Nationalism, Globalism, and the Ships of Tarshish

There are few things worse than being called a “nationalist” these days. We’ve learned to spell “patriotic” with four letters; we’ve refashioned it as a cultural expletive unsuitable around women, children, and polite company. Globalism is the new gospel; nationalism the new heresy. And the Grand Inquisitors read the roll call of the damned every evening at five o’clock.

Having succeeded at making the world safe from democracy, progressives turned their guns on any notion of “American Exceptionalism.” Though this “exceptionalism” is not as radical a claim as its detractors suppose—it being largely descriptive of a set of principles grounded in “Nature and Nature’s God,” a kind of creed confessed by our Founders in a way that was hitherto unarticulated —yet, it is often viewed as a form of political dogmatism rooted in cultural arrogance. It follows, then, that when the cardinal political doctrine is absolute equality, any suggestion that one nation has embodied principles in a unique and unprecedented way is viewed as a mortal sin. Ergo, any such threats to the status quo must be eradicated.

Similarly, those who would rather thrive than merely survive are derided as Priests of Mammon. I submit that the problem here, again, is largely theological. Since the Church of Liberalism has a deficient doctrine of creation—no concept of creatio ex nihilo—they can’t possibly believe that wealth could be generated where once no wealth existed. They tend to think that there is only so much wealth available in the world. By their lights, if someone has amassed much wealth then he has necessarily deprived someone else of his or her fair share. So in lieu of a doctrine of creation, progressive globalists formulated a principle of confiscation. So it is not surprising that “Rob Peter to pay Paul” has become the moral equivalent of “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” 

Unfortunately the laws of physics haven’t been amended so as to conform to this new canon law. Progressives have not yet figured out how to spread the wealth around without losing it. By spreading the dough so wide, they spread it too thin. And when the dough is spread so thin that one is able to read the Wall Street Journal through it, then the writing is on the wall as they say. But one may still freely admit that liberals really do love poor people; nothing else explains why they wish to make so many more of them.

So we must renounce globalism and all its works, the vain pomp and glory of its big-tent tribalism. We do this having never owned a pair of jackboots, and knowing full well that we will be labeled unrepentant goose-steppers. But that is no matter. There are worse things to be called than a “nationalist.” And we’ve been called worse by better.

If our fault is that we love our neighbor and our neighborhood, then what would it say for the quality of our charity if we were to despise the men at our shoulders and the children at our heels in favor of the faceless gaggle half a world away? The nationalist loves his people and place; the anti-nationalist loves love. He’s a slave to sentimentality. He would never dream of making any nation “great again,” because that would of necessity mean that one nation would be better than another. Anti-nationalism repudiates any idea of meritocracy and romanticizes mediocrity. In this way, a victory for the anti-nationalist results in the triumph of insignificance.

Globalism says that we have to attain perfection everywhere by quashing progress anywhere. Nationalism is not bold enough to articulate the first proposition, or callous enough to attempt the second. There is a certain humility which constrains a sober nationalism. We are not in possession of perfection, so we cannot possibly export it. It is not our objective to compass land and sea to make proselytes of our present political tomfoolery.  

But as Christians we do believe in the grace of God. We do believe that the Almighty is well able to make blessings abound from sea to shining sea. We have a settled confidence that God has lost none of His ancient power. If it is His eternal purpose to reign over nations of men who have been duly baptized in the Triune Name, then it is unholy presumption to say otherwise. Baptized nations—not amalgamations or consolidations—but great nations will bear their glory into the New Jerusalem upon the ships of Tarshish. A “Christian” nationalist simply says that it is right to live today as though God were being honest about tomorrow.

Bring me my bow of burning gold!

Bring me my arrows of desire!

Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,

Till we have built Jerusalem

In this our green and pleasant land.

William Blake, “Jerusalem”

*Image credit: Wunderstock

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Brandon Meeks

Brandon Meeks J. Brandon Meeks serves as Theologian-in-Residence for his Anglican parish in Arkansas.

3 thoughts on “Nationalism, Globalism, and the Ships of Tarshish

  1. AR must now possess the world’s longest (certainly the finest) collection of essays on righteous (as opposed to heretical, willfully ignorant) Christian nationalism on the Internet (which, anymore, means the entire universe). Readers who don’t know which essays in AR’s expanding archive relate to Christian nationalism can find them cataloged at the bottom of this page…

    …, which this article too, now, is quoted and referenced. Let’s Go Brandon (Meeks)!

  2. Victoria Barnett’s book, “For the Soul of the People,” was the end product of in-depth interviews she conducted in the 1980s with 50 surviving members of the Confessing Church, German believers who opposed Hitler and the Nazis. One of the interviews was with Helmut Gollwitzer, who pastored Martin Niemoller’s church after Niemoller was imprisoned by Hitler. Gollwitzer told Dr Barnett that there were two major issues that Confessing Church leaders had to come to terms with: (1) they had to make the painful decision to call out the followers of “German Christian” teaching (which Nazified Christianity) as heretics; and (2) “we had to see the merging of nationalism and religion led to a falsification of Christianity, to the subordination of the gospel to nationalism and to right-wing political interests.” After Eric Metaxas published his book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dr Barnett (who is recognized as a leading Bonhoeffer scholar) was asked to write a book review of Metaxas’ book. One of her criticisms was that Metaxas did not address how Germany’s nationalism was a major contributing factor in the moral failure of the German Church. She added that Eberhard Bethge, a close friend of Bonhoeffer, had told her in the 1980s that America’s Religious Right reminded him very much of how Germany’s politically conservative Christians were in the 1930s.

  3. I’m curious what nationalism Jesus demonstrated. He loved and was of the Father/Creator. He loved love – as a force. As the way. Not a sentiment- but love as the sacrificial verb. The stories captured in our shared Bible are heavily outnumbered with his love of the poor. He loved a Roman Centurion and a robber. He loved tax collectors, and it turns out the whole of mankind whose sin he gave his life for.

    To target the love to a particular political or national regime and then claim to do so exclusively in the name of Jesus is heretical to Jesus the Christ. His dominion and Kingdom are so much bigger than your narrow claim. As such, your claims of humility seem as disingenuous as your premise is misguided.

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