What is Nationalism as it relates to Missions?


I have long been proudly anti-nationalistic. In my mind, nationalism is wholly inconsistent with international Christian missions. I have struggled, like many others to separate between nationalism and patriotism. Does51tdas57z5l being anti-nationalistic mean that I am unpatriotic? Good question.

Teddy Roosevelt on October 12, 1915 gave a speech on “hyphenated Americans” that seems to point towards a level of nationalistic thinking. One quote from the speech will here suffice:

For an American citizen to vote as a German-American, an Irish- American, or an English-American, is to be a traitor to American institutions; and those hyphenated Americans who terrorize American politicians by threats of the foreign vote are engaged in treason to the American Republic.

I never really have known what to make of the speech. It doesn’t appear to be a racist speech, or against immigrants. But it does point towards a certain nationalistic perspective where identification to anything other than one’s nation is treacherous. To me it fails to pass the “Why” test. That is, “Why would recognition of being a member of two social institutions or groupings demonstrate lack of faithfulness to one? That only makes sense if one institution is clearly to take priority over others. I am a member of many groups and I feel that they are quite reconcilable. I actually agree that there should be a prioritization, but what prioritization is correct? For me, Human (creation of God in His image) takes first place. Identification as a Christian takes second place. Some would reverse the order here. For me, it gets reversed in terms of citizenship.

As a missionary I see myself as a citizen of God’s Kingdom first, a citizen of humanity second, and a citizen of my country of birth no higher than 3rd place. If one had a spectrum of political positions from Traitor to Jingoist, I am not sure where I fit in (though certainly not at the extremes). However, churches that appear to confuse Biblical truths, symbols, and allegiances with nationalistic “truths,” symbols, and allegiances is flawed theologically and deeply problematic when tied to missions.

A great article was shared with me that clarifies the confusion in many ways between different types of nationalism and patriotism.

The article is here:  https://fee.org/articles/what-nationalism-really-is-and-why-it-matters/

One quote that is rather strongly worded but but 41an2-1xq6l-_sx321_bo1204203200_points to the ultimate conclusion of the article is:

American conservatives and libertarians frequently, loudly, and rightly criticize Communists for their ideology’s legacy of slaughter. It’s time we all start criticizing nationalists for their ideology’s not-as-bad-but-still-evil legacy of brutality.

I feel like this article is a bit disorganized. I will have to make this a work in progress. I was given a book called “The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church” by Gregory Boyd will help get some clarification.

A book that I have already finished and describes, humorously and painfully, the problem of short-term missionaries coming over and bringing their political loyalties with them (among other things) is I Planted the Seed (and Woody Squashed It), by Barry Phillips

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