". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


God-Given Rights and ‘Christian Nationalism’

March 4, 2024

In a recent interview with MSNBC, Politico national investigative correspondent Heidi Przybyla was asked about the “infusion of Christian nationalism” in Congress following the appointment of an evangelical Christian, Mike Johnson (R-La.), as House Speaker. 

Responding to the question, Przybyla said, “The thing that unites them as Christian nationalists — not Christians, by the way, because Christian nationalist is very different — is that they believe that our rights as Americans, as all human beings, don’t come from any earthly authority. They don’t come from Congress; they don’t come from the Supreme Court. They come from God.” 

As the clip went viral for its inanity, Przybyla scrambled to defend herself, claiming that MSNBC cut off her complete response. Yet the segment clip makes Przybyla look even worse, revealing her breathtaking ignorance of American history, basic political theory, and Christian religion.

“And in the past, that so-called natural law is, you know, a pillar of Catholicism, for instance. It has been used for good in social justice campaigns. Martin Luther King evoked it in talking about civil rights, but now you have an extremist element of conservative Christians who say that this applies specifically to issues including abortion, gay marriage, and it’s going much further than that,” she insisted, before referencing the Alabama Supreme Court ruling on human personhood. 

In one tweet posted on X, Przybyla claimed, “There are different wings of Christian Nationalism [and] they are bound by their belief that our rights come from God,” and seemingly insisted that Christians who support pro-life policies are “Christian nationalists.”

A Confusion of Terms

Nationalism, often called patriotism, is acceptable and even honorable under a biblical worldview and Protestant public theology. There is nothing wrong, and everything right, with cultivating an affection for one’s own nation and recognizing the positive features of its history and people.

It is important for the church to embrace a biblical patriotism that is faithful to the Word of God and our Lord Jesus Christ. As a conservative Christian and pastor, I believe that Christianity is the leavening force, the moral influence, and the essential moral compass of a nation that intends to have ordered liberty.

Christianity provides the sense of human dignity, the principle of transcendent law, the idea of limited government, the standard of universal justice and equity, all under a common law, with the duty to seek to fulfill the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

A Rejection of America’s Founding Principles

Przybyla’s assertions also betray her rejection of our nation’s founding principles. Think about it. No lesser a document than the Declaration of Independence refers to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” and says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So, when Przybyla arbitrarily declares that belief in the transcendent nature of basic human rights is an extremist threat to the country, she is rejecting not only biblical teaching but also the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the majority of Western tradition.

An Invitation to Authoritarian Rule

Przybyla’s comments reveal the true agenda of many progressives today: to acknowledge no authority higher than the state and no legitimate rulers other than secular progressives. After all, if God is removed as the source of rights, the only source left is the state itself, governed by secular ideologues who are determined to rid our nation’s legal and political institutions of any transcendent vestige.

“This [view that God endows basic human rights] is not some kind of religious nationalism or sectarianism,” Bishop Robert Barron said. “It’s one of the sanest principles of our democratic governance, that our rights come from God. Yes, government exists to secure these rights, the Declaration says — not to produce them.”

Indeed, suppose our society follows the cues of Przybyla and her ilk, severing our legal and political institutions from any transcendent grounding. In that case, we will find ourselves under the severe lash of an authoritarian government that can, on a whim, abolish the same rights they “gave” us to begin with.

A Private or Public Faith?

Why would Przybyla give herself permission to render a verdict on topics of which she knows so little? Because her endgame is pragmatic; she, like so many secular progressives, wants Christians to keep their faith private. She wants an entire generation of young Christians to cordon off their faith, taming it so that it doesn’t affect the public square or the voting booth.

But her tactics won’t work. Throughout history, most human beings, no matter their global location or chosen religion, have believed in a transcendent moral law upon which their nation’s laws should be based. Without such transcendent guardrails, citizens are left with none other than the sheer self-interested political will of those in charge.

Moreover, our Founding Fathers and most Americans historically were correct that “the right to life” is among those God-given rights, meaning that every innocent human being — including unborn beings — should be protected by law and welcomed in life. Thus, Przybyla’s whole convoluted line of reasoning, an attempt to castigate pro-life Christians, is not only anti-Christian but politically confused, historically aberrant, and naively authoritarian.

The church would do well to follow the words of our Founding Father, George Washington, in his Farewell Address: “Religion and morality are indispensable supports for our political prosperity.” This concept of biblical patriotism should be gladly embraced by the church. “Christian” is the most important aspect of my identity. However, God planted me in the United States of America, and he expects me to be the most faithfully Christian American I can possibly be. This I intend to do.