Glenn Beck and the Idol of Nationalism | Sojourners

Glenn Beck and the Idol of Nationalism

Campaigning for Sen. Ted Cruz at an evangelical event on Feb. 11, Glenn Beck urged voters:

"Ask our dear Lord to show you who the man is that has the integrity, who has the connection, who will fall to his knees at the Resolute Desk, who, before he acts, doesn’t think of a poll but looks to the Constitution and the holy scriptures; our Bible and the Constitution both come from God, they are both sacred scriptures!"

Theologically, equating the Constitution with the Bible doesn’t make sense. Scripture is an account of God’s interaction with the world. The Old Testament details his contact with the nation Israel, his vehicle to reach the world (Gen. 12:3). In many of the stories, this intent is clear (i.e., Rahab, Ruth, Jonah’s trip to Nineveh, etc.).

The New Testament testifies to the culmination of all revelation, Christ, who breaks down ethnic barriers so that all may come to God.

As Galatians 3:28 states, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

The Book of Acts narrates this theme. Throughout the book, the gospel is received by people from increasingly diverse demographics until it’s clear that all are welcome.

Being so bold as to equate the Constitution with Scripture is retrogressive, because it takes us backward in salvation history by limiting God’s interaction with the world to a particular nation. More disturbing, however, is how Glenn Beck fashions an idol out of nationalism.

There’s nothing wrong with being proud of where you’re from but a Christian’s identity isn’t found in their country of origin, it’s found in Christ. St. John Chrysostom, along with the vast majority of the early church understood this. He claimed, “I am a Christian. He who answers thus has declared everything at once — his country, profession, family; the believer belongs to no city on earth but the heavenly Jerusalem.

Clement of Alexandria also echoed this sentiment when he asserted, “If you enroll as one of God’s people, then heaven is your country and God your lawgiver.”

Many people point to Jesus’ command, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s” as a defense for nationalism. However, they ignore the second half of Jesus’ statement — “and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). Jesus isn’t creating a dichotomy of things belonging to the state and things belonging to God. He’s making a quite subversive claim that God supersedes the state. He begs us to answer the question, “What’s not God’s?”

Such aggressive nationalism as demonstrated by Glenn Beck is, at its core, idolatry. It elevates the United States to infallibility. This is dangerously incorrect. The founding fathers were flawed men who wrote a flawed but important document.

Christ is the ultimate revelation of God. He is the logos. He is Wisdom. He is “very God of very God.” He took on flesh so he could show us how to live and went to the cross to rescue us from sin, death, and Satan. Following Christ’s example leads to a self-sacrificial ethic that reflects the Golden Rule.

This is what Paul is arguing for in Romans 12:1:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship.”

On the other hand, the Constitution is a good document, but it’s hardly comparable to the revelation of Christ. It is riddled with Enlightenment thought. And the three-fifths clause, which defined black slaves as three-fifths of a person, was entirely contrary to the clear universal trajectory in Scripture demonstrated in Galatians 3:28.

As it’s an election year, political rhetoric is all around us. I highly doubt Glenn Beck’s statement will be the last bit of unsound theology we’ll hear this election cycle. But we would do well to remember the words of Christ, John Chrysostom, and Clement of Alexandria: our true country is Heaven. We are but pilgrims (1 Pet. 2:11). Our national identity shouldn’t be something we prioritize. What matters is our identity in Christ.

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