Why I Do Not Support Christian Nationalism


I personally am not that interested in the Christian nationalism debate, but the Claremont Institute’s American Mind site asked me to write up my take on it for a symposium on the topic.

Before we can talk about Christian nationalism, we first have to talk about nationalism. As many people conclude that something has gone fundamentally wrong in America, nationalism is just one of the proposed solutions. Christian nationalism is a variant of that.

Catholic integralism is another variation on this same theme. Others promote “post-liberalism.” The Left, of course, wants some kind of socialism. Some call for an American Pinochet. Some people on the dissident Right even flirt with discredited continental political philosophies.

While it is understandable that people want to see America change for the better, these approaches won’t work because they are foreign to the American political and cultural tradition.

Click over to read the whole thing.

My piece stirred up some controversy on Twitter, so I want to clarify a few things:

  • My piece is not a specific response to Stephen Wolfe’s book The Case for Christian Nationalism. I have read the book, but am not qualified to assess his interpretation of Reformation political theology. (I do think that Wolfe’s criticisms of contemporary evangelicalism are insightful and quite often deadly accurate).
  • My piece represents my own arguments and is not intended to be an endorsement of other people’s criticisms of Christian nationalism.
  • When I wrote “America is not a ‘nation’ in the European sense,” I was not intending to imply that America is not a real nation. There is an American nation and an American people. America is not an “idea” or a “proposition nation.” It is a real nation and a real people. My intent was simply to contrast America with European examples like Italian unification. America was, dare I say it, a settler colonial nation, and arguably a continental scale empire.
  • I was surprised to see that several people took issue with my statement that our challenges today are lesser than those of the Civil War or the Great Depression. It’s clear that some people’s positions today are shaped by an apocalyptic perspective on society. And as I’ve argued several times in the past, while we should be clear-eyed and realistic, we should also reject apocalyptic thinking.

My basic belief is that, like “socialism,” “nationalism” is a European term that doesn’t resonate with Americans. Donald Trump, who has an extremely powerful resonance with a lot of Americans, doesn’t use the term that I know of. Instead, he talks about “America First.” Donald Trump is very attuned to what language resonates with his audience. Also, I don’t recall the “great communicator” Ronald Reagan using this language.

My view is that given the left’s general hostility to historic America and its symbols, the American right should double down on them. Adopting rhetoric around “post-liberalism,” “Catholic integralism,” or “Christian nationalism” does not do this.

As I’ve said before, I believe the best path forward for the country is to remain anchored within the American political and cultural tradition, which has all the resources we need to address contemporary problems.

This piece first appeared at Aaron Renn Substack.

Aaron M. Renn is an opinion-leading urban analyst, consultant, speaker and writer on a mission to help America's cities and people thrive and find real success in the 21st century. He focuses on urban, economic development and infrastructure policy in the greater American Midwest. He also regularly contributes to and is cited by national and global media outlets, and his work has appeared in many publications, including the The Guardian, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Photo: "American Progress" painting by John Gast, 1872. Public Domain.