Is an America-First Doctrine Actually Biblical?

Where does nationalism end and Christianity begin?


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in January, but in light of the president’s recent international tour and recent “America-first” comments, we are reposting.

If you tuned in to the news over the last few weeks, you may have a bleak assessment of our country and the world right now.

According to our new president, the rest of the globe has mooched and manhandled the United States, garnering power while “the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon.” The way out can be found in an utter and unrelenting nationalism. “We assembled here today,” President Trump said in his inauguration speech, “are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power … From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First.”

This is a dangerous call.

Whatever we think about the state of our nation or our president, as Christians we must always be cautious around fix-it ideologies that are not rooted in Christ. When the president says “the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America,” we must ask ourselves if such a proclamation aligns with the Gospel.

What the Bible says about nationalism.

The Bible tells us clearly that our “total allegiance” belongs to God alone.

We cannot split our loyalties. We cannot serve two masters. (Matthew 6:24). To be sure, Christians are commanded and privileged to seek the welfare of our cities, to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to serve people and respect government. But none of that justifies putting the interests of our own country above all others. Like Paul, we are not out for personal gain. We seek “the good of many” (1 Corinthians 10:33).

When Jesus summed up the law, He told us to love God. He also told us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31).

Christian neighborliness stretches far beyond national borders and ethnic, political or even religious distinctions. The Church in the United States can joyfully love and serve Mexicans and Syrians, Muslims and atheists, immigrants and refugees because all people, created in the image of God, are our neighbors.

Followers of Christ have orders to be humble, sacrificial and self-denying. We must look to the interests of people everywhere, in all countries and in all walks of life. “In humility consider others better than yourselves,” wrote Paul in his letter to the Philippians. He specifically opposed nationalism when he called Jewish Christians to recognize their oneness with Gentiles, to stop thinking of themselves as superior.

For Christians, “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28). Likewise, there is neither American nor foreigner in the Kingdom of God.

The Dangers of “America First”

Quite simply, granting total allegiance to our country (or any country) and putting our own interests above those of everyone not born on American soil is not biblical.

God doesn’t favor one country or one ethnicity over others. Neither should we. “America First” is a perilous policy because it is rooted in self and selfish egoism. It is built on the premise that our needs are more important than your needs, that we’re right to value our own lives more than yours.

Ban Muslims. Build a wall. Penalize businesses that move overseas. Duck out of trade deals. Back away from our commitments to alliances and international organizations. There is nothing neighborly or humble in such policies. The logic of protectionist nationalism might lift them up as ultimate goods, but the Gospel tells a different story.

The “America First” doctrine is not only dangerous socially and politically; it is dangerous spiritually.

Adhering to such an inward-looking brand of American nationalism, for Christians, would betray the multinational and ecumenical character of the Body of Christ.

If Jesus wants us to imitate the Good Samaritan, who sacrificed for a suffering stranger, we cannot ignore the suffering strangers of our own world. Just as “America First” steals from the grandeur and scope of the Church and the Kingdom, it also robs us of our witness. What credibility can American Christians have with the rest of the world if we say we love them with the love of Christ, but put ourselves first?

The greatest witness to our faith did not come preaching nationalism. He came preaching mercy, justice, peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Jesus put the needs of alien sinners above his own glory, laying down equality with God and humbling himself to save those who were far off (Philippians 2:5-8).

By the power of the Spirit, the American Church can follow his example.

The Way Forward

Scripture is clear that we should not put our trust in chariots or congressmen, but in God. We are to be humble, servant-hearted, and loving toward both neighbors and enemies.

In light of that reality, and acknowledging the dangers of the “America First” creed, how do we proceed?

First, we can be patriots. Even though we cannot give in to the temptation of nationalism, we can and should support our nation (Jeremiah 29:7). There is nothing wrong with loving our country and wanting great things for it, as long as that desire does not come at the expense of other needy people. We should absolutely work for the prosperity of the United States by electing leaders we can respect, empowering minorities and welcoming foreigners. Just remember that loving our country well does not mean loving others less.

Second, we can be globally-minded. Every person around the globe bears the image of God. The governments of all countries rest on Jesus’ shoulders (Isaiah 9:6). Americans are not better or more valuable than anyone else in God’s eyes. Christians should have the same vision. Let us look beyond our own communities and the borders and oceans that divide us. Let us see people of all cultures and countries as neighbors and friends. Let us seek their good and be compassionate toward them.

Third, we can be Kingdom citizens. Christians are strangers in the world. Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). Just as prophets and politicians must not be turned into idols, the country itself must never take precedence over God and his Kingdom. Resting in our ultimate citizenship frees us from both the cold chains of nationalism and the postmodern vagueness of globalism. We can love our country and the world, but neither is our true home.

Our home is a supranational kingdom that knows no classes or borders. Let’s live like it.


4 thoughts on “Is an America-First Doctrine Actually Biblical?

  1. “For Christians, “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28). Likewise, there is neither American nor foreigner in the Kingdom of God.”

    No! You are totally wrong. It no longer shocks me when I read an article by anybody who claims to be a Christian but is ignorant of the foundational truth of the gospel. Nothing you put forth as argument is backed up by God’s truth.

    Let me explain.

    1. The truth is if any man BE IN Christ, there’s no more disticntions in terms of race or class amogst them. Non is superior nor better than the other irrespective of whatever their backgrounds were. Wby? Because Christ is the new family tree, the last Adam, unifying all men that have received Him as Lord and believe in Him as the Son of God, the Messiah, The King of Kings.

    2. God prefers no nation on earth. The apple of His eye is His Son’s Bride, the Church. Read Revelation 11. 1-2. The Church is God’s nation on earth; Heaven’s colony on earth so to speak. She is the body of Christ and everything has been put under Christ’s feet (the Church’s feet since she is His body) – Eph. 1.19-23. This means the only spiritual authority God recognises on earth is His Church since all authority both in heaven and on earth has been given to Christ.
    Yes! The Church is the most important entity on earth because it’s the Pillar of God’s truth; God’s ekclesia; His vice regents who are His sons, priests and kings chosen by God to bring about the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth as recorded in the book of Isaiah 2.2.

    3. Conclusively, God prefers a son He has received in Christ far more important than one who is yet to be becuase Christ prayed specifically for his preservation and that of those who will believe in Him as the Messiah sent by God through his preaching.

    A few more thoughts.

    I am appalled to say the least. You have no sense of nationality or simply put you don’t understand what it means to be a nation.
    A nation is a larger ‘family’ of the smaller nucleus family from which a nation has its development and sustenance. I hope you get the picture? If I as a father must protect my family from what I percieve as eminent danger and do nothing about it, what will you describe my behaviour? Irrational or rational? Let me say it again, if preferring the safety of the members of my own house over taking in a set of people I know can be a threat to the security of my family members, would you call my attitude and action as ‘wrong’ or out of place?

    Please, do the thinking!

    My family members must come first. No. Your opinion doesn’t count. For crying out loud, I’m talking about protecting my home.

    Case in point: when the woman with a sick child approached Christ to heal her daughter, do you remember Christ’s response to her? The children’s meat are not meant for dogs. Shocking! You feel so? I believe. You need to understand that in context. Christ came first for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. You know why? The oracle’s of God were first committed to them. God had in mind to build His model nation using Israel as His prototype and God, being who He is, never repents of His purpose.

    Enough of this hypocritical, ignorant and totally misrepresenting of the truth of God’s word.

    Obviously, it is not the God of the Bible we represent but the God we want Him to be. Te last time I checked, that attitude is synonymous with idolatry. And God hates idolatry.

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