The upcoming presidential election has reignited buzzwords many of us have already come across: Christian nationalism. But what is it, and why does defining our terms matter?

Say what you will about these two men, but I recently came across an interesting podcast episode by Tucker Carlson interviewing pastor Doug Wilson on this very topic. The critical part of the interview is linked above, but the full interview can be listened to here. Doug is a pastor at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho and is the author of many books, including Mere Christendom: The Case for Bringing Christianity Back into Modern Culture – Leading by Faith to Convert Secularism (2023). I don’t know much about Doug personally, but a quick Google search displays some pretty hefty titles: apparently he’s a “white supremacist” and “bigoted Christian nationalist.” Of course, these terms don’t mean much these days, but they attempt to paint the picture that Doug is someone we should not be listening to—the consequence of using one’s platform to go against the grain and challenge secular culture today.

Despite receiving criticism by both Christians and non-Christians alike, Doug does not shy away from the name Christian nationalist. In fact, he embraces it. Why? Because, unlike those who use the term as a cancel-causing slur, Doug can give a coherent definition that comes from his biblical worldview which can be broken down as such:

Christian = God is above the State + Imposed morality (laws) should come from God

Nationalism = The national structure of our country (i.e., independent and sovereign state, as opposed to a tribalist or globalist structure)

Christian Nationalism = The support of a sovereign nation that formulates its laws around Christian morality

Admittedly, there are a lot of additional terms there that require their own definitions, but I believe it gets Doug’s point across. Perhaps the most controversial part of this definition is that of our country’s laws; a common criticism is that Christians should not be imposing their morality on others. However, Doug explains that this is exactly what law is—a judgement on morality.

The important decision before us is this: what morality? And for Christian nationalists, why the Christian one over the secularist?

Doug makes the argument that the Judeo-Christian heritage, unlike any other belief system or worldview, makes the unique contribution of allowing both order and liberty in society. He also argues that the verdict is out: Christianity does a much better job of protecting this order and liberty than the secularist approach. Praxis Circle, including many of our Contributors, are sympathetic to this view and think that thousands of years of history support this. Below are some clips from our Contributor interviews discussing these ideas:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you look up the definition of Christian nationalism, one popular Christianity Today article pops up. The reader will quickly realize that their definition (of both Christian nationalism and nationalism itself) is a far cry from that of Doug Wilson, and their explanation of why this viewpoint is dangerous is particularly telling:

Christian nationalism tends to treat other Americans as second-class citizens. If it were fully implemented, it would not respect the full religious liberty of all Americans. Empowering the state through “morals legislation” to regulate conduct always carries the risk of overreaching, setting a bad precedent, and creating governing powers that could be used later be used against Christians. Additionally, Christian nationalism is an ideology held overwhelmingly by white Americans, and it thus tends to exacerbate racial and ethnic cleavages. In recent years, the movement has grown increasingly characterized by fear and by a belief that Christians are victims of persecution. Some are beginning to argue that American Christians need to prepare to fight, physically, to preserve America’s identity, an argument that played into the January 6 riot.

The bold is my emphasis. Some food for thought: What is our country doing today, if not its own secular “morals legislation”? Is not all law an attempt to “regulate conduct”? Surely Christians can have the opinion that the secular State is not above the wisdom of God, and that there are biblical structures that can best promote the liberty and flourishing of each American citizen—Christian or not? In any case, does any morally neutral space exist for any worldview imposed by law (often called “God’s eye view,” as a term or art)?

We do not think such a morally neutral space exists. In any case, name calling is a bad idea. Finally, the idea that self-described “Christian nationalists” like Doug Wilson or those on the mainstream Right (as problematic as that term is) are fascists is absolute nonsense.

The Christian and Enlightenment secular worldviews created our American rights and duties. Fascists believe in large totalitarian government, and the vast majority of traditional American Christians believe in limited government, the kind instituted by the Constitution. See this short video or this book as references here.

If nothing else, this issue shows why definitions are so important in worldview analysis, truth seeking, and language in general. Whether you agree with Doug Wilson’s view of Christian nationalism or not, we have to keep in mind that it is just that: one view (out of many) on the role of government. It’s not some scary group planning forced conversions and charting a path towards The Handmaid’s Taleas much as the political far Left wants you to believe that. There is much room to suspect that these “Christian nationalists” are mostly just rational citizens who aren’t afraid to articulate logical conclusions resulting from their particular worldview.