“Nationalism does nothing but teach you to hate people you have never met and take pride in accomplishments you have no part in.” -Doug Stanhope
*Note: this is a guest piece by my good friend Danielle Kingstrom.
Nationalism is a loyalty and devotion to a nation. In plain text, nationalism isn’t a scary or offensive word. History has shown us that many great leaders, both famous and infamous, were nationalists; they were leaders who believed their country was exceptionally superior to others. Leaders, for better or worse, like Jeanne d’Arc, Napoléon, Theodore Roosevelt, Ho Chi Minh, Gandhi, Fidel Castro, Adolf Hitler, and, some would speculate, Donald Trump, have all displayed characteristics of nationalistic pride.
I won’t argue about heritage or ancestral pride, but I will argue that nationalism, while generally accepted as permissible and justifiable, is in fact divisive and xenophobic. Embracing the idea of exceptionalism first of all distances us from the teaching of inclusivity as demonstrated by Jesus. Secondly, nationalism competes and it condemns and it crucifies with impunity. Nationalism pits us against them. Nationalism sparks the interest of building walls to keep the neighbors out.
Nationalism breaks the body of Christ apart limb by limb. “Just as the body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ… Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many…But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be…so there should be no division of the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
When a nation is suffering, we are all suffering. What then do we say when we are the nation that causes the suffering? Are we inflicting suffering upon ourselves?
When one nation is honored, how many other nations follow suit in rejoicing in their honor?
Have we lost our footing on the path toward the Kingdom that we took the detour to the world and chose to fall in love with the world instead of the Savior? Woe to us for forgetting that we cannot serve two masters! For which have we loved and which have we hated and which have we devoted ourselves to and which have we learned to despise? Should a Christian hold a dualistic affection for both God and country? If consistency matters (and it should) then one cannot rationally conclude that this position is possible; “with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and the left,” it seems our hands are already occupied and leave no room for the sword.
I noticed that I had been wearing the armor of the United States for so long that when I stepped out of that costume and tried the armor of God, what a light burden and easy yoke it turns out to be.
I submit that we have been a misguided nation of people, for which we have been so accepting that we ought to proudly wear our citizenship as a badge of honor of some accomplishment that we never participated in achieving. None of us were given a choice as to where or when we would be born. Our place of birth was that of chance of consequence because of our parents. What is our accomplishment in being born?
Our life is indeed a blessing, but every individual life that has ever lived or will ever live ought to be granted the same extension of concern. Life is in fact a miracle. But citizenship is just a piece of paper. Ask yourself, for example, how proud you would be to be a Venezuelan today?
I don’t condemn those who have always held to the idea that patriotism is Godly or spiritual or holy. I think it is misguided but the intention is typically in the right place.
That said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so maybe it’s best to be weary of any “ism” that seeks to divide or segregate groups of people and place them on a hierarchy of exceptionalism. It’s comparison, and it is the antithesis to the teachings of Jesus.
I ask you to consider to qualify your love of country with the love that Jesus Christ our Savior offers us today. Does the love of your country influence you to elevate the interests of the State above the Kingdom of Christ? It takes a courageous person to take a bold look within oneself and question everything that encompasses your patriotic pride.