Why the Church Has to Reject the Pull Toward Politics | RELEVANT Magazine

Here’s why I think nationalism blinds us: If in your mind Jesus and your nation are going in the same direction—meaning Jesus is headed a certain direction, He has a certain goal and purpose for the world and the way He’s going to accomplish it and then your nation has the exact same goal and the exact same plan for accomplishing it—well then of course you can follow Jesus, because He’s headed a certain direction and your nation is headed the exact same direction and has the exact same plan to get there, well then of course, absolutely, you can do that. But see, I think that when you read Jesus what you see if, and if you read the apostles and you read the early church documents, what you see is the idea that Jesus is going one way and everyone else is going the opposite way.Jesus is headed true north and everything else—every nation—on this earth is headed south. You cannot go north and south at the same time, because the nations of the world are not going where Jesus is going, and their plan for transforming the world and changing the world and making the world a better place is not His plan.

Source: Why the Church Has to Reject the Pull Toward Politics | RELEVANT Magazine

Open Letter | Against the New Nationalism | Commonweal Magazine

A protester near a border wall in El Paso, Texas, writes on a large U.S. flag June 6, 2019, as part of a demonstration called “United States of Immigrants.” (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters)

Source: Open Letter | Against the New Nationalism | Commonweal Magazine

Each day more signs point to a tremendous shift in American conservatism away from the prior consensus and toward the new nationalism of Donald Trump. This is evident not only in the recent National Conservatism Conference held in July in Washington, D.C., but also in the manifesto signed by a number of Christians who appear eager to embrace nationalism as compatible with Christian faith. Without impugning specific individuals, as fellow Christian intellectuals, theologians, pastors, and educators, we respond to this rapprochement with sadness, but also with a clear and firm No. We are Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant; Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Despite our denominational and political differences, we are united by the conviction that there are certain political solidarities that are anathema to our shared Christian faith.

In the 1930s many serious Christian thinkers in Germany believed they could manage an alliance with emergent illiberal nationalism. Prominent theologians like Paul Althaus and Friedrich Gogarten believed that the National Socialist movement offered a new opportunity to strengthen social order and cohesion around Christian identity. But some Christians immediately resisted, most visibly in the Barmen Declaration of 1934, which rejected the compromises of “German” Christianity and its heinous distortions of the Gospel.

Our situation in 2019 is surely different, but American Christians now face a moment whose deadly violence has brought such analogies to mind. Again we watch as demagogues demonize vulnerable minorities as infesting vermin or invading forces who weaken the nation and must be removed. Again we watch as fellow Christians weigh whether to fuse their faith with nationalist and ethno-nationalist politics in order to strengthen their cultural footing. Again ethnic majorities confuse their political bloc with Christianity itself. In this chaotic time Christian leaders of all stripes must help the church discern the boundaries of legitimate political alliances. This is especially true in the face of a rising racism in America, where non-whites are the targets of abominable acts of violence like the mass shooting in El Paso.

To be clear, nationalism is not the same as patriotism. Nationalism forges political belonging out of religious, ethnic, and racial identities, loyalties intended to precede and supersede law. Patriotism, by contrast, is love of the laws and loyalty to them over leader or party. Such nationalism is not only politically dangerous but reflects profound theological errors that threaten the integrity of Christian faith. It damages the love of neighbor and betrays Christ.

1. We reject the pretensions of nationalism to usurp our highest loyalties. National identity has no bearing on the debts of love we owe other sons and daughters of God. Created in the image and likeness of God, all human beings are our neighbors regardless of citizenship status.

2. We reject nationalism’s tendency to homogenize and narrow the church to a single ethnos. The church cannot be itself unless filled with disciples “from all nations” (panta ta ethné, Matthew 28:19). Cities, states, and nations have borders; the church never does. If the church is not ethnically plural, it is not the church, which requires a diversity of tongues out of obedience to the Lord.

3. We reject the xenophobia and racism of many forms of ethno-nationalism, explicit and implicit, as grave sins against God the Creator. Violence done against the bodies of marginalized people is violence done against the body of Christ. Indifference to the suffering of orphans, refugees, and prisoners is indifference to Jesus Christ and his cross. White supremacist ideology is the work of the anti-Christ.

4. We reject nationalism’s claim that the stranger, refugee, and migrant are enemies of the people. Where nationalism fears the stranger as a threat to political community, the church welcomes the stranger as necessary for full communion with God. Jesus Christ identifies himself with the poor, imprisoned foreigner in need of hospitality. “For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me” (Matthew 25:41-43).

5. We reject the nationalist’s inclination to despair when unable to monopolize power and dominate opponents. When Christians change from majority to minority status in a given country, they should not contort their witness in order to stay in power. The church remains the church even as a political minority, even when unable to influence the government or when facing persecution.

In charity and in hope, we urge our fellow Christians to repudiate the temptations and the falsehoods of nationalism. The politics of xenophobia, even when dressed up in high-minded social critique, can only be pursued in contradiction of the Gospel. A true culture of life welcomes the stranger, embraces the orphan, and binds the wounds of all who are our neighbors—all who lie lifeless on the road, as the pious walk silently past.

The following Christian leaders have signed this letter:

David Albertson
Associate Professor of Religion, University of Southern California

Jason Blakely
Associate Professor of Political Science, Pepperdine University

Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ
Founder of Homeboy Industries

Anthea Butler
Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania

William Cavanaugh
Director of the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, Professor, DePaul University

Douglas E. Christie
Professor of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University

M. Shawn Copeland
Professor Emerita, Boston College

George Demacopoulos
Fr. John Meyendorff & Patterson Family Chair of Orthodox Christian Studies, Fordham University

Gary Dorrien
Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion, Columbia University

Orlando Espin
Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Diego

Douglas E. Christie
Professor of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University

M. Shawn Copeland
Professor Emerita, Boston College

George Demacopoulos
Fr. John Meyendorff & Patterson Family Chair of Orthodox Christian Studies, Fordham University

Gary Dorrien
Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion, Columbia University

Orlando Espin
Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Diego

Massimo Faggioli
Professor of Historical Theology, Villanova University

Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of African American Studies, Princeton University

Cecilia González-Andrieu
Associate Professor of Theology and Theological Aesthetics, Loyola Marymount University

Brad S. Gregory
Dorothy G. Griffin College Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

Paul J. Griffiths

David Gushee
Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life, Mercer University

David Bentley Hart

Stanley Hauerwas
Duke Divinity School

Paul Lakeland
Aloysius P. Kelley SJ Professor of Catholic Studies, Fairfield University

Fr. Mark Massa, SJ
Director, Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, Professor of Theology, Boston College

Fr. Bryan Massingale
Buckman Chair in Applied Christian Ethics, Fordham University

Brian McLaren
author / speaker / activist

Francesca Aran Murphy
Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Notre Dame

Aristotle Papanikolaou
Professor of Theology and Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture, Fordham University

Frank A. Thomas
Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Homiletics, Christian Theological Seminary

Miroslav Volf
Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology, Yale Divinity School

Cornel R. West
Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy, Harvard Divinity School

Adam Serwer: White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots — The Atlantic

The seed of Nazism’s ultimate objective—the preservation of a pure white race, uncontaminated by foreign blood—was in fact sown with striking success in the United States. What is judged extremist today was once the consensus of a powerful cadre of the American elite, well-connected men who eagerly seized on a false doctrine of “race suicide” during the immigration scare of the early 20th century. They included wealthy patricians, intellectuals, lawmakers, even several presidents.  Perhaps the most important among them was a blue blood with a very impressive mustache, Madison Grant. He was the author of a 1916 book called The Passing of the Great Race, which spread the doctrine of race purity all over the globe.


A long-overdue excavation of the book that Hitler called his “bible,” and the man who wrote it

Source: Adam Serwer: White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots – The Atlantic

Nationalism not to be confused with Patriotism–George Orwell

“Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.” George Orwell