“Who do you say that I am?”, asked Jesus. “You are the Christ!”, declared Peter. This was a big moment for Jesus’ original disciples. It was finally out in the open and confirmed by Jesus that Jesus was indeed the Messiah–a chosen man of God foretold in the Old Testament. Great! What does a Messiah actually do? The disciples and the society around them had a definite idea about what the Messiah does. He will liberate Israel from its political oppressors and establish a Jewish earthly kingdom that will endure forever. Jesus had other ideas. Jesus knew his mission was to fulfill God’s law on behalf of all humanity and to pay the ultimate price for humanity’s sins. This would take the leverage Satan held over God and man away. It would create an opportunity for all people, regardless of race or time, to have eternal life.
Jesus would establish a kingdom. It just would not be a part of this current world in a formal sense. It would be in Heaven and then it would fully occupy the New Earth. For the time being, the Kingdom of God would be an associated group of individuals from every nation: no borders, no political structure, no armies, none of that stuff. Future countries would identify themselves as Christian, but they would never be the Kingdom of God. Often they wouldn’t be very Christian. Even the visible Church hierarchies would not be synonymous with the Kingdom of God. Hopefully, they would do the work of the Kingdom, and act like the Kingdom; but just like nations, denominations are often poor representatives.
What about the United States? Many argue that this is a special Christian nation or should be. That the Constitution is founded on Christian principles, so therefore Christianity should hold a special place in the workings of the country. The idea is called Christian Nationalism. It is an ideology that has good and bad ideas, but like anything that is partially right, it is in the end false.
Israel was originally a theocracy. It was created as a nation to be lead by God and solely a nation for God’s purposes. Many nations have official religions. Some, like Iran, are ruled ultimately by clerics. Other nations have powerful movements that want the majority religion to define the nation. India is an example of this. The United States was founded by people who were part of diverse Christian groups. Some of the values espoused by Christianity are in the Constitution, but it was meant to be a country separated from the Church. Above all, it was meant to be a country of maximum freedom. As such, it is been hypocritical if it were a Christian nation. It has been hypocritical to its own Constitution.
Christians should want their nation (whatever nation we are talking about) to promote the value of every person, freedom with responsibility, justice for all and many other Christian values. These things are good for people and the working of civilization regardless of one’s religious beliefs. But we can not legislate saving faith. It is impossible. You can’t even legislate real morals. The best you can do is enforce laws that put up a curb against undesirable outward behavior. The definition of what constitutes moral behavior is something we would wish to influence, because human nature’s definition eventually ends up being destructive. But Christian’s do well to remember that the United States is not the Kingdom of God. Jesus did not wish to establish an earthly Kingdom prior to Judgment Day. Consequently, dreams of Christian Nationalism need to be tempered. Having a secular nation where religious ideas cannot even be expressed is not the vision espoused by the Constitution, nor is a country where Christianity is the official religion.
Oddly, Christians have always operated better as a minority. We fight with each other less, we are focused on sharing the Gospel, we reflect the character of God better, we are less hypocritical and more disciplined. Being a persecuted minority is even better, though less fun. You have to trust in God as a persecuted minority. You don’t expect your government to reflect you.
The majority of the work of the Kingdom of God is work that changes individuals. Faith in Jesus comes from God working with an individual. Godly living happens because God’s character is formed in us. We don’t even need a law to tell us what to do and not to do. Among those outside of the Kingdom of God, we would insist on justice, kindness, and mercy both from the public and from the government. We should exercise great care to not associate our causes with candidates or parties that only seek to pander to us to gain our support or to associate with those who have perverse goals in order to gain political power. It would be better to pursue our goals without politics.
Christian Nationalism is not a goal. It will only damage our witness of the love and salvation that comes through Christ.