[T]he notion that the U.S. of A. is a Christian nation, or was a Christian nation, or should be, a Christian nation, is pure propaganda; not to mention unconstitutional. As Christians, we should stop trying to pretend otherwise.
–The Rev. Henry Galganowicz
Whose law takes precedence?
The rise of Christian nationalism in the U.S. has reached shockingly ugly proportions, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently citing Romans 13 in support of the atrocious practice of separating immigrant children from their parents at the Mexico-U.S. border.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later parroted the same idea: “It is very biblical to enforce the law.”
Although Romans 13 begins with “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities” (v. 1), it leads to verse 10: “Love does no harm to a NEIGHBOR. Therefore LOVE is the fulfillment of the law” (NIV). See Lev. 19:18; Matt. 5:43-45; 19:18-19; 22:36-40; Luke 10:27; Rom. 13:9; James 2:8-9.
The current administration’s practices of tearing our neighbors’ children from their parents and refusing to impose gun control measures while our own children are slaughtered in schools demonstrate that it favors the letter over the spirit of the law—the law of its own making, not the law of God.
God told the Hebrew people He delivered from Egypt, “You reside in my land as foreigners and strangers” (Lev. 15:23 NIV) and “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 22:21 NKJV).
In whatever nation we live, if we truly belong to God, we are no more than strangers in a strange land (Ex. 2:22).
The idol of Christian nationalism: the abomination of desolation (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15)
While Moses communed with God on Mt. Sinai to receive the holy word, the Law, God’s supposed followers reveled in worshiping the golden calf, an idol of their own making (Ex. 32).
On Memorial Day, I visited an evangelical church where the organist played many hymns that glorified American patriotism and the military, with nothing extolling the Godhead—on Trinity Sunday. The Christian flag stood in one corner of the platform; the U.S. flag in the other.
I would not have been surprised if a golden calf were displayed on the altar between the offering plates.
Just as it took hold in Nazi Germany, Christian nationalism has become an idol of many in the U.S. Church, causing us to turn a blind eye to our neighbors.
The law of the land vs. God’s law
Although Apostle Paul advised obeying governmental authorities and being good citizens, he in no way promoted breaking God’s law or acting against the love and character of Christ. In fact, he was imprisoned many times for his preaching.
When Peter and John were hauled before the religious authorities for healing a lame man in the Temple, they replied to the leaders, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29 NIV)
Because the early Christians did not join in worshiping the Roman emperor or celebrating the pantheon of pagan gods, they were vilified, persecuted, and even executed for following the law of God over that of human governments.
Although we are called to pursue peace and to obey the laws of the nations in which we live, when these laws depart from commands of Christ and the love and mercy of God toward our neighbors, we must choose whom we will serve.
Strangers and aliens in this world
God does not favor the U.S. over other nations. (See Deut. 10:17; 2 Chron. 19:7; Acts 10:34; Luke 4:25-27.)
If we truly are followers of Christ, born from above (John 3:5), God “has rescued us from [out of] the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Col. 1:13 NIV).
We belong to the King and are members of His Kingdom, to whom we now owe primary allegiance. This is what biblical heroes of the faith were commended for.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were FOREIGNERS and STRANGERS on earth.
14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.
15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.
16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
–Hebrews 11:13-16 NIV
By accepting and following Christ, we have abandoned our earthly citizenship for a heavenly one.
The U.S. church must renounce its earthly citizenship
American Christians must be forsake the “American Dream,” patriotic nationalism, worship of guns and the military, its veneration of white supremacy, oppressive patriarchy, and the ungodly policy of “America first”—as well as all the systems, beliefs, and practices that have distorted the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matt. 24:14). When it does, scales will fall from its eyes (Acts 9:18).
As we renounce our worldly associations and accept our heavenly citizenship, we will begin to operate in the Kingdom as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) and be freed from the spirit of the world (1 Cor. 2:12)—a world in which America the beautiful is not “one nation under God,” but like all nations, “under control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).
The golden calf was burned and ground to powder in judgment, and the people forced to drink it (Ex. 32:20). Those who forsake the Lord’s Kingdom for the kingdoms of this world will likewise drink the cup of God’s wrath (Jer. 25:15-16; Rev. 14:10). Judgment begins with the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17).
25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?
26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”
27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are RECEIVING A KINGDOM that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,
29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”
–Hebrews 12:28-29 NIV
God is shaking the world and its immoral institutions. When the American idol crashes, only the “aliens and strangers” (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11) will remain untouched because they are no longer citizens of this world.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
–Philippians 3:20 NIV
If we have received Christ as Savior and Lord—King—we are no longer citizens of this world or its corrupt nations. Since we are members of what cannot be shaken, we can remain steadfast in the Lord as the fallen world system around us crumbles.
When the nations of this world collapse, those who did not turn from the golden calf to embrace God’s word, who refused to renounce their citizenship with the world, also will have scales torn from their eyes. They will see their nation for what it was and mourn that they had trusted in it. See Rev. 18:9-24.
Although everything will be shaken, we must cling to what remains—God’s heavenly Kingdom, where our true citizenship resides.
Micah 6:8 says, “[God] has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV).
Obeying the law of the land where we can, we must nonetheless honor first the laws of God and live according to the righteousness of Christ so that His Kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as in heaven (Matt. 6:10). God has called us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 22 NIV).