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What Is Christian Nationalism?

By Dr. Christian Overman

What is Christian Nationalism?

It’s not an easy term to pin down. Like a good friend of mine said: “It really is a greased pig.” Christian Nationalism comes in various expressions and is found in a diversity of nations, from Brazil to India, and Poland1 to Spain, to name just a few.

Because it lacks a universally accepted meaning, “Christian Nationalism” is a term that prompts debate (a soft word for division), even among sincere Christians. For that reason, I prefer not to use the term.

A recent report by NPR (National Public Radio)2 defined Christian Nationalism as “the idea that the U.S. is a Christian nation and its laws should be rooted in the Bible.” This definition has two problems: It doesn’t explain what is meant by a “Christian” nation, and it doesn’t clarify what laws “rooted in the Bible” means. Does this mean outlawing the sale of pork?

Among non-Christians, the term “Christian Nationalism” has negative connotations. It conjures images of the Salem Witch Trials and people being forced to wear scarlet letters, as though some kind of neo-Puritanism would be imposed by governmental force upon a sea of “Nones.” Rising anti-Christian sentiment in this country has Bible-believing Christians increasingly caricatured as dangerous extremists who must be silenced. The term “Christian Nationalist” is, regrettably, part of that fear-inducing caricature.

I say regrettably because there is now a wide swath of American citizens opposed to basic, traditional Christian values. They can neither tolerate nor peacefully co-exist with those who support such values.

I also say regrettably because up until the mid-twentieth century, the vast majority of Americans lived, worked, and governed themselves according to what might be called “Christian Nationalism,” although the term was not used back then to the best of my knowledge.

The Expectations for Christianity in Society

Today, the idea of “separation of Church and State” is being confused with “separation of Christianity and State.” These two mindsets are not the same. Viewing Christianity as strictly a private matter, not relevant to public policy, law, or civil government, may be accepted as “normal” by many Americans today, but our Founders did not think this way.

On the contrary, while the designers of America did not want a State Church, as England had, they created a nation in which all people of any religion (or no religion) could share the same human right to the pursuit of happiness. Yet, the Founders expected Christianity to affect society beyond the four walls of churches and certainly beyond the private prayer closet of individuals. The privatization of Christianity was not on their radar whatsoever.

What evidence supports this?

Consider the observations of French historian Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited the United States in 1831 to find out what made this country tick: “From the earliest settlement of the emigrants, politics and religion contracted an alliance which has never been dissolved. [p. 281] . . . I do not know whether all the Americans have a sincere faith in their religion; for who can search the human heart? But I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society. [p. 286-287] . . . The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other. [p. 287] America is still the place where the Christian religion has kept the greatest real power over men’s souls; and nothing better demonstrates how useful and natural it is to man, since the country where it now has the widest sway is both the most enlightened and the freest . . . [p. 291]”3

Here’s what the Supreme Court had to say about Christian America in 1892: “Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of The Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian . . . This is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation . . . We find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth . . . These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.”4 [emphasis added]

The Court clearly identified a “Christian nation” as a nation whose laws and institutions are based upon and embody the teachings of The Redeemer of mankind.

Daniel Webster, one of the most prominent American lawyers of the nineteenth century, who served as Secretary of State under President John Tyler, put it this way: “Our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits. Living under the heavenly light of revelation, they hoped to find all the social dispositions, all the duties which men owe to each other and to society, enforced and performed. Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens.”5

Was Webster a Christian Nationalist? Can the Supreme Court’s 1892 description of America be Christian Nationalism? Did Alexis de Tocqueville observe rampant Christian Nationalism in 1831? You tell me.

Although New Testament values in America’s past were normative, this is not to say the implementation of those values was faultless. I can hear a chorus of objectors pointing out the presence of slavery in our Christian past. Yet these same objectors ignore the fact that a great civil war was waged in 1861-65 that resulted in the abolition of the same.

A Vision for the Future

I suggest we avoid using the term “Christian Nationalism” because it is open to too much interpretation and misunderstanding. Rather, let’s communicate what we want to say about a vision for the future of our nation using clear, unambiguous language and avoid unnecessarily entangling ourselves with those who want to target Christians with pejorative and fear-inducing labels. If someone were to ask me, “Are you a Christian Nationalist?” I would have to respond with, “Define the term, please, and then I’ll tell you.”

Let’s also bear in mind that Christian Nationalism in nineteenth-century America was voluntary. It came from the “bottom up,” not the “top down.”

Healthy Christian orthopraxy is always voluntary and never forced or coerced. This makes the same kind of pervasive Christian Nationalism (the kind described by Alexis de Tocqueville and the Supreme Court of 1892) impossible at our current moment in history.

Let me explain. I’m not saying it would be impossible at some time in the future if a massive turning back to Christ and Christianity were to occur as a result of nationwide repentance. But Christian Nationalism held by “every rank of society” via government fiat from the top down would be quite different than what Alexis de Tocqueville observed in 1831. “Christian Nationalism” by force is an oxymoron. A contradiction of terms.

Having said this, however, we must recognize that government fiat is necessary when it comes to law and order in any society. Law and order without government fiat are impossible. It’s the name of the game. It just varies according to what standard for right and wrong is used. There can only be one north on any nation’s moral-legal-political compass. Until the twentieth century, Christianity was north from sea to shining sea in the United States. Now, this is regrettably not the case.

But because we live in a Constitutional Republic (thank God), Christ-followers can help turn America toward a true-north standard of law and moral order that is (as the Supreme Court of 1892 put it) “based upon and embod[ies] the teachings of The Redeemer of mankind.” To wait for national repentance would be irresponsible. If we truly love our neighbors, we must be active in the political arena, taking our civic responsibilities seriously. It is inexcusable that in 2019, an estimated 15 million Christians were not even registered to vote.6

Let’s work to ban the teaching of anti-white racism in schools, as Florida has done. Let’s teach authentic American history that includes both the good and the bad. Let’s outlaw hormone blockers and “sex-change” surgery in minors. Let’s push back against the medieval abracadabra of transgenderism in our schools and its cousin, trans-speciesism.7 The list goes on.

In addition, let’s take the “long view.” This means getting Christ-honoring judges back on the benches and Christ-honoring legislators back into their seats. Fulfilling that vision for our nation requires creating a host of Christ-honoring K-12 schools and universities through which the ideal of Daniel Webster (i.e., whatever makes men and women good Christians, makes them good citizens) could become a reality once again via a grass-roots citizenry (warts and all). We must eliminate the “sacred/secular divide” in our thinking and voluntarily live out our Christian faith in all spheres and sectors of society, being in the world, not of it. This would be a healthy expression of Christian Nationalism, as I see it.

The key lies with the Church. Judgment begins in the House of God (1 Peter 4:12-19). Salt that has lost its savor is good for nothing but to be cast out and trampled underfoot by men. That’s what is happening now. As the term “Christian” becomes increasingly hard to define, and “true north” becomes fainter in American churches,8 there is less hope that what goes on outside the assembly of believers in the broader society will be affected by Christians at all. Today, what goes on inside the assembly of believers is increasingly affected by outside forces. This trend needs to be reversed.

America will continue its downward spiral, and the kind of “Christian Nationalism” observed by de Tocqueville in 1831 will remain a distant memory if faithful Christ-followers hold back from being fully what we are in Christ, where we are in the world, including our life in the socio-political realm.9

A lot is at stake today! What started as the privatization of Christianity in a civil society is rapidly progressing toward the demonization of Christianity in an uncivil society.

Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord (Psalm 33:12). The converse is also true.


Dr. Christian Overman is the author of Eliminating the Sacred/Secular Divide, available free online at Dr. Overman has taught on biblical worldview and Christian education across America and Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. He and his wife, Kathy, have four adult children and twelve grandchildren. Contact Dr. Overman at



1. On November 19, 2016, the President of Poland and other state officials gathered with Cardinals and Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church to officially proclaim “The Act of Acceptance of Jesus Christ as King and Lord of Poland.” See

2. Ashley Lopez, “The Christian Right is winning in court while losing in public opinion,” NPR, July 1, 2022,

3. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Henry Reeves, trans. (New York, NY: George Dearborn & Co., 1838), 281-291.

4. Church of the Holy Trinity v. U.S., 143 U.S. 457 (1892).

5. Daniel Webster, The Works of Daniel Webster, Vol. I (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), 44.

6. According to CBN News, the “My Faith Votes” organization estimated that 15 million professing Christians were not registered to vote in 2019. The Pew Research Center also reported the number of professing Christians registered to vote in 2019 had dropped 15 percent since 2008. See See

7. “Trans-speciesism” falls under the umbrella term of “Otherkin.” That is, “people who identify as not entirely human.” See

8. According to a recent study published by Arizona Christian University, only 37 percent of American pastors currently have a biblical worldview. See

9. See Dr. Christian Overman’s interview with Os Guinness on YouTube at


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