The sign hangs prominently on the side of an old barn in the small town of Shelbyville, Michigan. “God, Guns, Country.” Three perfectly acceptable English language words. If these three words were found on fourth grader’s spelling list their appearance together would have little meaning. But on the side of a barn in 2021, these three particular words one after another are intended to convey a message. A message of both faith and politics. The farmer is telling all who drive by, “I believe in God, I believe in guns, and I believe in America.” The Latin word for “I believe” is Credo, from which we get the English word Creed. “God, guns, and Country.” This is the farmer’s Creed. This is where he puts his hope, his trust. He lives his life in faithfulness to these three affirmations.
Many Christian Churches affirm a different creed. A creed that dates back hundreds of years, and summarizes the teachings of the New Testament Apostles. A creed that is, in many ways, much more difficult to affirm than the Shelbyville farmer’s creed. The creed is known as the Apostle’s Creed:
In Catechism class I learned that this creed was divided into three parts: “God the Father and our creation, God the Son and our salvation, and God the Spirit and our sanctification.” This is the Trinitarian faith of the historic Christian church, affirmed by Roman Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, those such as myself that come from the Reformed tradition, and many others. A faith and trust in the power of a Triune God, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” For the Shelbyville farmer faith and trust in a Trinitarian God is not enough. He follows a different trinity, the “holy trinity” of God, guns, and country.
This alternative trinitarian faith often goes by the name of Christian Nationalism. In a recent article, Christianity Today magazine defined Christian Nationalism as “the belief that the American nation is defined by Christianity, and that the government should take active steps to keep it that way.”
Christian Nationalism is not new. It goes back to the 1600s when the Puritans sought to develop a “City on a Hill” that would be a light to the nations of the world. The Puritans understood America as a New Israel. Eventually Christian Nationalism developed into the idea that America had a “Manifest Destiny.” This doctrine of Manifest Destiny was used to justify the “Indian Wars” and is at least partly responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans. Today Christian Nationalism is found in the idea that America is a Christian nation, that God continues to have a special rule for the United States to play among the nations, that as long as she is faithful to the God of Christianity and conducts her affairs in accordance with the teachings of the Bible she will be blessed, but should she turn away from the Christian God she will lose her special status and role and instead of Divine blessing she opens herself up to the Divine curse.
This is a blog about the connections between faith and culture. It seeks bridge the gap between religion and politics. I believe a relevant faith will inform our politics. But I do not affirm Christian Nationalism. I believe Christian Nationalism is a violation of both Christianity and the American Dream. I would go so far as to call it a heresy, a very outdated but most appropriate word. Orthodox Christianity teaches that the Biblical message is for all people, regardless of their ethnic, racial, or national origin. America was established as a secular nation. Unlike the nations of England, there is no national church or national religion in America. Church and State are to remain separate, to allow each of them to do their important work unencumbered by the other.
In contrast to Christian Nationalism, this blog affirms pluralism. It presupposes that citizens of this country who affirm any religion or hold to no religion at all are equally American. That includes those who hold to the Christian Trinity, those whose god is not understood as Trinitarian, and even those whose trinity is “God, guns, country.” I write from the perspective of an Orthodox Christianity that affirms the creed found above.
This blog focuses the connection between faith and culture. It assumes an individual’s faith commitment will be a formative influence in how he or she will engage with culture. While written from a primarily Christian perspective, this blog recognizes, accepts, and supports the notion that America is a secular society and that people from a variety of faiths are citizens of this country and are free to worship as they see fit. America is a pluralistic nation, and this blog celebrates that.