According to Wikipedia: “Nationalism is a political, social, and economic system characterized by the promotion of the interests of a particular nation, especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining sovereignty over the homeland.”
This seems like a reasonable way to approach your citizenship. You promote the interest of your own country. If you live in a country and you promote the interest of other nations at the expense of your own, that can be called many things, some of them derogatory. And I can see how this would set people at odds with one another. It’s like being a member of the world’s largest homeowners association. If you promote the neighborhood and its safety, health and general well-being, and you have neighbors who jeopardize those things, this can be a problem. It is especially vexing to the neighborhood if those people who want to compromise the neighborhood’s safety or well-being are calling the other neighbors mean and racist and Nazis for wanting to protect the neighborhood.
When the President, who is well known for his desire to protect America from illegal immigrants, calls himself a Nationalist, it causes an uproar. His critics immediately attach the modifier “white” to it and accuse him of having the KKK in the White House. To be sure, there are things called white nationalists, just as there are black nationalists. But those modifiers are necessary to give an accurate description of the thing you are criticizing.
If you cannot accurately criticize someone, you can always claim that the word used is a “dog whistle.” It is a secret code word for something evil. The problem with these mysterious dog whistles is that only the accusers can hear them. That makes the accusation more about the accuser than the accused.
For several years, before Donald Trump was elected, I had dropped out of political discussions. They seem to be futile and useless. To me, the only thing that really matters is eternal salvation, and reaching children with the Gospel through Good News Clubs. That continues to be what really matters to me. If we want to change the future, we need to change the people, and that cannot happen early enough in our lives.
Unfortunately, very few Christians even care about this. They are caught up in the political fury of this moment, and I can see how this has happened. The church does not send the Gospel into the neighborhoods. It defends it inside its buildings. And a defensive church becomes increasingly sensitive to criticism, being accused of being bigoted, racist, homophobic, mean, and selfish. It starts trying to improve its public relations instead of standing firm on the truth. And the truth is that the Gospel is not an accusation; it’s an invitation. Paul wrote that, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Unfortunately, we live in a culture of accusation. The accusation is a steady drumbeat against neighbors you want to destroy or overpower. The accusation does not have to be true.It just has to stick. This was the essence of the French Revolution and its Reign of Terror, during which 40,000 people were executed on the strength of an accusation that they were enemies of the people. Many of them were religious people. The French Revolution was quite hostile to religion, even approving a new calendar which rejected all dates AD, Anno Domini, years of our Lord.
We may not be beheading people, but Americans do seem to be losing their heads, figuratively speaking. They accuse their neighbors over their political affiliation, their position on immigration, their right to free speech, and they disassociate from their friends and family over it. It didn’t start with Trump. It didn’t start with Obama. It has been growing over time as politics has grown like a cancer in the hearts and minds of too many of our neighbors. This Tuesday there will be a meeting of the National Homeowners Association, and the early voting is record breaking for a midterm. Have people had enough of their neighbors’ accusations? Or do they want more of it? Whatever the result, our sins will be forgiven by the final arbiter of all things if we will repent and put our faith in Him.