There is a myth being circulated in American politics these days that evangelical Christians want to do away with the separation of church and state so they can impose their “Christian Nationalist” version of a theocracy on the country.
Those who push the myth thereby betray a fundamental ignorance of what evangelical Christians actually believe about God, the Bible, government, American history, and the U.S. Constitution, but that doesn’t keep them from repeating the myth at every opportunity.
The reality, as explained by Capitol Ministries, is the basic notion of separation of church and state that began 2,000 years ago when Jesus said at Matthew 22:21 that we are to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
“Unlike the preceding biblical epoch of Old Testament Israel where God’s people and the state were one — a theocracy or sacerdotal (‘priestly or ecclesiastical’) system of governance — in the age to come, Jesus expects the two institutions to be differentiated in structure, purpose and leadership,” according to Capitol Ministries.
The “Christian Nationalist” term has roots in ideas advocated by tiny, isolated groups at various times in the 500 years that have come and gone since the Reformation. These obscure groups are known as “Christian Dominionist,” “Christian Reconstructionist” or “Christian Theonomist.”
As Capital Ministries explains, “A Christian Dominionist believes that followers of Jesus Christ need to take ‘dominion’ over civil government.
“A Christian Reconstructionist believes that all United States Founding Fathers were Christians and that they founded our nation as a ‘Christian Nation.’ They believe that over time, the secularists revised American history and stole away that historical truth and that it is their obligation to restore that truth.
“A Christian Theonomist believes that in taking dominion and restricting America as a Christian nation, all laws should be based on Old Testament biblical law.”
The reality is that the Bible doesn’t support those concepts, and neither do evangelical Christians in America, nor do evangelical groups like Capital Ministries.
Congressional aides who encounter the “Christian Nationalist” myth among, to cite but one example, advocates of proposals for restricting the freedom of speech of pastors, pro-life advocates or individual believers, should go here for more on why it is indeed a misrepresentation of history and present-day reality.