A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

Why Conservatives Should Be Against Christian Nationalism: Conversation with Paul D. Miller

November 04, 2022 Randy Knie & Kyle Whitaker Season 3 Episode 8
Why Conservatives Should Be Against Christian Nationalism: Conversation with Paul D. Miller
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
More Info
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
Why Conservatives Should Be Against Christian Nationalism: Conversation with Paul D. Miller
Nov 04, 2022 Season 3 Episode 8
Randy Knie & Kyle Whitaker

Text us your questions!

Our second political episode ever! Does it have anything to do with the elections occurring next week? You bet! Did we invite this guest on the show to trash nationalism some more? Sure did! BUT: Paul Miller is not our typical guest. For one thing, he's a self-described conservative patriot. He's a professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He worked for George W. Bush. And he's a Christian (a Baptist to be specific). From that perspective, he mounts an unflinching case against Christian nationalism in his book The Religion of American Greatness: What's Wrong with Christian Nationalism.

We don't see eye to eye on everything with Paul, but we're definitely on the same page about the seriousness and the urgency of this movement within American Christianity that has taken over an entire party and is actively threatening to overthrow American democracy, or as Paul calls it, the liberal experiment of self-governance. It's important stuff, and people on opposite sides of a lot of political and moral issues should be talking to each other about it. So that's what we do here.

A couple books mentioned in the interview are:

The beverage we sample is Willett Family Estate Small Batch 4 Year Rye. The beverage tasting is at 5:11. To skip to the main segment, go to 7:00.

You can find the transcript for this episode here.


Join us at Theology Beer Camp 2024!

Get your tickets here to join us in Denver Oct. 17-19. Use code PASTPHIL2024. Let us know if you sign up!


Want to support us?

The best way is to subscribe to our Patreon. Annual memberships are available for a 10% discount.

If you'd rather make a one-time donation, you can contribute through our PayPal.

Other important info:

  • Rate & review us on Apple & Spotify
  • Follow us on social media at @PPWBPodcast
  • Watch & comment on YouTube
  • Email us at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com


Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Text us your questions!

Our second political episode ever! Does it have anything to do with the elections occurring next week? You bet! Did we invite this guest on the show to trash nationalism some more? Sure did! BUT: Paul Miller is not our typical guest. For one thing, he's a self-described conservative patriot. He's a professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He worked for George W. Bush. And he's a Christian (a Baptist to be specific). From that perspective, he mounts an unflinching case against Christian nationalism in his book The Religion of American Greatness: What's Wrong with Christian Nationalism.

We don't see eye to eye on everything with Paul, but we're definitely on the same page about the seriousness and the urgency of this movement within American Christianity that has taken over an entire party and is actively threatening to overthrow American democracy, or as Paul calls it, the liberal experiment of self-governance. It's important stuff, and people on opposite sides of a lot of political and moral issues should be talking to each other about it. So that's what we do here.

A couple books mentioned in the interview are:

The beverage we sample is Willett Family Estate Small Batch 4 Year Rye. The beverage tasting is at 5:11. To skip to the main segment, go to 7:00.

You can find the transcript for this episode here.


Join us at Theology Beer Camp 2024!

Get your tickets here to join us in Denver Oct. 17-19. Use code PASTPHIL2024. Let us know if you sign up!


Want to support us?

The best way is to subscribe to our Patreon. Annual memberships are available for a 10% discount.

If you'd rather make a one-time donation, you can contribute through our PayPal.

Other important info:

  • Rate & review us on Apple & Spotify
  • Follow us on social media at @PPWBPodcast
  • Watch & comment on YouTube
  • Email us at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com


NOTE: This transcript was auto-generated by an artificial intelligence and has not been reviewed by a human. Please forgive and disregard any inaccuracies, misattributions, or misspellings.

DeSantis  00:09

So we have an opportunity to make 2022. The year that America fought back, we're gonna lead the charge here in Florida. But we need people all over the country to be willing to put on that full armor of God. To stand firm against the left schemes. You'll be met with flaming arrows, but the shield the faith will stop them, you will emerge victorious. And so I can tell you this in Florida, we will be standing our ground will be holding that line, we are not going to back down, we have only begun to fight. Thank you all. God bless you.

Randy  00:51

I'm Randy, the pastor half of the podcast, and my friend Kyle is a philosopher. This podcast hosts conversations at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and spirituality.

Kyle  01:00

We also invite experts to join us, making public space that we've often enjoyed off-air around the proverbial table with a good drink in the back corner of a dark pub.

Randy  01:09

Thanks for joining us, and welcome to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. Friends, I'm excited to share our guest with you today. Our guest today is Paul Miller, Dr. Paul Miller. Paul is the professor of the practice of International Affairs at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. And he's the co chair of global politics and security concentration. Paul spent a decade in public services director for Afghanistan and Pakistan on the National Security Council. That means that he met with George W. Bush in the Oval Office and he was also a military intelligence officer for the US Army. Paul wrote a book called The religion of American Greatness. What's wrong with Christian nationalism? And Kyle and I were really excited to get a conservative voice who's slamming nationalism because it's so necessary right now.

Kyle  01:57

Yeah. Yeah, I went into this book with a little bit of trepidation, I think I wasn't quite sure what to expect. And there were aspects of this comes out in the conversation that bothered me significantly there. There are things that Paul and I deeply disagree about. And I hope that we can have him on in the future to dive more into some of those things more specifically than we did here. But this is, I want to say this is if you're a conservative, who is thoughtful, who is okay with a little bit of academic rigor, and some data and some careful argumentation, and you're wondering what to think about nationalism, or maybe you've heard because this is very in vogue right now, in the Christian right in America, maybe you've heard that nationalism ain't so bad. And you know what's so wrong with being a nationalist, maybe that's a label that we should own. This is a book you need to pick up, start with this interview and see how how jives with you. But this book, especially, I'd say, the last half of this book is super valuable for white Christian conservatives, who are very tempted by the line of argumentation that says that there is really something truly exceptional about America and something truly Christian about America. And maybe I can just go all in on this nationalism thing, Paul gives some very carefully considered reasons that I guarantee will line up with some values that you probably already hold. He doesn't, for example, dismiss that America is in a significant sense, or that American patriotism is in a significant sense, Christian, and he doesn't, um, he's a strong patriot. All the things that you might be attracted to in nationalism, there are versions of those that Paul wants to hold on to. But he's also very explicit about the harms, and the logical leaps, and just all the stuff that's wrong with the current nationalism movement, but motivated entirely by a conservative commitment to American politics.

Randy  03:55

Yeah, I mean, as far as political allegiance and loyalty goes, I mean, I think we all have something to learn from people like Paul. And I know there's listeners who are who lean more conservative. I've had conversations with listeners who said, I've been a lifelong Republican. And I don't know if I'll ever be able to vote Republican again. Yeah, that right there, to me has so much integrity to it. And it's Paul rightly points out the irony and hypocrisy of a movement that people stumping for religious liberty actually don't want it. You know, the people who are stumping for liberty and freedom actually don't want it. The people who harken back to the American founding fathers don't actually agree with him when you actually get down to it. And we're talking about Christian nationalists and kind of the far right of the Republican Party right now. So I'm excited also just to have a conservative voice, because we don't have enough of those on the show. So let's have more thoughtful conservative voices.

Kyle  04:44

Yeah, man, I'm down for it, especially if good arguments ensue. I just want to mention some of the people that endorsed this book. So we've got people like Russell Moore, Karen swallow prior, Peter Waner, Samuel Perry, Andrew Whitehead, George Marsden, so I mean, this guy, there are no better Conservative bona fides. And I mean, he's highly respected. So

Randy  05:04

Samuel Perry is not a conservative. He's even he's even kind of endorsed by non conservative. So good book. I'm excited about this interview, but I'm also excited about what we're gonna sample here.

Kyle  05:14

Yeah. So I forgot to ask Paul if he has any favorite beverages, unfortunately. But maybe if he listens back to this, so at least enjoy the fact that we feature adult beverages on the show, so or maybe he will not. Maybe anyone listening? No idea. Sorry, Paul. So what we're drinking today, Elliot is not with us, unfortunately. So sorry. Yeah, but I tried to pick something that I'm pretty sure he's had before. So this is will it small batch for year rhyme. So derive

Randy  05:41

it smells like a bourbon out of bourbon. Except it has that astringent note that a lot of guys have, but it's got that more commonly nose to it. That's totally unique. In a good way. There's like peppermint notes right away. Oh, interesting. Usually you get like the black pepper notes to arrive. This is actually peppermint. It's minty spearmint.

Kyle  06:02

Yeah, definitely brighter than most rise up. And it is missing a little bit of age. Yep. But it's, I mean, it's not it doesn't take too young.

Randy  06:11

It's not overly sweet. No, it's it doesn't. I don't taste a whole lot of oak. That's the only thing about it.

Kyle  06:17

Yeah, it's kind of hot. So this is one 12.6 proof. And I can taste every every point of that.

Randy  06:23

Yeah, I mean, it's not as hot as I was expecting when I saw that proof on there. But it has that lingering heat on the back of the throat. But it's really nice. It's a good ride. pretty complex, different things going on. I'm not usually huge bullet fan. Yeah, people go bonkers for it. I really

Kyle  06:39

do. Yeah, this is good. Yeah, this is not one of the bunkers, bottles, anything much older than this. And pretty much any other bourbons other than the potstill have insane values and you can't find them anywhere. I think you can reliably find this one on the shelf at a good liquor

Randy  06:53

store. Okay. Well, tell us one more time what it is. Will it small batch for

Kyle  06:57

year right? Cheers. Cheers.

Randy  07:05

So something we'd like to do around here is highlight some reviews that you guys have left. We're so grateful for your reviews. We're grateful for your shares on social media. We're grateful for you talking about the podcast with your friends and family and recommending it. It just helps us so much. And it warms our our sweet little hearts. So here's a couple of reviews for you. One was from trek of trail trek off trail. Sorry, whoever trek off trail is. But it says I'm very grateful to have found this podcast. I'm finding tremendous help inspiration and comfort while walking through a difficult season. Thank you in your guests for sharing. So whoever took off trailers will Blessings to you in that difficult season.

Kyle  07:42

Another review we've gotten recently, this one's just titled refreshing. And this is from therapist mom 14. There we go. This person says I'm so thankful for this podcast, I learned a ton. The guys are relatable as well as incredibly smart. And they honestly have some of the best podcast voices I've heard. I really appreciate that. Because I don't think of myself as having that great of a speaking voice frankly. So

Randy  08:04

yes, no, it makes me want to talk.

Kyle  08:08

I know I know. Yeah. Thank you for your a lot of podcasters I think do like voice training like the big ones to get better at it. And that just

Randy  08:15

why are we talking about? I don't know.

Kyle  08:18

Apparently we've already nailed it. So thanks again, for all the reviews we love. It helps us a lot. If you want to leave one go to Apple is the best place to do that Apple podcasts or iTunes. And maybe it'll get read on the show.

Randy  08:31

Cheers. Cheers. Well, Dr. Paul Miller, thank you so much for joining us on a pastor and a philosopher walk into

Paul  08:39

a bar. Randy and Carl, thank you so much. It's good to meet you both. And thanks for having me on your show. Yeah, we're

Randy  08:43

excited. The book is the religion of American Greatness. It's a really heavy book. It's a serious, it's a little bit academic, but it is very approachable. So don't listeners, you might get scared off by that word academic don't get scared off. It's very approachable, similar to Jesus and John Wayne. I just told Kyle, I think in some ways, except from a very decidedly conservative perspective, which we're excited to talk to, to you in particular, coming from that the right side of the aisle. I guess so. Yeah, Kyle, you want to get right after it?

Kyle  09:10

Yeah, I really appreciate the book, Paul. And I want to say whoever did the cover art is brilliant. Fantastic. I don't know if you had anything to do with that. But it's really

Paul  09:18

I didn't I agree. I love the cover art and I had nothing to do with it. So kudos to the IVP artists.

Kyle  09:24

Nice, nice. So yeah, we we probably still our most listened to episode in the history of our podcast has been one on politics and nationalism and patriotism, and why we're generally not fans of any of those things. And we've thought for a while we need to have some kind of more conservative voice on the podcast than we are, especially than I am to kind of balance this out. And so when I heard about your book, I thought this seems like a really good guest to have. And for listeners who don't know, this is somebody who like worked in the Bush administration's. So you're like a serious bonafides you know, conservative and all So wrote this really strong argument against Christian nationalism, particularly on the conservative side of the political aisle. So we've got some kind of heady questions, some deep questions for you. But we also like to keep it light and, you know, cordial and civil and everything. So let's just see where the conversation takes us. Before we get started, I just want to say, and I wrote this down, because I thought carefully about how I wanted to say it, because I don't want to exaggerate in either direction. So your book, in many places frustrated me, frankly, and a couple places actually disturbed me. And there's a lot of critique that I would love to make of it. But I'm going to pay you about the highest compliment, I can think, to pay anyone being a philosopher, and that is that I would like to make the critique. And I would like to have the conversation with you. Because in my experience, the only conversations worth having are those where there's serious disagreement involved in honest dialogue. And so I'm not at all conservative, I'm no friend of any kind of conservatism that you would probably recognize as conservatism. But I think you're someone that I can recognize as a worthy dialogue partner, and you have ideals that I can appreciate, even if I disagree with them. And even if I think you don't always hold them consistently, I can appreciate them. And we're going to talk about some of those ideals in just a minute if that's okay, so I guess thanks for for being so sober minded in this book, and writing it as carefully as you did.

Paul  11:22

Hey, you know, I actually say something kind of similar to my students at the beginning of the semester, about the value of disagreement and dialogue and the importance of being willing to have the conversation with the things you disagree with. And it is a way of paying respect to people to have that conversation to say, hey, look, I think I disagree with you. I think you're wrong. And here's why. And if we can't do that, then you know, democracy is doomed, and we should all go home. So I appreciate you saying what you said, I hope that we can come to both of us greater clarity and wisdom through this conversation. And, look, I've been talking about my book too much in too long. I'm not I don't know that I got it. All right. And so I look forward to your pushback, and maybe we can learn from each other. That is

Randy  12:05

fantastic. Yeah.

Kyle  12:05

Love it. Okay, so you're a self described conservative Christian patriot. So to start out, can you maybe just tell us briefly, what you mean by each of those terms?

Paul  12:15

Yeah, I mean, conservative in the pre 2016 sense, in the sense that kind of, I guess, maybe Russell Kirk, and the whole conservative movement from 1955 to 2016, meant the word, you know, limited government, conservatism, smaller government, localism, that kind of stuff, I have an instinctive appreciation for that way of thinking about politics. Augustine has this great line where he says, if if everything was perfectly just kingdoms would be small, and there would be as many kingdoms as there are houses in a city, I that I'm intuitively drawn to that idea that if we're doing it right, we got to allow 1000 flowers to bloom. And so that's sort of my conservative instinct. What am I meant by Christian, you know, right now, I tend to Southern Baptist Church, I affirm the Nicene Creed, from the Apostles Creed, I found the second London Baptist creed and the 1833, New Hampshire creed and, and my local Church's statement of faith, I believe in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And he's the only way to salvation. And I'm deeply grateful for all that he has done in my life. Patriot, I'm an American, and I'm grateful for this country. And I think that it's actually my responsibility as an American, to work to leave it a little bit better than I found it. You know, when God made Adam put him in the garden, Genesis 215, what he said, he said, tend and keep the garden, I kind of think of patriotism that way, we each of us have been born into one particular plot of the garden, one country plot. And so we're to attend and keep it and love it and be grateful for it. And that's kind of all I mean by patriotism, and nothing more than that. So I want to be faithful to tend and keep this particular plot that I happen to call home. And I like it. I'm grateful for it. And I hope I leave it better.

Kyle  13:59

Yeah, good. Yeah. So how is patriotism then different from nationalism? And why are you You know, in favor of patriotism, but so critical of, of nationalism.

Paul  14:08

So a lot of folks use the terms interchangeably. I understand it can be confusing, because of the word nation. If you say, I love my nation, that sounds like nationalism. But if you really kind of push, the folks who are advocating nationalism, they do tend to mean more than just love of country. Right? It's actually an argument about how to define the country. I can be a patriot and actually not get too wrapped up around what you know what the definition of my country is, or what its culture is, hey, this is the country I'm born to love it. Nationalism is an argument about political identity. It's a political agenda for defining your country a certain way. American nationalism says, our country is this kind of country and not another kind. Specifically, American nationalism always says to a Christian country or a Judeo Christian country, and we have to use the government to keep it that way. That's really the hardcore of nationalism is the belief that the government has a role to keep it that way. It's a political agenda, not just a passive stance of gratitude and appreciation for your country. As a conservative, I'm a little bit wary about giving the government that kind of power to tell us who we are giving the government authority, jurisdiction coercive powers over our cultural identity. I love the idea rather of free culture, let 1000 Flowers bloom. And and I don't want the government, you know, in the business of saying, you're an American, and therefore, you should cultivate this particular cultural identity.

Kyle  15:34

Yeah. Okay. Let me ask you about one specific thing you say in the book about patriotism. Still, before we leave that topic, so you quote Edmund Burke, who I'm been realizing the last few years is like, the favorite thinker of lots of thoughtful conservatives. And so you quote him saying that local public affections are ultimately supposed to be this is his quote, the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind, that and to mankind really struck me. And so you expand on that you say, Burke thought the little platoons were important because they helped train our hearts to be other directed. And because we should not ultimately be concerned only with the other members of our tribe, we should in principle of every human being in the world, loving the strangers whom we call countrymen, helps us practice that kind of universal disinterested love of humanity. That's so that's your quote. So I'd met that's a really beautiful vision of patriotism. And I wish I'd ever seen it instantiated. So we had a theologian named Samir Yadav on the program a while back, and he made the point. And this is not unique to him. But he made the point that one of the truth conditions of Christianity is that a certain kind of community is possible. And really, that it's actually instantiate it, because if it's not, it gives critics a really good reason to think that Christianity isn't true. And I think that something similar could probably be said of the kind of Burkean patriotism you're describing there. And so I want to put the question to you, it seems like the sort of impulse that he describes, from Love of platoon, to love of humankind should be on display somewhere, and I imagine you probably think it is, and maybe you can point me to a bunch of places just off the top of your head. So if it is, where is it? Where are all the communities being ignited to universal love of humanity by believing that America is the best country in the world?

Paul  17:26

Yeah, that's that's a challenging and a fair question. I don't assume that we've gotten this right. In America, I'm not. I don't know that I could point to examples of American patriotism and say, Yeah, this is the right way of doing it, in training us for the broader love of mankind that I think we should have. I mean, I tried to practice it my own home, but like, I don't know that like, on a larger scale, it's there. If there are small communities that are succeeding and training hearts for the next layer out, I think we might see it in local churches, right, if the church is not doing it, then they're doing a real bad job, right? Turning our hearts to the other direction. You might also see it in schools. When you take children from the family and put them in a school, you are socializing them to affiliate with other people who are not immediate family members, and yet to have an attachment to them, and prepare them for the next step of moving out into the world. That might be a example of that kind of harsh training that I'm talking about in that passage. Again, look, we got a lot of problems with our schools. But I but I would maybe idealistically say that's where we might see some examples of success. What do you think?

Kyle  18:38

Oh, I don't think there are any. I love that answer. No, this is one of the things that I disagree with. I don't think that kind of patriotism actually exists. But I will, I will take your point there, and say maybe I should look on on more local context.

Randy  18:52

So pesto, really, I just didn't have a couple of questions for you, Paul, about the patriotism in the first chapter to I think around page 26, or 27, you really kind of make this case for why it's really helpful, in most loving to be a patriotic person in some ways. And you say, you kind of say in the same section that we shouldn't reject group loyalty or patriotism, because if we do, we'll just move to following another group because we can't live without some sort of group identity. Now, when you talk about group identity pastorelli I kind of feel like Christians should identify themselves as followers of Christ are members of the Kingdom of God and have really if I'm being honest, no other religions. Isn't that enough group loyalty or group identity? Why is it important to add being a patriot to our identities, Christ followers, and I say that as someone who has a more, I would say have patriotic tendencies kya would not, but I would say I have patriotic tendencies. My mom is an immigrant. And, and I get chills. You know, when I see the Statue of Liberty and I, I love certain things that the founding fathers did and said and wrote and established, I think it's why we're still a mostly whole nation after a Trump presidency there. You know, the list goes on and on and

Kyle  19:58

you're willing to say that Americans are great This country in the world, right?

Randy  20:01

100% Yeah. But patriotism scares me pestle really because I think patriotism really quickly turns into idolatry. And I say that with well, meaning that most people that I know who I love, who really love this country and by love this country, I mean, they would you consider themselves patriots, a lot of times their allegiance, their faithfulness, their worship, their dedication seems like it centers first and foremost on America, and second on Christ and His Kingdom. And that's where I have a lot of problems with patriotism. What are your thoughts on that?

Paul  20:36

Yeah, there's a reason why when I talk about patriotism, I rooted fundamentally in gratitude, not in pride. Okay. You know, a lot of people say, I'm proud to be an American. Well, look, I didn't choose, it was an accident, right? Or, to me, it was an accident. It wasn't God's providence that I was born as an American. But but I it seems weird to take pride in that when it was not something I chose or had control over. I am grateful for being an American, cuz I think it's a great country. And I recognize the ways in which it's been been been great. And if you wrote patriotism, in gratitude, and humility, I think it does act as a safeguard against the idolatry, you rightly identify as a temptation. And in my book, I'm sure you saw a warning quite a lot against the idolatry, I say, of nationalism. But it's obviously a potential that we could become. So we could become overly attached to our group loyalty, and our country's group loyalty, that it becomes idolatrous. And that is absolutely something to warn against. Now, you said, As Christians, we should have loyalty to Jesus to King Jesus. And I think you said, and nothing else, like there should be no other loyalties. I think I might disagree with that. I think our nested identities are all simply there, that kind of natural. And this would be my, my Augustinian instinct here that these group loyalties that group identities are just insofar as they're natural, they can be good if they are rightly ordered, right. I'm a member of my family, and I'm loyal to my family, and I'm a member of the neck of my church, and of my state, and my you know, so forth and so on. And we all have those affiliations. And then it's not bad to enjoy them. I don't think it's bad to have to feel a sense of membership in them, so long as they're rightly ordered, and we worship King Jesus first. And we are loyal to our family as probably number two, and then on down the line. So that would be my response there and group loyalties. I don't think that they're intrinsically suspect.

Randy  22:26

Yeah. And I would, I would say, I think there's a difference between loyalty and allegiance. And I'm okay with saying yes, my, I have loyalties to my family to my you know, friend group and my neighbors, whatever. allegiance is such a strong word like I, for instance, after reading the book of Revelation, and seeing God's coal, from allegiance to Empire, back to allegiance to the Lamb of God, who was violently murdered by the Empire, I went to a boy scout meeting that my son, you know, son went to and with all the other dads, the flag comes out, and we put our hands over our hearts. And I was like, I don't think I can pledge allegiance to the flag anymore. Because my allegiance belongs to Jesus and to Christ alone. What are your thoughts on that

Paul  23:09

book of Revelation is a strong challenge to, as you say, to Empire to unjust, tyrannical political authority, I think it's actually very telling that when John is painting a picture of satanic power, the image he chooses, is a totalitarian government, right? That kind of tells us something about how bad evil government can be. But then there's another picture of government in Scripture. Think about King David, on his deathbed. He says, a righteous king dawns on his people like the more I remember the exact quote, he gives us image of dawning on the people and providing growth, when he when he rules in righteousness. It is like do it morning time or something like that righteous rule is a great blessing. And God desires all nations to govern justly. And insofar as they do that, they are reflecting the will of God. And I think that we can recognize and even give honor to governments that tried to do that. So the apostle Peter says, Fear God, Honor the king, Honor the king, not just passively obey or tolerate, but actually Honor the king. And he said that of the Roman government. Interestingly, when I look at the American flag, I choose to interpret that as a symbol of all the best things we aspire to. And so I'm happy to pledge allegiance pledge loyalty, I'm happy to recite the pledge to that symbol and to those ideals. I, if I had been thinking carefully and alive 100 years ago, I might have had a harder time with it, because of what our country was doing at the time. But in God's providence, we do better each generation at living at those ideals. And I think we can recognize that give honor to our country for those ideals, and be grateful to God for it. And yeah, that's, that's how I think through that.

Randy  24:56

Yeah, that's a good segue to the next question.

Kyle  24:58

I think it is, but let me ask one really quick Quick follow up, you said that our loyalty should be rightly ordered. And that's a phrase that pops up a lot in your book rightly ordered. And I'm curious what your method is for determining when something is rightly ordered.

Paul  25:11

Have me back in about five years when I read the third nice No, that's except it's a it's a very it's a it's a good question and remind me of that, as I read the third book. Yeah, it's the decision principle of ordering. I don't know that I have a clear answer on that yet. But I there is something on my mind.

Kyle  25:29

So maybe we should let you say what, what the plans for the next couple of books are? Because we didn't mention that.

Paul  25:34

Yeah. So this first book is facing rightward, and book number two faces leftward. And I look at what I think maybe the problems with the progressive left, and the ways that it also exhibits some in liberalism. And then the third book is what I hope will be a kind of a vindication in defense of, you know, ordered liberty from a Christian framework or an Augustinian framework, the return to the king, so to speak. Yeah.

Randy  25:58

Before we go any further, Paul, let's just ask for a quick couple of definitions. You talk about liberalism and liberalism, a lot in your book, I'm assuming those words are going to come up in the interview. Can you tell us what you mean by those words?

Paul  26:08

Yeah, so I'm really just using the word classical liberalism, kind of a shorthand for the Open Society, or maybe the philosophy of American founders. Some people call it civic republicanism, I'm deliberately not being that precise with a definition, I just kind of mean it as a shorthand for the system of open government or free government that we that we like, and that we sort of inherited, that I think is now in danger. illiberal just means like, all the stuff that is threatening that it is, is ideas and institutions that tend towards undermining our experiment in free government. And I do think that both nationalism and progressivism have the seeds of liberalism in them, if brought to full flower could really do some harm to our to our system of government.

Kyle  26:52

Yep. Thanks. Thanks for that. Okay, so let's talk about ideals. I mentioned that earlier. So you say, fairly early in the book of things, page 28. Here, defining our national identity by a set of ideals, helps guard against bad tribalism, because it sets up an external standard outside and above the nation by which we can judge our nation's conduct. This enables the best kind of love for our country, when we challenge ourselves to do better. So I like that That sounds nice. So I'm curious what those ideals are and where you're getting them from, and then connected to that, who gets to say what they are?

Paul  27:27

Yeah, I usually say the Constitution and the Declaration as a kind of shorthand, encapsulating the ideals. And maybe the philosophy that informed them. Who gets to say, well, it was, you know, we the people, and it was the United States Congress, representing the people that that enacted those documents. And that's what literally founded the nation. And that's what continues to define who we are and who we aren't. That's what the whole book is about. It's about American identity. Nationalists want to say that we are defined by a culture a specific Christian or Judeo Christian culture. And if you don't share that culture, you're not a real American. And I think that's quite wrong. I think that America has quite a lot of cultures and subcultures within it. And they're all equally American. So long as we all agree to the Constitution and the Declaration. You know, the the people who were most unAmerican were those who deliberately rejected those ideals. We call them confederates, they waged war on the United States for a different set of ideals. And so I think it's easy to say this is the decision principle. This is the demarcation point. This is the thing that differentiates Americans from not Americans. It's the Constitution as the declaration.

Kyle  28:31

Yeah. So do you think that the ideals enshrined in the Constitution and those other documents and maybe in the philosophy of people like John Locke or whoever that preceded those, do you think those ideals are admit of multiple interpretations?

Paul  28:46

Yes, and American history is the story of the argument of those rival interpretations, right. And we also have a system for peacefully adjudicating that conversation. And that is kind of the most important point, peaceful adjudication of those differences. Constitution is not a self interpreting document. And it's not, you know, the meaning of it is not fixed or set or, yeah, for yes, it does have multiple interpretations. But we've agreed, we're going to carry out our conversation within its framework. And I'm, I'm quite alarmed, actually, at the number of voices who were saying, No, we actually don't want to do that anymore. And that's kind of what I mean by the liberalism. I feel like you're going somewhere with this chain of questioning, though.

Kyle  29:33

So maybe, but I kind of liked that lesson. So maybe I don't need to go all the way there. Behind it is some questions about racism, which we're gonna get to in just a second because you know, when somebody like John Locke, or Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison, or whatever talks about an ideal, like, everybody being created equal and that kind of universal inclusion, of course, they didn't have native people or black people in mind, and that creates some serious interpretive issues. But you know all that and you talked about it extensively in the book. What your answered made me think of those constitutional originalism and I'm just curious what you think about it. I got the sense from the book that you don't think it's a very good way to approach the Constitution. Is that fair? Or would you describe yourself as an originalist?

Paul  30:16

No, I mean, I broached that subject very briefly in chapter five. I'm not a lawyer. But I as a, you know, again, pre 2016 conservative. Yeah, originalism is I think, I guess I'd call myself that. If I have to pick a school of jurisprudence. It's the the nationalists are trying to advance what they're calling common good as a common good originalism or something like that. They have a word for what they're doing. And I think it's, it's essentially right wing progressivism. It's their way of trying to really interpret the Constitution to mean what they want it to mean. And so I would oppose that. Okay, if I have to pick a school, I'd be originalist. But I admit that's not an issue. I've thought a whole lot about

Kyle  30:53

fair if that's fair. Okay, so So let's talk about what was probably actually behind that previous question. And that is, the various types of Christian nationalism that there are. So you distinguish, I think this is in chapter three, between a type of Christian nationalism you call cultural, from a couple other types that you refer to as racial or ethnic. And I think the other one was theocratic. And you say that we can we can distinguish these conceptually. And we can kind of set the racist and theocratic versions aside because they're clearly not defensible, and focus in on the maybe the most defensible form, which is cultural. And you admit that thereby, you admit that Christian nationalism isn't inherently racist or theocratic that there are versions of it that aren't that. And I put some quotes here where you make that point, but I think that's clear enough. So later in the book, though, and I actually later in that same chapter, you say that you're, you're kind of granting that distinction only for the sake of argument. And that in practice, really, the cultural forms of Christian nationalism do turn out to be basically worse for minorities, religious and racial minorities, regardless of how much the cultural Christian nationalist want to say that they're not racist, and theocratic in practice, it often turns out that way. So I guess the question is, why admit the distinction from the beginning? And how do you if you could just flesh out a little bit? How do you see the relationship between that more defensible cultural form, and the other what we would all agree are obviously indefensible racial and theocratic forms? Does that make sense?

Paul  32:31

So it was a rhetorical choice. See, I'm constructing an argument that spans 10 chapters, and 100. And whatever it is 110,000 words. And I didn't want to smack the reader in chapter one, with all the, with all the racial stuff, and alienate a lot of people that I wanted to reach for the book. So I start the book by engaging with Christian nationalism on its terms, I give a whole chapter to them. And I say, here's the case for your ideology from your authors in the best way possible. And I'm going to take it at face value and argue with it. And I still disagree, I still think it's bad, right? But listen, at least engage with that version of it. And over the course of those, but three or four chapters, hopefully show you why, even in its best, strongest form, there are still some real problems with it. Then if you're still with me, if you're still reading, and if I've persuaded you, now, I'm going to peel back the curtain. And I'm going to show you maybe some of the reality that's there, despite what the ideologues say on the page. Some of the racial stuff really is there. And now maybe you have eyes to see it, if you stuck with me this far in the book. So I'm, this is a piece of rhetoric, all books are. And I'm arranging the argument in a deliberate sequence to lead the reader along the path until perhaps they're ready to read what I have to say in chapter 789.

Kyle  33:52

Yeah, that's what I figured. And I think I'm just not the target audience of your book. I think you say at the beginning, you know, if some progressives happened to pick this up and read it, hopefully, you'll get some insight into what's going on here. But I think it was mostly aimed at conservatives and I have conservative friends who would, I think greatly benefit from that rhetorical style. And I highly recommend the chapters towards the end where you dive into that issue, and I think a very nuanced and honest way, so I appreciate that.

Zale  34:20

Hey, I'm xhale, host of preconceived a podcast that challenges the preconceptions that shape how we view the world. Preconceived examines both our approach to major life choices, but also our perspectives on issues to which we may have been overly conditioned towards certain opinions. Each episode features a different topic with experts, researchers and luminaries in their respective fields. We think you will especially enjoy recent episodes on polyamory, regretting parenthood, dopamine, nation and myths of the beauty industry find preconcieved wherever you get your podcast

Randy  34:55

Paul, in chapter six, you go to great lengths to point out and I think correctly, in my opinion, that scripture verses is like Second Chronicles 714, which is if my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray, seek my face turned for their wicked ways, then I will hear them from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. And then Psalm 3312, another just beautiful verse that we love to hear politicians, quote, bless it as a nation whose God is the Lord. And you say, you go to great lengths to say these are these verses are not about America. And thank you for saying that. Thank you, I'm really appreciative of a conservative voice saying that, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. I agree with that. But as a pastor, I can tell you that speaking that way from the pulpit, makes all sorts of people very, very angry. And I can tell you also from experience that, in particular, it makes conservative Christians and by conservative and mean Republicans, very angry. And the reality of why I have many pastor friends have been a pastor for a decade and a half. And the reality why most pastors won't say that in won't talk like that, even though you encourage us as pastors to make that argument and be very clear about it. And I think our world would be much better if we did. But the reason that they don't is because they probably lose two thirds of their church who are, you know, the conservatives will leave in some and bear in mind, I've lost progressives as well, because I don't use certain dog whistle terms that they want to hear. And I refuse to do that. And then they'll leave the extremes or on both sides are very similar. But the point is, is that that's a really hard thing to ask from pastors to clarify, this is not about America, this is this is about us as a people. When you say in more often now, in the last four or five, six years than ever before, I might have been accused of being too political or it's about the gospel, Randy, stop talking about politics. Whenever I talk about racial equality, or justice or anything like that. It's stop talking about politics, stick to the gospel. What are your thoughts on that? And how would you recommend that pastors navigate that? How does your pastor navigate that he's a part of the SBC? I can't imagine that would be a very popular stance for your pastor to take.

Paul  36:59

First of all, Randy, thank you so much for your work as a pastor, I know it's really, really hard, and especially the last few years, a lot of people have left the past year because of the challenges COVID And and politics is really tough. So thanks. Thanks for doing what you do. And please stick with it. Because we need shepherds. Yeah, I in the book by with a couple of pages, talking directly to pastors, it's a really tough issue. I understand that it can be tough to kind of find the right balance. I don't think the question is, should we talk about politics more or less? Right? There's not a dial here where you reach the right number number seven, and like you get the right number. And then you're talking about politics, the right amount. It's rather the way we talk about politics and the way we relate the Bible's truth to our political, social and cultural lives. We shouldn't be I don't think we should be single issue about politics, your parishioners whose complaint it's just about the gospel, just preach the gospel. I bet they're probably not complaining, whenever you say something, pro life from the pulpit or pro religious liberty, right? There's, there's a selectivity there and what people care about and what they classify as politics. So I don't think we should be partisan, either, at least not yet. At this moment, I don't think that we need people from the pulpit saying vote this way. I think what I'm getting at is that when preachers preach God's truth, I take what God has said and given us, they unpack the meaning they do the exegesis, and then they apply it to the life of the congregation, the application is to the individual, and as to the family. But then it keeps going. And I feel that many times, sermons tend to stop at the individual, the family and maybe the church, as if God's truth as if the gospel only had implications at the individual level, maybe the family level in the church level, and that God's truth really has no relevance to anything else. Now, I don't, I think it does have relevance. And I think that I think the pastors have a role in helping us see that, how it's a natural extension of our lives as Christians, to work out the implications to work for flourishing in all areas of life. Now, I'm giving you a very abstract answer, and may not be very satisfying. But here's another way of putting it as a minister of the gospel, you represent Jesus, we all do as members of the Church, right? We represent Jesus, we are his body, we are his voice. Right now. There's other people in the world claiming the name of Jesus for another agenda. And I think the church needs to be jealous if it's prerogative to speak with Jesus's voice. And in a sense, you as a pastor, have a special responsibility to jealously guard the name of Jesus. So if there's something else out there, that you maybe discern is not truly reflective of the agenda of the kingdom of God. And yet as taking the name of Jesus, I think you need to speak out on that. Whatever format blog from the pulpit, Sunday School in some format, speak out on it, and you're going to lose parishioners, but that may be the right cost to pay. Yeah.

Randy  39:46

And I mean, I will say, if you want to grow a church right now, particularly in you know, the heartland America or the south, just go hard nationalist, because those churches are growing leaps and bounds and people are leaving churches where you hear what you You're espousing full but I think this is.

Paul  40:03

I'm not a church growth strategist. Yeah.

Randy  40:06

In neither am I. In No, no pastor should be I think and this is where I think for pastors who are listening, there comes a point when our faithfulness and allegiance to Christ in the Gospel is more important than our paycheck or bottom line or the the butts in the seats at our church. So I think you're absolutely right, Paul and I, again, I really appreciate hearing this from a conservative perspective. Yeah. So in chapter seven, you make the case that the Christian right in I'm quoting you is a partly nationalist movements, you begin the chapter by quoting Pat Buchanan, who is a bastion of conservative politics at the Republican National Convention in 1992, where he basically says that winning the religious war and the culture wars and protecting America's identity as God's country was a responsibility of the Republican Party. Would you agree with Kristen do May. And I think your book is very similar to hers in from a different perspective. But would you agree with Kristen that the religious right didn't accidentally come to support Donald Trump the whole holding our noses thing was kind of a, a bunch of BS in many ways, but that the religious right was really built for and moving towards a strong man nationalist leader elect Donald Trump all along.

Paul  41:15

Yes, with I do want to add one qualification. But yes, I agree with that, that, as I say, Donald Trump did not betray the values of the Christian right, he fulfilled them. In the value there is Christian power, and Donald Trump. That's a direct quote from his campaign in 2016. He said, I will restore Christian power. And that was what a lot of the religious right it was about, it was about gaining power for the Christian tribe, to protect Christian interests. And in some cases, Christian values as well. And Christmas book has, you know, the same argument to it, where the qualification of an ad is at the individual level, you know, I'm, I'm commenting on the movement as a whole, I think, was moving in this direction of desire and Christian power. I think it really was difficult for some individuals to cast that vote in 2016. And 2020 2016, it was far more transactional. I want the justices. He's my only shot. Clinton's not gonna give us the justices. And so I'll take, I'll take it. I think the leaders who excused Trump's personal failings are far more cynical and explicit in just doing anything possible for the power and 2020. I think the calculation is different. Then it was actually hillock, he did give us the justices. So let's reward him, let's stick with them. He, you know, ignore everything else. We got the justices. He seems to be our guy. And once again, the other side can't trust them. So we're gonna go with him. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Senate candidate down in Georgia, that whole scandal about him paying for an abortion, you know what I'm talking about here? Yes, Herschel Walker. Somebody was at Lauren Bovard. I think she said, Look, I don't care if he paid for somebody to abort baby eagles. I want the Senate I want to take over the Senate. Yes. And I was kind of grateful that she's being honest. Thank you for saying it out loud. Because we kind of knew that was the case all along, for many of the leaders of the movement is just about winning power for the tribe for for the party. And the values don't actually matter all that much. Again, I think that's true. Many of the leaders of the movement, I think at the individual level, many people felt torn. But but their votes are still gonna go there.

Randy  43:24

Can I ask a follow up question and this you don't have to answer I genuinely mean that. Please tell me if you're uncomfortable with it. But you mentioned that you are part of SBC Church. The SBC is a denomination has I would say, not every church and not every church leader, but many churches and many church leaders within the SBC have actually given given wind and momentum to the nationalist movement within the Republican Party and espoused nationalist claims. And they've run people like Russell Moore out the door, and villainized him and I mean, he's got death threats from people in the SBC. How are you? How do you reconcile being part of an SBC church when that reality exists within the denomination itself?

Paul  44:06

Yeah, it would be different if I attended a very large, influential church, I don't go to a tiny neighborhood church around the corner from my house. And I'm comfortable there, because it's just a community of mostly at half the church or older saints who've been there for half century, and my kids get a chance to serve them and love them. And without getting too much in the details of my particular church. Because that's the kind of church it is uncomfortable being there. I do have an eye on how the denomination nationally is moving. And that is a conversation that I occasionally broach with my pastors with my elders. Okay. Thank you.

Kyle  44:41

Yeah. So I want to pose this and see if you agree that maybe you don't this is just kind of sense. I had her feeling I had when I was reading, particularly the central portions of your book where you're really critiquing Christian nationalism and, you know, going through argument after argument and dealing with like, very specific leading thinkers, and you're super charitable more charitable than I would. And you really carefully exigent, these thinkers, and a lot of your critique not all of it, but the gist of much of your critique of Christian nationalism. And those chapters seem to me to be some version of look around. And for listeners here, I'm gesturing widely. Look around the world is not that simple. And it seemed to me maybe this just because I'm a philosopher, but it seems to me that very little actual argumentation is required to debunk the particular figures you were dealing with even the more thoughtful nationalists that you very carefully read incited. So if I'm right about that, and maybe you don't think I am, but if I'm right about that, why do you think the view is so popular? Including among people who seem like they should know better? And do you think do you buy that most smart Christian nationalists are sincere? Because it's difficult for me to believe that they are when they make such bad arguments?

Paul  45:55

It's, it's a hard question because I don't like to impute motives. The answer, you're asking me to sort of speculate about how other people think and feel about this stuff, I'll just kind of share from my perspective, I think, in my case, for me, my own international experience kind of played a role in this, just because I have a career where I have worked with and traveled around and, you know, been active internationally, it kind of helped me see some things about my country from the outside, that you just said, look really obvious. And to me, it looks pretty clear and pretty obvious to, but recognize that me and you, our backgrounds are kind of unique, and that only a half of Americans have passports, for example, only 40% have a college degree. And so for many Americans who still live in their hometown, they've been in their whole lives, and have went to their local public high school, been in that same church forever. The things that you and I are obviously when I actually the opposite seems obvious to them. That's maybe my most terrible way of kind of constructing the way they think, and the why and why nationalism would appeal to them. But you've asked specifically about the leaders. And I do have a harder time understanding the mindset there. I don't again, I don't like imputing motives, and I don't like assuming cynical demagoguery, except about Trump. Like I don't have a problem assuming that about him. Let's talk about Samuel Huntington, he's the

Kyle  47:24

baby I was just thinking maybe it's best to be specific.

Paul  47:27

And since he's the one who is he is no longer on the scene. It's easiest to talk about him. I don't think that he was was, I think he believed what he was saying. Okay, I'll put it that way. And should he have known better? Yes, because he knows the data. The thing I really take issue with and Huntington's work is his contention that we have to be Anglo Protestant to remain democratic, that these things are indissoluble? Well, he's he should know better. Because it's very clear, the data is clear that democracy is possible everywhere else in the world. So I think that for him, he allowed a kind of a nativist impulse to override his better judgment as a scholar, you can start to interpret data through the lens of your prejudices, heaven knows I probably do it. And I think that maybe that has been the case with him in his in his last book. I think he's a good scholar. I've received benefit from his other work. But he wrote one bad book.

Kyle  48:14

I appreciate your honesty there. Yeah. Yeah.

Randy  48:16

Yeah. You quote Roger Williams, a 17th century British minister and thinker,

Kyle  48:21

founder of Rhode Island, right? That Roger Williams. Yeah,

Randy  48:24

there you go. I had no idea.

Paul  48:26

You. You said British minister. I was gonna say no, he's an American.

Randy  48:30

Yeah. But Roger Williams said, the Christian world would swallow up Christianity and basically saying, you interpret him saying that he's warning that Christian culture could actually grow to become opposed to actual Christianity. And I think that's an extremely interesting perspective, and explains a lot of what we see happening right now. Could you just elaborate on that perspective and reality,

Paul  48:52

sort of the political equivalent of Pharisee ism? Right, Pharisees who missed the point of the law by following it so exactly that they became self righteous and judgmental. In the same way, our efforts to build political embodiments or reflections of Christianity or build political versions of honoring Christianity could actually violate the spirit of Christianity itself. If what we're doing is being discriminatory or bigoted, or, or unjust or oppressive. The whole experiment of Christendom 1000 years of trying to build a universal Christian empire across Europe was a bad idea. Because it look, there's a few things they did better than the Romans. But, you know, by and large, it was discriminatory. And it was not a system of ordered Liberty allowed equal flourishing for all. And so it's much better and indeed more Christian, to undo Christendom. And if you're if you're actually working towards equal flourishing for all, that's a more Christian thing than to build Christendom.

Kyle  49:49

Yeah. Williams is an extremely interesting character for current Christians to look at. I think he was notorious in his day for doing a lot of things that made a whole lot of Christians and a whole lot of nationalist frankly really uncomfortable. He formed very close relationships with the Native Americans held very weird theological opinions that alienated everybody, but insisted on continuing the dialogue with everybody. And that was kind of his version of being politically civil. There's a really interesting book called mere Civility by Teresa beige on that profiles, him and a couple other people if anybody's interested in more and Roger Williams,

Paul  50:24

I had a much longer section in the book about Williams and his dialogue with John Cotton had to be cut for length, but he is a fascinating character, and I so appreciate his theological contribution to the doctrine of religious liberty and disestablishment. Yeah, I think many American Christians think that religious liberty is a constitutional doctrine, and they're ready to kind of renegotiate the boundaries there. And I want to remind everybody, it's actually a biblical doctrine. The Bible says that government that state and church have separate jurisdictions, Jesus says, My kingdom is not of this world. And he does not give authority to the states to enforce right worship of himself. So we need to, as Christians honor the biblical doctrine of disestablishment.

Kyle  51:03

Yeah, and also Rhode Island is beautiful.

Randy  51:05

So there you go. We're winding up here, Paul. But in the book, you say something that's fascinating. And it makes sense, but I've never thought about it. You say, and I'm quoting you here, something about white American Christianity itself makes White's racial attitudes worse, not better. That's incredible. And then you say that there's something about the intersection of whiteness and Christianity that makes a person more racist. In America? Can you just explain that that's data based? And you you know, you kind of fleshed it out in the book? Could you flush it out for our listeners, and tell us about this incredible intersection of whiteness and American Christianity that makes a person perhaps, more racist?

Paul  51:48

It looks like we're out of time.

Kyle  51:51

I promise. The next two questions are softballs.

Paul  51:55

Yeah. So this is one of the harder questions and I feel like I need to write an article, just you know, is Christian nationalism, racist? You know, it's kind of address it head on the particular part, you're quoting from there. I'm drawing heavily on data from pollsters and sociologists and others who have polled Christians and found their attitudes towards nationalism and towards race and other things. And they found this interesting thing that white Christians think about race one way, it is different from non white Christians, and also different from white non Christians. And so there's an interactive effect of being white and being Christian, that generates a certain worldview, that collectively seems to overlook the realities of what people call systemic racism, what I might call inherited, intergenerational inequality, right? White Christianity, or being white and being Christian together, comes with a worldview. And that worldview emphasizes individualism. It emphasizes, what does Michael Emerson say, Free Will individualism, individual accountability, and things like that, which make us not see the reality of racial inherited racial inequalities across the generations. And that that makes those who grew up in this culture, I would say charitably, less racially sensitive than others, then White non Christians, and then non white Christians. And that's a legacy that we should grapple with, because it's a reality in the data that I think many white Christians have not recognized yet. And it should cause us to, to pause and to reflect soberly.

Randy  53:27

I would love it if you wrote more about that, because that is something that like, I would love it if you were just on tour, and could go to church, after church after church and talk about that, because pastors won't talk about it by and large, because again, it gets us into trouble that we lose people because of it. But a voice like yours would be so important to highlight that reality and to like, let Christians come to face to face with that sobering statistic. And again, it's just data, it's not opinion. So please go into her in to churches and talk about this.

Paul  53:57

Thank you. I honestly, I think some of the other scholars are better because they have a better grasp on the data. But the bottom line is that our religious identities are being shaped by our racial, ethnic and cultural identities, rather than the other way around. If we're being faithful Christians, our Christianity should be the thing that shapes all the rest of our lives, including our racial, ethnic and cultural identities. But that data pretty clearly shows the relationship is backwards. And that should be a shame to us. We should we should be Christians first. And members of an ethnic or cultural group. Second, there's a

Randy  54:27

sound bite for you.

Kyle  54:28

Yeah, yeah. We always look for little soundbites, we can pick out and put on social media you just gave us. Okay, I promised softball questions. Here you go. So you mentioned Hamilton the play, not the political figure, the musical The musical several times in the book and you seem to be a fan if I misread that, correct me but you seem to be a fan. So if you are a fan, could you tell us what you like about it, and how it fits into your critique of nationalism, but also, you seem to think it's like a good good model of what modern racial info warmed patriotism could look like. So yeah, just talk a little bit about Hamilton.

Randy  55:04

With much reverence, please, Paul, because we're both fans.

Paul  55:08

I am nowhere near as big of a fan as my wife, who listened to the soundtrack on repeat for years on end and as a holding, memorized, and we actually finally had a chance to go see live performance at the Kennedy Center just a couple months ago. So I enjoy this quite a lot. I love it. You know, I bring a Hamilton up in what I'm talking about Rich Lowry spoken nationalism and jazz. Okay, so Larry's got this thing where he says American culture is not intrinsically white, because there's all these cultural influences, and I think Lowry is right about that. But then later on Lowry says, to be a nationalist is to want to preserve the cultural nation. And I kind of like scratch my head. Which one do you want? Do you want the cultural fluidity and change and assimilation and mixing that gives you jazz? Or do you want to just have one fixed culture for all time that you're going to preserve as a nationalist? You can't have it both ways. I think Hamilton is like jazz is a perfect example of taking the best of America from all cultural streams, putting in a blender, mixing it up and look what comes out. You know, what would life be like without jazz? What would America be like without Hamilton, we would be lesser, it would be an impoverished life, we are richer, for having the intermingling the mixing the change of multiple cultural streams that give us these wonderful cultural creations.

Kyle  56:29

Yeah, I love that when you were talking about jazz, I thought, Man that goes for so many other cultural products that have been assimilated by white Americans. I mean, we would never have had hip hop. Kind of nationalism hadn't held sway. Yeah, yeah. And then the last thing and I hope I get one more question. Oh, sorry. Yeah, no, you want to go first? You go for it. Okay. So the last thing I hope this doesn't get you into any trouble or too contentious. But my, my favorite line in the book, I literally laughed out loud. This is on page 142. You say nationalism. This is a chapter closer, so you knew what you're doing. It was a zinger. You say nationalism is little more than political onanism. And about as fruitful. Maybe some of our listeners don't know what onanism is, or maybe a co host, or maybe a co host? Those people should Google it. So there's a famous character in the old test? Well, I don't know how famous he is. But a character in the Old Testament, maybe the only time masturbation is mentioned, all right, in the Bible, who gets in trouble with God for not inseminating? The woman he was supposed to inseminate and instead spilling his seed

Randy  57:32

up on the ground? Yeah, not the first time that onin has been referenced on this podcast,

Kyle  57:35

believe it or not, not the first time he's come up. So So basically, you're comparing Christian nationalism to masturbation. And I just laughed out loud. And I wanted to thank you for putting that in. And I hope it hasn't gotten you into too much trouble.

Paul  57:49

But thank you for highlighting that passage. I got beat up on Twitter just the other day because people thought it was a little bit cheap and vulgar. The thing is, I'm actually kind of making a serious point like I'm I'm trying to highlight that nationalism is self oriented, rather than other oriented. I'm trying to highlight that it is fruitless, right political order supposed to bear the fruit of peace, justice and order. And I think nationalism doesn't do that. And I'm highlighting that. I'm drawing on the biblical analogy between idolatry and adultery. Right? Regularly, you see that equation in the Bible. And if nationalism can become idolatrous, it does become a form of adultery with oneself. And so I thought the metaphor was apt. And and it was way of capping off my three chapter long critique of nationalism. So I'm glad you enjoyed the zinger. But I did have a serious point

Randy  58:36

to it. Yeah, yeah. It's good. So Paul, we I mean, you're a veteran. You worked for the CIA, you Kyle mentioned, you worked in George W. Bush's administration. You are a professor at Georgetown University. There is no one more qualified, very few people more qualified to answer this question. And this is something that I texted Kyle and Elliot, our producer just last week, we live in in Wisconsin. So that means that Ron Johnson is one of the candidates running for Senate. He is our current Senator Ron Johnson espoused actively espouse conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and unscientific things he is a he overlooks January 6, in the, you know, attempted coup at at the Capitol. He is destructive, and all sorts of ways. And it's just he's a microcosm of what's going on in the nation, if you like. And my question for you, Paul is and I mean, this, and I would like to hear your answer is what the hell has happened to Republicans into the Republican Party. That's what I want to say what the hell's happened to the Republican Party?

Paul  59:36

Once again, we're out of time, aren't we? So there's, I want to make a distinction between like the Republican voters or the Republican Party, and then Biden called him the Magga. Republicans, he tried to distinguish between all Republicans and the kind of the the part that seems to have gone truly crazy right, with conspiracy theories and lies about the election and lies about COVID Well, What has happened? You know, I wrote a piece for the dispatch, where I wondered out loud if the Republican Party is becoming the shin Fein of American politics. Some listeners might understand the analogy. Shin fain was a political party that ran cover for the IRA terrorist movement. And they had this weird relationship where Shin fain would participate in politics peacefully, but they would be the mouthpiece for an extremist movement. And I wonder if there's an extremist movement? Thank God. It's not a terrorist group, although there is incidents of political violence. And then there's the broad political party with peaceful people and people in office and people doing the normal things. And there's this relationship between the party and the extremist movement. And it's deeply troubling. Not all Republicans fall in that extremists category. But it's true to say that the extremists are essentially taking over or have taken over Donald Trump's the head of the party. And if you look at the results of the primary elections across the country in 2022, yep, the extremist elements are the ones who won many of the primaries now. We're recording this in in late October, just a few weeks from now we're going to have the midterm elections. And I'm going to be looking very carefully to see which of those actually get elected in the general election. My hope and prayer is that those extremists lose. And that that will be a come to Jesus moment for the Republican Party institutionally. And just for the sake of their own survival and strategic interest, they'll stop nominating the crazies. And we'll return to something like a normal conservatism.

Randy  1:01:23

Yep. So last question, then. But just give you a crystal ball and ask you, what do you think the Republican Party looks like? Or what do you think American politics looks like in 1015 years?

Paul  1:01:35

Yeah. So it's impossible to answer that, in part, because victories and defeats really matter. And who wins and who loses in two weeks, and in two years, change the directory, we would not be in the moment we are in if Donald Trump had lost in 2016. Right. So it was a bit of a fluke, a statistical fluke that he pulled out that victory. But now we have all this stuff, because victory has 1000 Fathers, once he won, everyone piles on and says, Yeah, I'm going to be this, I'm going to do the nationalist thing and create this magazine, and finally movement and have a conference, the National Concert, we wouldn't have a national conservatism conference, without his victory. So once people win, people flocked to that like a soccer ball. So I don't know who's going to win and who's going to lose, but it does mean, we each of us have some agency here. I don't know what America looks like in 15 years, but I do know that you and I, and all the listeners will cast ballots, and we will donate to candidates, and we will canvass for them. And that will make a difference in what kind of America we live in in 15 years. So if you want the kind of country without a crazy extremist element in charge of one of the two political parties, you got to say so speak up and say so even if it offends your fellow parishioners, you know, you got to say something. Sorry about talking to you two guys talking to all listeners. But we have agency here and we have responsibility.

Randy  1:02:47

Very good. Well, the book is the religion of American Greatness. What's wrong with Christian nationalism? Dr. Paul Miller, we're so grateful that you wrote this book and grateful for your voice. And thank you for joining us.

Paul  1:02:58

Thanks so much for having on the show. I really enjoyed this. I'd love to continue the conversation.

Kyle  1:03:02

Yeah, saying maybe when that when that second book about progressivism is out we'll we'll really have it out. There you go. Thanks. Well, that's it for this episode of A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. We hope you're enjoying the show as much as we are. Help us continue to create compelling content and reach a wider audience by supporting us at patreon.com/apastorandaphilosopher, where you can get bonus content, extra perks, and a general feeling of being a good person.

Randy  1:03:33

Also, please rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, and Spotify. These help new people discover the show, and we may even read your review in a future episode. If it's good enough.

Kyle  1:03:45

If anything we said really pissed you off or if you just have a question you'd like us to answer, or if you'd just like to send us booze, send us an email at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com.

Randy  1:03:55

Catch all of our hot takes on Twitter at @PPWBPodcast, @RandyKnie, and @robertkwhitaker, and find transcripts and links to all of our episodes at pastorandphilosopher.buzzsprout.com. See you next time.

Kyle  1:04:09


Beverage Tasting