I have always hated the term "Christian Nationalism." As I see it, there is nothing Christian about nationalism, which is defined as "identification with one's own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations." Let me explain.
Nationalism reinforces the idea of "me first." How can I, as a follower of Christ, hold to that belief when Scripture tells me clearly: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (Phil. 2:3-4) How can I say "America first" in the same break as I say "Jesus first?"
I strongly believe in patriotism, which is "devotion to and vigorous support for one's country." I see this exercised by the respect the Guatemalan people have for their flag, their national anthem, and their history and tradition. And the contrast I see between the nationalism of the US and its lack of patriotism is striking.
Are the values of the US the values that we find in the Bible? Not the theoretical values of the Constitution, but the day to day values seen in the way of life of the US.
If you are not a Christ-follower, this doesn't matter. You are free to believe and act as you want. If, however, I claim to follow Jesus, I am mandated to think with the mind of Christ, not my own wisdom. Too often, God's way of thinking and acting does not make sense to me, but that is what I am commanded to do.
When I say, "I surrender all," what do I mean?
Do I include my identity as a citizen of the US? Remember, surrender does not mean renouncing, only submitting something to the will of God.
What is my first and primary identity? That of an "American"? Or that of a Christ-follower? I fear too many of us have forgotten or forsaken our primary identity as Christ-followers to be seen as good "Americans."
When I surrender all, do I surrender my security and my life-style for the good of others? Am I willing to surrender some of my comfort so others can live with minimal safety and have access to minimal resources to meet their needs? Do I worry more about my future than about the present struggle of those who are lacking the basic necessities of life today? Do I think more about the monetary inheritance I will leave my children, than the spiritual legacy I will leave behind?
These are hard questions. But life in another country has forced me to face these in my own life. Please don't say that I have the "luxury" of doing this because I live outside of the US. My ability to serve is dependent on the fact that I come from the US and benefit from the prosperity of my homeland. But my ability to survive on the mission field is not based on the economic security I receive from the US, but my daily ability to survive is based on the fact that I follow Christ, oftentimes into places I don't want to go.
Some of these "dilemmas" are simple. Is it my American guilt or the conviction of the Holy Spirit when I pay $4 for a latte, and yet pass by women on the street with white flags indicating they have no food for their families? Do I need my coffee more than they need my $4?
Other dilemmas are more difficult. How do I respond long term to the 23 year old, polite and respectful young man who is living on the streets and comes to my home every few days, asking for "pan" (bread)? Do I give him bread with refried beans and feel I've done enough? Or do I offer him a hot meal on my doorstep, and sit with him while he eats it? Do I try to help him with the impossible task of finding work when he only has a 3rd grade education, or do I help him complete 6th grade, where he might have a chance of finding a job which will provide enough for him to rent a room?
What is my responsibility to this man, who I believe Jesus has brought to my door, when he falls outside of my "scope of ministry," but more importantly, outside of my comfort zone? I'm still trying to figure that out.
Please pray for me that I am open to God's guidance in responding to this and the myriad of needs I face each day. It's far too easy to say "Reason to Hope first" and ignore those God brings into my life who don't fit in to "what I am called to do."