I am getting a little tired of all of these “Christian nationalists” who think that their religion justifies nationalism and the violence necessary to defend their nations. The sentiment is admirable enough, but the theology just isn’t there, and the cherry-picking faith of people who can find one or two bible verses to justify their own opinion and then claim that their opinion is the product of their faith is not only annoying; it’s a losing strategy.
There is one verse in particular that keeps getting brought up, and that is the passage in which Jesus claims that he “has not come to bring peace but a sword.”
Upon reciting this, the Christian nationalist shouts “deus vult!” and picks up his crusader sword in rationalized triumph.
But let us take a closer look at the passage in question:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
– Matthew 10:34-39
To take this sword reference literally, one must believe that Jesus intends to instigate literal duels between family members.
As it happens, there actually is biblical scripture pertinent to literal swords, but it takes a very different direction; not a metaphorical passage from a single gospel, but a historical account recorded in every single gospel:
And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”
– Matthew 26:51-54
But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”
– Mark 14:47-49
When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
– Luke 22:49-51
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
– John 18:10-11
One is almost inclined to think that given these verses, maybe Jesus’ mission is special, that perhaps his compliance with his persecutors might be some unique, prophetic exception to an otherwise sane rule of self-defense. But no. Jesus’ commands to love your enemies and to turn the other cheek are not contextual in this manner, and in any case, Jesus is the ultimate example for the believer to emulate.
The “peace” Jesus is rejecting in Matthew 10:34 is not an absence of violence, but an absence of interpersonal conflict over religion. “This faith will divide you against your family,” he is saying. That is not literal warfare, but it is not — strictly speaking — “peace.”
This verse has nothing to do with ‘defending one’s nation’ or any such notion. In fact, to the contrary, it seems to imply — by extension from the family — the possibility of division against one’s nation.
Concerned with violence in defense of what one loves, Christianity is broadly pacifistic. The ‘Just War’ doctrines which give Christianity a plausible enough defense of violence in specific circumstances essentially require all violence to be done in a spirit of reluctant detachment.
There are a number of other verses in the bible that reference swords and so forth, which Christians will — no doubt — flock to in lieu of the metaphorical and self-defeating (for nationalists) Matthew 10:34. I’ve heard reference to Joel 3 in particular — one of the “minor prophets” like Obadiah or Habbakuk that no one seems to reference unless they’re really reaching to justify a position that flies in the face of what Jesus repeatedly and directly says.
None of these desperate and reaching rationalizations stand up to the spirit of Christianity revealed in the teachings of Jesus and in the clarifications and directions of Paul. As a Christian, you are to love your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your strength, and all of your mind. If you are loving something — anything — other than God, then you are failing to love God as absolutely as is mandated. This failure is a kind of sin, with a particular name: idolatry.
In Christianity, nationalism is idolatry.
So is loving your family.
This is why I am not a Christian.
Actually, I’m not a Christian because the Christian God does not exist. But I am no longer sympathetic towards or occasionally tempted to pass myself off as a “cultural Christian,” in spite of my disbelief, because of what Christian spirituality actually entails. This spirituality affects “cultural Christians” far more deeply than they understand, because it cedes moral authority to those who are more pure in the spirit of the faith with which they identify. This spirit undermines all love for nation or family or any other “traditional” or “right-wing” values… or “left-wing” values, for that matter.
Jesus did not come to bring “peace on earth” because Christianity holds that the earth will be passing away. His mission is to announce the sovereignty of God in the hereafter, and to die on our behalf that we might join him there. In this hereafter, there is peace, perfect harmony without tension between God and the “corruption” of the world. Theologically speaking, Jesus did come to bring peace.
For all his talk about swords, he never once used one.
And I can’t help but notice that when confronted with this point, Christians never have an actual argument, but will instead give some variant of the following responses:
- “That’s an interesting thought, let me get back to you on that” (never to be heard from again)
- “You’re a moron. You know nothing about Christianity. Do not speak about Christianity again.”
Not very promising for the faith.
But that’s none of my concern. I have other things — like my family and country — to worry about.
This Post Has 10 Comments
My New Handle3 Nov 2019
As one of these pseudo-Christian nationalist types, I think most, if not all, come to it through nationalism first, Christianity second – which would seem to confirm your view. I guess my grasping for straws argument would be that whatever ‘spirit’ one may interpret from most Christian’s behavior, Christianity seems to have a solid scriptural basis for ‘based’ intersexual relations & no nonsense with the small hats, but this hasn’t stopped Churchianity from existing.
I think this is why the implicit religious theme of the Moldbuggian (secular) “Cathedral” is so important. An honest Christian who agrees with your anti-nationalist view of Christian doctrine would have to admit that the Cathedral is pro-sodomy, pro-abortion, pro-feminism, pro-hedonism, pro-muslim, pro-judaism, pro-transgender, etc. – but thank the Lord they are pro-refugee/migrant/immigrant/whatever, sign me up! Perhaps Nietzsche was right.
I’m looking forward to the book
C.B. Robertson3 Nov 2019
It’s coming soon, I promise.
If I believed in the truth of Christianity, I could see some version of an argument like this holding a little water:
“I am not supposed to care about these things (nation, family, so forth), yet they are nevertheless relative goods reflective of God’s order in a chaotic world… much like ourselves. Since God does act in the world, the believing culture may enjoy the benefits of these things, NOT because of their care or their own efforts, but because of their faith.”
I think this is a pretty theologically valid position, and allows for a juncture of these two otherwise exclusive values. But for me, not caring about one’s family and nation is a problem independent of not having them. It feels emotionally dishonest and unnatural.
My New Handle12 Dec 2019
I found these commentaries to be of interest, they relate directly to your interpretation
C.B. Robertson12 Dec 2019
It’s an interesting historical theory, but I don’t think I buy it.
“But what if the survival of the faith is no longer threatened, as is the case in the modern world, with its billions of Christians? I think in that case the instructions continue as useful tools but they are not something mandatory. They were instructions for a particular time and circumstance.”
There simply isn’t any biblical basis for this belief (historical, but not biblical). This interpretation is a kind of attempted mind-reading of Jesus’s true purpose, which is antithetical to his claims elsewhere in the Bible, which repeatedly emphasize the importance of one’s relationship with God, and the unimportance of the world. And of course, the “militant” passages do not refer to actual military action, but are metaphors: the division he refers to when he says “I come not to bring peace, but a sword, “for instance, refers specifically to ideological division between family members. It’s literally the completion of that sentence. And yes, he says to purchase swords, but how literal is this when he rebukes his follower for attempting to use a sword in his own defense at Gethsemane?
The people who interpret the violent verse as literal and the “hate thy family” verses with the loosest of metaphorical dismissiveness are fundamentally my people. I like them, because I share their values, and usually share their aesthetic. But, unfortunately, they are simply wrong in their theology. I applaud the efforts, but the Bible simply doesn’t allow that.
By the way, you’ve left some really good comments. If you want to send me an email address to email@example.com, I’ll send you a digital copy of Holy Nihilism. You might have better luck finding counter-arguments to my interpretation of the faith than I have.
My New Handle13 Dec 2019
I’m inclined to disagree with the author on the idea that (true) Christianity, however incomplete my knowledge of it might be, could be practiced today without fear of persecution. I see no reason why the author shouldn’t be correct in his contention that Christianity allows for strategic times of love and hate, war & peace based on circumstances (e.g. Ecclesiastes 3:8). Other religions have allowances for outright deception in the face of religious persecution, e.g. Islam’s doctrine of Taqiyya. The crucial difference is that Christianity has no tolerance for explicit denial of faith (e.g. Matthew 10:32-33, Luke 22: 61-62).
AFIAK, you’re correct about the ‘against the family because of idolatry’ stuff, but the very same chapter of Matthew instructs the ‘peaceful’ disciples to let the peace return to them if they aren’t worthy (v. 13). Seems militant to me, although admitted not in a military sense.
I’ve also read intersting perspectives on the “turn the other cheek” business. The source of high trust civilization is constant cooporate/cooporate scenarios. As I understand it, game theory dictates that to reach cooporate/cooporate from defect/defect in situations with limited information, you essentially need one tit for two tats, i.e. “turn the other cheek”, rather than the no nonsense tit for tat strategy which inevitably leads to unnecessary war. A cheeky interpretation, pardon the pun, could be that once the other cheek is slapped, you are out of cheeks, i.e. no tit after 3 tats. The problem would therefore be that cucked Churchianity continuously cooporates in the face of unlimited defection. Credit goes to blog.jim.com, a blog which I find both offensive and highly interesting, once I started understanding his worldview.
But it is probably irresponsible for me to continue pressing the issue when I have yet to read Holy Nihilism.
C.B. Robertson13 Dec 2019
My own understanding is that most of Jesus’s teachings are fundamentally focused on — to borrow a more new-agey term — mindset. It isn’t that the Bible doesn’t allow for strategic and tactical thinking, but it does seem that to focus on Jesus’ teachings from a tactical perspective is kind of to miss the point, which is spiritual and oriented towards ones’ own personal relationship with God, and not oriented towards “winning” in this world.
To me, this is the best explanation for the “turn-the-other-cheek” philosophy, which may have circumstantial and strategic benefits, but that isn’t the purpose. As with all other “works,” turning the other cheek when struck is a symptom of good faith, a kind of barometer for one’s heart being in the right place. (Game theory is interesting because tit-for-tat actually is the best strategy, but it is only the baseline, and gets all kind of weird modifications when the application is taken out of the sanitized lab-environment; if I remember correctly, forgiveness becomes important in scenarios with imperfect information).
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Anonymous14 Jun 2020
You have neither family nor nation. They are evidentially part & parcel of the dross left behind as you exit this consciousness/reality/world/whereverthefuckweare.
You cannot take it with you ergo your efforts concerning the Earthly come to dust. It strikes me as a humbling mercy that investment in such things is allowed by God to feel good. It feels good. For as long as it lasts. But it does not last… I cannot determine, yet I suspect, I am wasting my time here. Wasting it by doing anything else that isn’t emulation of that ultimate troublemaker, LORD Jesus Christ, Son of God.
I don’t mean to come across as so certain about all of this; I’m not. Certain, that is. Yet what else is there? Family & nation ARE things I feel a zeal for. It’d be so fun to fight and to protect these things. But is it scrabbling in the dirt… for what? Nothing that accords with Eternity. And that which is not Eternal cannot be real. It’s like unto a thought or an illusion that will pass away.
What is Eternal? I don’t know, but I suppose whatever is must be of or related to Christian God.
I don’t know that anything I said is True, but it’s how it looks from where I stand. So I keep looking.
C.B. Robertson14 Jun 2020
I’m not entirely sure I understand anything of what you’re saying… but to whatever degree I can parse out what you’re trying to get at, I think our difference comes down to perspective.
You say that I have neither family nor nation because they are impermanent. But this impermanence is only relative to me, as an individual. One could just as easily say that I am impermanent, relative to my family and nation… do I not exist because my existence is finite? Objectively speaking, my family (my lineage) has more permanence than myself.
I get the desire to pursue and to invest oneself in what is more stable and permanent, but there is no reason to assume that we ourselves, as individuals, are permanent and stable. Perhaps the reason it looks this way to you (and I share this experience) is that our consciousness is limited to ourselves AS individuals? We cannot “feel like” someone else, even at our greatest moments of empathy. From our own experience of being, the most stable entity is the universe is us. But this is obviously untrue, even from the Christian perspective.
Miu14 Jun 2020
I’m the anonymous comment above. Didn’t mean to be anonymous.