DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

God is a global Lord

Written by: on January 18, 2018

I found it!  An online resource to help explain Benedict Anderson’s comprehensive text on nationalism.  But I hesitate to click and hit enter.  The website, titled “The Nationalism Project”, sparked my interest but also gave me a sense of dread.  What if this site was pro nationalism to an extreme of white supremacy?  I precipitously entered the site and was excited to learn “The Nationalism Project is one of the most widely used nationalism studies resources on the Internet and provides users with a clearinghouse of scholarly nationalism information including: leading definitions of nationalism, book reviews, web links, subject bibliographies, a bibliography of more than 2,000 journal articles, and much more.”[1] Bingo, I win!

In our current political climate, we hear nationalism used as a negative, deprecating concept. According to the Christian Science Monitor article titled Trump’s nationalist vision: Does it promote or endanger peace?…“We heard the president praise a ‘great reawakening of nations’ – but that’s a recipe for going back to dark days in history when it was each country for itself – and when that hard nationalism led to centuries of war.”

A simplistic summary of Benedict Anderson’s text Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism is this political nations are the creation of modern communication networks.  Furthermore, a sense of history is essential for the concept of nationhood. In order to think of oneself as belonging to a nation, one must think of oneself as being related to others who share only the circumstance of living at the same time.  Anderson idealistically believes that nationalism is a “positive force for integration and solidarity.”[2]  Unlike myself, he (Anderson) sees nationalism in a positive light, grounded in ‘horizontal comradeship’ (or a sense of fraternity shared by people who did not know each other and who shared the same notion of belonging to a nation despite the existence of inequalities and oppression between groups).[3] Arnold suggests that despite inequalities and oppression, members of these “imagined communities” are even willing to die for the cause.[4]

I will admit…I am struggling with Anderson’s positive rhetoric on nationalism. “In a globalized world that is struggling to grapple with migration, climate change, economic integration, refugees and displaced populations just to name a few, this debate on nationalism and the notion of ‘imagined communities’ remains relevant today 32 years after its publication.”[5]  Personally, I embrace globalization rather than reject it.  We may believe the debate of the 21st century is liberal vs. conservative (left vs. right).  Not so according to Dr. Jim Eckman.  He claims the most significant debate of our society is globalism vs. nationalism.  “Since the end of World War II, global integration and technological progress have fueled a new world order centered on free trade, open borders and interdependent economies.  Goods, capital and people should be able to move freely across borders, which is actually the meaning of globalization.”[6]  I can safely say the economics of goods and capital in globalization are outside my realm of knowledge. However, the idea that people can move freely across borders is a direct correlation to my research on refugee resettlement. To complicate matters further, nationalists are frequently linked to Christianity. “Historians agree the roots of American Christian nationalism—including flavors that do insist on white supremacy—stretch back decades. Today’s right-wing preachers are hardly the first group to insist on a “Christian” America, or to heap praise on a “strongman” leader.”[7]

Greg Ip of the Wall Street Journal argues that the intense backlash against immigration (and globalism) is “cultural, not fundamentally economic.” The voters for Brexit and for Trump “were bothered less by competition from immigrants than by their perceived effect on the country’s linguistic, religious and cultural norms.”  He goes on to say “This is perhaps the most troubling aspect of this new nationalism—its penchant for xenophobia and for ethnic and religious exclusion.” And herein lies the rub to me – a sect of Christians embrace nationalism (or in my interpretation elitism and isolation) and yet Biblically we are called to love and accept people of all nations.  This nationalist penchant for ethnic and religious exclusion is the impetus of Pope Francis’ strong directives when discussing refugees:  “It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help,” he said. “If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”[8]  If the response of the American church to non-Christian refugees is one of fear, misplaced suspicion, and hostility, we will effectively reinforce their negative understanding of Christianity, while being unfaithful to the biblical commands to love our neighbor, to which we are bound regardless of their faith.[9] The Bible goes even further in its teachings of helping others:  “Never mistreat a foreigner living in your land. Foreigners living among you will be like your own people. Love them as you love yourself, because you were foreigners living in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”  Leviticus 19:33-34, GW.  Even in the Old Testament, the Bible clearly sets forth a directive for Christians to love and accept “foreigners”.  According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, a foreigner is defined as:  “person from a different racial, ethnic, and linguistic group as in contrast to a “native” and the term foreigner is used to translate a Hebrew word that generally means an “outsider” from a different race, tribe, or family”.

So where do we go from here?  If each church across the United States committed to loving and providing for refugees, lives would be transformed.  “If they (churches) are living communities of the living God, then they are in constant contact with the wider world, both the great mass of the unevangelized as well as others who profess faith in Jesus Christ. No church is immune to the effects of this interchange, and it is faithless to suppose that in every case the result is tainting, compromise, or loss. Churches over time learn and improve, they also forget and fail. Sometimes the impetus is external and sometimes it is internal.  It can be the result of social change, spiritual awakening, or intellectual exploration.”[10]  Church, it’s time for revival!  It’s time to commit to social justice and to truly be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.  Churches need to take risks, make themselves vulnerable and look for possibilities to serve and improve systems.  There are local, national, and international opportunities.  We are a global world.  We are a global church.  God is a global Lord.

[1] http://www.nationalismproject.org/about.htm

[2] https://asiacentre.co.th/event/debating-imagined-communities-a-tribute-to-benedict-anderson/

[3] https://asiacentre.co.th/event/debating-imagined-communities-a-tribute-to-benedict-anderson/

[4] https://asiacentre.co.th/event/debating-imagined-communities-a-tribute-to-benedict-anderson/

[5] https://asiacentre.co.th/event/debating-imagined-communities-a-tribute-to-benedict-anderson/

[6] https://graceuniversity.edu/iip/2017/01/globalism-vs-nationalism-the-ideological-struggle-of-the-21st-century/

[7] https://thinkprogress.org/history-christian-nationalism-e3303b46c3bc/

[8] http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201702/when-fear-wins-christianity-loses-30918

[9] https://www.worldrelief.org/press-releases/2016/3/2/the-global-refugee-crisis

[10]        Wilson, Sarah Hinlicky. “Six ways ecumenical progress is possible.” Concordia Journal 39, no.4, pg. 327

About the Author

mm

Jean Ollis

7 responses to “God is a global Lord”

  1. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Amen Jean,

    God is a global Lord! And if every church cared about refugees, lives would be transformed…

    I have to be honest though, as I tried to get our church to accept refugees. I kept hearing, but what if they turn out to be extremists? Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.

    I kept saying, when in history has God brought the mission field TO US like today?

    Unfortunately, my arguments fell on deaf ears, and soon we were on to different things.

    Bummer!

  2. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Great post Jean. I think that nationalism has done bad things for Christianity. One of the most irritating things To me is when I see an American flag in the sanctuary of a church. Of course they place the christian flag above the American one, but still… why should we place the American flag on stage. Nationalist thought invaded.

    And a christian flag?!? Weird. That’s a nationalist principle converted under the guise of Christianity. Is it ironic the christian flag is red white and blue as well? I wonder what it’s origins are.

  3. mm M Webb says:

    Jean,

    Great job finding the Nationalism Project site. I found on too, the Macat Library and an author named Xidias who provided a very helpful critical thinking review.1 The goal of the Macat Library is to make the ideas of the world’s great thinkers accessible and comprehensible to everybody, everywhere, in ways that promote the development of enhanced critical thinking skills.

    I like the way to tied your research problem into your Anderson post. Yes, we need more mission in our own back yards since the world has come to the West seeking safety, freedom, and community. I notice our nation struggling with that idea of community in the daily media, political actions, and crime and violence. I really do not hold much hope for improvement on the global scale, which should convict and promote action in the Christian church to minister to the “least of these.”

    I do think the unsaved are living on borrowed time as the phenomenon of print capitalism, information technology, and now virtual realities. These communication advances are significantly extending evangelism to the unreached and least reached people groups left to be presented the Good News of Jesus Christ.

    Stand firm!
    M. Webb

    1 Jason Xidias. An Analysis of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. Macat Library. London: Routledge, 2017.

  4. Another amazing post Jean! After reading the following, I felt inspired to BE that kind of church: “Church, it’s time for revival! It’s time to commit to social justice and to truly be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. Churches need to take risks, make themselves vulnerable and look for possibilities to serve and improve systems. There are local, national, and international opportunities. We are a global world. We are a global church. God is a global Lord.” This is the kind of community I imagine and want to be a part of (and I know you do too). Jesus lived the greatest example of social justice, and it was not popular then either.

  5. Shawn Hart says:

    Jean, powerful post. I do have a question however; I noticed that there is great passion in your post regarding refugees and those in need, but what if they are not classified in those impoverished positions? What if they do not want anything to do with your nation because you are Christian. What if they resent you trying to interfere in their culture, country or religious beliefs? Do the standards of universal thought change at that point?

    I used a passage found in Matthew 7 in my sermon today, but was a little take a back from the contrast of scriptural thoughts held in the same 6 verses. In verses 1-5, Jesus is giving a harsh warning against passing judgment and the necessity of removing the plank from one’s own eye before attempting to help someone else remove their plank…however, then in verse 6 Christ says, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” How would you use a scripture like this in helping to determine appropriate interaction with groups that are not seeking intervention? I have actually been told that someone did not want help because they knew it was coming from a church; how do you resolve that?

  6. Greg says:

    Jean,
    What is unfortunate is “nationalism” has been associated or hijacked by “extreme Christianity”. I would even say those that claim and use some ideas of Christianity for their own agendas. Many of them are the pharisees of our day, promoting the national “us” over the global “them”. I was teaching out of the book of Obadiah. I was struck that God brought judgment on the Edomites specifically because they closed the gates of their city to the refugees from Jerusalem. Taunting and participating with the enemy so that the Jews were not able to seek safety, is what brought their destruction. It breaks my heard to think about the ramifications for our country and the shortsightedness of those that claim to follow a God that saves and rescues us. God is indeed a global moving, saving and active Lord. Thanks Jean!!

  7. Dave Watermulder says:

    Jean,
    Great, substantive post here! I really enjoyed the outside sources that you brought in and the way that you found your focus and followed it through. Your ending especially made me think about the Old Testament stories about various “local” gods, or national gods and the ways that the God of Israel went up against them. It seems like the biblical imagination, as it developed, brought int a larger and more universal scope for who God is and what God’s purposes are in the world. Thanks for this!

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