I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the United States of America and the Kingdom of God, about Christian Nationalism and Jesus Following.
I’m grateful I live in the United States. I see the privilege I’ve enjoyed as a white girl living in this country. ’ve benefited from the sacrifices of other people throughout history and from the systems in place that I had nothing to do with. When I look around the world, I know that I’ve had a pretty easy life here in the USA. So today, I will celebrate the good things about this country and my good fortune to have been born here (and we can talk about the problematic parts of our history and the things we certainly need to improve upon in a different post because we can love something AND want it to get better).
Anyway — back to Christian Nationalism and the Kingdom of God. Maybe Christian Nationalism is really a growing phenomenon or maybe I just see it more clearly now because I’m not stuck in the middle of it — a forest and tree sort of situation. But I see Christian Nationalism as a real obstacle to truly following Jesus and proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
Because Christian Nationalism — or if you’d rather, we can call it Extreme Patriotism — is so at odds with Jesus’ Kingdom, it’s impossible to be all about both.
Ok, what do I mean when I say “Christian Nationalism”? It’s the idea that America is primarily defined by Christianity and the government’s role is to protect Christianity’s privileged position. Christian Nationalism is an intertwining of allegiance to God and country with the allegiance to country coming out on top at times. Christian Nationalism mixes up some of the terms and phrases and principles and promises about the Kingdom of Heaven (or about Old Testament Israel) and claims those for the United States of America specifically. It equates policies and practices and political opinions and party alliance with “God’s Will” or with Christianity.
And in recent years specifically, I’ve seen Christian Nationalism used to marginalize people with other beliefs or followers of other religions or people who do follow Jesus but don’t interpret scripture the same as one sect of Christianity. Christian Nationalism tends toward being militaristic and authoritarian, with a strong focus on self and individual rights.
But when I read the Bible, this isn’t anything at all what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like.
The Kingdom of Heaven is all about the reign and leadership of Jesus. It’s about being poor in spirit, humble, meek, pure in heart. It’s about extravagant forgiveness and scandalous inclusivity. The Kingdom of Heaven is not nitpicky about rules or a flaunting of freedom, but it’s about righteousness and peace and joy. Jesus’ Kingdom isn’t about one country or one continent or even one planet – it’s not of this world. The Kingdom of God is good news to be proclaimed to everyone, everywhere. (Matthew 5, 6, 18, 20, Luke 8, 15, John 18, Romans 14)
Because the Kingdom of Heaven is about Jesus’ reign, it’s about following Jesus’ teaching and example —-
–being willing to set aside my rights for the benefit of others
–laying down my own life and privileges for others to know God or to be able to live their lives
–giving up my possessions in order to serve others
–caring for those with less than myself
–including the outcasts and the excluded
–not seeing earthly power or gain
–breaking rules that exist for the sake of the rule and focusing on love
–seeking out the lonely and the poor and the marginalized
–crossing borders, not paying attention to cultural or political prejudices
Jesus’ disciples included a tax collector who worked for the government and a Zealot who ferociously opposed the government, fishermen who were looked down upon and a wealthy landowner who enjoyed great privilege. Jesus praised the faith of a Roman soldier and the faith of a poor widow. Jesus touched the unclean and taught the rejected and welcomed the powerful who would humble themselves enough to learn from him.
Jesus’ Kingdom is vast and inclusive. It’s not limited to one political party or affiliation. It’s not limited to one country or one way of seeing the world. The Kingdom of God is beyond this world. And it is what we are supposed to seek first.
So, yes, I’m thankful to live in the United States, and I’m celebrating the birth of this country today. But because my allegiance is to God and God’s Kingdom, I will not conflate my love for this country with my love for God. And I will continue to call out the ways this country needs to improve and the things we’ve gotten wrong in the past and how we can correct them now.
And when the choice comes between loving this country and its borders or loving people in this world, I hope I choose the way of Jesus every single time.