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Christian Identity, Nationalism, and Patriotism

Christian Identity

Since the institutionalization of Christianity, the Church has always competed with monarchs for control over the states. Only after the beginning of the Reformation did Christianity begin to cooperate with local authorities. It can be said that such a symbiosis of unique cultures and local Christian practice norms has contributed significantly to nations’ formation. National states as sociocultural phenomena have continued to form worldwide over the last two hundred years. It is worth mentioning that “in 1900, roughly 35 percent of the globe’s surface was governed by nation-states; by 1950, it was already 70 percent” (Wimmer 2019, 2). Scripture and Christian traditions have become the legislative and cultural bases for many Western nations. Therefore, as a Christian and theologian, the author of this work must answer the question of what is Christian’s personal obligation to the country of origin (Stanley and Roger 2009). This work aims to identify both nationalism and patriotism and to analyze their relationship with Christian identity through the prism of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral to gain understanding.

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Nationalism and Patriotism

To identify and understand the personal obligation of a Christian to the country of origin, it is necessary to establish what constitutes nationalism and patriotism. It is because these two social and cultural concepts are the closest ones to the phenomenon of civic duties. It is also due to the need to ensure the clarity and academic essence of the current study. Readers should be provided with the definitions of key concepts that will be discussed.

What is Nationalism?

There are many categories of nationalism. The main types are ethnic and civic nationalism (Wimmer 2019). In order to understand what nationalism is at its core, it is necessary to identify what a nation is. A nation is a group of people united by such key cultural components as shared language, shared traditions, and shared history (Wimmer 2019). Features such as shared ancestry and ethnicity are secondary because there are multiethnic nations such as the American or Russian nation. The author of this paper believes that civic nationalism has more in common with the imperial system, for example, the Roman Empire, than with nationalism, which emerged as an opposition to the empires and monarchies. It is also important to note such an essential feature of nationalism is that all nation members are considered equal (Wimmer 2019). Therefore, nationalism is such a form of social organization where the nation, as a society united by a common culture, elects its rulers who carry out policies aimed at providing well for the nation.

What is Patriotism?

Nationalism and patriotism can be complementary and contradictory concepts, depending on the country’s existing political system. The conventional definition of patriotism is that it is “devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country” (Mukherjee 2018). It can be said that while nationalism is a method of self-identification and social organization, patriotism is a form of interaction between an individual and a country. However, both revolutionaries who oppose the tyranny of rulers and loyalists who defend the country from external or internal enemies may be considered patriots. Therefore, the author of this work believes that patriotism is a desire not to serve the people or elected rulers but to the general ideological consensus that is concluded between these two national units.

Personal Theological Position

Christians should be patriots of their country of origin until the authorities and the nation is adherents of the culture whose basis was the scripture. By patriots, the author means those who abide by the law, perform civic duties, practice civic activism, and serve in the military. It is also worth noting that Christians should also consider themselves cultural nationalists as long as scripture-based cultural norms exist and are respected in society.

Nationalism and Patriotism through the Prism of Wesleyan Quadrilateral

Nationalism and Scripture

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral will be an appropriate methodology to support this theological position. This theological method of scripture interpretation was created by John Wesley and considered four principles, “namely, Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience” (Boaheng, 2020, p. 87). According to Boaheng (2020), “Wesley emphasized the priority and finality of the authority of Scripture in the derivation of theology.” It means that scripture is the only source of ultimate truth as well as the core of Christian faith and philosophy. It is because the authors of the scriptures are people who were inspired or visited by God, and therefore it cannot and should not be added or changed.

It is safe to say that scripture played a unifying role in the formation of nations and nationalism. Hroch (2020, 10) states that “the Reformation ushered in the objective to convert church services and especially Scripture into the national tongue and to transform the faceless mass of believers into members of an autonomous religious community.” It means that it was Christian culture that became the basis and connecting link for newly formed societies. The nations’ unique understanding of Christian philosophy due to the translation of scripture into national languages ​​allowed nationalism as an idea to have a distinctive feature in each nation.

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Patriotism and Scripture

Scripture also influenced the synthesis of such an idea as Christian patriotism. Along with the stories about the Ancient World, the Old Testament introduced Europeans and Americans to the concept of a unique group of people who overcome various hardships both on their own and with God’s divine help (Hroch 2020). All Christians, both the people and the authorities, must be patriots and do patriotic acts in order to preserve their true faith, thereby ensuring themselves the ultimate salvation.

Nationalism and Tradition

Tradition is referred to as the second crucial methodological principle in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. According to Boaheng (2020, 90), “in the context of Wesleyan Theology, tradition refers to the accumulated beliefs and practices of the Christian church down through the centuries.” In Christianity, traditions associate Christians with Jesus Christ and the apostles (French n.d.). Observance and fulfillment of Christian practices bring believers closer to their most important goal, namely ultimatum salvation (Wright 2011). It is worth noting that the practice of traditions also contributes to the spiritual development of the individual.

As was noted above, shared traditions play a significant role in the concepts of nation and nationalism. They determine many aspects of people’s lives, such as daily routine, diet, and others. Many unique local church practices have become national rituals and practices. For example, the tradition of the Oath of office of the President of the United States comes from the Christian oath tradition. It can be said that the unique local Christian traditions became another factor, in addition to the national language and culture, with the help of which the inhabitants of the national states can unite or distinguish each other.

Patriotism and Tradition

In order to preserve the traditions of worldly life, Christians and Christian theologians are obliged to commit patriotic deeds. They can be theological studies of local church philosophies and practices that ensure traditions’ preservation and verity (Boaheng 2020). Patriotic acts also mean protecting the country of origin from invaders so that unique Christian beliefs are not erased or changed. That is to say that patriotism is the means of Christians that allow them to keep in touch with the past events described in the scripture and, therefore, with God himself.

References

Boaheng, Isaac. 2020. “The Wesleyan Quadrilateral and Contemporary Biblical Exegesis.” Journal of Mother-Tongue Biblical Hermeneutics and Theology 2 (3): 87-95.

French, Matthew J. n.d. The Debate on the Necessity of Church Buildings Through the Lens of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Web.

Grenz, Stanley, J., and Roger E. Olson. 2009. Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

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Hroch, Miroslav. 2020. “The nation as the cradle of nationalism and patriotism.” Nations and Nationalism 26 (1): 5-21.

Mukherjee, Pranab. 2018. “Nation, Nationalism and Patriotism.” Journal of the National Human Rights Commission India 17: 1-6.

Wimmer, Andreas. 2019. “Why Nationalism Works: And Why It Isn’t Going Away.” Foreign Affairs 98: 1-6.

Wright, Tom. 2011. Simply Christian. London: SPCK.

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