Leadership, family, theology and world events
In order to answer this question we have to agree upon the same definition because this term, as many others expressions, holds a different meaning to different people. Despite what this word means in your community, we have to consider what the common usage of this term especially in western culture and media.
nationalism: 1. Devotion to the interests or culture of one’s nation. 2. The belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals. 3. Aspirations for national independence in a country under foreign domination. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.)
Ideology based on the premise that the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpasses other individual or group interests. Encyclopaedia Britannica © 2002
The term “nationalism” is generally used to describe two phenomena: (1) the attitude that the members of a nation have when they care about their national identity and (2) the actions that the members of a nation take when seeking to achieve (or sustain) self-determination. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
So, the definition of this phenomenon is rather positive or at least neutral. However, when you start to read or listen to western media, the term ‘nationalism’ is usually varying from a neutral to negative. It is quite a shift from what Europeans and Americans felt some years ago. Basically, most of the western countries and the US were built on a sense of national identity. A few hundred years ago, nationalism was self-identification with the nation. This was a shift from identifying yourself with the local lord (feud), city, state, or colony. An early US colonist wouldn’t call himself an American, but Virginian, Pennsylvanian, etc. For centuries nationalism was a driven force of the birth of the new counties. But western countries started to consider this negative when colonies began self-identifying themselves resulting in a cry for independence.
Still, I think that fascism was a major factor that changed perspective about nationalism in the West. After all, fascism was an extreme form of the nationalism. But what is the alternative in the world to the nationalism? Internationalism and globalism?! Both are not perfect and have been highly criticized.
Think what does being nationalistic look like to, you rather than its denotation. Is it just a simple cultural identification or belonging to the certain group? Is it an attempt to preserve the language and traditions? Or maybe it is a love for your countrymen? Better yet, zeal to save fellow citizens? The first two viewpoints many would consider as neutral, but I would say it is positive; as Heinlein said: “A generation that ignores [it’s] past, has no future.” And after all, we all belong to a certain culture and group. There is no such a thing as a culturally neutral person. I believe it’s easy to agree with me when I say that loving your people and desiring to save them is a noble goal. I specifically want to stress on the love of PEOPLE and the desire to win PEOPLE over to Christ. Unfortunately, I often meet nationalists who love a COUNTRY and don’t love or despise their countrymen. They love the IDEA of the States, the IDEA of Russia, the IDEA of Ukraine, etc; and they talk about politics and history, but forget that the nation is made up of the people.
Many of us know people who try to impose their language and culture. Ironically, they themselves are limited in language skills and their kids among their friends speak English. I guess it is always easier to correct others than educate yourself.
Even more alarming is Jingoism, an extreme level of Nationalism, known to Russian speakers as “shovinizm.” Jingoism is often mistaken as patriotism, so sometimes its even found among Christians. Really, it’s feeling that your nation is the finest or very special. It is believing your homeland holds an Almighty given mission. Well, I know only one special nation: Israel. All other nations are called gentiles. Every nation has its ups and downs, their heroes and villains, the glory and humiliation. I feel like, everyone who is boosting about belonging to certain country just has a low self-esteem. I don’t have to belong to today’s “super nation” to feel valued. I’m sure you’ve seen the bumper sticker “Proud to be an American,” and similar Internet posts about other national identifications. Well, there is nothing wrong to be proud, in the sense that you are not ashamed. But, if you take pride because you think you are better than other countries, your theology is messed up. Side note: open a history book and check out what happened to all the great and proud nations.
Often I’ll run into people who will make fun of me for my identification with my nation, teaching my kids our language, history and the customs of the home country because in their opinion it is too nationalistic. Yet at the same time, they’re speaking offensively about other Eastern Europeans, Asians, Africans, Latinos and even Americans. What do you call that? That’s right, a “showinism.” Doesn’t God love them all equally, and didn’t Christ die for the Chinese, Mexicans, and Ethiopian? Does this mean anything to us or is it all empty religious talk?
Take Saul as an example, he was a nationalist as most Jews of that day, an extreme nationalist. Hence he said “Are they Israelites? So am I.” and “I am Jew.” Now, for Jews even word Gentile or Samaritans, was a bad word. But God chose him to bring the word of the salvation to the Gentiles and gave to him one of the greatest revelations about the church; that Jews and Gentiles are one body and Christ-the Head. Saul changed his Jewish name (which means “prayed for”) to a Greek one: Paul (which means small). He then spent most of his life among Gentiles. I would say that Paul was a good nationalist: he loved his nation and he was ready to do anything for their salvation: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethrens, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites…Romans 9:3. However, he also loved and served other nations. In contrary to Paul many Pharisees and Zealots despised and hated all Gentiles, but hardly ever loved their countrymen. Unfortunately, in the same way many nationalists of our days hate others, but rarely loved their own people. It is not hard to hate, but love is hard to obtain. It requires God’s grace to love.
It is good to be a nationalist as Paul: love your countrymen and not just the IDEA, but in the same time love others. Not to boast and despise other people from other nations. And one more thing, you definitely should keep your national culture, but realize the supremacy of Christian culture and the nationality of Kingdome of Heaven. We are citizens of Kingdom of heaven and so that comes first, then everything else.
In short, my ethnicity is not the object to be ashamed or to be proud of, but my nationality is the obligation and privilege to love, to pray, and to lead my countrymen to Jesus. And that obligation doesn’t limit me to do the same to other nations.