31st March 2023

A due sense of pride in one’s nation, of its values and achievements is of course in itself no bad thing. To feel part of the bigger story and to be grateful for the various ways in which one has been shaped through education and the general culture are precious gifts. However, nationalism is another matter altogether. This is an extreme of loyalty and devotion to one’s nation above all else, an attitude of superiority towards other national groupings – at its worst, ‘my country right or wrong!’

If we’d ever imagined that the 20th Century’s two world wars had taught us once and for all to avoid the pitfalls of such simplicities, recent political events around the globe should have disabused us of that kind of wishful thinking. Nationalism would seem to be on the rise again, and there are clearly a lot of people yearning for self-confident leaders who share their prejudices rather than for anyone displaying qualities of wise statesmanship.

It strikes me that the Gospel rules out nationalism for the Christian. The Jesus who told the apostles to make disciples of every nation (Matthew 28:19), to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), was instructing them to be international in their horizons. This wasn’t to be a programme of world domination, seeking to make everyone the same, bringing them to submission under a strict pattern of behaviour and religious practice, but an invitation for all peoples to come to an encounter with God-in-Christ, bringing their history and culture with them to be transformed and completed by the dawning of the Kingdom upon them.

Ken Stewart