“Christians Must Be Conservative, And Conservatives Must Be Christian” is the headline of an article by P. Andrew Sandlin that was published in December on the Sovereign Nations website and promoted on the group’s Facebook page on Monday.
Sovereign Nations, “a media site dedicated to the preservation of national sovereignty,” describes its purpose as “a prolegomenon to the formation of a new, and not just sentimental, conservative and Constitutional Republic.” (Oxford defines prolegomenon as a “critical or discursive introduction to a book.”) It was seemingly created to challenge “the ideas and concepts” that guide the work of the Open Society Foundations, which were founded by George Soros, a favorite target of right-wing leaders.
Sovereign Nations’ founder Mark O’Halloran was a co-creator and original signer of a statement signed by more than 3,000 evangelical individuals and groups last year branding “social justice” as a threat to the gospel. Sovereign Nations has also played host to Jordan B. Peterson, a viral conservative pseudo-philosopher who achieved stardom by pairing conservative messages and conspiracy theories with generic self-help advice aimed at young men.
Sandlin, the article’s author, is founder and president of the Center for Cultural Leadership, which equips “Christian transformationists” to “transform culture.” Sandlin is a former executive vice president of the Chalcedon Foundation, which was founded by Christian Reconstructionist R.J. Rushdoony, whose thinking has influenced many contemporary Religious Right leaders. Sandlin promotes his ideas through writing and podcasts. The Gospel Coalition’s online “resource library” includes links to 11 Sandlin publications.
Sandlin is also, according to his website, faculty for the Blackstone Legal Fellowship of the Alliance Defending Freedom, the global Religious Right legal giant. The goal of the Blackstone program, ADF once declared publicly, is to “recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.”
In another Sandlin post from December, he decries “resignation theology” and urges “resistance theology”:
Roe v. Wade, Obergefell, Cultural Marxism, pornography, pride, multiculturalism, extramarital sex, covetousness, Darwinism, prayerlessness, ideological feminism, unbelief, and a host of other cultural sins plague our families, churches, and society. We dare not resign ourselves to them. As long as God doesn’t resign himself to sin, we cannot. Bold, resistance theology is the calling of the hour.
The Sandlin article promoted by Sovereign Nations this week serves as a stark example of Christian dominionist thinking:
Jesus Christ is the rightful Governor of the world. In fact, if we don’t get his role in government right, we’ll get all other roles wrong. This means that politics, like all else, must be Christian. But what makes a political view Christian? It’s first necessary to shed the silly idea that Christianity is equally compatible with dramatically conflicting political philosophies.
The article then moves into a section which, as it warns, starts “bluntly”: “All biblical Christians (that is, true Christians) must be politically conservative (as we use that term today), and all true conservatives must be Christian.” Just to make sure there’s no mistaking his point, Sandlin reiterates that Christianity is not compatible with liberalism or “reconcilable with the Democratic Party.”
Sandlin critiques several varieties of “non-Christian conservatism” —including libertarianism, Constitutionalism, and paleo-conservatism—as a way of making his argument that “our political conservatism should be Christian conservatism, and there shouldn’t be any other kind.”
Sandlin has praise for Constitutionalism, but he says the problem is that the Constitution “was designed for a Christian people” but the U.S. now has “a post-Christendom, secular, pagan population”:
Yet that population is still living under a Christian-shaped form of government. We’re now at a breaking point. Our ungodly citizenry is chafing under our Christian institutions. We’ve gradually put the new wine of secularism and paganism into the old bottle of the Constitution. The bottle is about to burst. This is why our answer isn’t simply a return to the Constitution, impressive though it is. The Constitution requires a Christian people.
Sandlin offers five facets of the principle that conservatism must be Christian:
- Jesus’ Cosmic Lordship: Jesus is Lord of all the universe, including politics. A “non-Christian politics,” he says, “is a denial of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
- God’s Universal Law: God’s moral law, including his moral law in politics, is designed for all people. Legislation, Sandlin writes, must be an application of God’s moral law. (“Laws penalizing software theft are applications of the 8th commandment. Speed limit laws are applications of the 6th commandment.”)
- The Creational Commission: “the creational commission of the godly is to take responsible dominion over the rest of creation, including political dominion.” Sandlin writes, “It’s God’s desire that godly people lead politics:
“Jesus carries the government on his shoulder, but he calls us to lead that government under his authority. Secular progressives and neo-pagans have commandeered politics precisely because Christians have shirked their calling. If we expect to turn back evil in the world, we will do it when more Christians recover their dominion calling. This includes their political calling: more biblical Christians in political office, more Christians voting for Christians and Christian-influenced candidates, more biblically shaped legislation. Politics is a Christian responsibility, not a luxury. A non-Christian politics exempts Christians from their God-imposed requirement of cultural stewardship in politics.”
- A Plurality of Governments: Sandlin says God has created several “governments” including “family government, church government, school government, business government, and so on.” Civil government is just part of God’s governing authority, he says, but “leftists” want everything controlled by civil government because politics “is their god.” Conservatives must support small civil government because God’s government is big.
- The Earthly Kingdom Victory: “God has promised victory in history for his kingdom, including political victory.” Sandlin says that the Bible’s eschatology (view of how the world will end) is “an eschatology of victory.” He says that Jesus began reigning over the earth when he was resurrected from the dead, but that “doesn’t mean that there won’t still be battles:
“Here’s a helpful metaphor. After D-Day in WWII, the Allied victory was never in doubt. But there are still many battles to be fought. The war was working toward Allied victory. But many bloody battles lay ahead. The Cross and resurrection were our D-Day. The victory is never in doubt. But there are still plenty of battles, and that includes political battles. But the Devil’s fate is sealed. The victory is the Lord’s.”
Sandlin says President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” is “a fine motto, just as long as we know what made America great in the first place…America was great because it was founded in Christian truth.” Concludes Sandlin, “What is needed today is a bold, thoughtful, effective voice for political conservatism — in other words, for biblical Christianity.”
In his article, Sandlin says that this concept of dominion does not mean the church as an institution is running the government, or the government is forcing people to become Christians:
None of this means that conservatives are trying to set up a theocracy, as they’re often accused of by an ignorant or slanderous press. Theocracy means God’s rule. The fact is, Jesus Christ already set up a theocracy, whether we like or not. Liberals complain that conservatives want to “take over” politics to force people to become Christian. That’s false. People become Christian by trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Salvation is by grace, not politics. Christianity doesn’t force anybody to become a Christian. It does require a basic law order, however. That’s just what the Founders believed.
Sandlin got into the weeds on this a bit more in a 2009 interview, which is hardly reassuring:
We strongly support the separation of church and state. We do not support the separation of the state from God. There is a vast difference. The church is under the authority of the law of God just as the state is. We’re not looking for an ecclesiocracy. We are looking for a godly decentralized theocracy, the rule of the law of God. We certainly do not want the rule of the institutional church over society. We don’t support medieval notions like that. We simply believe that the law of God should govern in society.
If it’s not a Christian nation, it’s going to be some type of nation. An Islamic nation? A secular nation? A science fiction nation? There will be some religion that will be enforced in society, we believe it should be Christianity — within the narrow limits of the law of God not a heavy top-down bureaucracy. …
The idea that we supposedly have the right to pursue the longings of our own heart is essentially a liberal idea. That’s what liberals have held for the past 200 years and especially the last 50 years. The important thing is responsibility to the Law of God and to God as our sovereign. …
We certainly do not want an Ayatollah fundamentalist regime. That’s not what we are looking for at all. In a biblically oriented society, political power would be greatly decreased. In these areas of capital crimes and other penal sanctions, over a long period of time by means of godly peaceful democratic change we want the Law of God to be enforced. It’s not our goal to go out and impose our views on everybody else. That really is a slander against the Christian Reconstructionist position. Our goal is not to harm any particular group or any minority, but certainly it is to require that all people submit themselves to the Law of God. …
In a biblical society, cults, or people who do not hold to a bare minimum orthodoxy, can hold their faith. They can teach their children their faith. But as far as public worship, the Bible does seem to forbid public worship that is contrary to Christian worship.