4

NATIONAliSM
MV Nation. Under God
IF JRSUS "'F.RIC t\1.1\''' TOntiI', would he p,urioric? G OI your
Actually. that i. not the 'lue. lion I want 10 pu,""c. \Vha! inte ....
e," me;" whether you " .. "mcd that I woo asking whether Jcru, would
be a p atriotic /I""r;lllll? O f course, we arc aware lha1 Jc. us was <101 an
American duri'lg hi, life, so there is no reason 10 think that he
wou ld be an Amcriean ifhe was alive today. In odds HC slim that
he would be a U.S. citizen. This CDUnI,,' is horne to onl" about 3 to"
ptrcem of the worM', populati on, and there arc tWO hundred
recognized nation •. furrhermore. We km)\v that when Jesus did reside
on this planet. his place ofbirrh was not one of that era', superpowers.
I roadily admit that my tollow·"p 'lueotion about patriotism
toward the United Slale> i, n ul ent irely lair. Since moS! who re"d thi s
book will be U. S. citilen •• il i. natural w ponder the 'lueSlion within
our own frame <>f rdercna. At the same time, it is important to
sid .. also whether it is uncomfortable to think that Jesu. might ha"e
been horn into another nation had his incarnation occurred wday. be-
caUSe the idea that one's oWn nal ion is utliqudy by G od and an
62
integral of God's plan (an known as cx""prionruism) holds the
seeds of a reliKious nationalism.
Religious nationalism;' rather among the world'-;ews
sun'eyed in this buok because, in this country. it is most frequently
found within con.ervat; ... C hrisrian circles. Our supupower ,mills and
the longe" ity of our political .yuem provide a potent seedbed for na-
tional;>! ideas. ,"Vhm this i. combined with a rather widespn:"d belief
that the Unit ed State, is (or in Some cases, was) a Christian nation .
national;;;m becomes a seductive worldview for Christians. To be lUre,
not "II form. of nmionalism arc rdigious in orientation, but for ",asons
we will examine below, most arc.
\Vhen we speak of nationalism as a lived world .. i,,," in compet ition
with Chrit;tionity, thi •• hou ld not be taken as a condemnation of pa-
triOTi sm. \Vc "' ant IU say as and (orcdully 'V" can thaI pa-
TriOTism, Ihe lov" of one'. cOllnlry, is" good and nece.sary thing. How-
e,'er, we walll to say juST as forcefu lly thm a patriOTism That lose,
per ' peel i'·e :md offers ollr highe •• loyalty to a speci ft c S1 ale is an evil
and dUmlcli.-e thing. In essence, nati onalism i . Ihe imb"hnced an,]
distorted form of something thou is good-patriotism. There i. no sim-
ple way to determine wit h precision when good patriotism degenemte.
into nationalism, but we ,.-ill allempt 10 gi,'c .mne potenTia] bench-
for ,df-cxamin,uion. Before we gel 1o thaI . however, it is impot-
mot 10 tah a cl o.cr look al t he naTure of nation •• 0 We llnder.l and
why religion, rerh"I" our OW", is so U(len cn-opud hy nalionali,m.
NATION CRE ATION
N,"i t>ns arc nnl el ernal entitie., Thq COme ;mn and g() ,,\11 of exis-
lenCe. "["h\l' , a v;t al lhcme in our is nal";ons arc crc:lIed
Ihing'S, and rather artificial creations al that. For example, whal ha,
hem included wirhin Tbe I",rdcfs oftbe Uniled and under the
of iI, law. I"" varied significantly wit hin ;1, relatively brief
history. Through rehellion, scn\cmcnt , mlll,x"lion
"ud t"", .;liol\ frorn territory tn stule, the Hl;tP of lhi . cm,,!!r)" gone
Ihrn"gh nUmerOuS (orms. Even I huugh We think oj i\ . borden i" r"h-
ti,·ely Slable now, shou ld remind u. that il is u"likely Ihal
63
United Smt •• of Am.riea
M
will refer to exactly the same land m,,,, a
century in the future, and it mar not exi,t at all. If you find this hard to
imagine, compare globe from a hundred yean "-go with a current one.
You will get the pictur<:.
Nation. are not simply artificial in the sens. that borde .. are often
fluid and the means by which they are establi ,hed i. frequently arbi-
nary. No . ingle justification cxi,u to c.>:pbin why one group of people
become" a"ocialed with one particubr nation rather than another.
Sometime, nario'" arc ddined by old col onial . Ullotllr • • or a common
h;,(ory. In other cases, ling uist ic, .UIIU,.,.I, traditional , tribal, racial or
religious commonalities provide the ba,i. for flmionhood. In Au,! .. .!ia
and other island countri •• , establi.hed by even
though the people within t hose di tTer radi-
on In yeT other casn, the demenH "r. the
very things that mu st be transcended in order for a nation to emerge. In
Amerirn's early the diver •• linguistic, cultural, religious and
historical backgrounds of people in the colonies made un ity e;'(tremci.l'
dim.ul!. In; ti,,)!)', t hen, w:.s found in COmmOn goal s Or ideals,
. uch as liherty and equality. O,'er time, howe""" much of the United
national identit\' has ,hifted from the.e common ideal, t o in-
dud. also a common history. In , hor t , nat ional character is not a stat ic
th ing bm .omel hi nl': that change, over time. The poim is twofold here:
the ",w mal erials for nation- creation vary widciy from one .0Hm,.\' to
a"",her, :md wh", I',<",i<l". the basi. for t h" ill one circumst"n,c
may hc rhe gre",cs! "h>tadc t" a cohcsi,'. ' I"IC ill """lher si,u alion.
Whil e the pa",graph above spe, k. , bout jll,! .ome of the <v'l's na-
t ion. find i us!ifim!i"n (or becomi ng political e ntit ies wilh uni'l"e
tities, it , toes not re:tlly Iell why nations come il1lo being. A! the ri,k
of oversimplificati on, thi . que. tion can be boiled down fO power, which
manifests irsd rin three dosely rdated military power/
defen<ibil it \' ;l nd "conom ic dOllr. r.,1 ost of ", do "ot I h ink " r Ihe nation-
state in the world as a modern phenomenon, but that is the
re, lily. The (,,"dalis!ic social that existed for mm,h of the
Illedie,,:t lperiud .:onsi. tcd ,,(fl ucl uating ,,,n(eden,l inn. (",,",cd by mi-
nor nobili ty, each cOl] trolling small . w:tt h. of «"I eSl ate. Si1l1 ilar typ"s
,
of splems arc slil! found in parts of Ihe worid in which warlords or
tribal gronp. hold aCll1al control within the border. of a counlry. Now.
a$ in ,he period, these saueture. laek . t"bility and all that
goes with it. Nations promi. e, and have a greater cap:lcit)" to deli'·n. the
politiml, military :lnd economic stability and strenglh that cannot be
,ntained by smaller politicaJ units.
To say lhat power is the main reasoJ) for the existence of nation. is
not To pronounce judgmem on it. The t hat politi cal , military or
economic power is an evil per Se i. 6r too simplist ic. A lot of good ,e-
, ults from political and social stabil ity, military delerrcna and eco-
nomic sTrength; and patriotism i. properly directed when it acknowl -
edge. these posit i,·. a'pecl>I. How.ver, to achieve and maim"in power,
mU.1 . eCure Ihe J0Y'llt)" of cilium. Withon. loyalty, the
pO\\' cr and " ahilit y of the ""Ie is in jeopardy.
T he means by which nmions pursue pnw .. can lead to nmionali, m,
so the tooJ, used b)"" nati on to legitimale ilselfbecome an imporwm
isslle. Le'·' be honeS!. I f a na,ion '''y', '·We arc a vui:,blc and aui rici:!!
thaI fi,i l. in OUr monl dllt ics, bill We wam Y"'"
g,ance in order to ou r and Ihis i. nol a p<tr-
ticnlarly effect i"e to g:t in the fervmllophy of cilizen<. i n<lcad. a
nat ion to win allegiance by attaching i"elf to somelhi ng thai
gives it the credibility of ,he .u perio, Qr the eternal. T his can happen by
maki ng claims (or a idcals. people, his tory or somcthing else.
in moS! case<, i. made In the divin" ,'" the founJ:uinn
for what i.i ''' perin, or elernal "buul a ,"unlry. God i. ,·;"wed as
the ab."lule authority. nmio", ofl"n att empt W CO- OI'l this author i' )· to
give them legitimacy. Thi s is why a nat ionali. t ic world"iew is usually
religiou. in na", re and i. generally adopted b)' individuals with a St ro"g
religious oriematioll. 0", of it . belief in 'Ome form oC superi ority, then,
nal;"'n:t lists dai'" Ihat G od has gi ven thei r cOllntry" special mi .. ion to
thc rest of the world.
A CAlf STUDY IN NATIONALISM
Several cl e!!,enl' mentioned above p]:,.,·ed " put in what i. perh"ps the
mo .. impormm hist or ic"J developmcnt in the last birth of
65
the Nazi party in Germany. 11 i. irnponant CO recall that the N in N"zi
srood for ··Il.uionali.r; and at the hcart ofGnman nationalism was belief
in the super iority of the Aryan It pomayed the German 1'011: as the
highe' l exprc.,ion of hum miry, and thUI the destined rukn of all other
the ba,;, ofthei. preeminen"" in their h istory. int ellectual ac-
complishment. and moral nature. Thi. was a111inkod to Christianit.v by
procbiming Jes us t o be the fr ue Aryatl and the fou nder of a
that had becn lo.t whcn the Jewish Old T<:'lament was at-
tached to the Bibk. Thus, the German nation W:l, the candl1;! through
which this purified Christianity would be reint roduced 10 the world.
Through G ermany, the world would tcceil'e the true rcii!)ion.
The,e idea, were combined with a G erman tradition that encour-
ages the obed i,nce of the church to politj.,al ;luchoritiu . Th •• resuhed
in a inrended to linite an the Prote;;ran' churches in
under a ' ingle bishop, who was t hen account able to (i.e. ,
the Fiihr,r) , who was, of course, Hitln The next <fep of this .o-called
Germa n C hri,t ian mOVemen' W"S co expel ,,11 Ch ril li"n' ofJewish de-
from mini>!r}' po,il iom , and bIer from membcr$hip in ch urch , so
that a proper Aryan puri ty and positiv" Chri.tianit y could be attained.
The extent to which . ignifi"anr parN of the Germa" church wa. co-
opted by nationali.m can b •• ecn in a u .olmion pas<ed in 1933 by the
Reich C hurch, ,,,hieh , tme. ill part: "Gud hn. cremcd nrc a G erm,m.
Germanism i. a gifl of God. G od w,mts me to fight for m.'· Germany .
.. The " f t he 'Fairh l\1')\'cIl' cnt of "Genna" Chri. ti an" i< an
German Rei ch."
You MAY BE A NATIONAliST If
11 e.ISY to look b:tck on n:ltionali sm a. obviuusly deSlrIl cti vc N,,-
7.i'm and think we are im<nune jrom nonsense. !-I owe"er, the h is-
tory, trad iti ons and the i<nme'lse power ,, (Ihe United SI"tes hold 1'0-
tem factors Ih,u can and do le,,,1 to nat ional iSl ie tendcncics. On b" lance.
the story of the United States is, ill oor opinion . " good one, but tI,,, !
good ness is pHt of ,he ,bnKer. Nationalism becuntes tentpt"tion pre-
cisely .... hen ",uion, h,,,"e , ,, fri.-.ien' "rength u r good ness to iusl'ire
deep-seated l"yah ie,. As a res" It, cit iZen, of nalions that aroHse Sf ronK
66
patriotism do not appreciate being compared to Nazi nationalisn. This
pre.ents di fficu lt for tho ... who consider themselves highly
patriotic 10 honestly appraise their attitudes. Given the tOllchy nalUre
of the topic, J will make a feeble ,nempl10 lighten lip oUr exposition
of nnt;onaJi.m's character,.!i •• by modifying Jeff Foxworthy's weJl-
known maybe" redneck if .. ." routine. The iment isto provide
a ConteXt for examining how you can u"dculand the place of co<mt')'
within your own overall world"iew.
1. If you thaI God's pit", for 'WoulJ Iu $MJeuly ham-
peud iflbe Sial .. , did nol "x ;1I in a h .mJud Jean, twmty-Jiu<,
or .... 'en n"xt y .. ar,JoII may br " "ationalist. From the earliest Set-
tlement of this countr," by Eu ropean immigrants, \Vinthrop's vision of
as a "City upon Hi ll" (1630) has h"d" profound on our
nation"l sdf-undetsr3nding. In P'''' o(his address (wi'h o Ur
10 h is band of serders, Winthrop say.,
For we mu" COIl ,ider th", We s.haU be Ci,y upon 3 Hill. Ihe eye< of
people upon uo;.., ifw" .rull deal falsely wi,h ourGod in ,hio
work We and hi", to w;,hdr.<w his present help
from us. We shall be made a story and a bywonlthrough the world. we
shall oJkn ,he mouth. of enemies to speak evil of t he ways of God and
aU prof.sroN for God's >Jke-, We slmllshame the f3ccs of many of Go,! ',
wonhy """ "a nlS, .. " s(: thei, l' ... ve!"S 1\J be ''' med ;n'o curse. "pan I"
un,il We are consumed out of the good land where We arc going. L
Thi s concep' of America:u Ihe heir ofGnd ·. pbn,:t NeW
Israci, Ih"l Ihe enli,e world wi ll look to as God'. modd ji), all nad"",
is embedded in our nmional psyche. Similarly, here we find ,he
ide" rhm we will pro. pcr onder God', unique protection "s long "" we
rem,,;n f:,ilhful.
\¥imh rop's "C iIY "pon .\ "'a." nOI ,o!l!cllf to rema in i.ol,ucd
upon hjll for kll'g. It bCC'UllC America's -M,mif"st Ie)
spread the idc:ds, tho bortlers, of ' he "alion from one 10 ,,"-
other. In the process. the .opposed goodne .. . md god liness of our end,
'S« AU," Cord". /""iroN ;" IIm,,;,o: .nJ /,iI';. C,"' ",] M. ,
B,k<r. rp. n·lO.
67
w: .. used as" nationali,tic ju,tification tor some pretty coere;,",
means of arriving at rhi, divine destiny. As physical expansionism
of the United State. began to wind down the middle of the
nineleenth century, the idea of Amerka a. a cho.en "arion Wa, increa'-
ingly framed in rui!!enn;,,] bnguage. I n this view, the Unit ed State. "'".
the touma;n from which God', millenn;a] kingdom would stretch
acrO •• the globe. America" rni .. ionar), and """ngeli,!ic impul ses would
provide the engine. while oUr political ,yotcm and principle, .upplied
the heart of the God', kingdom on "arth.
Gi,'en the.e link. between God'. plan and the role of the United
State., the idea Ihm ,hi, country conld cea,e 10 ex;'t is unthinbblc.
However, while many b.lieve that the ·City upon" Hi!!" has lost
some of ,heen, thar our Manifest Destiny to expand rhe
has been or posunilknnialisn, , hould h.
shelved for sOme other eschatological model, th.s. "iews demonst""t.
thm the idea of Ameri""n exceptionalism rnn !lex with the circum-
sTanCe •. If, ,herdore. rO\l belie"e for any re:",em ,ha, God's "him:ne
plan for :tli the inextricably bound ul' wilh ,h. far. of the
Uniled Stares. you may be a nntionalist.
2. IJyollfind it IIl1tbi"It"bI. thai" drizm would nor be ablero pledge
allegi''''re 10 flag or sing the lIatiollal anlh .. ", re/igioll s remOIlS,
yo" III")' a lI"tiollalisl. It i, f",h ion"blc in ma"y Christi"n cirde.
tod",v to be dismissive of long-nanding Christian rituals, The word
HIU'"8)' PWllS, reciting creed, is viewed as ",chaie. :",d the
. "c,m"enlS a,e treated ""her Hnwevcl, whcn it come< to
nali unal rituals. pcoplc gN pretty fired "I" You may remember thc
recent (uror ",hen judicial "C!iUll questioned the inclusi,,,, of ,he
phrase uUn<\cr in the pledge of (a phrase whi ch, by
the w"y. WaS nOI parr of the pledge Itntil 1954). My poi nl nOI
whet her the ihuuJd or shou ld nut be in this pledge (althuugh
bter I will ask how i, should be understood), but whether our attitude
toward n."ional rilll ais tell . u. somcthi nK about ,he alignment, or
IT, isal ign me"', of Oll r lo,va It ics,
Ritual always r;"ds" place in religion, <;! i'tenship :md football tei,m.
bec:ouse it pro"ides "n enent i:d w"Y 10 expre,. ult r '''" U'' it ntenl.
in a community setting. By engaging in rirua], we buy into the g ronp.
organization or team. Convcrsd}" then, when we refuse to engage in
pledges, s:d"tcs Or a1l1hcm., it appear; to bc a «jection of an as-
sociation. As a «suh, pluce American in the chuTch
or part icipate in our national ritual. look. like a fai lure of pmriot ism.
Thi. creat es a real ten.ion for some Christians, who view pledg .. of
nation,,1 lovaln· as a form of idohlr\" and in contlie! wilh lheir allc-
. . .
gunec ro G od. lime., this grows out of conCcrn about thc .imi-
britics benvcen patriotic ri[>Inl s and rdigious ritunl s. The<e parallels,
and the fact that the . epa",," obligations to God and country are often
combined, lead SOme Ch ristians to avoid all nat ionalist r it u"ls. Another
factor is historical in natUre. ]I.·Ian)" Christ ian tmditions,
wer. bi fthed OUt of di •• ent !I:Hc-ehu rch. ,. The.e ,tate-ehu reh. I
frequently responded by COlwi ncing the govern",e'" If) persecute, and
in some cases execute, members of the di ",cnting church. Thus, chureh-
state often led to p.neeuli ng Christi:m. in the
name Th; . d anJ:cr. in addition TO Ihe dangu ,ha( one i
faith ",m be co-opted Or imo Ol' r political idcmiry, leads many
Chri,{i,,,,s to all such nat ional ceremon ie •.
On the one hand, au. view that ritual . proclaiming one'. pbce
within a national ("nily not neee .. arily" violation of our primary
commitment to Chri>t and his church. On the o ther hand, we gbd
that there :I re Christ ian. who refuse participation in our nati onal rilt,-
als. T hey provide a remindef that the balance between my
",U ional :lllegiancc and my com mitme'" to rhe ("ith ,n" . t'''ll
,ment ion so d,e two are not <:onfu,;cd. 1t: however. it i. unthinkable to
.vou thaI nags. " at i,,,,,, I am hems or pat riot ic call attai n a sa<.:m-
me,ual s tatuS tilat riv"I., or co-Opt . om:". Chri,tian alle-
giance, you may be a nationalist.
J. /fyo" fhink our of
pr;IIdpln Consfirllliotl .holl/d berhtlng,J,)'Oll "'"Y a
ntlliona/isl. The Semence abo,·c i, a bit sncakr si nce OUf C"nstitu(ioll,
ill ",e!. has been changed by "",<ndme'" s..-cr,,] t imcs. The nccessity
of doing this make cle,," that eVen good foundat iona1 dOClllncnt s
.I" not re;o ch t he le'·c1 or perfection. but "Pl'arendy th is is
69
not the ca.e for some. A eollrague of ours reported that ofh;s stu-
dent. in a cbs. (ovem-helmingly Chri.tian) put the inspiration of t he
Declaration of Independence on par with that of Scripture.
A .. We mentioned .",lier. "atiom often seck to solid ify the of
citizens by claiming that their foundations arc grounded in eternal
truth, . For .ecub. nationalism, the •• unshakable verities are what sel
them "part from other nations and make them exception"l. It then be-
comes their mi,sion to disperse these truths, sometimes by force if nec·
.,.ary. Religious nationnli,m equales political truth, with r.'·chu;an
found in holy text. Dr God', will. The sudbcd fOT 'lIeh idea. appcar. in
our Dcchrat ion of Independence, in ",hi,h righu of "life.
the pursuit of because we
endowed with the,e by ou, Creator. \Vhcn ,hi . i. gi"en a nalional-
i.t ic twiil, then, one's na,ion ,he in.truOlen! by which this
divine message is prochimed.
Constitution. and olher documents impormm guide.
for political doclfinc. Howe"er, natioll3lism cOrnel into exi,lenee when
political doctrines become d"Km'l ,md aSSUme ,I scriptur.,I1c,·eI of au-
thority. A couple of ob. ervation;; can hdp guard "gainS! th" of
giving sitch status to political document •. The fir" i. tn note thnt n
c",d"l reading of nn)' constitution reveal s dn •• pamllel. with the idea.
,md circumstances of the age in which it WaS written. The (o"nJinl;
documents of the Uniled 5r-dtCS, for cX"mple, a,e .trongly ' haped by
Enlightenment philoool'hy, nn intellect""l mO"em"nl often in profound
",nOio with Chri<tianity.
T he second i. rdated. The United 5t"t", C01mitut ion
has. in our opinion, served this count ,.,· p'«tl y wdl for" good st,el ch ur
ti me. At the Same time, We ,ecogni7.c<1 il s ;;hortcomings "vcr lime.
For example, We ,,,,reeted (by 'lmendmcnt) the ide,\ the peo-
ple" those who were .bves or femak point is thai,
we honor fUlld:tmenta] and of a cou ntry, We , hou ld
combine this with a recugnition ofthc and time-bound
ideas within them. Sen!c " fhumil ity i,; ah.em, you may be well
down the ,o<td to becomi"g" ""Iion"li,!.
.J. if )"'" Ibm .1lI1 i"n 'W" ,,1d fi .. ,,11y b .. OK if;1 'W",l/Ii j " sl
70
bark /a "haw;/ '100' " at some eariiu s/ageoj,mr hi,/ory. )'Ou may be a
nat;,malisl. A couple of decades ago. Chr;,ti"n. had n
.nong sense pulitical and soci", 1 outsider •. E"cn w;th recent
increased political cluut. the feding evangelicals an: on the lnsing
. ide of" cultu,.., war ..,main •. The exnct nature of the cultural problem
i •• om.time. toggy. but it often includes thing. lik. the absence of
pra),er or the t.achi nl; of ."01ution in public schools, Or t he bank. O"er
abortion and g;:oy marriage. The ' '' pposed antidote for the nmion'. ill,
i. sought by a reconry of _om. golden :lge within OUT national history
when tho.e thing. did nor exist. U.ually, thi. ble<!cd and right ';me i .
not spccificall.,. identified. but it ofren looks :l lot like the world the
famih' inhabited,
This ruti(lOali,m with a ,wi st it sees ;I. country's rresent
as a dcpanun:: from God', will. However, the
tarms nationali.m', core i. pre'ent in the ide" that the nation once ,va,
the beneficiary of God', unique b!e5<ing, Moreover, thi, b!e .. ing can be
regained by a return TO t he proper imerpr.':l!ion of th. Con, {;t mion Or
th. COrree! eulnITal nOrm" In , hort, lhen, unc'5 dUlY:lS:I Christ ian is
brought into int imate connection Ivith one', d uty ",,, citizen,
Several problem. emerge immcdi:ltely from thi. id.". Fir't, when
"golden crn,H arc defined by " narrowly con.tmcd •• t of i"uc', they
(lui ckl)' take on • Ill }' t hi cal chua,' !er in whith .11 the blemishes of th"t
gilded age 'If. ignored or glon.d oVer, Thu., it i. to hear a
d. , ire t o return to the Ch riSlianity of nllT fou nd ing father, wi,hom
tccogni,,;ng ,hal many nf them dciu. who " 10\ 'Ibml! God
but were hostile toward Ch r i,tianity, A ,cco",1 problem is that wc run
the ri. k oflll rning God int o a vcnding "' :t ,hine wil h the ide" thm he
will provide us wilh the nat iooal protect ion, st,uus wcll-bei ng if We
behave in pwper ""lyS, Finally, our retll rll to God', {avor is KcnCTally
Ihought '0 be orcheslrated by pol iti cal aCli ons that will get u50 back <>tl
Ihc right cullll r"! and rnon,l track, In each ClSC, Christ ians arc t empted
10 rely on politi.:al methods and g()al s 10 define Our mi •• ion,
Nostalgia in moderate doses i. a good thing, because it is a reminda
of:lll the 1'<>",.;1 \\'e Irave in the 1'"'" Moreover, it is hard 10
d i:! l'"t . thai $ome of 1 hc things "f our I'''sl 'h'" have dis"pp."n::d from
,
71
the present "r<: ,ad 10.,,,,. At the same time. nonalgia :tlway. has a
tinge to it because it filters out all the ncgath.., junk from a
bygone period. Nationalist ic belief i" a era" from the
. arne tYre offi ltradon prOet h, '0 believe Ih::u God', pbn i, de-
pendent on removing specifIC social ill, by recn"cTing a piece of
past, you may be a nationalisr.
SOME POSITIVE Amm NATIONALIS M
Nationalism is built around "<!Tong .en,,, of nalion") identity and cOm-
mitment to one', country, and while a nationalist worldview as:l whole
is problem."ic, thes" two dements h",'. positive For one thing,
they offer a corrective to the ;odi , -idu"li,t;" notion that nalions are , irn-
a collection of individuals joined rogethn by common aSSelll. In
"ddilioll to obvious functions, such :1s providi ng o legal f':l",cwork ,hal
outli nes the right. and respomibil itie. of ,itizens ,md protec-
tion, notionoli.m recognize. t hat a country creates on environment thm
precede, the individuals with in il and shape. t heir identit y. i\'hrch of
thi . happen. throu);:h Howe\'er, political stability i. al >o
dependent on a citizenry that ocr i"dy identifje, with the hi,rory and
ideal. of th. country. It i. , therdo, e, in the best intc,e't of the ,rotc to
.m·ourage th.>e volu nt a,y commitments, and much "ositi,'c <"<m result
from the,e di',,!:..v' of p"rr iOli'm.
1. ,va' ioll,,1 Ment ity rtln h .. lp liS n'IJoid inditliJ ualistll . One I'0'i'i\"<:
of nur n:1t ional :1lkgiancc< t hat they can ft""t in" a. a cnUlllcr-
bol:.nce to indi "id""lisrie and scl fi , h !cndenei.>. \Villingncs< to make
sacrifice, for something bigger than the indiv idual sci fis nut .r natural
tendency, but .nlller hi ng We 1c"rn. Fulfilling the obligations or
driunship is (lllc or the We gain the ,l iscipji nes aSiodated with
unodfjshneii. C iti 'len.hi p is also a useful training grnund fo r rhe "irtue
or gnuir "dc . \ ,Vhil c they ",c alw:1ys ihwcd, Illnst Ilations
Illc;tSllfC " f protection :1I1d stability for cvcryd"y lirc, :tn" wc h:1"c "
Ino,,,1 (Ibligation !O acknowledge this g""d through Ollr loya lTY.
1. Notio" ,,1 identity (lin help ""er ro,,, e mrrroW trib"/il"'. " COmmOn
trend in ' Vester" nat;""s, th", popul:lt; OIlS :Ire be-
Com ing Ill Ore J iVer.s<: - r"c ;'111)', rei igi oll sly. I i"g";s\ ""d ot herw ;se.
71
In this we have the opport unity to under<tand and
work with differences might orh. ",,;sc .eparate us. Our
default tendency is to within ci rcles wherc We fcd rno" comfort-
able. T hi s fr.quemly leads to stereotyping and pr<:j udices again' llhuse
who arc different in some way. \Vhen nation:il ties and duties force us
to get beyond these differences, the d iyisions and biases of tribalim,
(sec chapter eight) can be overcome, In shon. life within nali onal
bOll nd"r ; •• can help craSe other boundaries 1hat might keep u. "pan;
COmlll on , irjunship c:>. n provide the oonre'" in which we become more
::twa..., of the commo""l iti es of human nat ure. The pOUllt;:>.l nntions
prOVide for helping us di scover the common humanity of a!!. then, i, a
of our lives within th •• mt ".
J. N(1tirms ran pro"'id.: for tOtl! g{J()' (. H rem ind, u,
life can be and r<:nuou,. \\' e rnenli (>oed rhatthe emer-
gence oflhe nal ;on- OInt<: in recent centurie, has been, in Inrg., pan, an
10 reduce the ri,k in, . euri! .,· of life by providing Inrger
for t he prolection n ouTi . hing of cit i·tens. In , hon,
offer ,he ,cale size ,,1I ow for" me,,$"Te ofl'rotection nnd eCo-
nomic developmenl nol found in , ,,,aller social units.
Adminedly, nalioll< h",·e a mixed track record of providing phy .. ical
protection and pre, erving even rhe ",oi! basic rights of citizens. r..-Iore-
Mer, the ,,,Idi t;onal mili tary power found in the na1ion-'tate h:l' often
led ro empire- huilding. Dc.pite this Spott y background,;t is frighten-
illg 1o conlemplate what "'hcr oplion" hold for u<. While ,he modern
sr ruct ure hold. own dangers, We c m find 'luile a ",nn-
ber of ,,,,,"" ri ,," around Ihe world Ihat provide for rhe int ernal :lI1d ex-
lernal :l nd work in posi t ;\"e w "ffcr edue:uio",,) 0pporllr -
nil ie<. healt h Ca rc and scrvices advance the wdl- being of
V\'hen occurs, We should applaud these as positive ,nntribmionj 10
human lit".
oJ. National Mmt it y , an aid IIJ in o"r$<'lvn. Ahhough
generali zalion. can be misleading 3nd we think it is .ai" \{)
say thai Americ,,,,., despir e 0" , great diversity, tend to be rarher imli-
vidl"tli sr i.::, "nd more pnl!lrnalk lh:l n rhcoreli<:ally
oriented. How did We gel Ihere? It is diffi cult 10 lInder'l"nd this wilh-
73
out knowing something of our history. It will no! occur to me
seems so nalural 10 believe that I have the right to yale tor political
kader. without consuhing a religious or nibal authority. choose my
spouse ruther than having One assigned !O mo by ffi)' Or mOVe
fifteen hund",d mil e. away from family apart from some awarene .. of
a legacy provided by my narional identity. ofwhm we believe to
be true. good or JUSl proper is not filtned through conscious
de"ision-making proces,es. but is a maner of absorption. \Vhen I rec·
ognize lhal much ofwh:11 1 do and bdieve has been Iran.mined through
cultural praclic"s, it can acl as a reminder that I ,hould be reflective
about what I simply accept no tluth.
Similarly, awarenes. of cultural ideas a nd norm. in other coumries
can chalknge my abollttllc HUC, the good and ,he beauli-
ful in For exampk, when [ am around Olhers from cul -
lu res Ihat are nOt as time- obsessed as ours, it forces me to ret hink pri-
oriti • • . naliona! t",dilion dictales . hutting down for
,he aflernoon, I begin to examine my about how life should
be li'·cd. \ Vhen I conscioll s Ih,,, nOI nations have thc COO-
of family Ihal I have to norm, 1 can mo,""
thoughtful aboul my presuppo.itions aboul Ihe , tr"clUre and place of
my own In shor!, awarene .. of cul-
call remind li S of Ihe of onc·, own nmiom.! lr.tditions,
idc:!" ,md •.
POll. NIIAL PROBLEMS WITH IN NAII ONAlISM
Our nili,!ue of :1 n,Hiona!''' t is that if take. some-
thing th:u i. a rd,livc good. an.1 !'OllIelimc. vny good, and it
jnw an !,:olld. Viewing one's nalion <>r cu lt"r:)1 wprcmc
i$ olicn done unl"()l1sciou.ly, it occu rs under a 'lumber or conditions
that ",is", in t;lnJenl with each other. /'u the 1001 of n:tlionalisrll is
"lack ofhistoric"l PC"l'cc[ ive, in which We forget the Ir:""itor y n,nure
or nn[ions and empi res. li ow many empires, im"gined in !h",;r [;me TO be
etern,,], :Ire UC>W jusl f" int tnen>or;Ci tilr "II bul the Itislori,", '
Thi s historical bE"d spot :tll ows u S tn Il oo by wealth, tnilitary
pn wer and political influcnce, which in turn, creates the impression
that a nation i. doing all the right thing. and i. to that power.
E"en when nationalist" look back on the crumbled and failed empire,
of th. past , anu rne that their cou!1lry i. the exception to the rule.
In order 10 make the ea. e for exceptiunali,m, nationali,m frequently
wraps roligiou. idea. around Ihe stor y ofth. nalion. Thus, when "God
and bnguage are intertwined, one's "ational culture can be
viewed God', will manifest on Regurdless of Ihe particular
palh taken to Il ation:>.lism, Iransiorming the rebrive good of one', na-
t;on ;1110 the h;ghcif good result< in a ,';].ri ety of problems.
1. Nationalism tra"iforms that wh,'cb sholiid i,,/o the
standard o/mcaSllum"nt. The bdid" Ihat our nalional identity i. a reb-
l ive )(ood implies a duty 10 conslantly re";sil, evaluate. and correcl our
idea, :md tradition,. Relative good, arc alway, gnod rdati,"" to the
Slandard again.t which ,hose goodi :.tre measured. However, if We looe
sighl of th .. fill ul . t alldard against which nation. should he judged, we
have nothing to fc,· .. al their ambiguities and imperfeclions.
\Vhen this OUr hori'lon and nalion,,1 Ir"dilion. he-
COrne the y:.rdst ick by which e"crYlhi n!: cI . e i, me:lsllred. The
Ihat should be subj ect 10 j udgment becomes, instead. rhe judge. Ener-
gies directed away from e",luation and improvement . and arc ori-
entcd tow3rd protecting and maint aining the status quo-whelher de-
fine d by Our history, eonslitution. supcrpower statu. or th"olog;c:ll
imerprelalions ofnalional rol e. Change therefore nOt as a 1'0-
tcn!ia1 imprn"cmcm but ao , dcviati on from the true and tbe guod.
Defaulting 10 the statu. quo "0 " henchm:lrk i.
because our outl ook On life is.o oft en absorbed from nmional and cul-
tuml more. ralher Ihan consciously <·hosen. At Ihe same li me, the
StatUs quo lend. to suppOrt Oll r own hi"' '' i an(1 the reiult !l Sll-
:111." n:ltiun"l arrogance.
2. lj",l"r nationalism, a/her " is viewcti 1IJ n N"linna)
arrogance is a naluml outcome of "hso) ulizi ng Ihe ideulugies of a counlry.
\Vhen nationali,rn draw. on iu own fi ,unding document s and
r ilual. "S Ihe embodiment of tr uth agains t which ,,11 ol her. should he
.iudged. other will be considered wrong or in ferior Wht<l any
dirfcrence is !)oted. Al the very kisl. this sellSe "f nal; on,,1 ;nJ:,l1il>il ily
,
75
dimu13tes possibil ity of using other traditions as backdrops and op·
portunities for careful reflection on our own political standards. In the
Wont cases, when outsideN do not conform 10 oll r Haws quo.
nationalism h". rdeptcd "the other 10 the place of a dangerous chal-
lenger that milO! b. defeated. The result h as often been horrific blood-
shed. usually carried out under the slogan of "God i. on our side."
J. N ut;oual;sm in its tln/lamJ for /oyalt)., Earlier. We
due credillo n ationalism for recognizing that human being> arc inher-
ently soc; ,,1 beings a nd that citizenship i. one of the places where We
find our identity. In view of th is, it is entir d y leg itimate fOT our count ry
to seck our loyall y and patriot ism. However, nationalism ,uises when
nations stake a greater claim on our loyalties than they d.serve. No
Christian can offer ab.olut" 10y:>1t y to any .ocial li l ' ucture-notion,
fami ly, school, individual church congregation or work-because all
are TOlafive good •. Nationalism, however, i. a jealous god that doe. nol
laIc rate rdegation of n:lIi onal idontity to a position of rei3li,'c signifi-
CanCe. Thus,;t pl"ys on our patriotism and legit imate for
the bcnefil ol provided by Ihe " ,,,ion und demands unli",i,,,d loyahy.
fre'Jucotl}' co-opling rdigious language and goal. for adva"dng it s
own agenda. \Vhen a nat ion make. ",ch demand, on our commil-
ment', it ".mbli,h", it,df '" a compe'ing religion.
4. Nat ionalism ignores the t ransnal ianal 'lal una/Christianity . Per-
h"p' One of the maS! o"erl ooked I"sso", in Scripwrc', a<"<:oun! ofren-
,,,W' I (Act, 2) i. Ihal Chri Sli anity i, not fhe ;;olc pn'se •• ion nf any
parti cular Il:"ion. l n",ead , Gnd', new work oow t",n"end, <>Id bound·
aric. and .. c. all the nal'ons. Thus, while "Israel"' had 011 ce
to" d ist,nctive nat ional/et hnic group. tho new "lsmd ,,( God"
th' ll Paul refers tn in 6:16 refers I<> a chu rch thaI among
other thi ngs, t he barriers bel wren Jew and Genti le (G:ll at ians 3:28).
Thc erlOr of n"r,ona li<m is Ihat it att empls 10 drag Ch,;st;an-
it r back int n I he bou of a spccific nation.
Thi . where the idea of" Chrislian n31ion hemme. problemalic.
\Vhi lc it is ;ndi , put"b1c Ih:u different nat ions ref1ecI ""rying degrees of
Ch ris, i"" ;"f1uenee in Iheir histor ies :lml l'reSenl li"e5, the idc:.h. mis-
sion and means of .. cur i"g or expressing power arc 'IC"cf the $"Ule for
76
Christinnilr as they are for any nation. Thus, the concept of a Christian
nat ion obscures the (act that the Christian'. is not
with those who pledge allegiance to a fhg, bUI ,hose who
confe.s Je511 ' as the Lord, regardlns of their nationality. The funda-
menial identity of a C h ristian i. not contained within the document'
and history of one's nation, but in the history of God', revelatory work
among all people •. \VhCII Chri$fi<m and natian .ue fuscd,
inevitably lakes on a secondary slalUs as the kgitimating mechanism for
the goal. of the . lale and cease. to be n prophetic voice to the nation.

Every group has dd,nile idea. about which worldview i. the perpetra-
tor of socinl evils. Conserva';"e !lave to f"cus on phi-
l ike moral rebtiv;sm the m"jor culprit< of ou, day. The
main roason for this concern is thnt" like mornl rebti"iml
i. ,'iewed as an assault on trlllh, apprehen. ion we al.o express in the
ncXt chapter. Howe,·er. in their prcoccupaTion TO defcnd the ,e"lity of
trlllh, many ChrisTi"n. h:lve Ii,iled ' 0 recognize The dan)lers of world-
vi cws, 5uch as nationali,m, that an:lch 10 cbim' of truth.
Thi. is " dangerous blind spot. !-listory 'e,'cal< that fcIr more ha,'" .uf-
fcred and died llllder nntionalism's b:mncr of God and CuuntrV than
under rdntivi . m'. r"llying cry Nation,,]i,m has been a
viole", world,·;ew. and it< de, l rucI;ve pow«, h:1vC been energi ",d by it,
d "im. 10 he the ben'er of divine and rnlth . IfChr; , I;""" who
generally ,csonate "cry p" sitively with thc ide" of w",l1 W
undcrstand why Iruth cbims call" ma"y to cringe, the history uf
n:nionali. t; c destruction in the name of God's truth sheds light 0"
the,c concerns. The li Se of God', name t') undeTKinl pmj-
e, IS is one of the biggest reaSOn! t<>r hostility toward Christi'lnity.
Our intcllt i. nut to prol\\ote rel ativism or dismiss the v"lue or good-
ness of truth. Iiowever, declarations of unambiguou. truth turn hlood)'
whcn In something a< moraliy :tnd histor ically ambiguou s as
nat ions. ] t is fo' cit i'",n" !O " "crl""k ou, OWn n.t! ional moral ambi-
guities o"r so"i:.] nature coml'ds '" tv seck our phcc wit hin
Ihe gro"p. Moreo\'er, We ""111 to belong 10 n win1ling group.
77
Those who are insider. within" powerful "ation. then. can believe
they reside in a New Israel , an ide" commonly linked with the United
Stale •. How.".r, in the nineteemh the slave popu lali on com-
monly referred 10 th. United not "s a New Is rad but as the New
Egypt . Tragically, many Christians who pc,,,,,;vcd their ",lIion as
"Vromised enslaved olher Christians who sought God', deliver-
ance in a n.wexodus. Those who find a comfOrTable platt within ioci-
cry 'lnd, ,honoror., have a positive bias fOwJrd our nalion can easily lurn
a blind eye to faults and imperfections thar arc de",ly.". n by tho •• on
the out.ide of power.
Power nol only make. it difficuh to see our mora! shortcomings, but
it a1.0 obscure. our hislorical ambiguity. Economic well -being
into believing that a te'nponry
is etem,,! reality. Every empire view<.""d itself dc,tined by God,
or the gods, to rul e fore,·er. Every one of them was wrong. A ChriSTian
worldview might help exphin why. "Vhil. n:ltionali.m seeh " partner-
shi p with religion to legitima'e il s cl aims, t he God ofScrip,ure is nOt
the ,;erVa,ll of the bill Iheir judge. God ref"se' to be used for
political purposes. r,.·l orc STrikingly, Scripture m"kes dear thaI the most
powerful of nations ,,'" particularly .lI bject to God'. scrutiny and judg-
ment. \Vhile "ariom may ha"e impre"ivc poweN, those powe" are
always temporary .nd pro,'i.ional.
The reminder th., God ref".es to submil lo the impe""ive. of any
!m,!iclllar neltiu" re"cal , that nat innali.m is rc,dly" corpor"!e varialinn
on Ihe . in of prid e. Thu., wh<."" .. "alional i,,,, speak. n"tj,m un-
dcr it proclaims thi s ... a i:",·t rather than a tonfe .. iotl lh:u "ach
und nalion is ultimately "ccollntahl" to G"d. \·Vhcn nmionnlism
&ings "'God Blesi America.
n
it c:mnot dn i", Ih.,t God .... oltld eCju:dl y
blcsi ""cry olher cou ntry on e"rrh or why God might wan!
!O do so. Such pridefu l attitudes deatly contrudict our cnll to remain
hum!>!e "b"ut \lur socia! and polilical struct ures.
One of the mosl difficult ""ks or Christianit y is learning how to
th e multiple good< ,h:u bring benefj t to oUr li,·c<. \Ve
c;Iiy.enship ,"nong ,ht rchtivc goods, "".I when We le:lrn of atrociti es
engaged in by ot her governments, We arc far our nati ,m's rcb-
,
tive goodne ... On the one hand, we are morally bound to give honor
and patrioti c loyalty to our nation for these on this
count ""·eals a bck of On the other hand, We have a higher
moral obligation to qualify and limit OUr loy:.hy to rebt;'·e goods. No
nat ion is manifc.!:.tion of absolut e goodnes •. T hus, granting ulti-
mate loyalty to a country indicntes that we bave loot sight of what is
ab.ol utely good and have elnated the nation, a created, and
pauial good, 10 a phce that should be reserved for G od alone.
,

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