Nationalism and the Kingdom of God, Three Data Points

Sometimes when I speak with friends about Christian ethics and global politics, I have to clarify where my deepest loyalties lie. Above all, I’m a citizen of another kingdom. Then come other loyalties–humanity, denomination, nation-state, etc. In Resident Aliens, Hauerwas and Willimon speak to these issues. They provide this quote from Lesslie Newbigin.

The nation state, replacing the old concepts of the Holy Church and the Holy Empire, is the centre-piece in the political scene in post-Enlightenment Europe. After the trauma of the religious wars of the seventeenth century, Europe settled down to the principle of religious coexistence, and the passions which had formerly been in rival interpretations of religion were more and more invested in the nation state. Nationalism became the effective ideology of the European peoples, always at time of crises proving stronger than any other ideological or religious force. If there is any entity to which ultimate loyalty is due, it is the nation state. In the twentieth century we have become accustomed to the fact that–in the name of the nation–Catholics will fight Catholics, Protestants will fight Protestants, and Marxists will fight Marxists. The charge of blasphemy, if it is ever made, is treated as a quaint anachronism; but the charge of treason, of placing another loyalty above that to the nation state, is treated as the unforgivable crime. The nation state has taken the place of God. (The Other Side of 1984: Questions for the Churches, 1983, pp. 13-15, in Resident Aliens, pp. 33-34)

As a Seventh-day Adventist, I consider the viewpoint of Ellen White to be worth considering. She spoke about the nationalism at the time of Jesus. She said the following about the religious leaders in context of “the good Samaritan”:

Trained in the school of national bigotry, they had become selfish, narrow, and exclusive. When they looked upon the wounded man, they could not tell whether he was of their nation or not. They thought he might be of the Samaritans, and they turned away. (Desire of Ages, p. 500)

The third bit of data on this topic that has been on my mind is the song A King and a Kingdom by Derek Webb:

Reflection Questions

  1. What is your highest loyalty and marker of your personal identity?
  2. Why did you choose this marker, or how did you acquire it?
  3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this identity?
  4. What does it require of you? What does it give in return?
  5. What do you think about people who have a different identity?
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