The rise of nationalism throughout the world makes this an important question to ask. Many people assume that patriotism is being loyal to one’s own country whatever happens. Sometimes we are expected to sing patriotic songs which glorify our nation, for instance here in the UK, one of the patriotic songs is “Rule Brittania, Brittania rules the waves, Britons never,never, will be slaves”, What absolute nonsense that shamefully glorifies our colonial past, perhaps more popular still is “Land of hope and glory, mother of the free”. We can get taken up with the fervour of these songs and almost believe the silly things we are singing. TheBiblical picture is very different, the prophets for instance were often critical of Israel and some ended up being imprisoned for the offence. They loved their country enough to tell the truth about it, even when the truth was unpopular. Jeremiah and Amos both faced fierce criticism and they were told to stop speaking and accused of not respecting those in authority. But they stood firm on the truth of Biblical standards in every area of life. Amos for instance time and time calls injustice sin and uses rather politically incorrect language to speak of the rich women who were exploiting others, referring to them as cows of Bashan. The prophet were never on the side of popular patriotism but rather had a deeper love for their nation than the normal patriotism. I call the prophetic form of patriotism, critical patriotism and I believe we need this at this hour. I am frightened by the growing nationalism in my own country, a nationalism that is very selfish and would cut foreign aid to needy nations so that our lifestyle can be preserved. This nationalism has its milder forms in parties like the United Kingdom Independence Party and its extreme form in the British National Party, but both buy into a false sense of patriotism which looks back to the past and does not see the opportunities for the future. Both the milder and most extreme forms of nationalism would herald a more unjust society by taking away many of the protections that exist in law at the moment. Much of current employment law would be abolished and the employee subject to greater exploitation. But perhaps what worries me even more is their mean mindset displayed in such things as their attitude to the poor and needy of our world.
Christians are called to work for justice,peace and righteousness and this can only be achieved if we don’t jump on the nationalist bandwagon. Let us instead follow the example of the prophets.