How America Chose Christian Nationalism Over Traditional Patriotism

by Jennifer Keller-Puebla


 

America has finished celebrating it’s 243rd “birthday” and as a nation we have seldom been more divided.

Beyond just politics, Nationalism has been growing at an alarming rate dividing people within parties, within churches, and within families. Many would tell you they just love their country, that they are “patriotic”, but patriotism is very different from nationalism.

The word Nationalism is relatively new to America, appearing first in the later 1800’s, and is almost exclusively connected to politics. Patriotism is much older and refers more generally to a common emotional reaction or connection to country.

DifferenceBetween.net describes the two this way

Patriotism is based on affection and nationalism is rooted in rivalry and resentment. One can say that nationalism is militant by nature and patriotism is based on peace. Most nationalists assume that their country is better than any other, whereas patriots believe that their country is one of the best and can be improved in many ways. Patriots tend to believe in friendly relations with other countries while some nationalists don’t.

What is a the clear sign of a Nationalist vs a Patriot? It’s crossing the line to make demands of assimilated expression. 

Our country was built on the notion of individual freedom. The Founders felt it was so important that we as citizens maintain our voices, they built protections for protesting and free speech into our foundation.

As soon as you delegate or require acts you deem to be patriotic, persecute acts you believe unpatriotic, co-opt acts of patriotism for a specific group, or regulate the time and place of any of these you are singing the nationalist song of compliance.

Our Editor-in-Chief here at National Compass, Richard Cameron, wrote on the issue of forced patriotism a couple years ago

“Most common in the comments about athletes not participating in the pre-game observances, is a desire to see team owners deliver an ultimatum – “participate or be fired!”  The other is a variation of that. “I’m going to stop buying tickets or watching on TV until they get on board with patriotism.”

What does this really amount to?  In my view, it is a call to enforce tribalism and groupthink. Is that really patriotism?  It sounds to me rather more like policing patriotism, akin to religious enforcement in Islamic dominated societies. American Taliban-ism. It looks and feels at this point, less like devotion to the ideals that made America great, than mindless fetishism.  

One of America’s greatest poets and essayists, Ralph Waldo Emerson, was skeptical – “When a whole nation is roaring patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.”

Logo for "This Is America - Love It Or Leave It"

I believe authentic patriotism looks at the world and all of history and says “we’ve accomplished a lot but can still do better” and “our ultimate value as a nation is in what we can share not what we can horde”.  

Nationalism, on the other hand, says “I’ve no use for history outside of my nation. We make history” and “what’s mine is mine” and “the weak must go fend for themselves”.

 

Nationalism is the curmudgeon of ideologies. “America – Love it or Leave it!.” And of course, “Get off my lawn!”.

And while the Christian church has always been closely tied to patriotism, nationalism began creeping into the church heavily in the mid-20th century. 

The church became entangled in “forced patriotism” by connecting things like saying the Pledge of Allegiance with being a “good Christian”.    

 

In 1776 massive Bibles were printed  and sold which carried the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and biased history lessons. When I recently said these bordered on the sacrilegious because God loves all peoples equally and the Bible should stand alone as God’s word without celebrating a particular government, my Mother asked, “why do you not like your country.” She, and millions like her, couldn’t grasp a separation between America and God.

The false teaching of Dominionism and its offspring have brought about so entwined a thinking that people believe in order for Christ to return in His 2nd Coming, America must legislate morality to a sufficient point as to be “good enough” and until and unless laws are passed and these morals forced upon people (some even believe in executing those who don’t obey them), He just won’t return.

Many believe to attack America is to attack Jesus. That, somehow, we are His special nation despite the fact we were born from unBiblical rebellion.

They have erased the entire history of man outside the last few hundred years and practiced prolific revisionism on the history of our country. Their myopia frames everything in relation to this America, be it of a religious nature or not. 

America, not even mentioned in Biblical prophecy, has even become the standard and measure of the end times. I recently read where people being rude in a Walmart store, were a sign of the end times and when I mentioned the Danes going “a Viking” and suggested they let me know when there was a bloody slaughter on Aisle 5 to clean up, I was told I too was the “perfect example” of the end times drawing imminent.

Everything is measured only by America and usually an America of the imagination at that.

artist's conceptual image of the Stars and Stripes bordering a Golden Calf.

In his book “Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American”, Andrew Seidel says:

“Christian nationalists are historical revisionists bent on ‘restoring’ America to the Judeo-Christian principles on which they wish it was founded. They believe that secular America is a myth, and under the guise of restoration they seek to press religion into every crevice of the government.”

And “The single most accurate predictor of whether a person voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election was not religion, wealth, education, or even political party; it was believing the United States is and should be a Christian nation.”

This is not patriotism. This is the radical fandom of nationalism and it’s everywhere. Us against them and those of “us” who count against those who should leave. I’ve heard “conservatives need their own country.” OK. Well good luck with that.

photo of rallygoers at a Trump campaign event, where one attendee held up a sign saying, "Thank You Jesus for Donald Trump" and another woman in religious ecstasy, holds up her toddler for Trump to bless it.
Rallygoers at a Trump campaign rally in Mobile, Alabama in 2016, demonstrating the depth of their adulation for Donald Trump, of whom they identify as a Nationalist Savior.

These people are the Trekkies of modern politics.  And there are plenty of liberals who would love nothing more than a country of “their own” as well.  Yes, you can be a Nationalist Liberal, every bit as set in your “my way or the highway” attitudes.

So here we are. We have Nationalists acting like little league parents screaming and throwing punches because their kid is the greatest who can do no wrong and we have patriots who just want to see their kid do their best and for everyone to enjoy the game. We can practice the peace and inclusiveness of patriotism or the aggressiveness and stagnation of nationalism.

We were born, as a nation, (in concept if not always in practice) with our arms outstretched saying “Come help us build a better way. Let’s live and strive together here and with all the world.” and that was truly something of which to be proud. Now we have those in our highest government and religious offices who say “We have arrived! We are better than everyone else! They can suffer!” And they say it even to other Americans.

Why do I not like my country? I don’t dislike it. I hate many of the things the government of my country has done. I hate the attitudes of many of my fellow citizens. I consider myself a member of the human race above being an American.

And the Bible, which I choose to subscribe to, tells me my citizenship is in Heaven not in the country I happened to be born in on this earth. 

I’m proud of the good we’ve done as a nation and we have done a lot of good. But I don’t worship at the flag.  We’ve come a long way but there is room for improvement. I am, at least to a degree, a Patriot. And it’s as a Patriot, and as a Christian that I wish no one was a Nationalist.

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One Thought to “How America Chose Christian Nationalism Over Traditional Patriotism”

  1. MarlaHughes

    You get a lot wrong, starting with defining nationalism and patriotism in ways that aren’t accurate to bolster your position.
    Nationalism: My country, right or wrong.
    Patriotism: My country is best but can be wrong.
    Nationalism is about the land mass.
    Patriotism is about the governing principles.
    So, while someone who condemns illegal immigration *can be* nationalistic, it can also and often is stem from patriotism as well. It’s all in the motivation for supporting different laws and legislation.

    Moving on to dominionism, far too many are defining dominionism as anything they don’t like about Christianity. The majority of Trumpsters who practice dominionism* are also adherents of the “Prosperity Gospel”. Kenneth Copeland. Joel Osteen. Creflo Dollar. Benny Hinn and his ex wife, Paula White, Trump’s “spiritual advisor”
    *They are a minority w/in a minority of Trumpsters. The majority of his supporters are nominal Christians and/or pagan Odin worshipers from 4chan.

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