In certain news circuits, American Christian nationalism is garnering a lot of attention. Many Seventh-day Adventists in and outside our conference have asked me for input on this issue for the last year. Two concerns have predominated conversations people have with me: What is Christian nationalism? and What is the best response an Adventist can have to Christian nationalism?

There are many different forms of Christian nationalism currently developing in the United States, and even more throughout the world. But the basic point of American Christian nationalism is that the United States was raised up by God and has been blessed by God, and, therefore, is unique among all the other nations (perhaps with the exception of Israel). 

Consequently, Christian nationalism maintains the United States either is or ought to be a “Christian nation.” Whether this only means that the United States should adopt overtly Christian principles as its expression of government, society and culture, or go farther and adopt Christianity as its official religion, adherents to Christian nationalism believe it is imperative that Christianity define and shape what it means to be American.

Just as there are a few varieties of Christian nationalism, so Adventists are responding to Christian nationalism in a variety of ways. For more than a year, I’ve had dozens of conversations on this topic with fellow Adventists from different political, educational and career backgrounds. The three most popular responses to Christian nationalism have been religiously, politically, and eschatologically supportive, with the first and the third responses claiming the most endorsement among Adventists.

Some Adventists wholeheartedly embrace Christian nationalism for religious reasons. They claim we are in a war for the soul of America and “the only solution is to make America Christian again.” Apart from the debatable fact of whether or not the founding fathers and mothers of the United States wanted this country to be explicitly “Christian” and what that means, two millennia of church history demonstrate that forcing countries to be Christian may produce a veneer of Christianity, but generally results in compromise rather than conversion.

Seventh-day Adventists have always felt the strict separation of church and state that the Adventist pioneers practiced to be the most prudent course of action. The church, we believe, remains closest to Jesus when it is not trying to usurp the role of the government or build a kingdom of God on earth.

Other Adventists embrace Christian nationalism for purely political reasons. This position maintains there is only one godly political party in the United States, and we need to vote for this party regardless of morality or Christian character among its representatives. They believe what is important is that politics will save the country; whether or not anyone practices godliness is a secondary matter. 

But here is a truth Christians have repeatedly been forced to learn: politics can’t save anyone. Quality political reflection and application can at times improve life. But whether pagan or Christian, political parties, platforms or personas cannot change our hearts, transform our societies or save us from our sins. Only Jesus can do this work—and He doesn’t use governments to do it.

Finally, there are some Adventists who maintain Christian nationalism is detrimental to American government and society, but they support it anyway. The reasoning goes like this: Adventism has always viewed America’s future as turning from principles of freedom to becoming a persecuting power immediately before the second coming, so what if we help this happen sooner? If we can bring about the demise of America through Christian nationalism, we can speed up the end times and Jesus will come back faster. 

Without even commenting on how unpatriotic this position is, what is theologically problematic is the focus on lovelessness and idolatry. Rather than showing concern for the wellbeing of others, this position actively seeks their misfortune. 

Further, the idea that any human actions can hasten or hinder the second coming of Jesus is built on the premise that we are somehow stronger than God because, in some way, we ourselves are God. This view is perhaps the most unchristian response Adventists could possibly have to Christian nationalism, due to its egocentricity.

So, what is a genuine Adventist response to Christian nationalism? How should we relate to it? 

Don’t support it, defend it or join its efforts. Instead, provide the true solution by doing three practices. First, pray for your country, government leaders and fellow citizens. Pray for their welfare, wisdom and that they come to know Jesus. 

Second, share Jesus with others. Talk about His matchless love, revel in the loving, merciful character of God, and regale people with what the Savior has done for you. This will uplift Jesus as the answer to our problems. 

Finally, present the great controversy saga to others. The great controversy isn’t merely about a war between Jesus and Satan. It’s also concerned with who wants to dominate you, who wants to free you, who wants your good, and who wants your downfall. 

These practices give the best Adventist response to Christian nationalism by focusing on Jesus rather than our fallible human attempts to save ourselves and others. Since America was founded by people escaping persecution for their sincerely held religious convictions, let us guard against thinking we can somehow use persecution to change our country or bring people to Jesus.

Nathaniel Gamble is RMC religious liberty director.