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Nationalism: The Perils of Pride

1 John 5:19

And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

Nationalism, the strong identification with one's own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations, is a political ideology that has gained significant traction in recent times. However, from a Christian standpoint, it presents several challenges that warrant our attention and caution.


National pride, when appropriately channelled, can be a force for good, fostering unity, promoting shared values, and inspiring citizens to contribute positively to their society. However, when national pride morphs into an extreme form of nationalism, it becomes a dangerous ideology that has the potential to cause significant harm, both within and beyond national borders. From a Christian perspective, this form of misguided national pride raises several serious concerns.


First, the Bible teaches us that every human being is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This implies that all individuals, regardless of their nationality, race, or ethnicity, hold inherent value and dignity. Nationalism, however, often leads to an 'us versus them' mentality, where the interests of one's own nation are prioritised at the expense of others. This can cause the dehumanisation and marginalisation of those who are foreign (or in extreme circumstances, even just of a different race), such a standpoint is clearly at odds with the Christian doctrine of the imago Dei and us being created in the image of God.


Second, nationalism tends to engender pride and arrogance, qualities that are warned against in Proverbs 16:18, which states, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." Nationalistic pride can blind us to our own faults and shortcomings, and to the virtues and strengths of others. It can lead to a sense of superiority and entitlement, which is antithetical to the humility and selflessness that Christ modelled and called us to emulate (Philippians 2:3-4).


Third, extreme nationalism often demands absolute loyalty and allegiance, which can lead to the idolisation of the nation. As Christians, our ultimate allegiance belongs to God and His Kingdom. Jesus Himself said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Mark 12:17). While it is not wrong to love one's country and take pride in its achievements, problems arise when this love becomes an idol that replaces or supersedes our love for God and His commands.


Finally, nationalism can lead to conflict and division, both within and between nations. It can foster an unhealthy competition and animosity, and drive nations to seek power and dominance rather than peace and cooperation. Yet, as followers of Christ, we are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and to "seek peace and pursue it" (1 Peter 3:11). Nationalism, with its divisive tendencies, makes it difficult for us to fulfil this calling and to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44).


In conclusion, while of course it is not inherently wrong to love one's country or to desire its prosperity, the dangers of extreme nationalism lie in its potential to breed arrogance, division, and idolatry, and to overshadow our primary identity as children of God. As Christians, we are called to a higher standard of love, humility, and unity that transcends national boundaries and human-made divisions. Therefore, we must approach nationalism with caution, always ensuring that our loyalty to our nation does not compromise our loyalty to God and His Kingdom.