Whose nation? Which communities? The fault lines of the new Christian nationalism
A new kind of Christian nationalism is gaining momentum in the United States. Around the country,evangelical Protestants are deepening their loyalty to President Donald Trump, who announced last October: “You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, O.K.? I’m a nationalist.... Use that word.”
Yet it is not evangelicals but Catholic intellectuals who are helping to lead efforts to capitalize on the opportunity presented by Mr. Trump’s nationalism. Catholic involvement is especially prominent in two recent initiatives. The first was a manifesto published by First Things this March advocating a new style of conservatism that would, among other things, “embrace the new nationalism” and “jealously guard” the space opened up by the “Trump phenomenon.” Among the signatories were Patrick Deneen of the University of Notre Dame, C. C. Pecknold of the Catholic University of America and Sohrab Ahmari, an op-ed editor at The New York Post.
Some have asked us: Why shouldn’t Christians embrace the new nationalism? Doesn’t it amount to patriotism? It does not. To understand why, we need to look more closely at nationalism, at what it is and how it has been understood.
The second initiative was the National Conservatism conference, which took place in July and was organized in part by R. R. Reno, the editor in chief of First Things. Catholic thinkers such as Mr. Reno and Mr. Deneen shared the stage with other politically conservative speakers such as Tucker Carlson of Fox News, the University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax and Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a vocal Trump supporter. While theorizing about nationalism, the speakers celebrated the Trump insurgency and praised the president’s instincts on immigration.
In August 2019, we joined two dozen theologians, pastors and academics across denominational lines in an open letter published in Commonweal warning Christians of the dangers of this new nationalism. Here we speak in our own names to examine its intellectual hazards more closely. Some have asked us: Why shouldn’t Christians embrace the new nationalism? Doesn’t it amount to patriotism? It does not. To understand why, we need to look more closely at nationalism, at what it is and how it has been understood.
Political scientists consider nationalism the most widespread ideology in the world today, fusing with movements across the ideological spectrum. But all nationalisms ground state power in the supposedly unique spirit of the people, a common heritage said to precede political rule. Who counts as part of the nation? Nationalists have offered two general answers: an “ethnic” one and a “civic” one.
What is ethnonationalism?
Ethnic nationalism is marked by a sharp division between “us” and “them,” a boundary line drawn in biological, cultural or religious terms. For this reason, ethnonationalists reject multiculturalism. In practice, ethnonationalists have often subjected minorities to disenfranchisement, mass deportations, concentration camps and other attempts to purify “the people” and erect impenetrable borders. The 20th century is filled with terrifying examples.
Such ethnonationalism is clearly incompatible with Christianity. Even leaving aside the horrific violence of purges and camps, the Christian community is called to become constitutively multiethnic. Jesus gathers those of “every nation” (panta ta ethné, Mt 28). While some Christian communities take shape locally and exhibit the cultural characteristics of one ethnicity, Catholic faith requires membership in a global church that transcends ethnic loyalties. Indeed, Jesus identifies himself with the foreigner, the migrant and the prisoner.
Many Trump supporters view their enthusiasm as a matter of simple patriotism. But the uncomfortable truth is that the president’s brand of nationalism is not just patriotism but a version of ethnonationalism. From the start it has been driven by the anxiety that Muslims,Latinos and other non-whites are impossible to assimilate into “American” culture. To cite just one of many possible examples, it is ethnonationalism that underlies Mr. Trump’s statement that congressional representatives, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, should “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came.”
The new Christian nationalists advance their project under Mr. Trump’s standard, yet claim they are not ethnonationalists like him. But they seem unwilling or unable to articulate a stable civic nationalism that does not elevate one religious or ethnic identity.
What is civic nationalism?
The second variety is civic nationalism, or the view that the people are constituted not by cultural or racial similarities but by shared legal or institutional traditions. Civic nationalism can seem more inclusive and pluralistic—after all, anyone can obey the law or participate in democratic elections. The pertinent question for civic nationalism is not where new citizens come from but whether they are committed to sharing the responsibilities of civic life. If so, then waves of multiethnic immigration might be viewed as renewing the nation and not, as the First Things manifesto suggests, “attempts to displace American citizens.”
But if ethnonationalism is indefensible, civic nationalism is deeply unstable. In practice, civic nationalists have often doubted whether loyalty to legal traditions will be enough to unify a sovereign people. Even the great civic nationalist Jean-Jacques Rousseau urged the Polish government to go beyond patriotism and appeal to ethnic superiority. If Poles were taught that they are inherently better than Russians, he wrote in 1772, “I guarantee that Russia will not subjugate Poland.”
That even Rousseau would take such a tack exposes the insecurity that lies at the heart of civic nationalism. Can someone so different from me really love the same civic life? Does society require a more cohesive nationalist glue? Civic nationalists are pulled in two directions, either shedding primordial national identities and shifting toward mere patriotism or drifting back toward ethnonationalism. The more “civic” they become, the less “nationalist,” but the more “nationalist,” the less “civic.”
Here is the problem facing the new Christian nationalists. They advance their project under Mr. Trump’s standard, yet claim they are not ethnonationalists like him. But they seem unwilling or unable to articulate a stable civic nationalism that does not elevate one religious or ethnic identity. They rightly denounce white nationalism from the conference stage. But the alternatives they champion are at present vague and incoherent. Fellow believers should press them to give a better account of how nationalism accords with Christian faith.
To escape ethnonationalism, the new Christian nationalists need to name a principle that unifies the people. There are only a few paths forward here, none of which seem to arrive at their goals.
First, they could affirm ancient republican patriotism or other such allegiances to laws and institutions, with studied indifference to religions and cultures. Clearly, the new nationalists seek a thicker notion of civic identity than this.
Second, they could unify the people through civic religion. And it seems that the new nationalists indeed advocate for this—at least some of the time. In his speech at the National Conservatism conference, for example, Mr. Deneen holds “the nation is not sufficient nor properly conceived if it is not...‘under God.’” Mr. Reno says nations are “appointed” by divine “election,” and their character is given by God as “a chosen people.” When we look closer, however, this religious basis for national belonging is problematic.
On the one hand, if one construed civic rituals broadly, an amalgamated American civic religion must include Muslims, non-theists, therapeutic deists and others. Christians would enjoy no special privilege. As Robert Bellah showed, it was just such a unitarian and decidedly liberal “civil religion” that characterized the U.S. throughout the 20th century.
On the other hand, a narrower civic religion, favoring a particular tradition, introduces other predicaments. The sociologist José Casanova observes that white evangelical Protestants dominated the American right in this way for decades, promising that closer adherence to their religion would ensure the maintenance of social order. But, in the end, politics shepherded the church and not the other way around—and dissenting Christian churches were excommunicated from nationalist orthodoxy, no longer part of the people.
Third, defenders of nationalism might claim that, for all their defects, nations are inescapable, natural realities of human life. Mr. Reno invokes this almost biological “logic of peoplehood” in which “citizenship is akin to membership in a family. It is a given, not a choice.” Mr. Ahmari adopts stronger language, describing nations as “pre-existing sacred communities.”
This notion of natural nationhood seems aimed at shoring up local communities against the tides of unrestrained capitalism, which have indeed decimated civic associations, public life and healthy families. The First Things signatories vow to heed “the cries of the working class as much as the demands of capital” and to oppose soulless affluence. In his address, Mr. Deneen worries about the forces threatening regional identities and mourns their decline.
Up to this point, and worryingly, the only localisms Christian nationalists have consistently defended are conservative, Christian and (de facto) white.
Respecting America’s diverse cultures
We find much to agree with here. The Christian nationalists offer a crucial insight: Affections for local solidarities must be rebuilt on something firmer than the sands of libertarianism, consumerism and popular culture. There is something in this that resonates with Catholic social teachings on subsidiarity.
Unfortunately, nationalism is no solution to this problem. Nationalist consciousness is not a local or natural affection but a monoculture engineered by modern states. This is a well-known fact of the historical record. For instance, peasants in 19th-century France did not consider themselves French nationals until Parisian elites imposed their modernizing agenda upon them. Like Mr. Deneen, the peasants wanted to foster what the historian Eugen Weber called “village particularisms.” But it was nationalists who, through state coercion, taught French peasants to love the abstraction of the “nation.” Similar transformations occurred across Europe from Prussia to Italy.
What we ought to learn from this is that nationalist states promote not a variety of local cultures but a single, state-wide monoculture. And the new nationalists have not clarified how the nationalism they espouse can protect or promote religious and cultural differences. Even more disquieting is that most of their references to multiculturalism are pejorative. Mr. Reno ominously warns that his nationalism ought to “troubl[e] those who aspire to a multicultural regime.” These theorists owe their fellow Christians an explanation of how the manifold richness of American communities would be respected in their nationalist vision.
Whose neighborhoods, congregations and families would thrive under such nationalism? New Agers in Boulder? Latinos in El Paso? Muslims in Detroit? Lesbians in Oakland? Mr. Reno states that “our nation tugs at our hearts, and a national conservatism is ordered to the protection...of a shared way of life.” But he fails to explain who he includes in his state-privileged modus vivendi. Mr. Ahmari correctly states that “there is nothing Christian in obliterating human difference and particularity.” But he misses the fact that nationalism negates local particularity in favor of monoculture.
To be sure, some forms of multiculturalism could evolve into an ideological monoculture of their own, suppressing other visions of human flourishing and even elements of Christian life. Anxious to avoid this fate, the new nationalists devote their energy to protecting localism from “cosmopolitanism.” But nationalist ideology is the wrong tool for this work. Up to this point, and worryingly, the only localisms they have consistently defended are conservative, Christian and (de facto) white. Until the nationalists make up their minds about American diversity, critics will wonder if their enthusiasm for local particularism empowers one particularism at the expense of others.
A prominent textbook warns that if “Christians have sometimes unwittingly tied their Christianity to the nation-state, they have done so along certain set grooves of history that we too often forget.... By remembering what nationalism has cost us in the past, we have a much better chance of understanding what has gone wrong and how we might resist its pull in the future.” The author of these wise words is C. C. Pecknold, who also signed the First Thingsmanifesto. Mr. Pecknold is right: It is easy to forget.
Nationalist states do not promote a variety of local cultures but a single, state-wide monoculture. And the new nationalists have not clarified how the nationalism they espouse can protect or promote religious and cultural differences.
What nationalism in action looks like
Catholic intellectuals cannot in good faith theorize a new nationalism in a vacuum, safely sealed away in conference rooms or magazine pages. The nationalists themselves invoked the “Trump phenomenon” as the occasion for their movement. If they wish to draw a sharper line between themselves and Trump’s ethnonationalism, we would welcome it.
But until they do, the new nationalism will be defined not primarily by their theories but by the Trump administration’s actions at the border: inflicting profound and needless psychological damage by separating infants from their parents; denying soap, tampons and flu vaccines to those in custody while asylum cases wend through the courts; suspending the Flores agreement in order to render detentions indefinite; and deporting children with cancer diagnoses to certain death. This is also what nationalism means.
As a concrete political reality, the new nationalism has no enthusiasm for civic localism. Its leader does not actually defend diverse, local families and diverse, local communities, but only a racialized, nostalgic monoculture of white Christian dominance. Unless and until sharper distinctions are drawn, “nationalism” will remain tied to the Trump administration’s increasing violence against vulnerable minorities. From a unity deeper than citizenship, that of baptism, we implore our fellow Christians: Join us in denouncing this violence, and help us understand what distance is left between that nationalism and yours.
Nationalism is a cancer. Catholicism is about universal brotherhood or it is a tool for racism. It is the last gasp of the generation who hate the Clintons, Obama and Vatican II. They are 20 funerals away from obscurity. Heaven help their grandchildren.
If anyone needs a textbook example of projection, I've found it.
This article being in the magazine it is seems almost laughable. America Magazine seems to forget that it waited only a few months before Trump got elected to let folks know, this guy might not be who Catholics should vote for in 2016.
Why did they wait, and also never back Clinton the only other choice, officially? They waited because Trump was anti-women's reproductive rights and that was all it took for America Magazine and our faithful Church Leadership to kinda support Trump until almost up to the actual election.
You notice that nationalism's horrid treatment of women is never mentioned in this article. That is no coincidence. Now since they realize that Trump nationalists hate women and also hate anyone who is not a self-proclaiming, self-righteous evangelical too, its like oh! He is a bad man!
In fairness to Trump, he didn't lie about who he was or what his goals were for the country. So our hierarchy knew what he was about and supported him based on the same thing our hierarchy has supported in candidates or leaders since the first couple hundred years after our Church began: Misogyny above All! The Oppression of All Women Forever!
Because Donald Trump would support justices that might pass laws that our church is already fully aware only cause more abortion and maternal deaths everywhere in the world where they are passed, but also keep women in poverty and oppression, they softly promoted Trump as the candidate for 2016. Now they are bumming because once hate is all fired up and burning, it is very hard to control. OOOPS! Not just women paying with their freedom and lives - immigrant men are dying too? - uh oh!
Our church supported someone, and a party, that didn't believe climate change existed, openly abhorred immigrants, especially brown ones, and openly showed complete disdain for the actual constitution and the basic democracy structures, causing them to fight against its most basic ideals of all, every citizen having the same access and right to vote for their leadership. This should be our church's and America Magazine's greatest shame.
Will they be more careful next time? Sadly, I doubt it but I am willing to take notes on our Hierarchy's and America Magazine's choices of who to coddle over the next 14 months. Will they put down the "Sacred Catholic Hate Priority" in order to save the planet, or immigrants or both? hmmmm. . .
Although I'm a Republican, I'm not a great admirer of President Trump, however, he at least has been consistent in his appointment of judges who do not legislate from the bench, and who base their legal rulings on the U.S. Constitution, which was not done in Roe v. Wade when all prohibitive abortion laws through out this nation were eliminated in one fell swoop. As you know, most Americans have a nuanced view of abortion: Most want to keep it legal, but they want it rare and with plenty of restrictions. The protection of all human life, including the pre-born, the aged, the disabled, the poor, and gay people, is a value of which Jesus would wholeheartedly approve.
The justices Trump appointed all testified at their hearings that Roe v Wade is settled law. It is very difficult to overturn settled law. If the justices do vote to overturn Roe, they will have made themselves suspect about the truthfulness and integrity of their sworn testimony.
I do know that the most ardent and faithful Catholics I've met are more theologically conservative than they are progressive in outlook. Therefore, the future of Roman Catholicism is in the hands of more tradition-minded individuals than Mr. Binder would like. Furthermore, Europe and North America are not the whole of the Catholic Church. As Asian and African Catholics take their seats in positions of influence at both the Vatican and at bishops' conferences, they will steer the Church of Rome in a direction towards an historic Biblical truth, which adheres to a conservative moral vision when it comes to personal and sexual behavior.
I am not being disrespectful of your comment that, “I do know that the most ardent and faithful Catholics I've met are more theologically conservative than they are progressive in outlook.” I am sincerely questioning how you define “ardent and faithful Catholics.” If you are talking about people who fit themselves into a tight, inflexible bundle of the letter of the law, then your statement about conservatives is correct. However, I find progressives more ardent and faithful than conservatives in following the Gospel of Christ. Your response please.
The idea that "the most ardent and faithful Catholics" are those who "[adhere] to a conservative moral vision when it comes to personal and sexual behavior" seems to completely ignore the teachings and example of Christ.
This is just another anti Trump piece that is shallow and erroneous and based on distortions. The nation state has been around in current form for over 400 years and in other forms since antiquity and no one has a better way to go. Any country is reluctant to have unelected bureaucrats from another country telling them what to do.
I have a question for the authors, where has multiculturalism led to a stronger society? Cultures change over time as they absorb others but are multi-cultures a formula for chaos?
Mr. Cosgrove, are you placing your country and your political views before your faith? If not, why not?
(I'm assuming you consider yourself a baptized and faithful Catholic. True?)
Never. But I don’t see anything really Catholic in this article. If you disagree then state so politely.
Catholicism is a religion established by God to enable people to reach salvation. That should be the mission of the Church as they were told to go forth and teach all nations. It fails miserably when it gets involved in politics because it’s not its purpose.
How do you teach all nations if you accept and are silent about harmful laws and corrupt leaders?
Who is silent? And if they are silent, why are they silent?
You are contradicting yourself. You stated, “That should be the mission of the Church as they were told to go forth and teach all nations. IT FAILS MISERABLY WHEN IT GETS INVOLVED IN POLITICS BECAUSE IT’S NOT ITS PURPOSE.”
Then I asked, “How do you teach all nations if you accept and are silent about harmful laws and corrupt leaders?”
Your response was, “Who is silent? And if they are silent, why are they silent?”
So, which is it? Are you saying the Church should speak out on harmful laws and corrupt leaders, or the church should be silent on political issues?
No, I am not contradicting myself. The Church's mission is leading individuals to salvation. That is what Christ said by going forth and teaching all nations. He was not trying to reorganize them. The Church has no special expertise in anything political. In fact they are mostly dysfunctional. Now can individual Catholics take positions that certain systems are harmful. Yes most definitely, but best not as an official position of the Church. Unless the system inhibits it primary mission.
The Church's expertise is individual morality and it should vigorously complain if a political system inhibits it mission, teaching morality. There may be a 100 different variations of political systems that will allow this and there are many that will not. Nationalism is not one that is anathema to teaching Church doctrine.
I can argue from history what is the best political system but I am sure there are numerous bishops and the Pope who will disagree but it will not be on the basis of performing their primary mission.
Aside: I argue everything from two understandings/beliefs I have of the world. 1st - the Catholic Church was established by God to help individuals reach salvation. It's basic mission is teaching morality and providing spiritual instruments/ways to do so. 2nd - unrelated to this first belief, the best way to organize individuals politically is freedom and ensuring the physical well being of individuals as best as possible. Equality is an extremely bad way to organize. Everything I write flows from this. So Mr. Keyes comment above was pointless.
"The Church's mission is leading individuals to salvation. That is what Christ said by going forth and teaching all nations. He was not trying to reorganize them. " - Oh my. Christ wasn't trying to reorganize the operating principals of the nations he was in? So much for entirety of the great reversal in Catholic theology. It's almost like you're a Protestant.
Mr. Cosgrove, the population of the five largest U.S. cities totals six percent of the U.S. population, but contributes twenty percent of U.S. GDP. Here’s the percentage of the population born outside the U.S. in those five cities, Los Angeles, 33%; New York, 28%; Houston, 22%; Chicago, 17% and Philadelphia, 10%.
Let’s not forget congressional districts of Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley and Tlaib where life expectancy averages four years longer than the senate majority leader’s state.
Mitch McConnell policies apparently fail to solve the “problems” you see in diversity.
The poor go where the money is. That is all you have demonstrated.
In the old Testament "diversity"was the punishment God inflicted on the
builders of the Tower of Babel. Perhaps it is time to consider
"diversity" in a similar manner, the antithesis of good, working social order, a punishment.
You should probably avail yourself of the recent scholarship on the Tower of Babel story in light of ANE culture.
It's all about power. The liberals want to convert illegal immigrants into a lever of political power. The illegals have children and VOILA they are Americans. This is an abuse of We The People. Why is nationalism on the upswing in America? Each year that goes by we see how the illegal immigrants look at America as a system to sneak into, beat and exploit while Americans remember that Ellis Island was where immigrants used to learn about the rule of law. At Ellis Island you could get sent back if you didn't meet standards. The country regulated who got in. There was a line. People had to wait. The current immigrantes may be divided into two groups: the Ellis Island types who respect the immigration rules and the gate crashers or what I call the "FU immigrants" who go to the head of the line defiantly giving the finger to those who would protest The author is solidly with the line jumpers whom everyone honorable DETESTS. My family of 5 children and two parents had four attendees of Jesuit colleges and High Schools. These are the people and millions of others, spurned by modern Jesuit political culture in America. I know immigration very well. The late mother of 5 of my six children was an immigrant. My current wife is Hispanic. My first wife's brother came to "visit" us one summer from Colombia as a tourist with his family and in August enrolled his two daughters in public schools. Just like that. How much did that act of utter nonchalance cost tax payers? My brother in law later filed a bogus political asylum application and was approved. How many fake asylum claims are proclaimed at the border each day and then open the door for welfare recipients? Meanwhile my cousin who graduated from Notre Dame and who fought as a Marine in Vietnam and who was denied full disability despite terrible wounds
suffered serving his country was slowly dying. In Miami immigrants find out how to exploit the system, do things on the side against the rules and benefit. Just think of the veterans who are short changed!!! My late mother had to work till she was 77 to help make ends meet. When will liberal Catholics (JESUITS AT AMERICA and many who live in the US) stop discounting the real needs and sufferings of the American poor (just check out the grinding poverty in West Virginia and small towns plagued by Mexican black tar heroin where American teens die of heroin overdoses from drugs sold and smuggled in by illegals) and say ENOUGH! Americans are deeply in need. No more unlimited immigration. No more "FU immigrants" who accuse those who vote Trump & oppose unchecked immigration as nationalist bigots. All my kids are Hispanic. I'm white. My sister urged me to get generous scholarships for my kids from Holy Cross cause they are MINORITIES. No thanks! HC went down the drain doctrinally & morally. My 17 year old flew from here ( Lima, Peru) and enlisted in the Marines. He's 100%pro-Trimp and America First. Time to stop draining our economy through welfare loving immigrants who think free lunches are real in America and gladly load up on the freebies yet forget that real American people in America are short changed. HOW MANY CARE?! Assimilation to a country and culture marked by honesty, self reliance and patriotism means America does better. America has been a nation where you can put a bushel of apples on a picnic table in a small town with a little bowl to pay and people wont steal the apples nor the small change even though no one's there watching. That's a fools proposition here in Peru. Jesuits need to teach AMERICAN CATHOLIC CHRISTIAN ways of life instead of kissing up to immigrants who need to wave our flag, learn to speak our language and learn our customs. We don't need cultural enrichment from foreigners in the US just like Peru, where I live, doesn't need to be enriched by American customs. While Jesuits are at it they can teach them that ABORTION IS GRAVELY SINFUL and politicians and political parties who support abortion are promoting evil and should be denied votes. Many clergy will have hell to pay at their judgements for facilitating the destruction of a Catholic friendly culture that once described the US.
Back in the 1990s, the great liberal heroine, former Congresswomen Barbara Jordan, an African-American lesbian chaired a panel appointed by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat mind you, which analyzed and generated prescriptions for handling illegal immigration. Jordan, who was not conservative by any means, publicly decried illegal immigration due to its adverse effect on the poor of this nation, including the poor in Latino and African American communities. We all know that employers through out our country want cheap labor, so they are the first in line to support illegal immigration in order to exploit the vulnerability of these immigrants. Social justice warriors refuse to admit that social justice cuts many ways, and financially poor and under-educated American citizens in this nation have been the first to feel the dislocation and deprivation caused by the influx of illegal immigrants taking employment from them.
You said, “The liberals want to convert illegal immigrants into a lever of political power. The illegals have children and VOILA they are Americans. This is an abuse of We The People.”
Liberals are not the ones who said illegals’ children would be American citizens. That was established after the Civil War with the 14th Amendment which states, “ALL PERSONS BORN OR NATURALIZED IN THE UNITED STATES, AND SUBJECT TO THE JURISDICTION THEREOF, ARE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES AND OF THE STATE WHEREIN THEY RESIDE.” This was created to clarify that former slaves were now clearly American citizens. Your complaint should be with southern conservatives who wanted to deny citizenship to former slaves and thus made the 14th Amendment necessary.
I am sorry your Marine cousin was denied full disability, but that decision was made by Social Security disability; not the liberals. BTW, liberals have fought to make rules easier for your cousin to get disability while Republicans fight against it. I am also sorry your mother had to work till she was 77. Again, liberals continually offer bills so that does not happen to the elderly, but Republicans fight them.
You state that in Miami, immigrants exploited the system. Most immigrants in Miami were from Cuba who were not your typical impoverished immigrant. Many were from the wealthier classes who had already exploited the poor in Cuba.
You state immigrants are draining our economy by going on welfare. I live in California where there are numerous immigrants. People who are around them are in awe of what hard workers they are. Whenever I see this I thank God I have been fortunate to have a very good life, but I never had to work as hard as these immigrants do. Many families have both parents working and sometimes at more than one job.
Liberals do not discount the needs of Americans. Again, I ask you to review bills offered by liberals to help Americans which are opposed by conservatives.
You say the Jesuits should teach the immigrants that abortion is a grave sin. Is there anyone in the world who does not know the Catholic Church teaches that? The Bible has over 2,000 verses about poverty and Jesus spoke of it frequently. I wish the church put more emphasis on the poor, who by the way, often get abortions because of their dismal financial situation.
You referred to the “destruction of a Catholic friendly culture that once described the US.” I am surprised by this comment. I am 77 years old and clearly remember the anti-Catholicism that existed in America during my time and which had existed since the beginning of the country. Americans hated the Irish Catholics who migrated here during the potato famine. They feared the Irish’ religion and culture. It was only after the election of JFK that anti-Catholicism started to dissipate.
Thank you for this thoughtful and helpful article. Certainly, this is a complex issue that calls for the clear definitions and careful distinctions that the authors have given. The unfolding of the world is certainly a messy business! The identification of common, core values shared in an American civic nationalism continues to elude us. When many Venn diagrams overlap, it is not always easy to find the point where all the sets intersect--the core values that bind diverse ways of being human.
The central event of Pentecost (Acts of the Apostles, Ch. 2) is the Good News, consequence of the Resurrection of Jesus, of persons from different places and speaking different languages being united by something much greater than an earthly or national identity. Dangerously sad is when we see Christians opting for nationalism over and above Gospel values. When Christianity bypasses this message and moves towards exclusion, it denies Pentecost which seeks unity in the obvious diversity of God's Creation. Rafael Garcia SJ
Fr. Garcia, charity begins at home. What's wrong with expecting immigrants to learn American customs, NOT fly foreign flags in the US, obey our laws and learn English? This is basic. Is this against the dictates of the Holy Spirit? Is not Counsel or Wisdom one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Are you going to tell me that Hispanic immigrants are not getting the Christian charity of the Gospels if we expect some RESPECT? Are immigrants to mentally disheveled to learn English? Here in Peru people love my message. They know the tidal wave of Venezuelans here has hurt them and offended them because too many Venezuelans display a foreign flag daily. Many Latins love this message of mutual respect and doing in Time what Romans are expected to do: https://youtu.be/075L2jR2h3E
Immigrants do learn American customs and English. They do it the way all previous immigrants did it. The grandparents usually do not learn English, the parents learn to speak English with an accent, and their kids speak English like an American. Your complaint has been a common complaint throughout our history. Nothing new. Ben Franklin strongly complained about the German immigrants for not speaking English, etc. Actually, the Germans went further than most immigrants. They insisted that their children go to school with the German language being the used language. They did not want to assimilate because they felt their culture was superior. This finally changed with the outbreak of WW I when Americans became very anti-German.
If you do not want foreign flags flying, do you complain about other groups who fly their old countries’ flags? Most Irish bars I have ever been in have an Irish flag. St. Patrick Day Parades have Irish flags flying all over and the Italian parades have Italian flags fly, etc.
I live in California where there are many Hispanic immigrants. I have never been treated disrespectfully by them. Nor have I ever treated them disrespectfully. I think respect has to go both ways.
Sounds like you concur with Ben Franklin's anti German bigotry. German immigrants wanting their children to be taught in their native language means that they thought they were 'superior"? Maybe they thought they were equal. The US has no national language. Are immigrants today who demand and got the government to produce all official documents in the language of these [non German,non English] immigrants also guilty of thinking they ere superior? You would not dare say that about any other immigrant group but you found an acceptable target to go after for not speaking English,The Latinos have stood up to this ; this is America we speak English[only] here,[ it mattered not if Asians retained their language so long as they were the servant class of the Anglo Americans; now that they'got uppity' and want to move up ,they get discriminated against in educational institutions]and so now Anglo Americans have had to accept Spanish as American too[ as Gutierrez proudly proclaimed in Spanish at the debate; in the US we speak Spanish too]. But you can, without push back, express Anglo American bigotry smearing past German immigrants as Ben the bigot did, and as you have now [ the German thinking they are superior, trope] for having wanted to speak their language!
Unity presumes diversity. Unity, therefore, is definitely not the same as uniformity and sameness, although it does not exclude them either. Personal and group (national, cultural) identities are the necessary building blocks of the united whole. Therefore, the richness of personal and national self-identities ought not to be squandered carelessly. Or, if you prefer Scriptural reference, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Cor 12:12)
So much for the denial of rampant white nationalism today under Trump from some hardcore Trump followers (actually Trump worshipers – who would no doubt continue to support Trump even if he shot someone in the middle of a crowded city). As a non-white naturalized American citizen, I’m afraid about the future of Trump America for people like me. Is this time for America to break up? There is absolutely nothing Christian nor Catholic about Trump America. It is utterly hypocrite and false to claim otherwise.
This is the same R.R. Reno who praised Trump’s bellicose speech in Poland in favor of populism and nationalism and who wrote that “we need not be chastened by Aushwitz”. We need not listen to a single word these people have to say about nationalism or anything else.
I have to admit that much of the content of this article is a bit unfamiliar to me. Nevertheless, it seems to me that our US Constitution, while having evolved through amendments, is a good starting point for common ground. Not everyone today is a fan of the Constitution, but it has withstood the test of time and has been amended through a rigorous process. What concerns me today are those who blithely advocate abolishing the electoral college, "packing the Supreme Court", calling for the President to be elected by nationwide popular vote and eliminating the requirement of having two Senators for each state, replacing that with one person, one vote or Statewide population to establish Senate membership for each state. The setup of national, state, county and local governments seems to work most of the time. We would not be a nation today if the thirteen original colonies had not compromised and ratified the Constitution. If any branch of government has underachieved in recent years, I think it is the Congress. One of the reasons the federal court system has become so prominent is that the Congress spends too much time raising funds for reelection and cannot seem to put country ahead of party. And how many days of the year are they in session? I'll take that job any day. Frankly I think that Roe versus Wade was wrongly decided and the emphasis should be on scientific evidence of when human life begins and not simply religious considerations or outdated benchmarks like "tri-mesters". We do have some national consensus on things like the popularity of major professional sports teams being a source of entertainment and rivalry between cities and states. Also the interstate highway system has bound us together. Immigration is controversial for many and it does not help that Congress has not passed an immigration reform bill for 20 or 25 years. Also if you read enough news stories you will find some evidence that not all non whites are against President Trump. And compared to other Presidents, Trump has used the veto pen sparingly.
The original anti-nationalist was Marx who viewed the worker as a universal good and not subject to the constraints of a "national" existence.
Call this so-called nationalism what it is: RACISM, EVIL.
Randall - That is far too easy and accurate! It'll never happen! LOL
If we're going to state the truth, then we should also say that abortion is evil, and several people who are supportive of abortion are racists because they want to restrict the number of babies born to women of color and poor women. Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated (unintentionally?) that originally many supported Rose v. Wade because too many "undesirable" people were having too many children. A Freudian slip, perhaps?
I live in CA and remember when Reagan was governor. He signed a law making abortion legal. I remember his administration and supporters had an implied view that they could get rid of “welfare babies” because now poor women could get abortions. That did not happen. Women of color and poor women tended not to get abortions. However, many middle class, affluent, and career women did get abortions. The Reagan crowd did not like that. Voilà!
They turned against abortion.
You state: “Regan et al had “an implied view that they could get rid of welfare babies because the poor could get abortion”
You indicated that “implied view “ did not happen but white women of means used abortion so then Regan et al became anti abortion. Utter nonsense!!!
First :One can only wonder how you attributed an actual key tenet of Margaret Sanger and the Progressive Movement to Ronald Regan....
Second: As to actual statistical information on the use of abortion by race ,ethnicity , and income a quick look at Guttmacher will demonstrate that you have your facts backwards.
So nice to read all of the comments. Problem is, we have likely lost the next generation(s). Indivudally, we are mostly kind and charitable. As an institution, the Church (both Catholics and Protestants are "the Church") is mostly hypocritical. I understand that elections have become the selection of the lesser of two evils, but evil is evil. Young folks see that supporting an immoral, self-centered, etc. President is the height of hypocricy. Any allignment to this President (perhaps the next divine one) will only alienate younger folks and continue the "de-Christianization" of this country. The dominate "religion" in the country will very soon be a form of Universalism in the sense that folks will find God in many religions because, well, God is in many religions. The fact is that we have shown that being "religious" does not mean one is moral, caring, loving, etc. It may mean the opposite. People can be good and caring (and pay their taxes, and follow the laws, and serve their country, etc.) without subscribing to Catholic or Protestant doctrine. I'm hopeful for the future generations. Maybe they can clean up some of the messes we've created.
This is just make believe. The vast majority of Evangelical churches have very little to do with politics. The writers really need to get out more.
Even if the majority of Evangelicals are not involved politically, the ones who are involved are the most well-known leaders and thus have a tremendous influence on the political landscape.
There is a single word missing in this treatise which lurks behind the entire thesis of these authors: GLOBALISM
It is understandable that the authors have avoided that word because it’s less than felicitous practice over the past 20 years have yielded the current very reactionary Nationalism which is the subject of this article.
Yet when the authors are through dissecting their objections to all forms of nationalism ,the only alternative left is the great kumbaya solution of open borders and Globalism....the great international cooperative.....the promotion of which has had many forms since Marx.
While the authors would like to cast these multi level issues as involving ethnic, racial and religious motivations, they studiously ignore the driving economic factors underlying/activating all these issues and are themselves the organizing principle of Globalism.
The Catholic Church has recognized “subsidiarity” as a fundamental principle and yet it can only be practically practiced in the City State model of government ......the anthesis Of Globalism.
All these right wing Americans decrying the bogey man globalism; why are you dropping bombs on Afghans who don't believe in women's equality? Why are you supporting a US imposed Afghan government at odds with the indigenous Taliban! Why are you supporting sanctioning Iran for [among other reasons]its penal laws against gays? That's all globalism.The nation state is a relatively new phenomena in world history. It may very well have outlived its usefulness and organic raison d'etre. A nation state no longer exists to go conquer other lands , subjugate the people,and take their resources.[Ostensibly]. It exists to have uniform laws, policies and values for a population. [ all countries are comprised of different tribes or ethnics if you go back far enough] .In a globalized world; global commerce, movements of people,instant shared communications, advanced technologies, the consciousness [in first world democracies]that universal human rights impose ethical imperatives that transcend nation state "interests", it is no longer evident that GLOBAL lawful structures [government] are not a natural replacement of the sovereign nation state. Though a rebellion against globalism may result in a retrenchment to the city /state ?[ sanctuary cities].
I have absolutely no idea of what your point is in this litany but suffice it to say that the Nation State is not exactly a relatively new historical phenomena.
Tribes have existed for a lot longer time then nation states have. The nation state is relatively new[since the Renaissance, in the West anyway?];a result of consolidation of tribes, whether imposed by imperial powers, or outgrowths of independent movements from colonial powers, and even today[ many] nation states have tribal fault lines.Civic Nationalism has not made the US immune either.Nationalism is nationalism as far as I'm concerned though civic nationalism sounds more palatable to Americans then ethnic nationalism. it's really the same thing; once you are corralled as a nation state; we accept everyone that become us; it's still us and not us.!
Push your nation state formation dates back a bit....say to Charlemagne in 800!
“The second hearse!” cried Ahab from the boat. “It’s wood could only be American! Thou damned Whale!”
According to Catholic social ethics a political candidate or politician is not defined by a single event, issue or character. I don't like Trump's rhetoric. I think he is too thin-skinned, over-reactionary to his critics and is not careful about the words he uses. However, most of his policies have been good for the people and our economy. Obama was far from perfect as well. However, his Affordable Care Act was a disaster, his Iran Deal was seriously flawed and negotiated behind closed doors (Congress was not consulted). Racial tensions under Obama grew and he never fixed the political divide in Congress but made it worse.
My point is simple. We are living in a polarized political climate where the only Presidential candidates for the 2020 election offer unworkable promises that will not only harm our economy but further the pollical divide. The claim that Trump's form of nationalism is 'ethnonationalism' is not convincing. It sounds like a lot of the hyper-talking points that the media and democrats echo about Trump every day. Clearly, Trump is a flawed President, but in many ways so were Obama and the front-runners such as Biden, Warren and Sanders. Are not the democrats for abortion on demand?
I did not vote for Trump or Clinton because my conscience could not allow me to support either candidate. I may not vote for Trump or Biden/Warren/Sanders either. However, I do believe that Trump has done a lot of good for the U.S. His approach has a lot to be desired, but I don't believe he is a racist, bigot or the personification of Satan as most of his detractors think.