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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What Christians and Socialists Should Agree On, But Don't

In a Reuters' blogpost by John Lloyd (click here for the article), a number of world leaders including Russia's Vladimir Putin, China's President Xi, and India's Narendra Modi are said to have something in common with Donald Trump. If we put that assertion in conjunction with Noam Chomsky's contention that Trump is really not that different from the other Republican candidates (click here for his interview transcript), you get an idea of one of the world's major problems: Nationalism.  Here we should note that nationalism is just a form of tribalism only the loyalties are based on national identity. This blog has defined tribalism as a strong group loyalty that causes those afflicted by it to embrace moral relativism because group loyalty has trumped commitment to principles and morals.

In contrast to the world's leaders, Donald Trump, the rest of the Republican candidates, and we could even include the Democrats here, we have Socialists and Christians. Not that these two groups share many followers; but that in terms of their ideology or theology, they both preach there is a greater loyalty and commitment than national identity. For Marxists, the group that should supersede nationalism is an international based on economic class. For Christians, the most important tie should be one's faith in Christ and then in the fact that we are all children of Adam and thus we are all brothers and sisters in terms of creation. In either case, what is hoped for is that there are ties greater than the ties placed on us by national identity.

In a world where nationalism is running amuck, whether it is in uprisings such as in the Ukraine, or in Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, or even in the prequels to elections as is occurring here, this point of partial commonality between Socialists and Christians is refreshing. We are saying that there is a partial commonality because the reasons for not making nationalism or patriotism so important are different. It is still refreshing when it can be seen. However, it is not always seen with American Christians. Many conservative American Christians are still nationalists though the Scriptures teach us to be otherwise.

Instead of having greater ties than nationalism, many conservative American Christians have fallen after hearing nationalism's siren song. Those who sing that song tell us that nationalism is good because it is a commitment to something that is greater than oneself. As a friend of mine put it in an internet discussion, nationalism or patriotism is a familial love only where the members of one's family are those who share one's national identity. Thus, how could any decent person be opposed to nationalism?

The answer to that question can be found in what those leaders who espouse nationalism are willing to do in its name. For the sake of their nations, these leaders have more than willing to hurt both those who share the same national identity as well as those who don't. They are willing to do tremendous harm if the result of that harm is perceived to be a stronger nation. 

There is enough history of Putin's past crimes and mistreatment of others as well as his actions in Chechnya to confirm this. One only needs to look at the sacrifices many Chinese workers have had to make in order to increase China's  prosperity and power.  And what does Trump promise? Since he belongs to the other party than the one that is in power, he promises to make America great again. He will accomplish this by building a separation wall between Mexico and the United States for starters. But he also promises to rebuild the world's strongest military in order to make it stronger. Who among the vulnerable will lose out in terms of cut budget funds since Trump believes that the government should restrict itself to public works and providing safety? And what nations will be attacked since Trump promises a foreign policy without apologies.

The trouble with nationalism is twofold. First, to use Star Trek phraseology, the needs of the nation outweigh the rights of individuals or other nations. When the rights of individuals or other nations are not respected, there is little that can stop a leader from justifying any action as long as he/she can claim that it is for the good of the country. Obama's use of drones is a prime example of an action which a leader can justify for the sake of national security despite the number of civilian deaths and the intrusion on national sovereignty rights which comes with his use of drones.

But it isn't just in the use of weapons where nationalism causes problems. The quest for economic growth at the expense of the rights of others, the prosperity of other nations, as well as the environment threatens everyone's future.

The second problem with nationalism is that it denies the equality of others. Martin Luther King Jr. realized this in his speech against the Vietnam War when he said:
As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission -- a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the "Vietcong" or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

This equality of those not belonging to our nation is partially acknowledged in the Marxist emphasis on the International. Here, Marxists are still promote tribalism in that they divide people by economic class. But at least they recognize the equality of those who do not share their national identity. 

Christianity, however, should fully acknowledged such equality. It doesn't always for numerous reasons, but it should.

It is the seeing of a greater allegiance than what nationalism demands which is what both Christians and Socialists have in common. Yes, their relegating nationalism to a lower ranking are for different reasons. But in today's world,  what Christians and Socialists have in common is much more important than where they differ.

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