newprotest.org: NATIONALISM AND CHRISTIANITY

NATIONALISM AND CHRISTIANITY

June 28, 2007
by: jovial_cynic
After a back-and-forth exchange on one of my favorite pro-conservative blogs, I was asked to expound on a particular position I held -- namely, that there is a scriptural basis for my opposition to nationalism.

For starters, it's probably a good idea to get some definitions on the table. So, with a nod to the good folks at Merriam-Webster, here's the definition of nationalism:

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

I encountered a fantastic example of such nationalism last year. Here's the main bit again:

What does it mean to be American you ask? I think most of us go on with our lives not thinking about what it truly means to be an American. If you can take a moment, and really think about what it is to be a true American, you should instantly feel this sudden overpowering sense of being proud to be apart of something great.

...

If reading this gives you the impression that I am in fact a racist, all that shows is how closed-minded you truly are. I would like to point out one ethnic group that in my opinion, a threat to our way of life, Mexicans.


This sense of national or ethnic pride makes little sense. The whole concept of "our way of life," when it comes to national or ethnic identity is really a slice of a larger statement: "Our way of life is better than your way of life." Such a claim asserts that one can create a value judgment on a culture and create a hierarchy of cultures based on that judgment.

Preferences are great - I prefer vanilla over chocolate, and I prefer Mexican food over Italian food, but to say that I prefer en masse one culture over another is a little weird (since we're now talking about people), and to say that one culture is better than another just screams ignorance and xenophobia.

From a Christian perspective, the case against nationalism is firmly rooted in the issue of sinful pride. A believer is called into humility, such that one does not consider themselves greater than another, but rather takes on the role of servant. And what does the Bible specifically say about humility? Here are a few verses:

Psalm 149:4 - For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.

Proverbs 3:34 - He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.

Proverbs 15:33 - The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.

Proverbs 27:2 - Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.

Philippians 2:3 - Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.


And on and on it goes. Humility is a primary theme throughout scripture, and is one of the most defining characteristic of a believer. To be Christ-like (as believers are called to be) is to be humble; what greater act of humility is there than to assume the role of a servant and to die in the place of those deserving of death, so they may live?

If believer are called to be humble, and to consider others greater than themselves, what sense does it make for believers to join together in a group, or club, or as a nation and jointly assert that other groups, clubs, or nations are inferior? Where does the disconnect occur between individual humility and corporate pride?

Such pride has no place in the Christian mindset. It is inappropriate at every level, and only serves to create division.
np category: theology
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COMMENTS for NATIONALISM AND CHRISTIANITY


The Conservative Manifesto said:
"...to say that one culture is better than another just screams ignorance and xenophobia."

In your eyes, are all cultures morally equal?

June 30, 2007


jovial_cynic said:
Your question appears to stem from a paradigm that clashes with what I believe is the biblical perspective on morality. I think you're asking the wrong question.

If we're talking about Christian morality, individual moral actions are meaningless; it profits nothing (in the ultimate sense) if non-believers commit moral acts. In terms of salvation and relationship with the Almighty, folks aren't judged by their works; Christianity is not a works-based religion. That said, if you have a nation of non-believing good-act-committing people, we can stick a man-made "morality" label on them, but that's meaningless in a spiritual sense. It might mean that the people of that nation do things that align with your sense of values, but that's human morality. We might believe that alignment with our particular values makes people happier, more productive, better citizens, etc., etc., but does it make them have a humble relationship with their Creator? Is there an automatic alignment with God as a result of their behaviors? Certainly not.

The scriptures define human beings as corrupt; our nature is selfishness and destructiveness. With that biblical definition of humanity, perhaps I might agree in saying that all cultures are immorally equal.

June 30, 2007


The Conservative Manifesto said:
Imperfect as it may be, can a nation/culture adopt a set of laws and common values that are - in general - less moral than those of another nation/culture?
June 30, 2007


jovial_cynic said:
I don't believe that what you are describing creates moral or immoral nations. I think you're talking about a man-made and subjective morality, and judging a group of people by their set of laws or values just allows people to place man-made labels on them.

Obeying particular laws does not make a person righteous. It doesn't make a nation righteous. To argue otherwise suggests a works-based theology, and hopefully we agree that the scriptures teach salvation by grace, through faith, and not by works, such that none can boast of their salvation or "morality," but rather complete dependence on God.

I argue that there isn't really any benefit to a non-believing community to obey "moral" laws, since it ultimately accounts for nothing. No non-believer will stand before God on the last day and rightly boast of their obedience to moral laws. That's all meaningless.


June 30, 2007


The Conservative Manifesto said:
Congrats, by the way.
July 01, 2007


D said:
RYC:

Picky, picky. There...it's fixed.

How are things?

July 05, 2007


The Conservative Manifesto said:
"From a Christian perspective, the case against nationalism is firmly rooted in the issue of sinful pride."

Is it possible for a Christian to take pride in something, without that pride being sinful in nature?

July 05, 2007


jovial_cynic said:
TCM: Without sounding too snarky, the only thing that comes to mind is Paul's boasting of his sufferings for Christ; he boasted of being counted worthy to endure what Christ also had to endure. But perhaps you mean something different when you mean "take pride in something." I take pride in my work, but I don't measure my work against others; my work isn't competetive in nature. I just like the end product, and I'm glad that I'm able to be involved in (and paid for!) something I enjoy.

But even if it was competitive, isn't Christ ultimately the author of our successes? "Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain..." Under what circumstances can believers can boast their successes, and under what circumstances can they judge others against that success?

July 05, 2007


jovial_cynic said:
D: Things are spectacular. Life is great. When are we going to get together and jam, man?
July 05, 2007


The Conservative Manifesto said:
"...my work isn't competetive [sic] in nature."

Really?

I tend to think all work is competitive to a certain degree.

I mean, are we not constantly doing our best and improving our work to remain of value to the company for which we work?

I'd love to think that I don't have to compete with anyone -- that my job is indeed that secure. However, I don't think that's reality.

But, perhaps I'm mistaken. Perhaps you have no competition for your job and the company for which you work is stuck with you regardless.

;-)

July 05, 2007


jovial_cynic said:
haha... "[sic]" You can fully quote my typographical errors. I don't mind. :)

Anyhow, being competitive "to a certain degree" is different than being competitive "in nature." I don't think we disagree there.

What I meant was that in a job where one must be truly competitive (working for an advertising agency, for example), it's very easy to become arrogant and sinfully prideful.

July 05, 2007


The Conservative Manifesto said:
Do you agree that competition in business is necessary?

(I realize we're getting off topic; hope you don't mind entertaining my line of questioning.)

July 05, 2007


jovial_cynic said:
Are you trying to get me to admit that capitalism is good? ;)

Listen - I sell welded figurines to pay for all of my projects, and I'm fully aware that I have to be competitive in order to be effective in the market place. And I love that I can inject something unique into the market that a fully state-controlled market wouldn't allow.

HOWEVER.

I do see a need for legislation at times. The power that corporations can wield allows for a level of corruption that can only be balanced by a government entity. Yes, I understand that consumers ultimately wield the power (such that a monopoly isn't truly possible, with the exception of labor unions), but in the same way that we have the three branches of government to keep a balance of power between the branches (or at least we used to, before Bush came into the office), the government is able to balance out the power of corporations.

For instance, I'm *glad* that the insurance industry is as legislated as it is. The scenario of the ability for the insurance industry to destroy policy holders through unregulated rate hikes is terrifying. I work in the insurance industry, and I'm actually able to say that insurance companies are truly kept from being "evil" through such legislation.

July 05, 2007


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