Putting the LGBTQ Movement and Christian Nationalism in the Dock

Jan 27, 2023 by David Fowler

Legislation pending in Tennessee (Senate Bill 1/House Bill 1) and in several other politically conservative states will pit these two seemingly disparate and rival movements against each other. But I increasingly believe the two have something in common that is seriously wrong. I think both deserve closer inspection, and perhaps the best benchmark for starting that inspection is the LGBTQ movement’s catchphrase, “love is love.”
“Love is love” sounds nice, fits on a bumper sticker, and is hard to argue against because it tells us nothing about love. It is a tautology. It’s like saying “A square is square” in which case you better already know what a square is or the sentence is unhelpful.
But the reason it works so well in public discourse is, as the United States Supreme Court has declared,[1] that we all live in a subject-oriented world, meaning each of us defines the world for himself or herself. 
Therefore, it could be said that love can only be known by experience. Logical analysis of it would only destroy its power and charm. 
That is why insisting on an intelligible definition of love in a subject-oriented world recalls J. Gresham Machen’s statement, “Obviously this temper of mind is hostile to precise definitions.”[2]

And, he perceptively added, “[N]othing makes a man more unpopular in the controversies of the present day than an insistence upon definition of terms. Anything, it seems, may be forgiven more readily than that.” Ninety-eight years before cancel culture!
Nevertheless, I am prepared to make myself unpopular to both movements by putting each in the dock to ask some pertinent definitional questions.

Putting the LGBTQ Movement in the Dock 

“Love is love” has nothing within its terms by which the LBGTQ movement could say that love of country cannot be a love, even if its members say, “You can’t love a thing, especially a thing that is incorporeal.”  
Who is to say love cannot exist in relation to things? Ever said you loved a car, house, or piece of art? Or in relation to the incorporeal, have you ever said you love God, Who is a spirit, or music, or even a good imagination? If so, you have loved something incorporeal.
In fact, love itself is incorporeal. We may see its effects, like the wind, but we don’t see love any more than we see the wind.
So, here is the LGBTQ movement’s problem: Until it defines the love it touts or, having done so, determines a proper ordering of our loves (e.g., love of a parent is of a higher order than love of a friend which is higher than that of thing or a country), its members have no grounds upon which to protest a Christian nationalism that is a love of one’s country or it being the highest ordered love of all. 

Rightly Ordered Loves

I will explain why Christian Nationalists have no grounds upon which to object to the loves within the LGBTQ movement and its ordering of them, but first let me explain what I mean by rightly-ordered loves. 
For that I will turn to St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, who describes the “just and holy” person as one who:
neither loves what he ought not to love, nor fails to love what he ought to love, nor loves that more which ought to be loved less, nor loves that equally which ought to be loved either less or more, nor loves that less or more which ought to be loved equally.[3]
So, I ask of those in the LGBTQ movement: By what standard would the love you propose as real love be determined so that its members would not love what they should not love?
And here is the harder question: Should you love those within your movement more than those not among your number, including those who you would describe as Christian Nationalists who love their country?  
Would your love reach so high as to “love your [Christian Nationalist] neighbor as you would love yourself?” Not my question, but Jesus’.

Putting the Christian Nationalist Movement in the Dock

Ironically, the same analysis can apply to those who identify as Christian Nationalists or identify with that movement (for convenience, collectively called “Christian Nationalists”).  
I’ve heard this movement’s catchphrases, too, like, “I would rather my nation be Christian than godless.” But that doesn’t define what Christian is except as “not godless” which, like “love is love,” is a tautology.
What I hear from many Christian Nationalists is that America is in real trouble. What I think is often meant is the form, values, and, most importantly, benefits of the America they love are going down the tubes. I agree on the former and lament with them on the latter. 
I get that this kind of motivation can be cast as love. That is why I went into politics, and I even convinced myself it was because I loved God. 
I was going to love God by standing for the right moral values, which I believed aligned with our founding values. But this idea seems to face at least two problems, the first of which is being Pharisaical, which I explained the other week. 

Rightly Ordered Love of Country

The second problem faced by Christian Nationalists is the same I raised with those in the LGBTQ movement, namely, the order of their loves. Is love of God brought in to prop up and justify a love of country (as with Jean Jacques Rousseau) or vice versa? This line can be both hard to draw and to see. But let’s see if that can’t be done.

Putting Love in the Dock

For an evaluation of the love espoused by both movements, I again turn to Augustine. He wrote, “No sinner is to be loved as a sinner; and every man is to be loved as a man for God’s sake; but God is to be loved for His own sake.”
It takes time to wrap one’s mind around that, let alone begin to apply it. It sounds like the Christian catchphrase “hate the sin, but love the sinner,” but if that is what Christians want to say (and I have said it), I believe they need to understand better what it means, especially the love part, even as I needed to. 
God alone is love, and any other love must be considered in relation to that love as its source, or it is not love but most likely self-interest. Only God, because He is God and Love, can be loved for His own sake. In other words, if there is not a source for love outside us, and it is not objective, we can say anything is love which is tantamount to saying nothing is love.
Love, like all things, is from God, comes through God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit[4]) but it is only love when returned to God and not misdirected, i.e., be a wrongly ordered love, disconnected from its source, power and destination (Romans 11:16 “From Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things”). 
Thus, one cannot rightly love another person or a nation except as an expression of God’s love, ordered in relation to Him, and, through that person or political activity, a reciprocation of that love to God. Otherwise, we are using love for our own selfish ends. Moreover, any other love or order of loves is fragile and easy to lose. Only as our loves are drawn up into His love will we find both a satisfying and eternally enduring love. 

A Love That Demands More of All of Us Than We Want to Consider:

However, what I have come to understand in the last few weeks is that this kind of love oft-times means more than I can bear to think, let alone put into action. C.S. Lewis put it this way in his book, The Four Loves:
God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing—or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God—the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven though the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of bac and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitch up. If I dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Here is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.

Conclusion—What Kind of Movement Do We Want?

Even if both movements “speak with the tongues of men and of angels” about love, any other love than that which is from God, comes though Him by His work in us, and is ordered back to Him is as “sounding brass and clanging symbol.” It “profits us [and our movements] nothing” because it passes away in the passing away of those things that we loved for their own sake, not for His sake (1 Corinthians 13:1).
But a movement of the kind of love that God is and has demonstrated in Jesus “covers a multitude of sins” among us (James 5:20, 1 Peter 4:8), including our own, both of which are summed up as not loving God with all our heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). 
Would any dare have a movement in our nation that aims at that as its goal?
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

[1] Obergefell v. Hodges, 135. S.Ct. 2584, ___ (2015)(“The Constitution promises . . . a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.”); Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 851 (1992) “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”)

[2] J. Gresham Machen, What is Faith?

[3] On Doctrine, Book 1, Chapter 27.

[4] The lack of expository preaching on the doctrine of the Trinity has killed the basis upon which one can logically say God is Love. A non-Triune God looks like the god of Islam’s jihad.

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