Saturday, November 14, 2009

nationalism: good or bad?

Nationalism as understood today may have had its roots in Europe, but its seems to have begun within the story in Genesis 11 of the Tower of Babel, people no longer united due to their different languages- hence the term babble- and spreading throughout the earth. There is much difference over the precise meaning and significance of nationalism, perhaps reflected here by two sets of definitions for the term, from two respected sources:
1. Devotion to the interests or culture of one's nation.
2. The belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals.
3. Aspirations for national independence in a country under foreign domination.

The Free Online Dictionary
1 : loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups
2 : a nationalist movement or government

Merriam-Webster Online
From a Christian point of view we can ask the question, "Is nationalism good, or bad?" And from respected sources such as C.S. Lewis and Stanley Hauerwas (Dietrich Bonhoeffer probably being closer to Hauerwas than Lewis) you will again get varying answers. Of course all recognize that any nation-state can demand of its citizens or subjects that which only God can demand of them, and that nationalism with nationalistic settings and goals can indeed amount to idolatry.

My vantage point theologically is greatly impacted by the Anabaptists. Of course there's a wide spectrum among them as to how this is understood and played out. But by and large I am wary of a kind of devotion to one's nation that is attached with commitments to political parties, or entities, which may and inevitably I think will compromise one's commitment to the kingdom of God come in Jesus. Though I am of the persuasion that as salt and light here on earth, we in Jesus are to impact every sphere of life. The question is just how we're to do that.

This is just a preliminary sketch on a subject I'm pondering a bit, lately. An interesting link on this, here.

What do you think about this?


Anonymous said...

some good thoughts...

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, nAncY.

Every Square Inch said...

Interesting to hear how you develop your thoughts on nationalism and Christian engagement

Ted M. Gossard said...

ESI, Thanks for reading and for your comment.

Diane said...

I love my country, and living in England for a year reinforced how much I am a USAer and love that, but it has to always be God first.

Anonymous said...

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