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There is an axiom that warns, “Never discuss religion and politics.” Ignoring that, I submit this topic for debate.
The Issue: Mixing religion with politics
The Position: Conservative Christian nationalism in the United States is not consistent with biblical values and will drive more people away from Christianity than to it.
I begin with the declaration that I am a believer in Jesus Christ, commonly known as a Christian. However, I am unlike many who also identify as Christians and would be identified by those folks as a ‘liberal’. I live and work among the people of the Bible Belt, where conservative evangelical Christianity dominates the landscape geographically, socially and politically. In the recent election cycle, this region of the country overwhelmingly supported a political candidate who appealed to their desire to preserve a certain way of life that they are comfortable with, largely based on distorted interpretation of biblical teachings. I would argue that those distorted interpretations of scripture have—instead of developing a base of Christ-followers who desire to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:18)—created a group of people who have substituted American core values (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) for the Christ-mandated values of self-sacrifice, service to others and the willingness to endure suffering.
I believe that this substitution of the American Dream for the call of Jesus will ultimately be the driving force in the marginalization of Christianity in this country—and, through that process, the world. The only means of reversal is for Christians to wake up from this nationalistic focus and return to the core teachings of the faith:
“…to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Malachi 6:8)
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:19-20)
The instructions throughout the Bible to the followers of Jesus are clear: do not become so enamored with the preservation of your national security that you lose sight of the greater mission. People matter more than borders or even our personal comfort.
I am a human being. I am a Christian. I am an American. In that order. My instincts should always be to value other humans above all and to show allegiance to my faith before taking any nationalistic issues into consideration. If something is harmful to other people and is against the core teachings of my faith, then I reject it, regardless of the political consequences of that decision. I fear that many American Christians have forgotten that—to the detriment of the faith.
In the instances where this subject has come up, any attempt to debate this usually devolves into personal attacks that accuse me of not really being a Christian. That in itself is discouraging because it fails to face the difficult chore of ratifying Jesus’ teachings with our core American values. But, I always welcome opposing viewpoints that address the subject and avoid personally attacking my authenticity as a Christian.