The Religion of American Greatness

What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism

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Pub Date Jul 05 2022 | Archive Date Sep 30 2022

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ECPA Top Shelf Award Winner

Long before it featured dramatically in the 2016 presidential election, Christian nationalism had sunk deep roots in the United States. From America's beginning, Christians have often merged their religious faith with national identity. But what is Christian nationalism? How is it different from patriotism? Is it an honest quirk, or something more threatening?

Paul D. Miller, a Christian scholar, political theorist, veteran, and former White House staffer, provides a detailed portrait of—and case against—Christian nationalism. Building on his practical expertise not only in the archives and classroom but also in public service, Miller unravels this ideology's historical importance, its key tenets, and its political, cultural, and spiritual implications.

Miller shows what's at stake if we misunderstand the relationship between Christianity and the American nation. Christian nationalism—the religion of American greatness—is an illiberal political theory, at odds with the genius of the American experiment, and could prove devastating to both church and state. Christians must relearn how to love our country without idolizing it and seek a healthier Christian political witness that respects our constitutional ideals and a biblical vision of justice.

ECPA Top Shelf Award Winner

Long before it featured dramatically in the 2016 presidential election, Christian nationalism had sunk deep roots in the United States. From America's beginning, Christians...

Advance Praise

"A much-needed and astute analysis of a major reality in the United States, a reality that challenges the very heart of this nation and of Christianity. Dr. Paul Miller brings to bear years of political experience, a deep commitment to Christian understanding, and a wellspring of scholarly comprehension to help us see what ultimately is wrong with Christian nationalism. A must-read."

-Michael O. Emerson, professor and Sociology Department head at the University of Illinois Chicago and author of Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America

"Paul Miller draws from an impressive range of sources to show the theological, historical, and cultural errors of Christian nationalism while still suggesting how American Christians can pursue with each other and their neighbors a common American identity and shared aspirations for the future of the country."

-John Inazu, Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis

"As a deeply religious and deeply patriotic American, Paul Miller has written a brave, insightful, and immensely valuable analysis of the dangers of resurgent Christian nationalism in America today. This book is of vital importance for all who wish to understand our pivotal historical moment, and especially for Americans who wish for a nation that strives to live up to the highest ideals of their faiths."

-Rogers M. Smith, Christopher H. Brown Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania

"There are works that challenge the mind and others that speak to the heart. Paul Miller does both in this important book about the role of America's dominant religion in our national politics."

-Tom Nichols, author of Our Own Worst Enemy

"Paul D. Miller, a politically conservative, patriotic, old-style Republican, offers a thoughtful Christian critique of the most recent versions of Christian nationalism and its antecedents. Conservative Christians who suspect he may be wrong should at least give him a hearing. More progressive Christians can also learn from this balanced and constructive approach."

-George Marsden, author of Fundamentalism and American Culture

"I can think of no one more qualified to speak to the pressing issue of Christian nationalism than Paul Miller. Despite the bleak subject, this book is full of confidence, conviction, and hope. Liberal democracy matters. The kingdom of God matters more. Those who care about either or both should read this work."

-Russell Moore, Christianity Today

"I'll be recommending this book to every thinking Christian I know who's looking to understand why nationalism, and Christian nationalism in particular, is such a danger for the church and American democracy. Beautifully written from a conservative, Christian perspective, Paul Miller carefully engages the arguments for both nationalism and Christian nationalism, and shows them to be sorely lacking. Christian nationalism is illiberal, antidemocratic, and ultimately for Christians, unbiblical and inconsistent with authentic gospel witness. Miller shows us all the better way."

-Samuel L. Perry, author of Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States

"In a political moment too often characterized by vitriol, distortion, and scorn, Paul D. Miller offers a refreshingly different approach. The Religion of American Greatness presents a careful, insightful, and charitable critique of contemporary American nationalism and points readers toward a more faithful political framework that elevates personal liberty and human dignity. A must-read for those concerned about politicized religion and its negative consequences for gospel witness."

-Amy E. Black, professor of political science at Wheaton College

"Paul D. Miller crafts his message with confident humility, taking an honest look at the virus of Christian nationalism plaguing our politics and our pulpits. He presents difficult truths in palatable forms that reveal his genuine love for Christ and the church. Read this treatise with an open heart and mind, with the goal of seeing God's kingdom come and will be done."

-Samuel Rodriguez, lead pastor of New Season church and president and CEO of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

"This is the nuanced, constructive approach to Christian nationalism that I have longed for that takes this moment in our history seriously, condemns what needs to be condemned, but also offers a clear and viable vision of what Christian political participation should and could be. Paul Miller defines the problem and identifies bad actors and expressions, but he does this necessary work for a greater purpose: orienting our political vision toward the common good."

-Michael Wear, author of Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America

"There are few I trust more than Paul D. Miller on matters of national politics. He brings knowledge, vision, nuance, and understanding to a compelling vision of what it means (and doesn't mean) to live as faithful Christians in this nation, today and into the future, for the good of all."

-Karen Swallow Prior, research professor of English and Christianity & culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books

"I'm grateful to Paul Miller for writing this book. It stretched and challenged me. He has done a great service for all of us concerned about liberal democracy and the Christian church. At points, the writing crackles with intensity. I will be recommending this work to anyone intent on responding both theologically and politically to the threat of Christian nationalism."

-Andrew Whitehead, associate professor of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and author of Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States

"A much-needed and astute analysis of a major reality in the United States, a reality that challenges the very heart of this nation and of Christianity. Dr. Paul Miller brings to bear years of...

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Featured Reviews

I enjoyed Paul Miller's Religion of American Greatness immensely, even if I didn't necessarily agree with all of the ideas he posited. The first thing that grabbed me about this theological resource was that Miller shared/gave voice to some of the frustrations that I've been feeling, especially feeling caught between a theological Christian nationalism that is spreading in the American church and also a theological progressivism that is also spreading. In seminary, my friends and I often talked about feeling caught between those tides and Miller voiced some of the feelings that I had been stirring in me since I was in seminary the better part of a decade ago. In some ways Miller's book felt like a political version of Brent Waters's fantastic Just Capitalism (Westminster John Knox Press, 2016) and filled a similar theological void for me.

One of the features of the Miller's work that I appreciated most was his throughness. He came at American Christian Nationalism in a very comprehensive way and I feel that anything less than that would have been unsatisfactory for getting to the root of the problem. On the same hand though, he also did it in a very ministerial way and came from a place of understanding where those ideas came from and specifically the factors that led to them rising to the service in the way they did during the Trump Administration. I think my own concern, at least as far that specific area of concern goes, is that Miller seemed to really argue that US Christian Nationalism really reached it's forefront during the Trump years and I would argue that it's been at it's forefront far longer than Trump and that Trump becoming president wouldn't have happened unless it was already at it's forefront. But that is a small caveat (at least in my opinion) and I think ultimately Miller's suggestions for how to resolve these problems is one of the best parts of the book and make up for that small disagreement I might have.

I will strongly recommend this book be added to the academic religion portion of my library's collection because I think that it might be a resource for anyone feeling caught between the two forementioned theological trends as I have.

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Paul D. Miller presents a critical but researched look at Christian Nationalism, an idol for many that is far too prevalent in our society. When we feel a stronger allegiance to our temporal home than our eternal home, we need a heart check. I enjoyed his perspective: Christian, conservative, veteran, former CIA, former White House employee, etc… I had to stop and re-read passages to fully comprehend what he was saying and let it sink in. He states in his intro that “the people who […] most need its message are least likely to read it.” Sadly, that’s true, but this book can help those of us opposed to nationalism in our interactions and discussions with the ones fighting for it (mostly seasoning our conversations with grace).

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