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Is Christian Nationalism Christian?

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Päivi Räsänen, a member of the Finnish Parliament, is currently on trial, charged with hate crimes against a minority group. To be specific, Räsänen is being accused of violating a Finnish law that prohibits “War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.” According to state prosecutors, Räsänen committed the crime by quoting the Bible in support of traditional understandings of human nature and sexuality.   

While prosecutors claim that they’re not attempting to restrict religion per se, only certain public expressions, they are attempting to decide what can and cannot be said and done in the name of religion. In fact, the prosecution openly admitted that “[t]he point” of their case “isn’t whether [what Räsänen said] is true or not but that it is insulting” (emphasis added). 

This important case will carry dangerous precedent for just how free the Free World remains. Christians and others concerned with liberty of conscience should support Räsänen and ADF International as they champion the first freedom in what is ostensibly a Christian nation. While everyone in Finland “technically” enjoys full religious freedom, it is only in the sense that no one is required to be a part of the state church. Both the dominant Lutheranism and the minority Eastern Orthodoxy there are privileged and receive tax funds from their members. However, this official faith has not kept Finns from drifting further into atheism and relativism, nor has it prevented the open hostility to religion evidenced in this egregious court case. As Dr. Andrew Walker tweeted about the trial, “The Christian Nationalist regime of Finland is currently persecuting and prosecuting a Christian Member of Parliament for daring to quote the Bible.”   

Such is the problem when Christian is “in-name-only,” whether nations or individuals. Being “officially” Christian, in other words, isn’t the same as actually being one. And this goes for “nationalism,” too.  

We may appreciate a royal event that showcases the beauty of a deeply Christian liturgy to rest of the world and consider that a type of Christian nationalism, but other types are far more unsettling. For example, a Russian Orthodox priest recently blessed an image of notorious dictator and persecutor Joseph Stalin, saying that Christians should be grateful that Stalin “created” so many martyrs.  

Whether we’re talking about the Finns, the English, the Russians, or the Americans, the claim to be a Christian nation does not a Christian nation make. Even more important is defining the idea and determining if the idea of a Christian nation is even biblical, and in what sense. More than a few European nations remain Christian on paper, with laws that enshrine the Christian faith in a privileged position. However, many of these nations are among the most secular in the world, with church attendance falling consistently for the past few decades. At the same time, those voices that praise the demise of “Christendom” will soon realize just what the cultural rejection of Christianity entails. 

The relationship between Church and state and culture is and has always been contentious. The recent cultural debate about the term “Christian nationalism” is confusing because participants in the debate tend to use mutually exclusive definitions of the term. For some, it’s idolatry and a confusion of Gospel mission. For others, it’s faithfulness– and the only thing remaining to prevent our children’s co-option into an increasingly immoral culture. There are many questions that must be answered, for example:

With the culture and state so hostile to the Church, isn’t it time to stand up for ourselves? Will nations exist in heaven? If God made the nations, then why have some disappeared? Even if Christian nationalism has its issues, is it the lesser of two evils? Why do critics of Christian nationalism only complain about partisanship when it’s conservatives getting political? Is there a way we can be faithful in the public square without getting labeled “Christian nationalist”? Is longing for our nation to become more Christian the same as being a Christian nationalist? Weren’t all Christians Christian nationalists until the American Revolution? 

On September 26, the Colson Center is launching Breakpoint Forums, digital discussions about topics that matter. The first Breakpoint Forum will deal with this contentious idea of Christian nationalism. Joining me for this online discussion will be R.R. Reno, the editor-in-chief of First Things, an important journal of Christian thought, and Hunter Baker, professor of political science and dean at Union University. This online event will be September 26 at 8 p.m., ET. Registration is free, but you must sign up at breakpoint.org/forum.  

All who register will receive a link to the recording of the forum after it’s over.  

This Breakpoint was co-authored by Dr. Timothy Padgett. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to breakpoint.org.

Publication date: September 12, 2023

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/200mm 

John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and radio host of BreakPoint, a daily national radio program providing thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.


BreakPoint is a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. BreakPoint commentaries offer incisive content people can't find anywhere else; content that cuts through the fog of relativism and the news cycle with truth and compassion. Founded by Chuck Colson (1931 – 2012) in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends. Today, you can get it in written and a variety of audio formats: on the web, the radio, or your favorite podcast app on the go.


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