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Thread: Religion and Nationalism

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    Post Religion and Nationalism

    Recent post at my blog.

    http://thirdpositionreview.blogspot....tionalism.html

    Religion and Nationalism

    I recently came across this interesting commentary at the Little Geneva blog:
    "While only 52% of Europeans believe in God, 81% of Greeks do. It is no coincidence that 85% of Greeks claim to be "very proud" of their nationality, compared with a European average of only 41%. Religious fidelity goes hand-in-hand with respect for heritage."

    This is actually quite true and many sociological studies have shown a close relationship between religious devotion and nationalist sentiment. Possibly one of the most recent studies written on this topic is Anthony D. Smith's book Chosen Peoples: Sacred Sources of National Identity, which argues "that sacred belief remains central to national identity, even in an increasingly secular, globalized modern world." In particular, Smith looks into the immeasurable influence that Christianity and the Bible had on European concepts of nationhood.

    Smith is not alone in pointing out this important relationship between religion and nationalism. Smith himself admits he was influenced by the late Adrian Hastings, who wrote The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion and Nationalism in order to refute the Modernist school of thought which contends that nations are nothing more than "imagined communities" and products of the modern age. Another major contention made by the Modernists is that nationalism is by and large a secular phenomena. Hastings disagrees, arguing that:

    "[r]religion is an integral element of many cultures, most ethnicities and some states. The Bible provided, for the Christian world at least, the original model of the nation. Without it and its Christian interpretation and implementation, it is arguable that nations and nationalism, as we know them, could never have existed. Moreover, religion has produced the dominant character of some state-shaped nations and of some nationalisms. Biblical Christianity both undergirds the cultural and political world out of which the phenomena of nationhood and nationalism as a whole developed and in a number of important cases provided a crucial ingredient for the particular history of both nations and nationalisms."
    --The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion and Nationalism page 4



    How on earth could the Bible provide the framework for nationalism? some people would try to argue. Sadly in this day and age, a blind sense of universalism and multiculturalism which denies the legitimacy of ethnic and national devotion prevails very much within many so-called "Christian" circles. Their arguments are largely based on a perversion of certain Biblical verses (which I will address a little later).

    Getting back to the topic, Adrian Hastings (along with Smith) argues that the Bible provided "a developed model of what it means to be a nation" through the example of the Israelites in the Old Testament. A nation was constituted by "a unity of people, language, religion, territory and government."(page 18) With the spread of Christianity across Europe, the Israelite model spread along with it. Since there is no political model expressed within the New Testament, the Church and Christian communities have often had to rely on the nationalist model of the Israelites for guidance on building a truly Christian society. And there are numerous cases throughout Europe where respective nations used the example of the Israelites as a mirror through which to see themselves. I already provided some examples of this in a previous post concerning the relationship between the story of Exodus and nationalism. It's quite clear that the Old Testament is filled with nationalistic themes.

    Although it's obvious that nationalistic themes prevail within the Old Testament, few people realize that they also prevail within the New Testament as well. Many Biblical scholars have noted the strong nationalist overtones that are evident within the Gospel of Matthew, which identifies Christ intimately with the needs and concerns of the Hebrew people, a sentiment clearly expressed in Matthew 15:24. At the end of Matthew's Gospel, Christ commands the Apostles to go and "make disciples of all the nations" (Matthew 28:19). The event of Pentecost in Acts 2 also helps demonstrate that the division of mankind into nations is part of God's plan. Even the last book of the Bible, Revelations, states that the nations of world will be blessed and take their proper place in the New Jerusalem (Revelations 21:24, 26), which implies that the existence of nations will continue into eternity.

    Yet many people will try to argue that nationalism and Christianity are incompatible, and will use St. Paul's words in Colossians 3:11 and Galatians 3:28 as their basis, which states: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus". First off, we must look at the context in which Paul was speaking in. During Paul's time, religious affiliation was often based on ethnicity, location, class, profession, and sometimes gender (the cult of Mithras, for example, barred women from membership). What Paul is stating is that those rules do not apply with Christianity, all are welcomed to belief in Christ and given the opportunity to receive salvation through him. This does not mean there are no differences between Christians, far from it. Paul states there's "no slave nor free", yet repeatedly states that slaves should obey their masters. He states there's "no male nor female", yet repeatedly talks about the different roles husbands and wives should play within the family. So clearly Paul is speaking from a metaphysical perspective. Besides, if Paul's words really did condemn ethnic pride, why does he boast of his own ethnicity in Philippians 3:5 along with Romans 9:3-5, 11:1?

    There are several books and articles that demonstrate the close relationship between religion (in particular Christianity) and nationalist sentiment. Hastings and Smith are good sources to start off with. John Mark Ministries has a very interesting article concerning Christianity and nationalism, which goes further into the ways ethnicity and nationalism are seen in the Bible. Other good articles include The Bible and Ethnicity by Dewi Hughes, and The Christian Doctrine of Nations written by H. A. Scott Trask for American Renaisance. For a more specifically Catholic perspective on this issue, Fr. Stephen J. Brown's wonderfully written What is Patriotism? is highly recommended.

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    Post Re: Religion and Nationalism

    http://thirdpositionreview.blogspot....continued.html

    Religion and Nationalism continued.....

    In a follow-up to my recent post concerning the relationship between religion and nationalism, here's an interesting scholarly commentary on the issue I've recently read:

    "It may be futile and unrealistic to separate religion and ethnic identity. Many individuals behave as if their ethnic affiliation and professed religion are one and the same: to be born Croatian is to be born Catholic...There are few multireligious ethnic groups and their relative scarcity suggests that religion is the root of ethnic differentiations or that religious distinctiveness is a key to ethnic saliency."
    -- Cynthia Enloe "Religion and Ethnicity"; Ethnicity edited by John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith, pp. 199-200; 201

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    Post Re: Religion and Nationalism

    Quote Originally Posted by Taras Bulba
    to be born Croatian is to be born Catholic..
    On the other hand, an ethnicity does not always affiliate a certain branch of religion. To be more intelligible I'll clarify my notion through an example: we here in Germany are split up into Protestants/ and Catholics. And henceforth we are, as a complete nation, divided into two distinctive christian believes, both endowed with approximately the same numerical amount of passive and active venerators. But nonetheless we consider, or I am better off to say, we should consider ourself a nation, that has an inalienable worth encapsulated in itself. And this apperception, irrespective if it applies to the current nation, is nearly absolutely independent from the fact, that we are fragmented into varying denominations.

    nonetheless nice article(s)...
    Die schlechtesten Früchte sind es nicht, woran die Wespen nagen.

    Gottfried August Bürger


    Wo die Gefahr wächst, wächst das Rettende auch.
    F. Hölderlin

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    Post Re: Religion and Nationalism

    Although you shouldn´t forget the Thirty years War, it could be said that German unification was a clockwork miracle by Bismarck and Prussian army.

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    Post Re: Religion and Nationalism

    Of course, but that's not the intended point; Germany, due to my personal descent, was just a random, although a rather probate, example, when it came to dissenting, that a particular denomination is of immediate worth to the relation with nationalism.
    Last edited by Q.; Thursday, August 11th, 2005 at 05:40 PM.
    Die schlechtesten Früchte sind es nicht, woran die Wespen nagen.

    Gottfried August Bürger


    Wo die Gefahr wächst, wächst das Rettende auch.
    F. Hölderlin

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    Post Re: Religion and Nationalism

    The case of German nationalism is still one of the most important examples to study in Europe. For me it is a challenge (no offence). Italian nationalism would be another case, but I´m agree with you that in modern Western European Nationalism tie them to religion is a risky hypothesis, at least.

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    Post Re: Religion and Nationalism

    Undoubtedly; my postulate contains nothing more, than to establish this notion.
    Die schlechtesten Früchte sind es nicht, woran die Wespen nagen.

    Gottfried August Bürger


    Wo die Gefahr wächst, wächst das Rettende auch.
    F. Hölderlin

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    Post Re: Religion and Nationalism

    In as much as Religion is part of the cultural identity of a people it contributes to Nationalism.

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    Post Re: Religion and Nationalism

    Wow, the Greeks do it again...
    "While only 52% of Europeans believe in God, 81% of Greeks do. It is no coincidence that 85% of Greeks claim to be "very proud" of their nationality, compared with a European average of only 41%.
    Even in America, the Greeks are very proud of their religion and very proud of their nationality. When I meet a Greek person for the first time, the first thing I usually ask is what curch they attend. (The first thing they usually tell me is that they are Greek ). Oh, what a life it is being Greek
    Last edited by Scholar; Thursday, August 11th, 2005 at 09:34 PM.

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    Post Re: Religion and Nationalism

    Quote Originally Posted by Scholar
    Wow, the Greeks do it again...
    Even in America, the Greeks are very proud of their religion and very proud of their nationality. When I meet a Greek person for the first time, the first thing I usually ask is what curch they attend. (The first thing they usually tell me is that they are Greek ). Oh, what a life it is being Greek
    Secular Europe is more about Individualism. Greeks gain a sense of community from Church life.

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