The Nationalism Conversation

Posted by TJ on 12/2/2022Tags: Linked, Nationalism, PoliticsThe Nationalism Conversation

It all begins with a small, anonymous Twitter account. It has less than 50 followers. One of those followers is Stephen Wolfe, who occasionally “liked” some of the Tweets emanating from this account. A theologian by the name of Alastair Roberts, while working on his own criticisms of Wolfe’s book, became curious about this anonymous account. He did a lot of digging around on social media and came to the reasoned conclusion that this anonymous account is run by Stephen Wolfe’s podcast co-host and collaborator, Thomas Achord. And then Alastair said so publicly.

You should go read the whole post by Brian Mattson. I feel like he ably captured the thoughts swirling around in my head in a more coherent manner than I ever would have been able to. But suffice to say that it was all, “shock, horror, that’s not my account, definitely not, nope not mine” for days. Then, finally, after the smoking gun was found and the dust had settled, Thomas Achord fell on his sword in the lamest, most passive way possible.

This is sordid business, and I apologize for having to bring it to your attention. Why does it matter? Well, Alastair Roberts explains why he thinks it matters, and I think he is right: there are actual, real, live white supremacists attempting to use “Christian Nationalism”—and classical Christian education!—as a Trojan Horse to help promote their deviant views. And the world has a right to know whether the author of The Case For Christian Nationalism is one of them. Guilt-by-association? It is certainly worthy of a little suspicion-by-association. This was not a case of “a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend” saying vile things. This, as I understand it, is Wolfe’s closest collaborator. And I frankly don’t find believable any of the “explanations,” such as they are—not Achord’s, and not Wolfe’s. It’s a matter of record that Achord was lying—brazenly so, and to my mind still is—and Wolfe’s (non)accounting of things simply does not add up.

Alastair Roberts (whom I greatly respect and admire) cares about the cause of Christian Nationalism and wants to empty out the Trojan Horse, or, to use another metaphor, drain the movement of its swampy elements. I do not care about the cause of Christian Nationalism—least of all Stephen Wolfe’s version of it—and wish it to die a quick and tidy death. I have done my part to help make that happen. But on this Alastair and I are aligned in lockstep: there is no room for racism or white supremacy of any kind in anything claiming the name of Jesus Christ, certainly not in a “Christian” vision of public and social policy.

I, like Brian, do not care too much about the name Christian Nationalism or the broader movement 1. Though, doubtless, some would want to lump me in with many who embrace the term. Indeed, I do not doubt there is significant overlap in what I believe and what Christian Nationalists tend to believe. Christ is Lord, Christ rules and reigns now, and men’s governments and laws should legislate the morality of Christ and God’s word rather than the immorality that comes from a bitter and blackened heart and those who curse His name. And yet there always seems to be a lot of “sordid business” surrounding this nationalism stuff. Guilt by association isn’t always right. It takes wisdom and discernment to figure it out. But after enough times, you can start to put 2 and 2 together.

I’ve dealt far too much with kinism and racism in the reformed circles I run in and I, too, wish it to be swept away entirely from my sight. It doesn’t look like that will happen in my lifetime.

As somewhat of an aside — though certainly related to the nationalism conversation — I think one of the problems in the Christian Nationalism movement continues to be a high view of the “state” and a big government, top-down view of running the world. We moderns care a lot about things happening at a big, huge national level but not too much about what’s going on in our communities. To be sure, what happens at a national level affects us far more often and to a larger degree than it should, and that causes us to care a great deal. But there’s not a lot we can (or should) be doing from such a top-down position.

The U.S. is HUGE — both in population and land mass. There’s just no way to properly and accurately represent all the interests at the national level. There’s no way to have a shared identity and sense of “people” that the Democrats, Republicans, or the Christian Nationalists (probably Republicans?) wish to foist upon us. Are there usually things that most Americans can identify with. Yes and no. But the conception of those things will be different depending upon whether they are held in a big city, a small town, or the rural farm land. Each one of those groups has very different ideas and conceptions about being American, and they have very different interests. And because all the power is concentrated in a small group of governing officials and bodies, it doesn’t really tend to work out well for anyone.

I don’t think anyone, not Democrats, not Republicans, not Christian Nationalists, and not conservative libertarians (or Biblical libertarians or conservatarians, or whatever I try to call myself these days), is happy with the way things are right now. No one’s interests are being served. The entire country is polarized along (falsely drawn) political lines and bad-faith argumentation. Our top-down authoritarian government has made us hate the other parties that do not serve our interests because each party is forced to vie for power to serve their own interests at the expense of others out of self-preservation.

The answer is not “nationalism” but localism. Remove the concentration of power. And as Christians we should focus on our communities, our local churches, the gospel, and righteous local leaders. No doubt, out of self-preservation, we should continue to vote in federal elections. But we should seek to be putting into federal power, those who would seek to reduce the size and scope of the federal government, not those who would use it as a battering ram for whatever political pets they or their constituents want.

Of course, when people hear localism, they also hear cliquishness and racism. And I don’t deny that the human tendency toward suspicion, even hating the “other” is strong (sorry to use the “other” buzzword). But it’s also strong — as we see now — at the federal level too. And it causes far more problems from the top down than it would from a position of less power and influence 2. The thing is that Christian Nationalists tend to speak of our nation in a tribal sense. In a way, I’m advocating for real tribalism through localism, which is ironic. But I believe that focusing more locally would make for much better neighbors nationally. To use a very broad generalization, the city of New York trying to force their ways and their values on the rural areas of TN is precisely what has caused the rise in cliquish fear and aggravated the issues around the so-called “shared identity” of being American.

The answer of nationalism is to change the top-down thinking via authoritarianism. The correct answer is, in my estimation, localism 3.


  1. Do not misunderstand me, I do care a great deal about Christ being the sovereign over all.

  2. Sin affects every human institution, since sinful humans are involved in every human institution.

  3. Of course, as a Christian, a healthy dose of the local church is also necessary!