Protestant Nationalism

With all the attacks on and outrage over white nationalism and white theology, a historical perspective on the origins of nationalism might be instructive. This is from Philip S. Gorski’s The Disciplinary Revolution: Calvinism and the Rise of the State in Early Modern Europe (2003):

Confessionalization contributed to the development of Western nationalism in at least two ways: (1) by bringing cultural and political boundaries into closer alignment with one another; and (2) by supplying a discourse through which national distinctiveness could be articulated — and at least partly reconciled with Christian universalism. Like most agrarian societies, medieval Europe possessed an elite, high culture (literate and Latinate) that spanned political boundaries and a crazy quilt of popular cultures (oral and vernacular) that were confined to particular regions. Insofar as confessionalization stimulated the development of mass vernacular cultures that were neither local nor fully European, it helped to create the cultural homogeneities that nationalism would later mythologize and extol. . . . Of course, students of the subject have long argued that nationalism is a secular ideology that first emerges during the French Revolution. But recent work by early modernists has show this view to be untenable. However one defines it — qua movements, discourse, or category — nationalism can be found in the early modern period. While there were secular forms of nationalist discourse, grounded in narratives of cultural and political distinctiveness, the most common type of nationalist discourse in the early modern period was a religious one, which drew on the Exodus story, and on the notion of chosenness more generally. (163)

9 thoughts on “Protestant Nationalism

  1. Nationalism, like political and economic ideologies, contribute to the syncretisms seen in many Christians. A syncretism is what results when trying to merge two or more incompatible practices and ideas. The merging is like trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. Much violence is done to both. That is what happens when Christians embrace nationalism.


  2. Seems to me Christians live with “two or more incompatible practices and ideas” all the time. Maybe three or more. Maybe Christ’s imputed righteousness covers our syncretisms? (Is that a German word? Italian?)


  3. CD, families and friends also contribute to syncretism, but I don’t think you’d hear any reasonable voice calling for them to be done away with.


  4. Something Clever,
    Family and friends are a necessary part of life. Is nationalism necessary?

    Competing loyalties can cause syncretism. This is why our love for God must surpass our love for all others.


  5. CD, the possibility of abuse is insufficient reason to preclude a thing, otherwise we must first abolish all women.


  6. Are books necessary? Is your variety in meals necessary? Is your computer access necessary? Is your opinion necessary? Is you comment necessary? All of these run the same risk of sin that nationalism does.

    My response is quite simple: you’re asking the wrong question and because you haven’t thought very deeply about it.


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