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“Give me leaders, and I will raise the world”~ Joseph Cardijn.

Beware of the rise of Christian Nationalism and the threat to Christianity and Catholic Social Teachings.

“Give me leaders, and I will raise the world”~ Joseph Cardijn.

Joseph Cardijn was one of the earliest and most outspoken opponents of Christian Nationalism as it grew in Europe. He was not an advocate of the formation of Christian Nationalism that was growing in Germany and which many bishops capitulated to. In 1934, Cardijn criticized Hitler’s government’s growing violence in a speech to the Catholic Congress. On September 1, 1934, German soldiers took Cardijn hostage at the headquarters of the Catholic Youth Work (YCWM).

We are seeing and experiencing a rise in Christian Nationalism across the globe, and in the US, it has become affiliated with far-right political movements. Not much different from what we saw in the 1930s. Today, many Catholics in the US have tried to associate Christian Nationalism with Catholic Social Teachings.

Let’s be clear: there is a major distinction between Catholic Social Teachings and Christian Nationalism. Joseph Cardijn understood this very well, unlike many bishops of the 1930s.

One has to ask, what are we experiencing today? Today, we are experiencing movements of the far right and more traditional positions supporting the politics of the right and finding comfort in lumping all things traditional into one bucket called Christian Nationalism. This is an educational issue.

The main difference between Catholic Social Teachings and Christian Nationalism lies in their focus and values:

Catholic Social Teachings:

  1. Universal: Focuses on the dignity of all human beings regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or religion.

  2. Common good: Prioritizes the well-being of the entire community, emphasizing social justice, solidarity, and the preferential option for the poor.

  3. Subsidiarity: Advocates for solutions at the lowest possible level, empowering individuals and communities to solve their own problems.

  4. Dialogue and cooperation: Promotes engagement with people of different faiths and backgrounds to build a more just and peaceful world.

Christian Nationalism:

  1. Particularistic: Emphasizes the specialness and superiority of a specific Christian nation.

  2. National identity: Blends Christian faith with national identity, often conflating national interests with God’s will.

  3. Exclusionary: May view non-Christians or certain social groups as threats to the nation’s Christian character.

  4. Domination: Seeks to impose Christian values and norms on the nation’s laws and policies.

It becomes clear and straightforward which one of these two movements Joesph Cardijn preferred.

It’s important to note that these are broad categories, and nuances and variations may exist within each. Some within the Catholic Church might hold views that resonate with Christian Nationalism, while some Christian nationalists might find common ground with certain aspects of Catholic social teachings.


Here are some additional points to consider:

Christian nationalism, for many, is a relatively recent phenomenon in the vocabulary of most Catholics, while Catholic Social Teachings have been developed over centuries. We see a lack of understanding of Catholic Social Teachings among the average “pew“ Catholics today.

  1. I will argue that Christian Nationalism is fundamentally incompatible with the Catholic faith, Our history, and the teachings of Jesus, as it contradicts the universal message of the Gospel and undermines the Church’s role as a bridge between cultures and religions.

  2. Others argue that the two can overlap, especially when defending shared values like family or morality. However, we must emphasize the importance of avoiding the pitfalls of Christian Nationalism and upholding the core principles of Catholic Social Justice, which is not present in the core of Christian Nationalism.

Understanding their key differences can help you navigate this challenging topic and make informed judgments about the issues.

Christian Nationalism is a political and cultural ideology combining Christianity with a strong sense of national identity. Or you can think of it as using Christianity as the fox in sheep’s clothing. It often involves the belief that the foundation and success of a nation are tied to its adherence to Christian principles and values. Here are some key points regarding our collective understanding of Christian Nationalism:

  1. The intersection of Religion and Nationalism: Christian nationalism involves the intertwining of religious beliefs and national identity, where Christianity is seen as a crucial factor in shaping the identity and policies of a nation.

  2. Cultural and Political Influence: Advocates of Christian nationalism seek to influence a country’s cultural and political landscape based on their interpretation of Christian principles. This can manifest in efforts to shape laws, policies, and public discourse.

  3. Diverse Manifestations: Christian nationalism can manifest differently in various regions and denominations. It is not a monolithic concept, and its expressions can vary based on cultural, historical, and political contexts.

  4. Concerns and Criticisms: Critics argue that the fusion of religious and national identity can lead to exclusionary policies, discrimination against religious minorities, and challenges to the principles of religious freedom and separation of church and state.

  5. Political Movements: Christian nationalist sentiments are sometimes associated with political movements or parties that aim to advance policies aligned with specific interpretations of Christian values. This can be observed in various countries around the world.

  6. Relationship with Extremism: In some cases, Christian nationalism has been linked to extremism, especially when it involves the justification of violence or the rejection of pluralism and diversity.

It’s important to note that discussions and understandings of political and religious ideologies can evolve.

In Summary:

Christian Nationalism is a political ideology that seeks to merge Christianity with national identity, often promoting the idea that Christian principles should govern the nation. It can be associated with a particular form of political identity that emphasizes the dominance of Christianity in shaping laws and policies.

Catholic Social Teaching is rooted in the broader Christian tradition but is not inherently tied to any specific nationalistic agenda. It focuses on issues such as poverty, human rights, and social justice, with a global perspective that transcends national boundaries. While individuals may interpret and apply CST in various ways, the fundamental principles of CST are not aligned with the exclusive nationalistic goals often associated with Christian Nationalism.

I want to share a video with you on the growing threat of Christian Nationalism. This video is roughly 30 minutes long, so plan accordingly.

After you view the video, watch this video and keep in mind the year is 1939 in New York City. Just double-click, and you will go to the YouTube site.

Recommended Bedtime Reading:

Embodied Idolatry: A Critique of Christian Nationalism

By Kyle Haden, Ph.D., OFM

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