“No man can be an exile if he remembers that all the world is one city.” C.S. Lewis
The one refrain I continue to hear time and again, in response to actions arising out of our nation’s zeal for nationalism, is “That’s not who we are as a country.” You’ve no doubt heard the same refrain.
Nationalism is patriotism on steroids. Those who prescribe to this movement, inflate the importance of their country, where its (their) own interest is placed above that of (those in) other countries.
“America First”, “Make America Great Again”, and “Build the Wall” are all nationalist slogans meant to exclude those who American exceptionalism deems unworthy.
Perhaps nowhere is this more vivid, than in the administration’s current immigration policy, where those seeking asylum in this country, as well as those families who are just trying to escape murderous regimes anyway they know how, are being punished by being separated from their children (as of this writing, there are 12,800 migrant children placed in 100 detention camps across the country – many of which arrived unaccompanied)..
“America, America, God shed his grace on thee; and crown thy good with brotherhood; from sea to shining sea.“
The above line from one of America’s favorite patriotic songs, stands in sharp contrast to today’s nationalist movement. This verse entreats God to shed his grace on America, and “crown” its goodness with an attitude of brotherhood – inclusive of all. Instead of venerating those in secular authority, we should be offering our homage, as a nation, to God.
In mob-like fashion, white nationalists, lead by a malevolent president, vilified a black NFL player for exercising his right to free speech by taking a knee during the national anthem. He chose to bend on one knee rather than stand and face the flag, in protest of the unjust treatment of African-Americans in this county. What you may not know, is that Veterans had advised him beforehand, that kneeling would show respect for those who fought and died for this country.
Everything that flag stood for gave him that right. You see, it isn’t the flag itself that gives us that liberty, it’s those who died for free speech, free religion, free press, and the freedom to protest – all of which that flag symbolized. Protest and Patriotism are not antonyms.
Maybe the biggest casualty of Nationalism is empathy toward the plight of others.
So, where do Christians fit into this picture? Sad to say, many white conservative Christians are right in the middle of it – conflating the political ideology of Nationalism with Christianity.
So to them, I would pose this question: Is that who we are as Christians?
Our actions and attitudes need to be subjected to the scrutiny of scripture, rather than an ideology that places one above another.
Exceptionalism has no place in a Christian’s vocabulary. Christ didn’t come to die for just white conservative Americans. He was crucified and died for all of mankind. In that respect, we share a brotherhood and connectedness with a global community, and as American Christians, we need recognize that, and begin treating everyone with humility, as though they were Christ himself.
In her book, “A Spirituality for the 21st Century – The Rule of Benedict“, Joan Chittister describes the connection between humility and our relationship with God:
“Humility is, then, the foundation for our relationship with God, our connectedness to others, our acceptance of ourselves, our way of using the goods of the earth and even our way of walking through the world, without arrogance, without domination, without scorn, without put-downs, without disdain, without self-centeredness.”
And I’ll leave it at that.