The Mud Is for Your Hands

We have come to the point in the Christian Nationalism conversation where we need a little clarity and a great deal of courage. We don’t need clarity in every nook and cranny. You can’t rush the process on this one. We have a lot to work out when it comes to recovering Christian order in our land and we’re not simply working things out on a white board. We’re repairing this ship while we are on it. Many saints know this vessel is glorious and broken. And there we are standing on the deck of this boat discussing not only the fundamental changes which are in order, but also how to implement those changes such that we won’t be sent straight down to Davy Jones’s Locker. 

So we can’t have clarity on all of the parts. But we do need clarity on who is actually laboring for cultural reformation and who is just dreaming about it. I have a modest proposal that might bring such clarity, but before getting to it, a little background. Into the situation outlined in the previous paragraph, Stephen Wolfe has written the book The Case for Christian Nationalism. There has been quite a stir on deck and we really needed that stir. I was afforded one of those advanced reader copies and kept chuckling to myself that this stir, perhaps ruckus is better suited, was indeed coming and I was quite looking forward to it. I was looking forward to it, but I did start singing Johnny Cash’s If I Had a Hammer even before the book released. I thought things might get a little spicey and found myself going on with: “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning. I’d hammer in the evening, all over this land. I’d hammer out danger. I’d hammer out warning. I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land.”

Now the warning I was longing to hammer out was not a warning about Wolfe’s book. It was a warning about Christians staying out of the flesh when they read and responded to some of the arguments in Wolfe’s book, it was a warning about keeping the love between the brothers and the sisters amid a strong and first proposal of how to adjust given the dangerous trajectory our nation is on. I was expecting rigorous engagement and there has been some of that. But there has also been more than a bit of sassy dismissiveness and added to this has been the Thomas Achord affair. These latter events have muddied the waters and they give rise to a particular temptation into which Reformed Evangelicals have been prone to fall. That temptation is the temptation to distance yourself from a good endeavor, one you actually agree with, simply because of what people might think of you. That temptation is to pull back into pure thought world so that you don’t have to deal with the situation on the ground in front of you. 

On an individual level that looks like a guy saying to you, “I am sympathetic to some sort of recovery of theism in public square, but I can’t get on board with the Christian nationalism thing.” The important thing to remember being that the guy saying this to you cannot distinguish between whatever he is for and “the Christian nationalism thing.” He just knows that Christian nationalism has cooties because Wolfe wrote a book with that title and Achord, his friend, had a racist anonymous Twitter account. This rebuke of course does not go for the man who can actually articulate the doctrinal difference he has with Wolfe’s positions.

On an institutional and organizational level, you have the same problem in trickier form. When there is a sociological event like the one we have had in the Achord affair, Christian institutions and organizations often go into “protect and grow our institution” mode rather than “speak the truth and labor for reformation” mode. Mudslinging works like a charm on our Christian institutions. They don’t exactly like to get muddy. That mud would smudge their marketing campaign designed around Nehemiah’s wall building labors. The blisters have to stay in the pictures.

Several Christian leaders and organizations among us simply don’t have a dog in the Christian Nationalism fight, and that’s perfectly fine. But others are very much in this fight. I’m thinking of all the leaders and ministries that speak to culture, politics, public theology, and the like. In the wake of recent events, one of the duties thrust upon you is that of figuring out whether these ministries have a chest or not. God has given us an opportunity to discover who is actually laying bricks in the real world and who is simply laying bricks in their head. The head rules the belly through the chest. It follows that if you do not have a chest, then you do not have the means to put your ideas into action. You are a man alone in a cold dark room with one dry erase marker and a white board, you are nothing but a head, a decapitated head, who will be used by the bad guys eventually to do their bidding. 

Now for that aforementioned modest proposal. This proposal is designed to distinguish between two groups. The first group consists of ministries and institutions engaged in cultural and political reformation who are worthy of support and an ear because, while they may disagree sharply with some of Wolfe’s proposals, they are not simply being played by the “Christian Nationalism has racist cooties game.” This first group is made up of ministries that will actually lay some bricks with Nehemiah, even if they are laboring on a different portion of the wall. The second group consists of ministries, claiming to be in the same work, who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. All their talk of the Lordship of Christ over all things sounded very nice in times gone-by. But our situation has deteriorated. And now it appears they meant the Lordship of Christ over all things except for the legislature. These leaders and organizations are merely talking cultural and civil reformation while adhering to the secularist zeitgeist. 

My proposal is this. The leaders and ministries engaged in cultural and political reformation who will say that the United States must have baptized Christians for magistrates are the leaders and ministries who will show up when the day of battle comes. Don’t get me wrong. You don’t need to say this in order to be a good Christian and go to heaven. It is no test of regeneration. But it is a statement that anyone engaged in Christian ministry announcing the Lordship of Christ should be able to say. It is rather mild. But it is the kind of mild statement that would get you in loads of trouble on CNN.

So imagine a leader of the likes of Albert Mohler, who said that he would not back away from the name Christian nationalism, on CNN being interviewed by Anderson Cooper. Cooper asks him about this allegedly racist book that has come out. And Mohler replies with the customary, “You know, I wouldn’t have said it that way, Anderson.” That’s all fine and good with me. But then Cooper asks, “And this Christian Prince thing. Do you really believe in this ridiculous notion that America ought to have a Christian prince?” We need leaders who will respond something like, “Oh, no, Anderson. We don’t insist on a Christian Prince exactly. But the president and his cabinet? Governors, Senators, and Supreme Court Justices? Oh, yes, all baptized Christians.