty, have more recently become outspoken against this group, specifically as it has embraced MAGA and former President Donald Trump. As they are wont to do, they have of course added additional descriptors to this movement such as ‘white nationalist’, ‘extremist’, ‘far right’ and others no doubt for the purpose of branding the movement as a danger to democracy, specifically in light of J6.

Two of those labeled as “white nationalists” were subpoenaed by the aforementioned House committee on Jan. 29, 2022. Nick Fuentes and former ally Patrick Casey were both outside the capitol on January 6. Fuentes has been an online presence for some time and made more significant headlines in November of 2022 when he, at the behest of Milo Yiannopoulos, accompanied Kanye West to a dinner with Donald Trump. Whatever the intended goal of that meeting was, nevertheless, there was now on record a public encounter of Trump, with a purported Christian Nationalist, creating a media field day to be sure. Subsequent to this, West and Fuentes on December 1, 2022 appeared on Alex Jones’ show Infowars, further promoting a brand of Christians Nationalism that had strong anti-Jewish elements (read: antisemitism). This is not a point to be dismissed. In addition to this wild, anti-Jewish appearance, there have also been strong anti-Jewish comments from fellow Christian Nationalist and GAB CEO, Andrew Torba. Torba, who actually wrote his own book on CN, Christian Nationalism: A Biblical Guide For Taking Dominion And Discipling Nations (released Sept. 2022) has been unmoved by the pushback he has received for anti-Jewish remarks, though his comments need to be researched for themselves to see specifically who they are addressed to. My own experience supports a kind of weird uprising of anti-Jewish rhetoric on social media. Some time last year I joined Truth Social to follow news and happenings in the world. Seemingly overnight, a groundswell of anti-Jewish accounts and posts, primarily using memes, appeared. I engaged with these accounts many of whom were not only pushing a widespread Jewish cabal conspiracy (much like the 1920’s through the book Protocols of the Elders of Zion*), but were denying that Jews were actually Jews, instead coming from a line of Edomites, and denying that Jesus was Himself a Jew. These were not individual interactions, rather when you engaged with one account, 7 more would join in as a group attack. Every single time. Furthermore, around this same time we may recall a specific ad campaign, paid for in part by Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, and kicked off on the television show, The Voice. The campaign began with a blue square, “taking up 2.4% of your screen but representing so much more,” namely the Jewish people making up that percentage of the overall population. Since then, you may have noticed an increase in antisemitic ad commercials. Now, almost as if on cue, the geopolitical climate of our present day, with war breaking out in the Mid-East and pro-Palestine/Hamas rhetoric spreading, it is easy to see at least a surface level of coordination in all of this. Perhaps a discussion on the Hegelian dialectic is warranted here.

You may be asking, what if anything does this have to do with a review of Christian Nationalism, particularly as it pertains to Stephen Wolfe’s book? In a very real sense, it has everything to do with it. By citing the connection with J6 and the political wing of CN as Wolfe has done in his introduction, all the while willingly embracing the term, he shows that he is aware of the dangers, pitfalls, and consequences of adopting a name that is so loaded politically that it is literally on the radar for domestic terrorism. Further, it lumps everyone into the same CN camp, regardless of whether they know who Wolfe is or whether they are actually even Christian. When CN is spoken of by the liberal media, do you think they are going to look at Wolfe’s attempted redefinition based on his understanding of Reformed history? No, they’re going to look to Fuentes, and those who support Trump. Do you think they care whether someone is actually a Christian? Not at all. Is it then a bold move by Wolfe, and others, to embrace the term and redefine it as he attempts to do in the introduction to his book? Is it smart to rally support behind a movement that is one hot flash moment away from taking the blame for an even bigger event than J6? Nevertheless, this is what Wolfe has done. As we will see, he efforts to build on this term through an apparent attempt to historically recover its use and meaning. Again, we ought to pause and ask, given everything we’ve talked about in this post thus far, would anyone using the term in a negative sense today care at all how it may have been used in a positive sense in the past, say two hundred years ago? Absolutely not! On Wolfe’s part, this is either ignorance of the temperature in the political room or it is complicity to draw more people into a political snare that has real and dire consequences. Said simply, there is a political trap being set and its goal is to be cast far and wide with a particular aim at those who can be associated with CN. As Scripture believing Christians, we know that the world and Satan have their sights specifically set on Christians, indeed hate them. One of the timeless strategies is to catch Christians up in movements in order to brand them guilty by association. Our Lord reminds us in Matt. 10:16 as He sends His disciples out as sheep among the wolves to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

In the next post, we will begin to unpack how Wolfe attempts to (re)define Christian Nationalism.

*In the 1920’s-40’s many Christians, of the dispensational variety, were swept up in a storm of conflicted views between their own desire to see restoration of Jewish people to Israel, in order to usher in the return of Christ, and a conspiracy of a Jewish cabal that was attempting to take over the world, spread through works like Protocols. The result was a melting pot of pro-Zionism and antisemitism. When you consider that the heart of dispensationalism is theology of the restoration of Israel as the Jews go through the tribulation while the Christians are raptured, it isn’t difficult to see how this internal confliction of views took hold.

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Christian saved by grace through faith.

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