Note to reader: After you read this article, I invite you to read a more detailed current analysis of the issues around the rise of Christian Nationalism. You can find this in the special edition of Waymarks Newsletter on our website: God’s Remnant Church and the Danger of Christian Nationalism – A Call for Unity Around Seventh-day Adventist Prophetic Identity. Be sure to check out the newsletter and the other resources we have listed here.
A big part of what the Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty does is to act as watchmen on the wall, sounding the alert to dangers we see approaching. Christian Nationalism poses concerns to the separation of church and state that some members may not grasp. We realize that many Adventists are being influenced by Christian Nationalism and are not aware of it. Since it has a Christian veneer, its nature goes largely undetected.
Being drawn away from the roots of Adventism’s understanding of religious liberty and our prophetic call is not as difficult as it may seem. Modern technology brings information gathering at the speed of a stroke on a keyboard. The overwhelming amount of disinformation is hard to sort through and sort out. Hence, very non-Adventist ideas of religious freedom have crept into our churches, creating a branching away from the Adventist understanding of religious freedom in light of prophecy.
Few people argue that religious liberty has become politicized by both parties here in the United States. Each party is doing its part in tearing down the first amendment guarantees to liberty of conscience. We must avoid party politics and make certain we are listening to the voice of our Master, Jesus, and be clear headed about where our freedoms really originate.
Our Church has a long and honorable history with our approach to liberty here in America, and it is needed more today than at any other time. Over the last 30 years, the changes in our culture and society have been dramatically and adversely affecting views of what religious liberty is. The Church is struggling during this time to keep its members on track with Adventist prophetic understanding of liberty’s true importance. Leaders have spoken for decades about how delicate the balance of religious liberty is and how best to protect that balanced approach.
There are gross exaggerations perpetrated by both sides of the political divide. The dangers of the extremes are still real and we need to address those that tend to get overlooked because of our deep, godly commitment to God’s law and His plan in our lives.
As a watchman Church, we believe that forewarned is forearmed. Christian Nationalism is chained to an idea that the salvation of America will come through the political process, heedless of Jesus’ own words in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world …. But now my kingdom is from another place.” In protestant churches across our nation, Revelation 20 is taught from an understanding that the saints will spend the millennium on earth with Christ ruling in the Jerusalem. This misinterpretation means that Christians are compelled by their faith to prepare Earth for Christ’s rule. As Adventists we believe the millennium will be spent in Heaven, not here on Earth. This prophetic truth means that Adventists understand that no earthly government will save you in the end. And, as a result, our historic defense of freedom of conscience has been rooted in the free exercise of religion and the separation of church and state. Adventist do not feel it is our mandate to compel people to accept Christ or Christianity, and it is not the government’s job to do so either.
It is easy to spot the theological holes in political parties that lean to the secular left of the divide, but much harder to spot the scriptural holes camouflaged by Christian rhetoric. If this article has sparked an interest in learning more about the problems with Christian Nationalism, we would recommend some additional reading on the issue.
We have picked a reading list that will engage you with authors who are themselves Christians, and who have at their core an understanding of a balanced view of religious liberty. Ellen White’s prophetic understanding has placed the Great Controversy at the top of the list.Southern Union | August 2021