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-   -   Is nationalism idolatry? (http://www.christianguitar.org/forums/t210998/)

Almost Enough 03-17-2015 01:33 AM

Is nationalism idolatry?
 
I'm looking to see some ideas from across the board. What role does nationalism play in your personal faith, the church you attend, and what you think is theologically sound?

to_be_released 03-17-2015 02:06 AM

Commenting from a New Zealand perspective, nationalism to the extent that American's tend to exhibit is odd, disconcerting, and potentially idolatrous. I personally struggle with how many people treat America as God's anointed nation, and with people that take any criticism of America badly.

Nationalism doesn't play nearly as big a role in New Zealand society, as far as I can tell. People hear can far more freely criticise our own nation, as far as I can tell.

Leboman 03-17-2015 05:40 AM

Nationalism pretty much plays no part in my personal life or my faith. Outside of the kids saying the pledges at VBS...it doesn't really come into play in our church activities either.

I personally believe that you can be proud of your country and honor it without worshiping it.

However, I feel as if a lot of American patriotism has gone way over that line. Some people honestly act as if being a good American and a good Christian are the same thing.

Dr. Thrunk 03-17-2015 07:33 AM

I have seen a remarkable difference in churches here in the UK and regular churches I have attended in the US regarding the presence and role of the nation in the church, both aesthetically and theologically.

But, I think it really all depends on where one is within a country and what sort of tradition one is a part of.

That being said, "nationalism" needs to be defined properly, I suppose. Usually there is, for instance, the distinction between "nationalism" and "patriotism", though it is easy to lose the details in the semantics. There is, for instance, no problem in loving and appreciating ones country; however, it should never be above proper criticism nor reproach. And, it should never take the place of where one truly considers their citizenry and allegiance toward.

Toast 03-17-2015 09:49 AM

You'll find me more strongly opposed to nationalism than most. I do not believe that it is possible to whole-heartedly serve both God and country in the Christian context; that is, I believe that serving country against Christian morals (which is rampant in America) is outright idolatrous.

Matthew 5:33-37
“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil."

I do believe that when Jesus says, "Make no oath at all," it would include what we in America might call the "Pledge of Allegiance." Additionally, I would add that I do not believe Romans 13 is grounds for nationalism, as some might claim it to be.

jwbrownlula 03-18-2015 08:30 AM

I always thought I was the only one who had a problem with this
Most churches around here have the american flag and a Christian flag posted. I think church is a place where we should concentrate on God, and who he calls us to be.

slap_j 03-18-2015 08:56 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Thrash (Post 3871257)
That being said, "nationalism" needs to be defined properly.

Right. I want to know exactly what the OP meant by "nationalism." Presumably he doesn't take it to be idolatry by definition, as then there would be nothing further to discuss.

I would say that, whatever "nationalism" means, if it involves grafting one's national identity and an exclusive love of one's nation into the Christian faith and praxis, then it's almost certainly idolatrous.

I have an affinity for America and I identify myself as an American before lots of other things (before my class and race and occupation and hobbies, etc.). So you could say I'm patriotic to that extent. I wouldn't say this is necessarily idolatrous but there's always the danger of it becoming so. Idolatry is probably one of the most insidious and easily committed sins there is (as it's often done unwittingly).

athanatos 03-18-2015 09:44 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by slap_j (Post 3871429)
I wouldn't say this is necessarily idolatrous but there's always the danger of it becoming so. Idolatry is probably one of the most insidious and easily committed sins there is (as it's often done unwittingly).

This

Leboman 03-18-2015 09:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by slap_j (Post 3871429)
Idolatry is probably one of the most insidious and easily committed sins there is (as it's often done unwittingly).



Every one of us is, even from his motherís womb, a master craftsman of idols.

- John Calvin

Almost Enough 03-18-2015 12:09 PM

I guess what I would like to articulate is the sort of confluence of devotion to whatever it means to be (in my case) American and devotion to Christ. Perhaps someone might be able to nail down a working definition for case of discussion better than I could. I think we all get a sense of what I'm talking about, especially those that are from outside the US or have dealt extensively with other cultures.

athanatos 03-18-2015 12:52 PM

My Baptist church back home would have Battle Hymn of the Republic and God Bless America and a bunch of other songs around 4th of July. It made me sick. They defended their actions on the basis of America being most free (it isn't), most Christian (it isn't), founded on Christian principles (it wasn't), and that we are thankful that God has blessed us through this country that we might proclaim the gospel (we should!). Hard to disentangle that on the spot, let alone encourage them to scrap the music list. I should've focused more on correcting the situation after the fact, to recommend that they not repeat it the next year.

We also have an American flag on the stage, opposite the baptist flag.

Leboman 03-18-2015 12:57 PM

My eventual goal is to remove the American flag from our stage.

:evil:

Almost Enough 03-18-2015 01:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by athanatos (Post 3871470)
My Baptist church back home would have Battle Hymn of the Republic and God Bless America and a bunch of other songs around 4th of July. It made me sick. They defended their actions on the basis of America being most free (it isn't), most Christian (it isn't), founded on Christian principles (it wasn't), and that we are thankful that God has blessed us through this country that we might proclaim the gospel (we should!). Hard to disentangle that on the spot, let alone encourage them to scrap the music list. I should've focused more on correcting the situation after the fact, to recommend that they not repeat it the next year.

We also have an American flag on the stage, opposite the baptist flag.

I too have had to perform patriotic songs around the 4th of July. When I express my concerns I get a sort of vague feeling there's a modern day McCarthyism going on based on the responses I get.

I am playing drums at a church and have to stare an American flag and an Israeli flag hanging on the back of the sanctuary as I'm playing each Sunday.

to_be_released 03-18-2015 02:46 PM

We have flags hanging up in a few locations at our church, but I think it's to serve a very different purpose. The New Zealand flag is well outnumbered (I'm not even sure the NZ flag is in the mix), and we have a large number of flags from different nations across the world to remind us of the Christian's in those nations, and to encourage us to pray for those nations.

I find some ways in which flags themselves are treated to be idolatrous. It seems that many would consider damage to their flag (which is an image/idol to represent a country) more offensive than damage to a person who is made in God's image.

Statements about people dying for the honour of their flag somewhat sicken me, but so do many things associated with war.

thesteve 03-18-2015 04:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by to_be_released (Post 3871496)
We have flags hanging up in a few locations at our church, but I think it's to serve a very different purpose. The New Zealand flag is well outnumbered (I'm not even sure the NZ flag is in the mix), and we have a large number of flags from different nations across the world to remind us of the Christian's in those nations, and to encourage us to pray for those nations.

I find some ways in which flags themselves are treated to be idolatrous. It seems that many would consider damage to their flag (which is an image/idol to represent a country) more offensive than damage to a person who is made in God's image.

Statements about people dying for the honour of their flag somewhat sicken me, but so do many things associated with war.

Indeed. I think there are great reasons to have flags in the church, but I would wager that most churches that have only the national flag (or national flag and denominational flag) do it because of tradition and vague nationalism.

dogfood 03-18-2015 04:34 PM

yeah nah we only bring a flag out for prayer events.

I identify myself as a New Zealand Christian and I'm proud of where I'm from but once I'm hanging with other Christians... it isn't important.

SomeCallMeTim? 03-20-2015 07:07 PM

Coming from Canada, I don't think I have ever seen a Canadian flag used in any way in relation to Christian events, except at a summer camp where we would 'meet at the flag pole' in the mornings, because it was close to the mess hall.

to_be_released 06-23-2015 07:40 PM

Recent events calling for questioning the usage of the confederate flag brought this thread back to my mind.

I wouldn't be surprised if there are churches with confederate flags on display. I personally would find it hard to go to such a church given what I associate that flag with.

zedman 06-28-2015 10:36 PM

Anything can become idolatry if not handled carefully--so yeah nationalism could be idolatry-it doesn't have to be, but it could be.

athanatos 06-29-2015 07:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by zedman (Post 3891662)
Anything can become idolatry if not handled carefully--so yeah nationalism could be idolatry-it doesn't have to be, but it could be.

Wait, how is nationalism being defined here?

Is nationalism the idea that you're nation/country is better or should be the best? Or that you find your identity in your nation?

Giuseppe 06-29-2015 08:25 PM

I think we can safely say that Nationalism is a problem in many of us (me included). It seems a much bigger issue in the US (or maybe it is just the media that portraits it that way?).

It is important to remember that nothing lasts forever. Not even our countries. Eventually all of our beloved home nations will become part of other nations or split up into different ones (sooner or later), so we need to keep our priorities straight.

Almost Enough 06-30-2015 12:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by athanatos (Post 3891672)
Wait, how is nationalism being defined here?

Is nationalism the idea that you're nation/country is better or should be the best? Or that you find your identity in your nation?

According to Merriam-Webster:

Quote:

Full Definition of NATIONALISM

1
: loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups
2
: a nationalist movement or government
When I first started this post I was really struggling with a lot of ideas that float around of America being a Christian nation and how there is a sort of confluence of patriotism/nationalism/politicism and piety or being a "good Christian." I guess I would consider the first definition a working definition of nationalism and "those of supranational groups" to be Christians, or possibly even non-Christians if consideration allows.

I just don't want to stifle discussion by leading it in one narrow direction, but I would like to see a little more going on in the discussion.

I recently just finished the book One Nation Under God by Kevin Kruse that discusses the history of the apparent marriage of American conservatism and evangelical Christianity. It speaks a lot to the origins of certain sayings or ideals that I've heard around my church-circle that focus on the "special-ness" of the USA or the Christian foundation that our government was supposedly built upon. I've occasionally expressed my concerns about supporting or identifying with the monolithic entity (if it could ever truly be such a thing) that is the "USA" because of many things that are done in the name of the USA that are abhorrent to the message of the Cross, and suggested a more critical approach that places that in which we find our national identity under a more scrutinizing light. In doing so, I get met with opposition or suspicion, which obviously disheartens me.

athanatos 06-30-2015 09:03 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Almost Enough (Post 3891733)
I recently just finished the book One Nation Under God by Kevin Kruse that discusses the history of the apparent marriage of American conservatism and evangelical Christianity. It speaks a lot to the origins of certain sayings or ideals that I've heard around my church-circle that focus on the "special-ness" of the USA or the Christian foundation that our government was supposedly built upon. I've occasionally expressed my concerns about supporting or identifying with the monolithic entity (if it could ever truly be such a thing) that is the "USA" because of many things that are done in the name of the USA that are abhorrent to the message of the Cross, and suggested a more critical approach that places that in which we find our national identity under a more scrutinizing light. In doing so, I get met with opposition or suspicion, which obviously disheartens me.

You should also check Mark Noll's "America's God" ... it presents a narrative of American history regarding the fusion/association of Christianity (Edwards, Finney, etc.), Common Sense (Payne, Reid, etc.), and Republican thought, and the outworkings of those in the conflict culminating in the Civil War.

TunerSteve 07-01-2015 02:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by athanatos (Post 3871470)
My Baptist church back home would have Battle Hymn of the Republic and God Bless America and a bunch of other songs around 4th of July. It made me sick. They defended their actions on the basis of America being most free (it isn't), most Christian (it isn't), founded on Christian principles (it wasn't), and that we are thankful that God has blessed us through this country that we might proclaim the gospel (we should!). Hard to disentangle that on the spot, let alone encourage them to scrap the music list. I should've focused more on correcting the situation after the fact, to recommend that they not repeat it the next year.

We also have an American flag on the stage, opposite the baptist flag.

I attend a United Methodist church, and depending on our Pastor assigned to our church, we have had similar songs. One year, after praying and thinking on this subject, when I was asked to once again sing Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA", I refused and stated it didn't feel right to ask God to bless one country. Over the last 15 years we have NOT had the US flag in our sanctuary, although there have been members inquire why. It is in our Fellowship hall with the UM flag.

I just got the email with the song selections for this weekend, and there are no patriotic songs in the service, and that suits me just fine. If my congregation moved back toward fusing religion and patriotism, I would seriously consider removing myself from that congregation.


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