When America First uses this slogan, they are comprehensively wrong
The crowd chanted “Christ is King!” at the March for Life in Washington, DC this January. They chanted it last January too, when an insurrection broke into the US Capitol and attempted to overthrow the government.
That chant is now a calling card of Nick Fuentes and America First—a podcast, conference and community within the broader white Christian nationalist movement. It also happens to be a core proclamation of Christians through the centuries.
When I say “Christ is King,” I mean something very different from what Fuentes means. While there is a long history of Christian support for violent racism—even using that very same language—a proper theological understanding of “Christ is King” ought to compel us to live at peace with our neighbors.
When America First uses this slogan, they are comprehensively wrong: They are wrong in what they want and how they go about seeking it.
When Fuentes and others say “Christ is King,” they enlist the figure of Jesus Christ into their army under their own vision. They seek an America that is white, and marked by violent exclusion of immigrants and others.
How can this vision fit with a Christ who breaks down barriers of ethnic division among his people, in whom there is “neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28)? How can a Christ who models forgiveness of those who curse him and demonstrates love and inclusion of his enemies, call people to violent exclusion?
This isn’t a matter of partisan politics. Rather, as a matter of basic moral sensibility, Christ is opposed to violent white Christian nationalism.
But that isn’t the only difference between what Christ would endorse and what Fuentes and others seek. The motto “Christ is King” is one that should guide one toward humble, rather than violent, political action.
The white Christian nationalist movement has an exclusivist and violent vision of what politics consists of: imposing one’s will on others. We can see the tactics of this movement in what the Proud Boys have done. In addition to participating in the January 6 insurrection, they tore down Black Lives Matters banners from churches in Washington, DC in 2020 and attacked protestors who disagreed with them.
The way of Christ is different.
From a Reformed Christian background, to say that “Christ is King” means “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’ ” as Kuyper put it.
Rooted in this tradition, my theology does not exclude me from working with others of very different beliefs or from participating in a secular political sphere. Instead, it undergirds my work in multi-faith advocacy. Christ’s kingship doesn’t mean that I must be powerful enough to compel obedience from others or that the Church must run everything. Instead, Christ’s kingship calls me to humility and faithful partnership, in partisan politics, with those of other belief systems.
Because of this theological understanding, I can work together with my Jewish colleagues, say, when we are pushing Congress to renew the Child Tax Credit. My motivation is to serve Christ the King and bring forth justice. They may have different motivations, but we can join together to support families in humility.
To proclaim Christ’s kingship is to relativize all of our attempts to rule over one another, and it ought to foster humility and peace. No one person or institution can have final authority because such authority belongs to Christ, who is the great liberator. This is why the martyr can face death: because the powers of this world are not ultimate.
When America First or the Proud Boys chant “Christ is King,” they intend to terrify those who disagree with them. It’s the act of thugs who enjoy brutalization and pretend to care about religion.
But they abuse this theological language. “Christ is King” is the call of someone who has seen the end of the story and knows Christ has the ultimate victory over sin, death and evil, regardless of what temporary trials and disappointments may come. “Christ is King” is not meant to be the cry of the warrior—it is the cry of the martyr.
Greg Williams works in digital politics at Faith in Public Life (although opinions are his own). You can yell at him on Twitter @gwilliamsster but he’d prefer if you were kind.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.