Head of Capitol Ministries Ralph Drollinger recently told James Dobson that 11 of President Trump’s cabinet members attend his meetings. In describing his rationale for the studies, Drollinger’s reasons sounded similar to those who espouse Christian nationalism. Christian nationalists believe that leaders in a society need to be Christian so that the laws and policies will reflect Christianity.
In his interview with Dobson, Drollinger asserted:
Right actions begin with right thinking and right thinking begins with thinking right about God. So, how can you expect right actions in terms of the course of a nation unless your nation’s leaders think right? And how can you expect them to think right if they don’t know the Word of God?
I was surprised to learn that Drollinger doesn’t think of himself as a Christian nationalist. He wrote an article distancing himself from the terms most closely associated with Christian nationalism. However, after a review of his recommendations for public policy, I don’t agree with him. He sounds like a Christian nationalist to me. For him, the only good legislator is a legislator who subscribes to his view of Christianity.
About two years ago, he took issue with a NYT editorial by Kathrine Stewart in which she called him out as a Christian nationalist. Drollinger wrote a response calling that defamation and asked that the Times print a retraction. To my knowledge, nothing came of that demand.
In response to the publicity surrounding the dust up, Drollinger outlined his views of dominionism and Christian nationalism. He dismissed theonomy, Christian reconstructionism, and dominionism as faulty concepts based on misunderstandings of Scripture. He distinguished three types of law in the Old Testament and said that only one expression should be promoted in civil government by Christians. In a Capitol Ministries newsletter on the subject, Drollinger asserted:
The Judicial/Civil OT Law along with the Ceremonial OT Law are not applicable for Public Servant lawmakers today in the Church Age because they are specific to theocratic Israel of the OT and they have been done away with by Christ Himself. On the other hand, the Moral Law of the OT is applicable for today as a reliable informant for civil government leaders in their lawmaking. In fact, the Moral Law is and should remain the basis of civil government lawmaking today because it matches perfectly the conscience “chip” that God has installed in everyone He has created: The Moral Law of God, revealed in the OT and NT is written on our hearts! (Cf. Romans 1:18-20.)
Drollinger claimed Christian nationalists (whoever they are, he doesn’t name them) want to implement OT civil and ceremonial laws into American government. He doesn’t want to do that so he isn’t a Christian nationalist. However, he does teach legislators that God’s moral law as expressed in the Bible is the proper basis for civil government. This heading comes from the same lesson:
BELIEVERS WHO SERVE IN CIVIL GOVERNMENT SHOULD ONLY SEEK TO IMPORT ONE OF THE THREE DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF THE OT LAW. THEY SHOULD SEEK TO IMPORT FOR TODAY THE MORAL LAW OF GOD AS REVEALED IN THE OT TORAH!
Drollinger says he believes in separation of church and state because he doesn’t want a state church. However, he does want the church to influence the state. As we will see, the influence comes via converting legislators to his view of God’s moral law.
In the New Testament, the Bible teaches that God created the institution of the state as an entity separate from the institution of the Church. But that does not imply that God does not expect the institution of the state to be influenced by the institution of the Church: He does expect the Church to influence the State — while remaining institutionally separate.
I do not believe or embrace “Christian nationalism” nor does Capitol Ministries harbor any theocratic motives.
In a more in depth study on separation of church state, Drollinger explained the idea of influence of the church on the state.
As we will see from this study, the institution of the State is quite dependent on the existence of a strong and healthy institution of the Church (which it does not control) to build men and women in righteousness for service in government.
The same principles which build individuals in righteousness (as expounded by the Word of God) are the same principles, wherein multiplied by and through individuals, that build a nation. It is when a nation is impregnated with highly principled individuals that it gains well-being.
Given this cut-to-the-chase analysis of our greatest need, the question then quickly becomes one of how righteousness is formed in the lives of individuals. Having said that, therein exists, in terms of serving the institution of the State, the absolutely critical preeminent duty of the Church in an institutionally separated society: to convert the soul and disciple — Christianize — the leaders of the State and its citizenry.
Conversion is even preeminent to education; without a moral foundation, knowledge makes arrogant (I Corinthians 8:1) and is of little value in terms of nation building. Therefore in our composite country, the State is highly dependent on an institution it does not control: The Church in regard to its own health and sustainability. Conversely, for the Church to spend her energy in the capital community attempting to affect policy with little manifest concern for the souls of the State’s leaders is to practice, biblically speaking, a misinformed and misguided sort of involvement: it is to attempt to do what others — strong-in-Christ Public Servants — can do much better! It is to be less than efficient. It is to misunderstand the primacy of her God-ordained role in a composite society.
The Church can best influence the State by building and sending righteous Public Servants to serve in government. Keep in mind the State is not in the business of manufacturing righteous individuals. Rather, God has designed it to punish unrighteous individuals (cf. Romans 13:4; 1 Peter 2:13-14).Proverbs 29:2 serves to summarize this:
I can imagine that a non-Christian reading this would be worried that this sounds like a formula for a de facto establishment of Drollinger’s view of Christianity. People from Christian traditions other than evangelical might wonder the same thing since Drollinger’s view of God’s moral law is a conservative evangelical one.
Drollinger tells us that “conversion is even preeminent to education” for the leaders of the state. In other words, Christian lawmakers who know nothing of the issues they will address in office are better than non-Christian experts. If President Trump’s handlers are truly listening to this advice, this could help account for some of the truly unqualified appointments to high administration positions and the judiciary.
Drollinger makes his views clear by saying that God can only bless the nation through the prayers of Christians.
God only hears the prayers of leaders and citizens who are upright, who live righteous through faith in Jesus Christ.
Scripture is clear; those who are at enmity with Him — who passively or actively reject the Son of God — their prayers are worthless and go unheard. And the State suffers for want of His blessing. The righteous leader is a man of potent prayer.
While Drollinger criticizes Christians who want Mosaic law as a basis, he sees no problem with his version of Christianity being the basis for civil government. If the nation can only prosper through the Christian church, then what else can you call this but Christian nationalism? According to his plain teaching, if you aren’t a Christian as a leader or a citizen, you are part of the problem. His answer is to convert you to his tradition of Christianity. The principle goal of Capitol Ministries is to evangelize legislators and as he wrote in the lesson cited above – Christianize – leaders and citizens. When the goal is political change, what else can this be philosophy be called?
What’s The Problem?
Drollinger claims that no one is required to attend his Bible studies. I suspect that is true at least in the formal sense. If no tax funds are being expended, I don’t see a problem with government officials attending his meetings although I wish they wouldn’t.
Where there could be a problem is what he does with his influence. Evangelizing is one thing, using the evangelized converts to institute your religious view of law is another. It seems obvious to me that he has policy views he thinks God wants more than others and he believes converted lawmakers will pursue those. He uses religious conversion to achieve political ends.
One effect of this could be to increase the polarization of our politics. In Drollinger’s Christianity, ideological opponents aren’t just people we disagree with, they are enemies of God. They aren’t just different in outlook; their prayers are “worthless” and the State “suffers” because they have “rejected the Son of God.” If you compromise legislatively with such people, you may view yourself as compromising on God’s principles.
This view of the unconverted may not reflect the Christian nationalism that Drollinger rejects, but it is a kind of Christian privilege that isn’t reflected by the Constitution. The framers had an opportunity to privilege Christianity but firmly decided to reject religious tests for public service. The framers saw the rejection of a religious test as a sign of enlightenment. In contrast to Drollinger, the framers understood that public service required more than conversion to Christianity.
I believe Drollinger is wrong: Public service most certainly requires education and and openness to information. Currently, we have so many legislators who really have no idea how to evaluate information and scientific data. They rely on dubious “experts” within their faith traditions to tell them how to vote.
Furthermore, electing Christians is no guarantee of righteous actions or policies. For instance, the Trump administration has been among the most scandal ridden in history. The supposed “baby Christian” President Trump can’t seem to find the truth. And far away from Washington, D.C., converted legislators are no insurance against greed and corruption (e.g., Arkansas bribery scandal). Any political observer knows I could go on and on.
The law of the land is the Constitution which does not place any barrier to the religious or non-religious. Teaching elected officials that their non-Christian peers can’t “think right” about public policy because they “don’t know the Word of God” isn’t consistent with American values and our Constitutional system. He can believe it with all his might but when he makes it his work to infect the political system with those teachings then it becomes everybody’s business to call it out and oppose it.