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Why I Am a Christian Patriot but Not a Christian Nationalist


House Democrats are expected to vote today on a measure calling for President Trump to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment. They also plan to vote Wednesday to impeach the president.

An FBI memo is warning law enforcement across the US of possible armed protests at all fifty state Capitols beginning this Saturday. And the Pentagon has authorized up to fifteen thousand National Guardsmen to support local law enforcement before and during the presidential inauguration on January 20.

Despite all the turmoil that America is experiencing, I am an American patriot.

A patriot but not a nationalist

Webster defines a “patriot” as “a person who loves his or her country and is ready to boldly support and defend it.” My father fought for America in World War II and his father in World War I. I am unspeakably grateful for their sacrifices and those of millions of others who served and died so that I can live in freedom.

Every time I travel overseas, when I return I thank God for the privilege of living in America. I love our country and want God’s best for her.

However, while I am a Christian patriot, I am not a Christian nationalist.

As we noted yesterday, many are blaming evangelicals for the Capitol riots and calling on us to repudiate “Christian nationalism.” There are many ways to understand this term, but a common definition is that “the United States was founded as a Christian nation and must continue to be one.”

This subject is far more complex than we have space to discuss fully, but I will note that nations are geopolitical entities with borders, populations, and governments. By contrast, a Christian is a person who has trusted in Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. A nation cannot do this.

As a result, neither America nor any other nation can logically be a “Christian nation.” It is true that many Americans are Christians. We should pray and work for more Americans to become Christians. But from its founding to today, our nation cannot by biblical definition be a “Christian” nation.

The only reference to religion in the Constitution is in Article VI: “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” God is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, of course, with its famous affirmation that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” But these words were written by a man who denied the deity of Jesus and dismissed biblical miracles as myth.

Washington and Adams on faith and morality

While neither America nor any other nation can be “Christian” by biblical definition, it is true that America was founded within the context of the Judeo-Christian worldview.

President George Washington declared in his 1796 “Farewell Address”: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” President John Adams wrote in 1798, “We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion” and added, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

It should not be our goal as Christians to “make America a Christian nation again” since no nation can be Christian by definition. But it should be our goal to lead as many people as possible to make Jesus their Lord, knowing that the morality that results from following Christ is vital to our democracy and the common good.

Three ways to help people follow Jesus

What steps will help more Americans trust Christ?

One: Trust Jesus not just for our salvation but also, as I noted yesterday, for personal sanctification that draws others to our Lord.

Two: Trust Jesus to change human hearts, something no political leader or party can do.

No president or party can convict of sin or save souls. While Christians most definitely should participate in public service and the political process, we should do so as a means to the end of serving and glorifying Jesus, all the while praying and working to share our faith as persuasively and graciously as we can (1 Peter 3:15–16).

Three: Love Jesus enough to love everyone he loves and thus do the hard work of influencing our culture one person at a time.

For instance, I believe passionately that abortion on demand should be illegal in America and pray for the day when it is overturned by the Supreme Court. But on that day, abortion would still be legal in twenty-eight states. While we should work to end legalized abortion, we should also love and care for pregnant women in our community who might choose to end their babies’ lives today.

“I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision”

Jesus gave Paul this commission to the nations: “To open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18). Now our Lord has extended this commission to us.

The apostle could testify in response, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (v. 19).

When this day is over, will you be able to say the same?

Publication date: January 12, 2020

Photo courtesy: Thomas Kelley/Unsplash

Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries. Denison Ministries includes,,, and Jim speaks biblically into significant cultural issues at Denison Forum. He is the chief author of The Daily Article and has written more than 30 books, including The Coming Tsunamithe Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series, and The Fifth Great Awakening.

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

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