Presidents, priests, and prophets: Covenantal Christian nationalism and the challenge of Biblical analogy

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Abstract

This article explores the elaboration and application of the Old Testament idea of ‘covenant’ among Zambian church leaders who are Christian nationalist activists. In this framework, Zambia serves as an analogue of biblical Israel, while contemporary government and church leaders are the analogues of Old Testament kings, priests, and prophets. This covenantal approach presents challenges. On the one hand, government support for Christian nationalism encourages the compliance of church leaders with state-led religious projects; on the other hand, however, the analogical reading of the biblical text on which this support depends casts the church in a prophetic role, which in turn opens the door for criticism of the government. Christian nationalist activists in Zambia therefore find themselves caught in a double-bind that simultaneously encourages submission and critique. An analysis of this process contributes an important non-Western perspective to contemporary discussions of Christian nationalism. It also complicates easy interpretations of Christian nationalism as abetting state power by demonstrating its critical possibilities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 17 Feb 2022

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