Donald Trump and the Nationalist Christian Movement
February 29, 2016 3 Comments
Without the support of Christians across the nation—without the support of evangelical Christians—Donald Trump would long ago have cancelled his candidacy. He could not have achieved his monumental success without them. Christians must urgently consider whether they may now be complicit in the future demise of the America they say they love.
This will sound alarmist to some. But Donald Trump’s own campaign slogan is “Make America Great Again.” What he envisions, without much in the way of specifics, is a New America. His critics have commented on the negative and bombastic tone of his campaign, and his supporters have either ignored or celebrated this aspect of the demagogue’s character. But few have commented on the crassly Nationalist sentiment he trumpets.
Nationalism must not be confused with patriotism. The Nationalism I speak of raises national interests to the level of idolatry in the name of patriotism. Patriotism reflects a spirit of pride in the benefits of one’s country. Nationalism is a political ideology. It defers to the charismatic whims of a demagogue whose rhetoric is sometimes subtly, and sometimes blatantly, seditious. It derives its energy from intense emotion that is manufactured through mass manipulation. It plays on the anger of citizens who feel they have been disenfranchised and want to take their country back. Often it results in fascism, of one form or another.
With the rise of Trump there has arisen an almost militant nationalist sentiment among Christians. We may actually be witnessing the emergence of a Nationalist Christian Movement. The Trump phenomenon is strong indication of this. And it is cause for concern. If I’m right, Trump isn’t the problem. The problem is that so many Christians are willing to follow an unprincipled, morally bankrupt, ambitious, and egomaniacal character along the path to imagined bliss. His character, which is no secret, says something about what he thinks is good for this country, what it would mean to make America great again.
Socially conservative Christians have long complained that their cultural influence has been compromised. But today, on the eve of Super Tuesday 2016, they have it within their power to stop Donald Trump in his tracks overnight. This is because without them he wouldn’t be where he is in the polls. And as long as they are with him, as long as they zealously trumpet his persona and uncertain promises, they are responsible for his meteoric rise, and they will be responsible for whatever version of America he considers “great,” if he wins the general election. Christians have never been better positioned to make a difference—for better or for worse.
Less than a hundred years ago, Christians in Germany faced a parallel situation. Angered by their military, economic, and cultural marginalization, many forged an alliance with a Nationalist regime that resulted in Nazi fascism. For them at the time, German Nationalism was Christian Nationalism at its best. Nationalism has often been a stepping stone to diverse forms of fascism.
Don’t think it can’t happen here. Don’t think Christians would never fall for that sort of thing. And don’t think that a Christian Nationalist Movement isn’t already gaining momentum. Someday we may even witness the sad emergence of a Christian Nationalist Party.