A problem for Christians in the United States today is learning how to place Jesus at the center of their life. Many Christians in America are faced with the question that Dr. Richard Huston asks his students every year: “Are you a Christian American or are you an American Christian?” To many, this is a silly question because there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between the two phrases. However, the two could not be more different and every person who proclaims Christianity in the United States needs to ask this of themselves. Are you primarily a Christian, who is loyal to God over this country? Or are you primarily an American, who is loyal to your country over God? Which symbol do you raise, the cross or the stars and stripes?
The Church in America is facing the problem of nationalism with no idea how to combat the issue. Nationalism is when a person puts their country before anything else in their life. The public school system teaches students the idea of “country first.” Kindergarten students are expected to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, and this continues through high school. How is the Church supposed to fight against this type of indoctrination so that it does not become its members’ primary focus? In order to figure this out, we need to look to the earliest Christians that followed Jesus’ time on earth. Like the United States, the Roman Empire demanded that all people put their country first. However, early Christians simply refused. They would not participate. The early Christians lived as aliens in a land they grew up in. Following Christ causes Christians to be set apart from the world. The early church followed that; they did not attend events or participate in anything the government demanded of them. This example from the earliest Church family gives an instruction booklet on how to escape the nationalism that has infiltrated today’s churches. As Christians, we need to make sure that our nationalist traits are not overshadowed by our allegiance to God. We should not be allegiant to any particular political party because our values and beliefs align with Jesus alone. This is no small task and not one that would be easy to do.
Even here, at a small school like Greenville University, we see some nationalistic tendencies from the students. However, we can use the resources we have, including our faculty and staff, to make ourselves more aware of our own nationalistic tendencies and how to refocus our lives. We spoke to Dr. Richard Huston about the issue of nationalism on our campus and what he thinks should be done about the issue. Dr. Huston believes that the way Christian nationalism should be addressed on our campus is through open discussion between students and staff. He listed ideas to “host panel discussions where this topic is debated” and “that some instructors might address this issue in their classes.” These are just two ways that Dr. Huston mentioned. In order for the Church to address nationalism, we need to be able to have open and honest dialogue together.
Nationalism is a problem that is plaguing churches all across the country. It is important that we learn how to recognize and adjust our thinking so that we are more aware. We all need to take a step back and examine our identities. Let us remember that no matter much we may love and be thankful for our country, we need to put God first in our lives.
Written by Maci Clarke-Petersen, Ali Kelso, Quinton Packer, and Tawon Swinson. Media by Parker Lutz.