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What is a Nation? Preliminary Thoughts Before Reading “The Case for Christian Nationalism.”


If you’re on the Christian internet, you know that lots of people are buying, reading, critiquing, reacting, and getting all up in a tizzy over the new book by Stephen Wolfe called “The Case for Christian Nationalism.” You might also know that there is a side-controversy about a guy named “Thomas Achord,” who apparently was behind some kind of nasty twitter account. And right now, everybody is reacting to everything. Meanwhile, I’m over here sippin’ tea, because I haven’t read the book (though I literally just bought it on twitter), and I don’t know who Thomas Achord is, and I do not have enough information to make any judgments.

Importantly, this is not a “reaction” to the book “The Case for Christian Nationalism,” nor is it a reaction to everybody else’s reactions. Instead, this post is about a very important background question in this issue of “Christian Nationalism.”


After all, that seems to be the central question, right? While many people can agree to “Christian Nationalism” over “Pagan Globalism,” that isn’t good enough for me. I want to know what this is all about, because some people have some very legitimate questions.

What does “The Case for Christian Nationalism” Say?

The most important thing I wanted to know when I bought (about 5 minutes ago) “The Case for Christian Nationalism” on kindle is what this author thinks “a nation” actually is. Thank goodness for the search-function, because otherwise I would have had to read 133 pages before I got to the following let-down:

The idea of nation is notoriously difficult to define, and identifying true nations is equally challenging. This is especially true in an age of the nation-state, which tends to conceal difference under a homogenizing state project. My interest, however, is not to discuss and identify nations and nationhood as if trying to sketch a map of cultural geography from a bird’s eye view. My goal is to provide reflections on lived experience such that one’s own people-group is brought to conscious articulation (i.e., we become consciously aware of it). . . . It refers more to a sort of phenomenological topography in which one dwells with others in shared meaning, which could in principle extend across political boundaries.

To which my reaction is this:

As such, based on my thorough five-minute review of the book, I can note that is seems that in a book that is 488 pages long on “Christian Nationalism,” there is no definition of “Nation.”

As such, though certain people can applaud an effort to respond to some obviously bad trends in American culture – be it the complete abandonment of moral values, the utter contempt for everything “normal,” the various tribalisms that seem to be gaining steam in the “woke” movement, etc. – the lack of a sefinition of “nation” leaves a wide-open door that people can be understandably upset about.

The key concern most ordinary Christians have about “Christian Nationalism” is that they do not know what the “-ism” is about.

That’s a legitimate question.

That is a problem. And that’s a problem I hope to solve (or at least identify, depending on what is in this book that I haven’t read).

Is America a “Nation”?

It has been a common conservative trope that “America is not a nation. America is an idea.” And while that is a nice sentiment, it is not exactly true in the real world. The thing we call “America” obviously involves ideas, but it can’t be merely “an idea.” In fact, when you ask these same people what idea America is, then they will likely quote the declaration of independence:

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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

And that statement about men being equal is true, but ON ITS OWN TERMS, this is not the “idea of America.” That is a “self-evident” idea, which – being “self-evident,” is supposed to be the idea of all peoples in all places and all nations. That so-called “American idea” is actually the backdrop of thought for “the United States of America” (whatever that is) to define itself as a “nation,” whatever that is.

A brief review of the history of the Roman Empire will reveal that they had “ideas” which were just as strong, if not stronger, than the “ideas” that permeate America. In fact, many of the ideas that permeate American culture today – like a “Senate” – are directly from Rome. So, if America is an “idea,” what EXACTLY is that idea?

Further, Rome also tells us that lofty “ideas” are no safeguards for actual liberty. For example, one firm and important “idea” in Rome, which was implicitly adopted in America, was that “Rome has no king.” While Romulus was the first king of Rome, the belief that Rome should not have a king was an extremely important part of their history because of the abuse of power that Rome’s later kings inflicted on the city’s population. This was the reason why consuls were elected in pairs. At the same time, when Julius Caesar was made “dictator for life” by an act of law, everybody thought it was cool, so long as he didn’t say he was a king. And while the Roman Empire continued to have “elections” and continued to have “citizens” who were granted important “rights” that others did not have (see Acts 22:22-29)

As I have explained above, America is not an “idea.” But as I will explain below, America is not a “nation” either, in the traditional sense. This mistake is not merely the fault of Stephen Wolfe. It’s a larger issue of forgetting what all those funny shapes on the map are.

The Definitions of Important Terms

As I adjust my monocle and type with raised pinkies, I inform the reader that I, as opposed to thee, own an Oxford English Dictionary. Unlike thy “Merriam-Webster” pamphlet for the unwashed masses, this multi-thousand-page tome of knowledge is the authoritative reference for the English language. This work does not only give the paltry “definition” of a word; rather, it expands the definition in every sense and explains the history of each word in the English language, even providing the philological progression of the word’s use and meaning through time.

The Oxford English Dictionary is the exclusive possession of scholars, academics, men of learning, and crazy people with a blogs who found used copies for sale at a public library for only $35, rather than the $1,000+ that a new copy of the Oxford English Dictionary normally goes for. So, if you want to know what a nation is, I’m about to tell you — er, wait, I mean, “I shall soon proclaim it to thee.”

So here it goes. If you have trouble reading the antiquated spellings of the old citations, just read them out loud. That should solve most of the problems:


  1. An extensive aggregate of persons, so closely associated with each other by common descent, language, or history, as to form a distinct race or people, usually organized as a separate political state and occupying a definite territory. In early examples the racial idea is usually stronger than the political; in recent use the nation of political unity and independence is more prominent.
    • a. 1300 – Cursor M. – Of Ingland the nacion Es Inglis man par in commun. All nacion and lede aght vr laured to drede. . . .
  2. . . .
  3. . . .
  4. The nation, the whole people of a country, freq. in contrast to some smaller or narrower body within it.
  5. A family, kindred. Obs. rare. c1395 Chaucer Wife’s T. 212 Allas! That any of my nacioun Sholde ever so foule disparaged be!. . .
  6. A particular class, kind, or race of persons. Also man’s nation, human kind. Obs.
  7. . . .

As such, we see this word is rather complicated. But there are other complicated word’s tooBut with this, we see that there are other important words here. These include words like “country” and “state.”


  1. A tract or expanse of land of undefined extent; a region, district. . . .
  2. A tract or district having more or less definite limits in relation to human occupation, e.g. owned by the same lord or proprietor, or inhabited by people of the same race, dialect, occupation, etc. Formerly often applied to a country, barony, or other part; in Ireland and Scotland, still to the territory of a clan as the O’Neil Country, Lochiel’s Country. . . .
  3. The territory or land of a nation; usually an independent state, or a region once independent and still distinct in race, language, institutions, or historical memories, as England, Scotland, and Ireland, in the United Kingdom, etc. With political change4s, what were originally distinct countries have become provinces or districts of one country, and vice versa; the modern tendency being to identify the term with the existing political condition.
  4. . . .
  5. . . .
  6. The people of a district or state; the nation.
  7. . . .


  1. . . .
  2. [Def. 29] The state: the body politic as organized for supreme civil rule and government; the political organization which is the basis of civil government (either generally and abstractly, or in a particular country); hence, the supreme civil power and government vested in a country or nation. . . .
  3. [Def. 30] A body of people occupying a defined territory and organized under a sovereign government. . . .
  4. [Def 31] The territory or one of the territories, ruled by a particular sovereign . . . the kingdoms or principalities held hereditarily by any head of the Holy Roman Empire. . . .
  5. [Def. 32] (without article) All that concerns the government or ruling power of a country; the sphere of supreme political power and administration. . . . In state, in the sphere of government or politics.
  6. . . .

As such, we see that all of these words are quite similar but also distinct. In modern times, these words are used interchangeably, which leads to confusion. This problem is shown by the understandable confusion on this book on exacerbated by the appearance of this book on “Christian Nationalism.”

With these definition, we see the word “nation” has changed. In previous times, including when it was used in the Bible, it referred to those of a certain familial descent. This is why the “nation of Israel” is quite literally those descendants of Israel. The lines are also quite blurred on the difference between a “nation,” a “state,” and a “country.”

However, there is an important word that people in the United States of America should learn, because it was one of the first words used to describe the United States of America by the Founders:


  1. Public welfare; general good or advantage. Obs. in ordinary use: see Common-weal. . . .
  2. The whole body of people constituting a nation or state, the body politic; a state, an independent community, esp. viewed as a body which the whole people have a voice or an interest. . . . 1534. Ld. Berners Gold. Bk. M. Aurel. (1546) H vj b. Of diuers men, and one lorde is composed a common welth. Eug. (1609) 11 A common-wealth is called a society . . of a multitude of free men, collected together, and vnited by common accord and couenants among themselves. . . .
  3. A state in which the supreme power is vested in the people; a republic or democratic state. . . .
  4. . . .

That is the BEST word for what the United States ACTUALLY is. We are NOT a “nation,” because we do not have a nationality, per se. We are only a “nation” in the sense that that word has come to expand to different meanings. However, I acknowledge that “Christian Commonwealthianism” is not a very catchy title.

As such, we have the following definitions for the following important words, including some that are rather important in the discussion about the United States of America:

These are things that we can think of when looking at the odd shapes on a map. The most quintessential “nations” are places like Hungary, Germany, Japan, Ireland, Israel, the Czech Republic, and other places that are historically defined by a NATION (Note: “nations” and “nation states” were very popular in the time after World War I, a popularity that was markedly reduced because of that whole Nazi thing you may have heard about). Korea is a single nation that is firmly divided into two distinctly different states, as is obvious to everyone who sees. A nation does not have to be a state, but it certainly can be one.

Historical entities like the Holy Roman Empire, the British Empire, the Persian Empire, and pretty much anything else that had the word “Empire” in its name were EMPIRES. China and the USSR would probably call themselves “democratic republics,” but in reality, they are empires. They are a single state ruling over various nations and countries. This is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, the quintessential Biblical example is the Persian Empire, ruled by a “king of kings,” and this is the pattern of government which the Lord God chooses to designate for himself, as the “King of kings,” “the Lord of lords, and the God of gods.”

A good example of the difference between an Empire and a Commonwealth is illustrated by the British Empire’s dissolution. The British Empire dissolved, but remains a “Commonwealth” of nations that all have the same head of state – the Queen (or more recently, due to the passing of Elizabeth) the King of England. When the direct control of British rule ended for nations like India and Pakistan and Canada and Australia, there was no “Federal” state over these different countries, which is why they – as opposed to the United States – are not united into a single “country,” even though they most certainly are a single Commonwealth.

As for that word “Federation,” the most common usage of this word in America is the adjective form of the “Federal Government.” This is accurately named, but not so accurately understood. This describes the governmental structure of the United States of America, but it also describes the structure of Mexico and a host of other countries.

The word “Confederacy” is most popularly understood to refer to the description of the government of the southern states during the Civil War. However, it was also the accurate status of the government of the United States of America during the time of the “Articles of Confederation.”

The United States today, however, is a COMMONWEALTH.

What This Means For the Current Question

So, is America a “Nation” based on what I have shown here? No. Is America a “nation” based on how Stephen Wolfe’s book describes it? I don’t know, because he doesn’t seem to define it and the description (it seems) is scattered throughout the 479 page book.

However, one thing I do see from a quick word-search in “A Case for Christian Nationalism” is that on page 260 of 479, Wolfe says the following:

“A Christian Commonwealth is the civil regime of Christian nationalism. Christian nationalism, as I’ve argued, is a Christian nation acting for itself to secure (across generations) both its earthly and heavenly good.”

That’s a good sign, especially if he defines “Commonwealth” in the same way that I do. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case. He doesn’t define “Commonwealth,” and seems to connect its definition to the ambiguous definition of “nationalism” which is based on the absent definition of “nation.”

As such, I have no idea what he actually means. Only the book itself can show if he’s using the term the same way that I’m using it. I don’t know if he has an Oxford English Dictionary, you know.

What are the Effects of Being A Commonwealth Instead of a Nation?

Believe it or not, America USED TO BE a nation. In the 1830s, Alexis De Tocqueville came to America and wrote an extensive treatise of the weird nation of “the Anglos” in America. He was explicitly describing the United States as a “nation.” This changed after the Civil War, with the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment.

But while the “common bond” of a nation is an ethnic descent that is not present in a commonwealth. This is not to say, however, that there are no common bonds in a Commonwealth. In the British Commonwealth, the common bond is the Monarch, even though there is no common government.

In the United States of America, though we have a common government, that is not the only common bond we have. Instead, the common bonds of our language, our legal system, our general culture of freedom of speech, our holidays, our sports, our food, our music, our movies and culture, and a host of other things are all IMPORTANT things that should bring us together. For example, it is perfectly fine to make movies where Americans kill a bunch of nameless and faceless Nazis. That doesn’t tear apart the bonds of the Commonwealth. It is NOT okay to make a movie where a bunch of… …say, black people slaughter a bunch of nameless and faceless white people (or vice-versa). That tears apart the bonds of the Commonwealth. That is BAD.

But other than obvious faults like that, there are dozens of things that are no threat to the health of the Commonwealth. If America were a “nation” of “the Anglos,” then only apple pie would be “as American as apple pie.” But because we are a Commonwealth, apple pie, steak and brisket, southwest Tex-Mex, southern fried chicken and collard greens, New Orleans crawfish etouffee, In-N-Out burgers, New York and Chicago style pizza, Indian corn and traditional foods, and Taco-Tuesday, and every other variety of human experience in food is equally “as American” as apple pie, while still retaining their distinct national geographic, cultural, and ethnic origins. (Organic no-dairy anti-oxidant soy-milk espresso protein smoothies, on the other hand are OBVIOUSLY threats to the good of the Commonwealth, and should be cast into the streets. They are BAD.)

Further, the diversity of these cultural experiences does not in any way subtract from the strength of the American Commonwealth, so long as there is a unifying core which all Americans can recognize. This can show itself in the smallest of cultural norms. For example, when playing sports, do we teach our children to celebrate like Cam Newton or to be as stoic as Peyton Manning? Good question, and I do not know. But if these are merely extremes of a common Overton-window of acceptable behavior, that is fine. It’s the Overton-window that is important, not the individual player, as the goal is not conformity or even homogenization. The important thing is UNITY. Hence: E PLURIBUS UNIM.

In the same way, it is obviously practically important that the United States of America have a common-tongue. That common-tongue is obviously English. But despite the fact of standard “English,” this does eliminate the value of southwestern, southern Florida, and Puerto Rican Spanish, Louisiana French, Pennsylvania German, pockets of Dutch still spoken in America, ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (quite literally one of the official languages of the state of Hawaii), the Korean and Chinese with a firm foothold in certain large cities, or the traditional Navajo and Yupik languages still spoken today. These are distinctly AMERICAN. They are connected to the various nations that live in this Commonwealth.

And less noticed than the languages are American dialects. In this realm the good work of John McWhorter should be consulted. While children can of course use “bad grammar,” it is important to notice the difference between mere “bad grammar” and a “different dialect.” As he astutely observes in a variety of his books, the way that many black Americans speak in the South is not always “slang” or “bad grammar.” Often, it is quite literally the way that black Americans have been speaking ever since they got here. It is a DIALECT. While it is obviously necessary to teach people with a different dialect how to speak in the standard dialect, this is to equip them for their own social mobility. It is not a threat to the commonwealth.

I know this very intently, because I am a white guy from the South. I once put the phrase “fixin’ to” in an email in law school and I was mercilessly ridiculed. The thing was, the person who thought it was so funny was from Boston. As opposed to sounding like a southern rube, she thought she sounded “wicked smaht.” In contrast, my classmates from California were, like, totally cool with my accent, dude.

All of this is okay. It is what we should expect in a Commonwealth like America. It is also the reason why we should expect and simply acknowledge – WITH LITTLE TO NO MORAL JUDGMENT – that certain patterns of speaking are “standard.” This is a pragmatic consideration, not a moral one. The danger comes when differences in dialect and mastery of the “common tongue” leads to disparate outcomes in public civil life.

As an interesting observation, while America is not an empire and not a “nation,” there is one aspect of America which IS an empire over certain “nations” of common ethnic descent. I’m speaking of the Indian Tribes. American Indians (who do not pay tax) were never a part of the citizens of America until 1905. Even today, the tribes have their own governments that apply only to their own nation. They have concurrent jurisdiction with states and citizens who are members of the Indian Nations in very complex ways. I do not know enough about this arrangement to critique it. All I can say is that this relationship definitely exists.

But What About the “Christian” in “Christian Nationalism”?

And while I hope to find out about it in the book, there is also the issue of religion in the Commonwealth. Isn’t it true that we can’t have a single RELIGION to be the standard in a diverse nation like America? Isn’t it true that the First Amendment states that there will not be an establishment of religion in the United States of America at the federal level? Isn’t it true that the Fourteenth Amendment applied this rule to the states, as well?

Yes, that’s true, but it means very little on a practical level. That is because moral standards MUST be enforced on a nation, otherwise, there is no law. As a consequence, religion is inherently tied to every nation, country, state empire, republic, democracy, or commonwealth, including this one.

To prove my point, let me ask a few basic open-ended moral questions:

There is no “objective” answer to ANY of these questions. All of them invoke RELIGIOUS beliefs as the underlying assumptions. The “logic” the flows to make workable rules all rest on a religion foundation.

While certain compromises can be made between religious beliefs, all of them are compromises between RELIGIONS, not compromises between a rational secularism and an irrational religion. That’s because there is no possible way to live life as a human being devoid of religion. A citizen in a commonwealth like the United States of America can follow a religion, live ignorantly of the religion that is followed, or make up a religion out of nothing.

But a religion is something that has always and will always exist. There is no getting around it. America was previously considered a basically “Christian” nation. Believe it or not, only in 1961 did the Supreme Court in Torcaso v. Watkins hold that it was unconstitutional for the state of Maryland to require a Notary Public to declare belief in God.

As such, “a religion” has traditionally been something that binds a Commonwealth together. It is a very good question as to how much that religion should bind, but the absence of a common religion would be more destructive than the absence of a common language. It is the base level foundation of any society.

As such, it is inevitable that religion will be intertwined with a nation, country, state, empire, commonwealth, republic, or democracy. There is no way around it.

In American history, this question was addressed most directly in Reynolds v. United States (1878), which dealt with the question of whether the United States Congress could enforce a law against polygamy against Mormons in the Utah territory. The relevant debate of this decision – which is technically still good law – is below:

Marriage, while from its very nature a sacred obligation, is nevertheless, in most civilized nations, a civil contract, and usually regulated by law. Upon it society may be said to be built, and out of its fruits spring social relations and social obligations and duties with which government is necessarily required to deal. In fact, according as monogamous or polygamous marriages are allowed, do we find the principles on which the government of the people, to a greater or less extent, rests. Professor, Lieber says, polygamy leads to the patriarchal principle, and which, when applied to large communities, fetters the people in stationary despotism, while that principle cannot long exist in connection with monogamy. Chancellor Kent observes that this remark is equally striking and profound. 2 Kent, Com. 81, note (e). An exceptional colony of polygamists under an exceptional leadership may sometimes exist for a time without appearing to disturb the social condition of the people who surround it; but there cannot be a doubt that, unless restricted by some form of constitution, it is within the legitimate scope of the power of every civil government to determine whether polygamy or monogamy shall be the law of social life under its dominion.

In our opinion, the statute immediately under consideration is within the legislative power of Congress. It is constitutional and valid as prescribing a rule of action for all those residing in the Territories, and in places over which the United States have exclusive control. This being so, the only question which remains is whether those who make polygamy a part of their religion are excepted from the operation of the statute. If they are, then those who do not make polygamy a part of their religious belief may be found guilty and punished, while those who do, must be acquitted and go free. This would be introducing a new element into criminal law. Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship; would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband; would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice?

So here, as a law of the organization of society under the exclusive dominion of the United States, it is provided that plural marriages shall not be allowed. Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief?

To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and, in effect, to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances.

The Situation at Present

This idea was common-sense until recently, when we began to make up an entirely new religion out of thin air. This is quite obvious for anybody who is watching.

And if you don’t believe me, look at this article about one of “one of Hollywood’s Top Dealmakers” in this 2018 article, that describes him as a “sadomacochistic spiritualist and community leader.” Oh yeah, and he also happened to have accidentally killed someone in a sexual bondage event:

An autopsy report filed on Nov. 22, 2017, concluded the immediate cause was “sudden death during recreational mummification bondage.” The mode was listed as “undetermined.”

Yeah, he killed somebody when tying him put for sex. What were the consequences of that? The article describes:

After an investigation into George’s death, headed up by Marta Miyakawa, a veteran homicide detective, the LAPD could find no credible criminal component to his death and passed the case back to the coroner.

That’s a foundational shift that came from a COMPLETELY NEW RELIGION. You probably thought I was going to bring up “Drag Queen Story Hour” or some sort of LGBT discrimination thing, right? Nope. I’m talking about people dying in submissive sex acts and the government saying “Welp, I don’t see a crime here.” That’s not a “legal” evolution in America. That’s a brand new RELIGION in America.

And so if the evangelists of the newly-created religion of absolute-tolerance (except when your speech is deemed “hateful,” often arbitrarily) and freedom to choose anything (except vaguely defined “discrimination”) can proselytize the nation and propagate their standards in law, why can’t Christians go the opposite direction?

If the freedom of religion doesn’t allow that, does freedom of religion even exist?


In closing, I plan to read this book about “The Case for Christian Nationalism,” and I will be interested in seeing exactly how Stephen wolf defines the “shared experience” of the nation. However, no matter how crazy this book gets, I doubt it will be as crazy as other things that I have seen which have caused far less controversy in the public sphere. Take this single example of a

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