Is Nativism Bad for Christianity?

As the kingdoms of this world tap the brakes on globalism and rekindle the romance with nativism, it’s worth asking how Christians should view such a shift. Many in the Kingdom of God instinctively embrace all politically conservative views because they highly value other politically conservative views. Nativism, for the most part, falls into this category.

There is obviously room for disagreement on this topic within the Body of Christ, but not vitriol. I happen to believe that there are still reasonable people out there who can have grown up conversations, even about tough stuff. Such is the desire of this blog post. In this discussion, I’m limiting my view to biblical teaching on this subject. If you’re not a follower of Jesus the following might not make any sense.

With that preface intended to take the edges off an edgy conversation, here are a few cautions I see to the Church jumping on the nativism train too enthusiastically.

God is Bringing the Nations to Our Doorstep, and We Shouldn’t Seek to Slam the Door

This isn’t hyperbole. I live in a metropolitan area with 1.2 million residents who weren’t born here. The county in which my church is located is one of the most diverse counties in the nation. Not far from my home is a community that is one of the most diverse zip codes in America.

It is hard to argue — God is bringing the nations to America. David Platt, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board and a prolific author, has some great teaching on how God oversees the great migrations of the global population (with lots of Scriptural support) and how they always serve to advance the Gospel and the Kingdom. If we build walls and pass laws that hinder this movement, could it be that we are hindering the advancement of the Gospel? As Kingdom workers and followers of Jesus, is this something we should desire or promote? For the record, I don’t think so.

Photo Credit: Unsplash (edited)

Nativism Could Hinder the Spread of the Gospel Not Just in the U.S., But Around the Globe

Not only are a lot of unbelievers coming to America, but a lot of Christians are going from America to other places around the world where they are advancing the Kingdom on earth. In obedience to the Great Commission, disciples are “going into all the world” to make more disciples (Matthew 28:16-20). What happens when, in response to American nativistic policies, other nations around the world enforce similar policies? It has already happened.

So many missionaries travel to other countries as business people, teachers, and medical professionals. Aid workers and others could potentially be banned from other countries, removing the “cover” some workers use to enter countries closed to the Gospel. What happens when we as Americans get a taste of our own medicine elsewhere?

I know that Christians already exist in many countries, and I’m not presuming that Americans are necessary to spread the Gospel in unreached areas. But any country seeking to do evangelism in another place is hindered by a nativistic mindset. In the Kingdom of God, when global evangelism is the goal, nativistic mindsets seem at least to be counterproductive to the mission at hand. At most, they may be downright sinful.

Nativism Flies in the Face of Scripture

Do we have any reference point regarding this issue in the Bible? I think so.

Inherent in the “America First” rallying cry (or any “Nation First” plea, for that matter) is that a single nation is more exceptional or somehow better than every other nation. But this flies in the face of orthodox Christian doctrine and biblical teaching. A thoughtful article in Relevant Magazine questions the theological correctness of nativism, citing many Scriptures. I’ll leave a few here for us to ponder together:

1. In the Kingdom, there is no distinction between race, etc.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28

(The phrase “all nations” is used dozens of times in Scripture…first in Genesis and finally in Revelation. In between, the message seems clear — God cares about all people.)

2. We are first and foremost citizens of another place.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20)

3. It is, of course, not a sin to love your country and be subject to it’s leaders.

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:7

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1

4. Our Kingdom priority, however, is for the Gospel to reach every nation, not just our own.

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14

“Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:4

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

I know that governments are going to do what governments are going to do. That’s fine. I will be subject to it, as all Christ followers should be. But as a citizen of the Kingdom of God, I must be clear-eyed about the potential dangers of nativism as it impacts my primary concern — the advancement of the Gospel to all nations.

Time will tell how nativism impacts the geopolitical landscape, but I don’t really care about that.

My prayer is that it won’t construct unnecessary hurdles to the advancement of the Gospel.

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Titus Benton is the Executive Director of The 25 Group, a non-profit with the mission of making “less least of these.” Through preaching, writing, and giving, he inspires people to live a deeper life with Jesus.