On Christian Nationalism

Santino Burrola recorded a video and posted it to TikTok.  He was fired from his job at a grocery store for the offense.  What did he do wrong?  Inappropriately filming someone in the restroom?  Dancing in the aisles while on the clock?  No.  He recorded thieves stealing from the store.  He peeled aluminum foil off the license plate of the get-away vehicle so that it would become visible.  Hoping that the culprits would be caught, he posted the video, and at least one of the thieves was caught.  For his actions in trying to stop people from stealing, he was fired.

The store cited its policy that employees should not interfere with people shoplifting to “minimize the risk to our associates.”[i]

If you read the title to this piece, you may be wondering how this story relates to Christian Nationalism.  It doesn’t seem to tie in at all.  Please bear with me, and I will try to show you how.  There is a Christian Nationalism which should be rejected and condemned vociferously, but there are also some thoughts and ideas which are labeled “Christian Nationalism” in an attempt to smear those who offer them as well as to dismiss those ideas without having to engage them and understand why they are held; and those thoughts and ideas directly relate to the Santio Burrola situation.

First, we must define Christian Nationalism.  There is no firm definition, at least that I have found.  In our postmodern society, this is par for the course.  The muddier we can make definitions, the more we can apply or deny them to a given situation, group, or movement. 

But I don’t play those games.  Muddying the waters only sows confusion and chaos.  Therefore, you do not need to guess my operating definition of Christian Nationalism.  It is this: The belief that God has given the U.S. a special blessing and destiny, and that to be American means to be explicitly Christian.  Therefore the United States should impose the Christian faith upon its population in public life including in its understanding and application of the law.  Many would call my definition too limited, and they would like to add several caveats to it including the following:

  • The U.S. was established to be an explicitly Christian nation.[ii]
  • That Christianity should have a privileged position in society.[iii]
  • That it provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation.[iv][v]

I reject these caveats and additions, and I explain why below. However, I also believe it is important for Christians to unequivocally reject and condemn the definition which I have set forth. Why?

For two substantial reasons: First, Christianity is invitational, not impositional.  Plain and simple.  Nowhere does Jesus ever suggest that anyone be forced to become a Christian or follow Him.  In fact, when people reject Jesus, He lets them go.  He doesn’t zap them.  He doesn’t punish them.  He allows them to walk away to follow their own whims.  He focuses His attention on those who do accept the invitation to follow Him. 

Faith in Christ does not come by forcing people to follow Jesus.  Faith comes by hearing the Word of God and having one’s heart transformed by the power of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  This is our only and sole weapon of transformation and bringing of the Kingdom of God to earth.  Imposing the Christian faith by fiat does not change a heart, and the times when it has been tried have led to disaster.

Secondly, the Kingdom of God is in the world, but it is not of the world.  Martin Luther writes about this eloquently in his short piece Temporal Authority: To what Extent it Should be Obeyed, “What would be the result of an attempt to rule the world by the Gospel and the abolition of earthly law and force? It would be loosing savage beasts from their chains. The wicked, under cover of the Christian name would make unjust use of their Gospel freedom.”[vi]

The Kingdom of God operates by grace, and those who enter into it have no need of temporal law.  The Law of God is written upon their hearts, and so they actually go above and beyond what temporal authority calls for.  However, as Luther states, there are very few true Christians, so temporal law is necessary to curb sin. 

Those who seek to impose the Kingdom of God by following the belief of Christian Nationalism do not fundamentally understand Christianity, and, perhaps this is why, as the authors of Taking America Back for God found, the religiously devout do not adhere to those beliefs.[vii]

It would appear that a rejection of Christian Nationalism on these terms would be satisfactory, and we could simply bury the subject altogether; however, we cannot.  The topic actually becomes a bit muddier when one considers there are people within society, and within the church, who use Christian Nationalism as a pejorative towards those who believe that a) the United States was founded upon Christian principles and b) that Christianity should have a privileged place in society. 

Let me state unequivocally before I continue, I do not believe that Christianity should have a legally privileged place in society.  That is both unconstitutional in the U.S. and would actually fall under Christian Nationalism; however, when I speak of a privileged position in society, I speak from understanding two things: 1) That, as a Christian and particularly a Lutheran, I believe that all temporal authority comes from God, and 2) without grounding the fundamental rights of humanity as well as both values and morals, in a transcendent[viii] reality/worldview—specifically a reality/worldview that also allows respectful disagreement alongside those rights, values and morals—then a society will descend into chaos and eventually fall.  Explanation is in order.

In the United States, it is understood that every individual human being is endowed with certain rights, and the founders of our nation stated clearly in the Declaration of Independence, those rights are self-evidently endowed by the Creator.  One must ask oneself two questions: 1) Where did this idea of fundamental human rights come from? and 2) Why say that they are endowed by the Creator?

The answer to the first of these questions is: fundamental human rights including that each human had inherent value and worth came from the Judeo-Christian tradition.  This is not a made up claim.  You can read the histories and practices of ancient civilizations and find that only within the Judeo-Christian tradition does one find that each and every person has worth and value; each and every person is created in the image of God; each and every person is allotted certain protections no matter if they are an insider or an outsider.  Here is the pertinent question: can a society hold onto fundamental beliefs when throwing out the very belief system that brought those beliefs into the world?

The answer to the second of these questions is: they are endowed by the Creator because if they were endowed by society or the government, then they can be taken away at the whim of society or the government.  Rights that are endowed by the transcendent can only be removed by the transcendent.  Rights that are endowed by the immanent[ix] can easily be removed by the immanent.  The reason the Civil Rights’ Movement in the U.S. was successful is that an appeal was made to transcendent rights which superseded laws that society had implemented.  Without such transcendence, one could have simply said, “The majority has spoken.  Your rights are granted by the state, nothing more.”  There would have been no counter argument.  Another pertinent question: Can a society which removes the underpinning of human rights from a transcendent Creator maintain human rights for everyone? 

The answers to these two questions begin pointing us towards the reason Christianity should have a privileged place in society. However, there is one more addition that must be made.  Christianity not only ensures fundamental human rights and grounds those rights in a transcendent reality, it also provides a moral framework which allows for disagreement and respect towards those who hold different positions.  Christians understand that we treat fellow Christians as family–this language permeates the New Testament, but what about those who are not in our Christian family?  They are our neighbors, and we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves–love being agape, the Greek word for a self-sacrificial love which calls for sacrificing ourselves for the sake of our neighbor.  There is a further call to love one’s enemies–again using the same Greek word.  Hatred and demonization of enemies; of the other; of someone outside one’s preferred group, is forbidden within Christian thought.  Is there another philosophy or religion which goes so far? 

Certainly not the godless, postmodern society which is rapidly gaining ground within our culture.  Postmodern thought has removed the idea of transcendence and has made everything immanent, and, unfortunately, even some within the church buy into this particular philosophical framework.  It is much to society’s detriment.

Let us return to the opening story of this article: Santino Burrola and his subsequent firing for wanting to stop thieves.  What philosophy/worldview undergirds the idea that thieves should be allowed to take goods unchecked?  What philosophy/ worldview undergirds the idea that those who seek to stop stealing should be punished?  It’s not the Christian worldview.  It’s not the worldview which undergirded the United States from its inception.  There is something else at play.  There is another stream of thought which is being privileged. In this case, it is the postmodern worldview/philosophy which somehow has accepted theft and demeaned those who try to stop it.  It would seem self-evident that privileging this philosophy/worldview is not good for society in the long run.  In fact, it will lead to chaos. 

As the great Catholic apologist G.K. Chesterson once said, “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”[x]  A culture or society which does not believe in God, or at least have human rights rooted in a transcendent Creator, will then become capable of believing anything including that theft should be allowed and those who seek to protect another’s property should be punished.

It would behoove those who try to lump those who strongly adhere to the beliefs that the United States was founded upon Christian principles and that Christianity should have a privileged place in society to understand why we say such things and not simply dismiss us by pejoratively calling us Christian Nationalists.  We’re not.  We’re Christians, Lutherans, and citizens who love our country and what it stands for.  We want our country to be a place where justice, fairness, and freedom thrive.  We are convinced that in order for this to happen, we must have a shared understanding of human rights, values, and morals; and we are convinced by history, philosophy, and faith that this will be impossible without this being grounded in a transcendent reality which allows for disagreement.

Is there a better grounding than Christianity?  I don’t think so.

[i] https://www.cbsnews.com/colorado/news/king-soopers-employee-fired-video-theft/

[ii] https://sas.rutgers.edu/news-a-events/news/newsroom/faculty/3406-religious-nationalism

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] https://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/7996

[v]  I do not deal with this caveat in the article as it is not a theological point; however, this Pew article (https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2022/10/27/views-of-the-u-s-as-a-christian-nation-and-opinions-about-christian-nationalism/) shows that even within the African-American and Hispanic communities a majority of members of those communities support the statement that the founders of the U.S. meant for this to be a Christian Nation.  Not only that, the majority of African-American Protestants believe that the U.S. should be a Christian nation.  This caveat is actually not based in reality, but is based in an attempt to simply discredit Christian Nationalism by tying it to white supremacy without actually dealing with any arguments.

[vi] Luther, Martin. Temporal Authority: To What Extent it Should be Obeyed.  Luther’s Works Volume 45. P.91.

[vii] https://learn.elca.org/jle/taking-america-back-for-god-christian-nationalism-in-the-united-states-and-andrew-l-whitehead-and-samuel-l-perry/

[viii] Something that is above and beyond or outside ourselves and this universe as we know it.

[ix] Those things found within the universe as we know it.

[x] https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/44015-when-men-choose-not-to-believe-in-god-they-do

How the Revisionists Re-Framed the Sexuality Debates

Back in my college days, I was on the debate team. We would be assigned a general topic for the year, and a two-member team from one college would offer a proposal within the topic, while a team from a different college would oppose it. We didn’t know until a few minutes before the debate started whether we would be advocating the affirmative or negative side, nor did the negative team know how the affirmative would frame its proposal.

One of the tricks was to frame the proposal in terms that made it difficult to oppose. Probably we spent more planning time on that than the merits of the ideas at stake.

I have watched how those holding the revisionist position on sexual ethics have brilliantly re-framed the debate in ways that put those of us holding to traditional biblical ethics at a disadvantage in convincing others. They managed to frame the debate in such a way that any opposition to their positions seemed unjust or even sick.

This has been done in two ways. First, sexual orientations and behaviors were turned into issues of civil rights. Think how you see the = sign on bumper stickers; “All we want is the same right you have to be married to the person we love.” And since, as the argument goes, sexual orientations are not a matter of choice but perhaps even good things which God has created, gender identity and sexual orientation should be a protected civil right. So, it is stated as proven and obvious fact that sexual orientation is like race or ethnicity — a matter about which we have no choice. Even though science has failed to find a so-called “gay gene,” the statement that “we are born gay [or whatever]” has been repeated so often that it is generally accepted as true [see Orwell, the “big lie”].

I first heard this contention back in 1983 (yes I am that old) at a Conference on the New Lutheran Church at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Karen Bloomquist, who at the time served in the social affairs office of the LCA (and would later be the primary writer of the first ELCA sexuality statement, the one that went down in flames) was giving a presentation with a list of groups of people who should be protected, and included along with race, gender, and ethnic origin the matter of sexual orientation. I challenged her, and I still remember Prof. Robert Jenson sitting in the back of the room, grinning I suspect at my naïve surprise at her linking of these topics, for it had been done in the wider society long before I first heard it.

We all have sinful orientations. The Church calls it “original sin.” St. Paul speaks of it as “the flesh,” to which “the Spirit” is opposed. Not all of us are tempted in the same ways, but on other matters nobody will say, “God made me this way, so you have to celebrate it and be proud of me.” For instance, there is a proven genetic connection to addictions including alcoholism, but we would not celebrate drunkenness in an alcoholic. The ethical choice for an alcoholic is not to drink; it isn’t to go around proudly claiming, “God made me this way.”

Once we turn sexual orientations into civil rights instead of behavioral issues, we have been placed at a significant disadvantage in defending the biblical view of sexuality. And that is exactly what has happened.

A danger of seeing sexual orientations as civil rights issues is that this paves the way for the power of government, especially its power to tax, to be used against groups including churches which do not accept this new definition of justice. Already the Supreme Court has declared (I believe disastrously) that tax exemption is not a right but a privilege bestowed by the government to organizations that share its values (the case involved Bob Jones University, and a similar one involved Rev. Moon). Several prominent politicians have publicly proposed that churches which refuse to conduct same-sex marriages should be denied tax exemptions.

A second brilliant move by the sexual revisionists is even more frightening: They have basically declared that anybody who opposes their viewpoints on sexuality is mentally ill.

Think of what that term “homophobia” means: “homo” means “same” and “phobia” is fear. It is a pseudo-scientific term coined to cut off any debate about the rightness or wrongness of same-sex sexual activities. If you disapprove of same-sex sexual relationships, you are obviously homophobic, and shame on you! End of discussion.

In my state, our Secretary of Health started life as Richard but is now Rachel. And the media is trumpeting how those who make unkind statements about her are “transphobic.”

I’m not sure about you, but I don’t lie awake nights in fear that a group of transgender people are going to attack me. Nor do I wake up screaming because of a nightmare that some crazy doctor is attacking me with a knife. I guess there might be such a thing as homophobia, in the sense that a person may be insecure in their masculinity or femininity. But most of us do not go through life obsessed with fear of gay or lesbian people or inclinations. I have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian, and they are generally nice people. I just don’t agree with this aspect of their lifestyle. But then there are reasons to disapprove of a lot of things I do too (file that under the topic of original sin, even though most of my sinning isn’t all that original).

Not only does turning traditional sexual ethics into mental illness cut off any constructive conversation, but it puts us in a very vulnerable position, which is exactly the intention. Call me paranoid, but I can see that in a certain cultural climate, folks like me might be compassionately “treated” in a kind and gracious attempt to release us from our bondage to our phobias.

Let’s be clear: All gay and lesbian people, all transgender people, are precious children of God for whom Jesus died, as he died for all us sinners. They are our neighbors whom we are commanded to love as we love ourselves. All of us (including me) need to avoid unkind comments or actions toward these people.

And it is true that there is such a thing as gender dysphoria, where the brain and body fail to communicate accurately in fetal development, so that the brain thinks it is one gender while the body develops as the other. This is tragic, and Christians can and will disagree on how a person deals with this aspect of the brokenness of our fallen world. Similarly, there seem to be very complex factors in a person being attracted to a member of the same sex. I accept that persons normally don’t choose to be gay or lesbian (although today there seem to be some exceptions like Katy Perry “I kissed a girl,” who try it for kicks and to prove their open-mindedness).

What does this mean for us? For starters, I believe we need to repent of any nastiness or unkindness we practice or feel toward what are called “sexual minorities” (I won’t try to name them all). We are not called to hate anybody, and when we come across that way, we simply confirm the opinion of those who believe we have a serious prejudice or mental illness.

And on a societal basis, we need to treat all people with justice and fairness. The time is probably long past when pastors should be agents of the state in officiating at marriages. We should let the government do its thing, and if people want God’s blessing pronounced on their relationship, that would be our role where we believe we can do it with integrity.

But we need to keep reminding ourselves and others that our concern is not with orientations or inclinations but with actions. We can’t always change what we feel, but we can have some control over what we do. I am not saying that this is easy: I think of Mark Twain who said that it was easy to quit smoking; he must have done it a thousand times. And most of us can relate regarding our struggles with our particular temptations.

I am not optimistic that we can change the framework in which sexual ethics is being argued today, but we need to be aware of it and be prepared to challenge it. Once behaviors outside the boundaries of heterosexual marriage are turned into civil rights, and especially when opposition to them is defined as mental illness, we have our work cut out for us. It will require a lot of wisdom and patience to counter those assumptions (for they are assumptions, not proven facts).

And if we fail to love other sinners, we don’t deserve to win an argument either. So let us keep our focus directed toward love for all our neighbors, even as we look for opportunities to account for the hope that is in us, but always with gentleness and reverence (see 1 Peter 3:15-16).

Devotion for Thursday, October 18, 2018

“The strength of the King loves justice; You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His footstool; Holy is He.” (Psalm 99:4-5)


The Lord is not as we are able to imagine. His justice is perfect and the world, which is not just, cannot fathom a perfect and just God. Holy is He; so holy that we are unable to begin to fathom His holiness and goodness. Yet, though He is beyond our ability to grasp, He has made Himself known through His Son that we may come to Him and be in His presence. He has provided the way for us to walk with Him.

Lord, Your way is too good for me. You are too great for me to stand in Your presence and yet You have invited me to walk in the light of Your grace to be with You in eternity. Far above my ability to comprehend, You have done these things. Lead me, O Lord, by Your Spirit to walk now and always in the light of Your countenance that I may be in Your presence forever.

Lord Jesus, God in the flesh, many do not understand Your presence in this world. They do not know that You are He of whom the prophets foretold. Even Your presence in this world is more than I am able to understand. Guide me in humility to walk with You wherever You lead that I may abide in You and You in me all the days of my life. Lead me, Lord Jesus, by Your grace. Amen.

Devotion for Sunday, October 7, 2018

“The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many islands be glad. Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” (Psalm 97:1-2)


It may seem for a time that things are not as they really are, but this creation belongs to the Lord. He is the One who reigns and in Him all hopes are made real that are in accord with His will. He is Sovereign and although this age continues in rebellion, it shall come to pass that all things have always been in the hands of the Lord. Come into His presence and know righteousness.

Lord, there are so many questions that many ask. Their questions are based upon their own understanding and not upon the truth You have revealed. Guide me, O Lord, to look to You, for You are the Creator of all things. Lead me in the goodness of Your mercy that I would humbly walk in Your presence knowing that You alone have the words of eternal life; for there is no other way.

Lord Jesus, You have come to shine light on the truth. You are the way and truth and only in You is there life. Help me now and always to seek the way You have established that I may walk humbly in the way of salvation. May I now and always be guided by the eternal principles You have given and be lifted up by Your grace. Lead me to be faithful in all that You have given me to do. Amen.

Scriptural Authority To Suffer Another ELCA Blow in 2019?

Editor’s Note: The article below by Pastor Steven K. Gjerde originally appeared in the Summer 2018 Newsletter.


Click here to read the article.



Devotion for Friday, August 03, 2018

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You.  How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!  O Lord, they walk in the light of Your countenance.”  (Psalm89:14-15)

Have you met one whom you know loves the Lord?  Their countenance shines and those around them know they are one of the faithful (not the zealots who are trying to convince everyone of their goodness, but the ones who love others and repeat the joyful sound of grace and mercy).  Walk in the light of the countenance of the Lord and reflect His grace and mercy all the days of your life.

Lord, the offer You give is right there before all.  Few are they who walk in the countenance of Your love, grace, and mercy.  Help me, O Lord, to give up the rebellion in my heart and come by Your grace through faith to walk now and always in the truth of Your presence and purpose.  Show me the difference a life in You would make and then guide me in the way You would have me go.

Lord Jesus, You have come to be the model of the godly life.  You who paid the price for salvation are also the One who has shown me the way to live.  Through the Holy Spirit, guide me to walk always in the way I should go and live according to all that You have commanded.  Lead me, O Lord, that I may walk the way of salvation and be one of those lights shining in the darkness of this world.  Amen.

Devotion for Monday, November 27, 2017

“The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; He will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.  And men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth!”  (Psalm 58:10-11)

In a world filled with wickedness, it is hard to distinguish where justice lies.  The Lord knows, but we do not see His hand of justice at work.  The Lord is patient, but we, in our limited lifetimes want revenge now.  The Lord will judge and He will judge righteously.  Just trust in the Lord in all of His ways and know that He will lead all who turn to Him into the ways of righteousness.

Lord, I am easily led in so many directions by all of the wickedness in this world.  Guide the thoughts of my mind and the attitude of my heart that I would hold fast to the truth You have revealed.  Lead me, O Lord, in the way I should go and then help me walk in this way.  Grant that I would see Your hand upon this world and know that You are working all things together for good to those who love You.

Lord Jesus, in great love You have come to lead as many as would follow You in the way of truth.  The world is already judged and You have come for those who will come through You into light and life.  Guide my heart this day, O Lord, that I would look to You and Your ways and follow in them as You direct and lead.  By Your Holy Spirit, lead me this day.  Amen.

Weekly Devotional for November 17, 2017

“ . . . so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26)

“Just remember, it’s not about you.”  Those were the last words I heard before I preached for the first time.  A senior at Valparaiso University, I was about to deliver the homily at one of the daily chapel services.  The chaplain assistant leading matins, who could probably see my nerves at work, leaned over and whispered, “Just remember, it’s not about you.”

There’s freedom in those words, whatever our walk of life: the freedom to let go of ourselves, even forget ourselves, and simply hand ourselves over to the task at hand.  And according to the apostle Paul, it is this same freedom that stands behind salvation in Jesus Christ.  Even there, it’s not about us: it’s about God demonstrating that He is just.  

While that promise may irritate our old selves (they always like to be at the center of attention!), it makes God’s forgiveness of you even more true and certain.  His decision to redeem, His sacrifice on the cross, and His proclamation of that redemption for you rest not on you, but entirely on Him who is eternal, the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

LET US PRAY: Lord God of hosts, You have raised up preachers, teachers, and martyrs in every age to bear witness to You.  We laud and magnify Your justice; we adore Your beloved Son; and we pray for Your continued grace upon our way; in Jesus’ name.  Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau

Devotion for Sunday, November 5, 2017

“Confuse, O Lord, divide their tongues, for I have seen violence and strife in the city.  Day and night they go around her upon her walls, and iniquity and mischief are in her midst.”  (Psalm 55:9-10)


The Lord knows all that needs to happen in this age.  He has set history upon its course and knows the outcome of where it will lead.  In Him is the hope of the ages.  In Him is the truth of eternity.  Yes, the Lord will confound the wise and confuse the wicked.  But let not this truth set Your course.  Turn to the Lord and walk in His ways, for He is kind and gentle, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.


Lord, I want what I want and I want the kind of justice and control I imagine.  But You are working out an eternal plan that will end in glory.  Teach me to trust You through all circumstances that I would forever hold fast to the truth of Your Word and walk in Your ways.  Lead me to ignore the things I can do nothing about and live for the goodness of Your will.


Lord Jesus, You have come that we may have life and have it abundantly.  Let me not so much seek justice as to walk in the truth that Your justice has already triumphed.  Let me not seek vengeance, but learn to love as You love.  Mischief is all around, but greater are the things You have done and are doing than all the wickedness that surrounds us.  Set me heart upon You and the goodness You give by grace.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 Devotion

“For strangers have risen against me and violent men have sought my life; they have not set God before them.  Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my soul.  He will recompense the evil to my foes; destroy them in Your faithfulness.”  (Psalm 54:3-5)


Lord, You are the One who is everlasting.  There is none besides You.  Yet, there are those in this world who lift up false gods and command me to look at them.  Help me to see clearly Lord that I would look to You alone.  Justice is in Your hands O Lord.  You know all that needs to be done.  Bring me to the place where I trust in your justice and live simply by the words You have decreed.


Lord God, You have made plain from the beginning the truth that You are God.  You are the Savior.  You are the One who sustains all things.  You will deal with all that needs to be dealt with.  Compose my heart to be satisfied with Your goodness.  Lead me to trust in Your justice.  Take away from me those things which will hinder me simply trusting You in all things and for all things.


Lord Jesus, You have come and declared that You are the judge of the living and the dead.  Guide me to trust You in and through all things, knowing that You alone must be the author and finisher of my faith.  Lead me this day in the goodness of whom You are, knowing that You will lead me through all things that will come.  Guide me to trust that Your grace is more than sufficient for me.  Amen