Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Who do you identify with?

Written by: on January 16, 2015

Nationalism is a sentiment upon which common cultural characteristics bind a population and produces a national independence. It is also used to describe loyalty or devotion to one’s country.[1] Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism[2] by Benedict Anderson asserts that modern nations are the creation of communication networks and people’s imagination. The underlying concept is that communication spreads a sense of nationalism by helping people to relate to one another. Considering the global community in which we live today, it is possible that people can form communities without ever coming into direct contact with one another. Nationalism requires that people have experience together. It has been fueled by friction (such as in the formation of America), capitalism, and common language. Anderson’s book explores what makes people unite as a nation. If nations are inventions of politicians, then it will be interesting to watch the evolution of communities as communication and new developments impact the way that people come together in the future.

I found Anderson’s book to be unnecessarily complex and difficult to follow at times, however it is thought provoking. “Nationalism and nationhood in all their diversity remain a major political force and social reality for the foreseeable future, requiring informed analysis and discriminating assessment.”[3] “National identity is probably the most powerful force in the modern age to provide a strong ‘community of history and destiny’ to save people from personal oblivion and restore collective faith.”[4] In light of this, we must evaluate the tension between our Christian identity and our national identity.

At creation, man was created in the image of God as His people. We weren’t identified by nationality; rather we were identified as God’s creation. It was only after man’s fall that we were identified as different people and nations of the earth. At times, our identity as a Christian dictates that we misalign ourselves with national ideologies. I am an American, but at times I disagree with the values and traits that are associated with American nationalism. There is an underlying elitism that is often propagated in the form of American pride. 1 Timothy 2: 4 (ESV) tells us that God desires all people to be saved and to come to know His truth. God’s desire for man looks beyond national boundaries, and our calling is to be a part of the global body of believers.

It is through our Christian heritage that we can unite across the barriers that nationalism often creates. Have you ever gone to a new and different place that seems foreign and uncomfortable, only to meet another Christian and experience the sense of instant familiarity? “We are all aware of the contingency and ineluctability of our particular genetic heritage, our gender, our life-era, our physical capabilities, our mother-tongue, and so forth.”[5] When we move outside of this heritage, it is the Holy Spirit that creates the connection and oneness that makes us part of the greater global community of believers. Christ’s community isn’t an imagined community, rather it His plan for our redemption.

Who do you identify with?

cross-back-tattoo-designs100% American







[1] nationalism. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved January 15, 2015, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nationalism

[2] Anderson, B. (2006). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London: Verso Books.

[3] Themelios: Volume 21, No. 3, April 1996 (1996).

[4] William Storrar, “‘Vertigo’ or ‘Imago’? Nations in the Divine Economy,” Themelios: Volume 21, No. 3, April 1996 (1996): 5.

[5] Anderson, B. (2006). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London: Verso Books.

About the Author

Dawnel Volzke

Christ follower, wife, mom, teacher, student, professional...my passion is to serve Christ and my calling is to help organizations become great at fulfilling their mission.

10 responses to “Who do you identify with?”

  1. Jon Spellman says:

    Dawnel, that tension between our nationalistic identity and our Christian identity is becoming more pronounced isn’t it?


  2. Nick Martineau says:


    I also kept thinking that Anderson’s definition of community is pretty shallow compared to the community of Christ.

    I’ve been in foreign speaking countries and it’s always nice to run into another English speaking tourist but there is a much greater heart connection when I meet another believer in another country.

    Your two pictures tied this point together nicely.

  3. Brian Yost says:

    “Have you ever gone to a new and different place that seems foreign and uncomfortable, only to meet another Christian and experience the sense of instant familiarity?”

    Over and over again I have felt a deep familial connection with Christians from other cultures. It reminds me of meeting extended family members for the first time, they suddenly become something more than just mere strangers.
    Another surprise that I experienced living in Mexico is that I began to feel a great sense of pride in Mexico as a nation. The Mexican national anthem invokes an emotional response deep within. This doesn’t mean that I no longer love America, but my sense of nationalism has changed and expanded. Ultimately, I realize that my connection to any country is temporary, my real citizen is in God’s eternal kingdom.

  4. Dave Young says:

    Dawnel, You get the prize for the simplest reflection. When I say simple I mean that as big compliment. I often get too caught up in the language of the book, the big ideas to distill it down to a straightforward observation. It’s about whom we identify with. I liked how you theologically brought it all the way back to creation that our initial sinless identity was ‘with God”, of course through Christ it is again ‘with God’. Again yo make the point that we identify with a community through our devotion and of course our greatest devotion should be to God. Thanks for the post. Oh ya great pics too.

  5. Travis Biglow says:

    Preach Dawnel,

    My exact sentiments. As an African American nationalism is different to us. When we went to South Africa i could not belive how i felt there. It brings tears to my eyes to even think of that feeling. But as a Chrisitan i feel more of a unity than anything. As yous said when you meet other Chrisitans you have familiarity. Its the Spirit of God we have. Unity and community is really fostered by spirit. And thank God for blessing us to become one with him and each other through his Spirit!

    • Dawnel Volzke says:

      Thank you for sharing. Although I’ve been an American from birth, I’ve never fully felt the sense of nationalism that I’m sure some do. Being adopted, I’ve never known an ethnic identity. You mention that being an African American, nationalism is different. I wonder if many people feel this way, yet avoid openly discussing. I’m so grateful that we can find a place of belonging with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

  6. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Well said Dave. Dawnel, I love the way you simplified one of the major veins of thought with a little visual ethnography. Pictures are worth a thousand words. I do think the United States and so many others are now facing national identity challenges on many levels. I think a new round of faith questions are being asked as national identities are being challenged, really due much in part to the rise of extreme religious based “nations”. I think the timing of us reading this book as several of the others is pretty amazing with what is taking place in our world in this day

  7. Mary Pandiani says:

    As you mentioned being “mis-aligned” when we identify with something other than Christ – it’s curious to me that Jesus Christ came into this world incarnationally, essentially aligning himself with a particular group of people. And ever since then, there is a struggle as we endeavor to understand where we align with Christ as a follower in comparison to our own culture. For some reason, God didn’t make it real easy to discern that. However, as I read your interacting post with Travis, I see that it is in the conversation that we get glimpses of where we align and misalign.

    • Dawnel Volzke says:

      Thanks Mary. I’ve been teaching a class this week and was interested that several of my students had a discussion about what it means to be in the community of believers. While we aren’t perfect, there is an instant comfort and familiarity when we are with other Christians. When we operate outside of this environment, there is a certain level of discomfort that we should feel. When there are things going on within our community or nation that are in conflict with our Christian beliefs, we are forced to live in tension. As I read Anderson’s book and other’s postings, I keep thinking about the level of tension or stress that is necessary to trigger sentiments of nationalism vs. multiculturalism. There seems to be an underlying tension lately in the U.S. that makes me wonder what our nation will look like in 10 or 20 years.

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