The Common Good
May-June 2003

Us and Them

by Karen Heaphey | May-June 2003

WHILE I AM sympathetic to the general point Gerald W.

WHILE I AM sympathetic to the general point Gerald W. Schlabach raises in his article "We Pledge Allegiance..." (January-February 2003)—that as Christians we are ultimately bound to a religious code of behavior above and beyond that imposed upon us as citizens of a particular country—I feel that it is important to question the idea of "nationalism," whether the "nation" being pledged to is a traditional nation-state or a particular religious community. The definition of nationalism is that one "exalts one nation above all others" and places "primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or groups" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). This is a fractious and, I would argue, un-Christian way to live.

Nationalism, by definition, breeds the categories of "us" and "them" with "us" always being the superior entity. Schlabach underscores this toxic aspect of nationalism by commenting that we should not bomb Iraq because in doing so we might kill other Christians. Jesus never said, "Love thy neighbor only if thy neighbor shares the same belief system you do." Killing anyone is antithetical to the Christian response, and nationalism as a way of structuring human society is the very breeding ground for conflict, violence, and a continuing inability for Christians to truly heed the call of "love thy neighbor."

Karen Heaphey
Oak Park, Illinois

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