A Toe-Dip Re:Christian Nationalism

I follow Pastor Jarrod Jones’ blog. His last post expressed his feelings following January 6. The title? No More of This. Pretty well expressed my sentiments.

In the blog, Pastor Jones used the term “Christian Nationalism” three times. This line of content and dialogue isn’t my normal pool, but I’m going to dip my toe in. Why? Because I believe most of my fellow American Christians need to enter the dialogue. And I’d rather not sit this one out.

I felt pretty good about what I understood the term meant, but I decided it would be helpful to read how others-more learned and versed-were defining it. And it wasn’t hard to find their viewpoints. In an article published in December by The Gospel Coalition entitled “Christian Nationalism vs. Christian Patriotism” by Thomas Kidd, Matthew McCullough was quoted to define American Christian nationalism as “an understanding of American identity and significance held by Christians wherein the nation is a central actor in the world-historical purposes of the Christian God.” 

I then found notes from Christianity Today‘s Quick to Listen podcast episode that aired January 13. The episode title was “Christian Nationalism is Worse Than You Think” and featured Paul D. Miller, a research fellow of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Miller said this: “Christian nationalism is a political ideology about American identity. It is a set of policy prescriptions for what the nationalists believe the American government should do. It’s not drawn from the Bible. It draws political theory from secular philosophy and their own version of history as well.”

These definitions are alarming. They are most alarming to me because they convey what I’ve observed more and more in my own experience in the church. I must add, in the American church. Why the addition? I haven’t traveled much internationally; but in the three nations I’ve visited (Belarus, Jordan, Guatemala), I had the opportunity to visit and attend worship with fellow Christians. On reflection of those visits as I returned to worship in the States, a glaring difference emerged. Those believers love their countries; they are proud to share about their cultures and accomplishments to the visiting American Christians. But that doesn’t lead them to expect what American Christians expect when it comes to politics and freedoms. They seem to know where the line is between worshipping God and worshipping country. For example, the idea of arguing over the placement of national flags in their worship center would be foreign to them and would never reach the pitch of causing permanent division in their church body. So imagine their reaction to seeing the usage of Christian flags in the Capitol’s desecration.

One day following January 6, Relevant, in an article about the rise of Christian Nationalism, recounted the April 2019 shooting in California where 19-year-old John Earnest walked into a synagogue and opened fire, killing one woman and injuring three, because he believed killing Jews would glorify God. We Christians, who love our country but love God more, have the opportunity to set things right, like Reverend Mika Edmundson. Reverend Edmundson is the Presbyterian pastor of the church where John Earnest attended. He expressed after the shooting that his church bore some of the blame for Earnest’s beliefs. “It certainly calls for a good amount of soul-searching. We can’t pretend as though we didn’t have some responsibility for him.”

Church leaders, American Christians, we can’t pretend we don’t have some responsibility for January 6. We can’t pretend any longer.

Photo by Štěpán Vraný on Unsplash

Holy Moments

Finished Book #29 for 2020

The title caught my eye while browsing in a used book store in Dade City in August. One, because it wasn’t a massive book. Two, who wouldn’t want to know the answer to this question.

Kelly gets to his answer in chapter 6, of 15 chapters. This is the lie: Holiness is not possible.

Can’t say I’ve heard that literally stated by anyone, but his message rings true. We generally doubt holiness is possible. Kelly gives several examples. One is this:

The heroes, champions, and saints who have exemplified Christian living for 2000 years did not live holy lives. It is a mistake to step back and look at their lives and say, “She lived a holy life” or “He lived a truly holy life.” And these men and women that we place on pedestals would be the first to admit that they did not live holy lives – they lived holy moments.

The thought of pursuing holy moments is my takeaway from this book. Kelly defines it a couple of ways:

  1. When you open yourself to God.
  2. When you are being the person God created you to be, and you are doing what you believe God is calling you to do in that moment.

Sounds like a practical description of “walking in the Spirit.” His message is the more we create these moments with God’s grace the more holy our lives will be. To live in these moments, Kelly suggests a few litmus test questions:

  1. Will this help me grow in character and virtue?
  2. Does this contradict Jesus’ teachings?
  3. Will this action bring harm to another person?
  4. Lord, what is it that you want most for me and from me in this moment?

He states that God isn’t in the business of tweaking but the business of transformation. Transformation is possible. Each holy moment opens our hearts, minds, and spirits to that possibility. May we have more holy moments.

Taking Jesus Seriously

Started this book today:


Jethani has doodled and produced 72 devotionals based on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).


After reading the first nine, I encourage you to check it out. If you wonder what might be troubling you about followers of Jesus, you might discover it in this book. It’s possible we haven’t taken Jesus seriously enough.

How To Pray (book review)

A few months ago I received a copy of Ronnie Floyd’s book How To Pray, 20th Anniversary Edition. Was I excited? Ehh. Another book on prayer. I added it to the pile of books on my nightstand, and it waited its turn. That turn started a few weeks ago. Ended yesterday.


True to his promise, Floyd delivers a book for everyone. Whether you feel like a newborn or seasoned prayer, you will grow through his suggestions. He also delivers a book true to his objective-to be helpful. His help includes addressing barriers to giving keys discovering power and movement in your prayer life. All 19 chapters are practical, simple, and immediately applicable.

Of the books I’ve read on prayer, How To Pray is in the top three. I’d specifically encourage young (in age or in practice) Chistians to read it. Some books you read and pass along. Some books you read and add to your library. Then there are books that you read and reread. Floyd’s is a reread.

God of My 20’s: Doing For vs. Getting to Know

(Post #4 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Bob Morrissey

May 11, 1992, as a 5th-grade boy in a revival service at our church I knew God called me to the ministry. I never doubted it – not as a teenager, not as a Bible college student, and not as a young married man in my early 20’s. However, my twenties were some tough years. I knew much about God, but I did not know Him very well personally. I could quote hundreds of verses of scripture. I could stand and teach my adult Sunday school class confidently. On the occasion that I was invited to preach to the church where I was on staff, I could hardly wait for the time to arrive and hated when it was over. I was living to do things for God without a deep and intimate relationship with Him.

The God of my 20’s was somebody I could do something for.

He was somebody I could impress with my abilities.

He was somebody that needed me.

The lost world around me needed me because they didn’t know God, and I did-or at least I thought I did. I was what was wrong with Christianity. I wanted God to use me to do something great to change people and to change the world, but didn’t realize God needed to change me before He could ever work through me to help people. The God of my 20’s was not the God I know now because I constantly judged people. I judged their piercings, tattoos, clothing, music, and everything I could see. I never truly saw people. I only saw their exterior.

Meanwhile at home, I was short tempered with my wife and kids. I often left her home to take care of our children while I was serving God in the ministry. Because I did not know the heart of God, I ignored my greatest ministry-being a godly husband and father. Thankfully my wife knew God better than me and was very patient with me.

The God of my 20’s was patient with me. He let me fail. He let me embarrass myself, and put me with a pastor who was not afraid to correct me, but loved me enough to endure my mistakes. In my late 20’s God brought a couple of older men my way who I was ready to seek advice from.

If I could encourage and advise those in their 20’s I would say:

  1. Spend as much time with God as you do serving God.
  2. God does great things with young people, but He is not in a hurry. Have patience.
  3. Those who do things for God without knowing God often use people to build their ministry instead of using their ministry to build people. Be a people builder!
  4. Get someone in their 50’s or older to be your close friend. Listen and Learn.

Maybe I Should Be More Prodigal

Our life group started a study of Tim Keller’s book The Prodigal God tonight. We highly recommend the book.


Here’s a great example why. 

The word “prodigal” does not mean “wayward” but, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “recklessly spendthrift.” It means to spend until you have nothing left. This term is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son. The father’s welcome to the repentant son was literally reckless, because he refused to “reckon” or count his sin against him or demand repayment.

Makes you think, right? Under this definition, the story in Luke 15 has much more meaning and application.

As we discussed this tonight, a question came to me: How could we be more prodigal? 

  • Toward neighbors
  • Toward siblings
  • Toward friends
  • Toward coworkers
  • Toward anyone that is physically, spiritually, or emotionally disconnected 

If God, my Heavenly Father, recklessly forgives, loves, endures, welcomes, provides, embraces, longsuffers, probably means I should also. Maybe I should be more prodigal.

Known

(Post #1 in a 4-part series collaboration)

By Rick Howell (bio below)

Although it has been over 45 years, I can still remember the experience just like it was yesterday. It is even more shocking that I remember because it happened in the context of a relatively frequent occurrence. My friends and I were in a rousing game of hide and seek, which we played at least weekly. This particular moment, however, stands out because of the intensity of the feelings it evoked and the emotional dilemma it created.  I was hiding.  In fact, I was hiding in a perfect spot. When I identified it, I squealed inside because I knew I would never be found.  This was the perfect hiding place.  As I listened to the seeker count down to “0” and heard the familiar words, “Ready or not, here I come,” I was beside myself with anticipation. She was not going to find me! As time passed, my assessment that this was a great hiding space was confirmed. I heard friend after friend discovered, followed by the race to home.  As I remained hidden, my satisfaction grew.  As more time passed, however, I began to wonder what happens if I don’t get found.  And then what was pure joy for so long was no longer fun.  I wanted to be found, and I wanted to shout with excitement as I raced back home.  Never being found was not all it’s cracked up to be. So, I moved from a great hiding space to a space I knew would allow me to be found.

Unfortunately, more often than I want to admit, my Christian walk has been a similar experience. The idea of being known by God is disturbing. Being fully known, my struggles, my doubts, my insecurities, my failures, my inner most thoughts cannot coexist with God loving me. Therefore, I hide. Hiding from God is not easy.  I have to work hard at it…at least to preserve my illusion of hiding. Much like the child who hides her face and believes therefore that she is unseen, I live as if I can control what parts of me God sees and thereby ensure God loves me…or so I tell myself.  But as in the hide and seek game, hiding becomes undesirable. Disconnection from God results in an unbearable loneliness. My need to be truly loved by God is stronger than my need to hide from God. In desperation I remind myself of the truth my Sunday School teachers taught me: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  I embrace my pastor’s proclamation, “There is nothing that I could do to cause God to love me less.”  Fortunately, my difficulty believing this truth does not make it less true.  As I embrace the scriptural promise conveyed by the words from the familiar chorus, I Am Loved, “The one who know me best loves me most,” hide and seek returns to being just a fun kid’s game.

With this assurance, I can take more risks by being vulnerable in relationships with whom I am pursuing more depth and authenticity.  I remember recently sharing, with two dear friends of mine, some thoughts and reactions I had had during a sermon for which I was not proud but which I did want to explore with them.  When they extended grace and patience to me rather than the expected condemnation, I believed I had experienced in the flesh the truth of which I share today.  I allowed them to know me more fully and they chose to love me more fully.  What a beautiful combination. Thanks be to God!


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Blogger Bio: Rick Howell has served as the Executive Director of Samaritan Counseling Services of the Gulf Coast for 20 years. Rick, a Tampa native, holds degrees from Stetson University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Debbie live in West Bradenton. They have two adult children, Breanna and Ethan.