Monday, December 06, 2021

Sam the Eagle and Conflating Love for God & Country

Yesterday, I posted about Christian nationalism using a clip from Walt Disney World's Muppets 4-D.

Sam the Eagle makes me laugh. But Christians buying into “America is God’s chosen nation” are not funny. ‘Christian Nationalism’ is a grim joke that ignores and/or willfully misinterprets Scripture. 

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
Acts 10:34-35 ESV

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:16-17 ESV

Patrick Chovanec did a
much better job of actually making a coherent and thoughtful argument on Twitter... and I'm simply copying his work here so you can read it. It's that good. (And if nothing else, read the part I put in bold.)
It’s entirely tenable to love God and love your country, at the same time. That’s natural. What’s dangerous is conflating these loves and seeing them as the same unified, unconflicted thing,

The first danger, that many replies speak to, is that of religiously codifying the idea that it's ok to love some people at the expense of others. Of course it's natural to have special responsibilities and attachments to some people. But God also challenges us to do more.

Another danger is that of framing our love of country in religious terms - not to mention sectarian terms - as an expression of our religious faith. It opens the door to theocracy and fanaticism, as well as the exclusion of people of other faiths from the national community.

You can be a Christian and also a Patriot, of any nation. But you must always recognize that there may come moments where they conflict and pull you in different directions, in life-defining ways.

The problem with Christian Nationalism, for Christians, is that it too readily affirms us without questioning us. It sanctifies our preferences and even our prejudices, and asks us to be nothing beyond what we already are, tribal members in good standing.

The danger is rarely going off and overtly worshipping other gods. It's finding other gods and conflating them with God, and believing that by serving one you worship the other.

My critique of nationalism, as distinct from patriotism, is somewhat different, but related. Nationalism, as I see it, prioritizes the group as more important and meaningful than the individual. It demands and even enforces conformity to a certain idea of the group. The individual must bow to the group, and even be sacrificed. Patriotism, as I see it, allows for a broader range of visions and responses. The individual, motivated by love, contributes to the group without necessarily being fully defined by it.

When nationalism is compounded by religious identity and conflated with religious faith, the potential dangers it poses become that much more potent.

Nationalists will often argue as if critics reject the nation state. This is a red herring. It's entirely possible to recognize the utility of the nation state as a form of political organization, and balk at the idea that it supersedes all other values.

"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men". These words imply a quite different relationship, in which states exist to serve people, rather than people to serve states.

I think we see these things better when we take them outside our own national context and apply them to other countries, including our adversaries.  It is natural for a person in China to love China. But it is very different for them to be subordinated to some idea of China. It is natural for a German to love Germany. But we know this love was perverted to perform unspeakable evils, without question.

If you think your own loves - of self, friends, family, country - cannot be perverted into doing wrong, you are fooling yourself. Our religious faith should always be a check on that, not a facilitator or conduit for it.

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