June 26th, 2022

How Christian Nationalism Differs from Christianity and Patriotism


You’ve probably seen headlines recently about the evils of Christian nationalism, especially since December’s Jericho March in Washington, DC, and since a mob of Trump supporters—many sporting Christian signs, slogans, or symbols—rioted and stormed the US Capitol building on January 6.

What is Christian nationalism, and how is it different from Christianity? How is it different from patriotism? How should Christians think about nations, especially about the United States? If nationalism is bad, does that mean we should reject nationality and national loyalty altogether?

What is patriotism, and is it good?

Patriotism is the love of country. It is different from nationalism, which is an argument about how to define our country. Christians should recognize that patriotism is good because all of God’s creation is good and patriotism helps us appreciate our particular place in it. Our affection and loyalty to a specific part of God’s creation help us do the good work of cultivating and improving the part we happen to live in. As Christians, we can and should love the United States—which also means working to improve our country by holding it up for critique and working for justice when it errs.

What is nationalism?

There are many definitions of nationalism and an active debate about how best to define it. I reviewed the standard academic literature on nationalism and found several recurring themes. Most scholars agree that nationalism starts with the belief that humanity is divisible into mutually distinct, internally coherent cultural groups defined by shared traits like language, religion, ethnicity, or culture. From there, scholars say, nationalists believe that these groups should each have their own governments; that governments should promote and protect …

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