“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12)
What should be the relation between a nation and God? It might seem that religion is so personal a matter that one cannot think of any real relation between a great aggregate of people, like a nation, and God. But aggregates of people have a character, an influence, a responsibility which they exercise. The individuals within them contribute largely to this, but the aggregate is more than and different from the sum of the individuals. The Old Testament is the record of God’s dealing with a nation. In it individuals are flashed upon the screen continually; but they are always individuals within the nation. When Christianity appeared, religion became both more personal and more universal in its implications. But we must never forget the profound debt of descent which Christianity owes to Judaism.
Some would attempt to divorce the religious from the national consciousness, on the grounds that when you add the religious to the national loyalty you have a fruitful source of egoistic nationalism, dragging in God for support. This danger is there, of course. It arises the moment the importance of the nation outstrips the importance of God. But there are some things to be said about this.
The first is that the nation, like the family, seems to be an intended unit of human society. There have always been these groupings according to race, or location, or language, or religion. How would you ever read history without individuals, families, and nations? Each of these seems to have a place in the permanent scheme of things.
I remember a time when I thought that all patriotism was inevitably jingoistic nationalism. I felt the thing to go for was a love and loyalty ...1
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