I’m currently working through Stephen Wolfe’s first book published by Canon Press: The Case for Christian Nationalism. So far, I have been impressed with the thoughtfulness the author has put into the work. He described it as a work of political theory rooted in the sixteenth and seventeenth century Protestant Reformation.
So far, Wolfe has spent next to zero time proving that the idea of “Christian Nationalism” is anything related to “white supremacy” or any other type of buzzword that immediately discredits someone’s work. And I think that is the correct approach.
The general rule of thumb ought to be, if someone calls you a racist, don’t even try to disprove it because that’s what the Marxists want you to do. You end up digging yourself a bigger hole. It’s better to pretend they just don’t exist and reject the entire premise.
Wolfe’s thesis centers around the idea that, in Christ, “grace does not destroy nature.” And he goes on to prove that since Genesis, man’s nature has always been to look after those he is closest to. His nearest community deserves all of his first efforts. Wolfe calls it “rightly ordered first loves.”
When I was considering this, I thought of the Titanic. A husband on the Titanic would love to see all of the women and children make it on board the life rafts and make it to safety but he is going to ensure that his wife and children make it on the life rafts first. The same goes for another husband. The second husband will also want to ensure that his own wife and children make it to the life rafts.
It is unnatural for husband #1 to go out of his way to ensure his neighbor’s family is secured before his own. That rightly ordered love, a proclivity to ensure your own survival, is natural and is embedded in mankind. The grace of the gospel perfects that nature.
However, there is an entire segment of American Christianity that posits that the gospel represents the image of husband #1 going out of his way to secure family #2 before his own are safe. Damage the good of your own so that someone else can be better off. This is how we get progressive Christians openly advocating for unfettered illegal immigration saying “Jesus was a refugee” and “Jesus was a brown immigrant.”
But the Bible clearly condemns this kind of thinking: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8, ESV).
Now, some will ask, “Is that not how Christ achieved his church? By sacrificing himself for the good of others?” Yes, obviously. But now Christ has a flock that he has to look after and keep from wolves. What Christ did on the cross was such an impactful event that it only occurred once in all of history that it literally split time in two (i.e. BC and AD).
While not putting words in Wolfe’s mouth, this is how I put 1 Timothy 5:8 and Wolfe’s point together: that the nation with a common culture is a type of family or household.
Wolfe’s assertion is that we ought to ensure that our nation, comprised of people that are similar in heritage, culture, history, language, true Christianity, etc., is secure before we go on securing the safety of other nations.
I think that this is the most uncontroversial take ever. But apparently American Christianity is all bent out of shape over thinking that our duty is first to those closest around us and most similar to us.
The war in Ukraine is a prime example. When Ukraine forcefully defends their nation and people against an invading nation, they are viewed as “defenders of democracy.” But God forbid if a rancher in South Texas forcefully defends his wife and children from MS-13 gang members who are pouring across the border who are threatening their lives and livelihood.
Everyone is allowed to preserve their own culture and people group except those deemed in opposition to the regime’s efforts.
Now, my main critique of Wolfe’s book so far is over the strategy of the use of the word “nationalism.” But not in the way it is commonly argued by the left.
As Timon Cline puts it in his column, Our Distinctly Protestant States, over at American Reformer, the United States was compacted under one banner and constitution as individual, sovereign colonies. Each state had its own sovereignty, armies, legislatures, and charters than declared themselves self-governing by the grace of God. Each state also had its own distinct culture, while still largely remaining under the umbrella of the common Anglo-American Protestant experience.
The idea of nationalism invokes a unified people group under one centralized government with a mission and aim that, as Wolfe puts it, is ordered for the people’s “earthly and heavenly good.”
I don’t disagree with that notion, I’m just uncertain if nationalism at the federal level ought to be the aim. Here’s what I mean: if the states are individual, sovereign states under one constitution, then nationalism should look like “Florida nationalism,” “Georgia nationalism,” “Texas nationalism,” etc.
My point is that nationalism is actually indicative of the mission of the individual states, rather than a federal vision. Nationalism could be the smaller-scale movement, but the federal movement is to reinvigorate the notion of a Christian republic or commonwealth, i.e., a collection of Christian states under one Christian banner. The United States are a republic of republics.
I think this idea is much more in line with the pre-1865 understanding of a decentralized Jeffersonian early republic.
I fundamentally don’t disagree with the idea of nationalism, but it just might be possible that Christian nationalism is the more localized effort, and the nation-wide effort could be restoring a Christian commonwealth.