PURITAN NEWS WEEKLY
By J. Parnell McCarter
The American Heritage® Dictionary of
the English Language, Fourth Edition has these definitions for ‘nation’:
- A relatively large
group of people organized under a single, usually independent government;
- The territory occupied
by such a group of people: All across the nation, people are voting
their representatives out.
- The government of a sovereign state.
- A people who share common customs, origins,
history, and frequently language; a nationality: “Historically the
Ukrainians are an ancient nation which has persisted and survived through
terrible calamity” (Robert Conquest).
As the definition above suggests, it is possible to carve
out nations (according to the first definition above) without due respect of
national (according to the third definition above) integrity. Most nations today contain a variety of
ethnic enclaves, and the people in these ethnic enclaves often resent being
ruled over by people of a different ethnicity. Biblically speaking, is this ideal? Is this the best way to promote peace among people of different “tribes
sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies noted the distinction of ‘nation’ by these two
categories of human association:
Gesellschaft Versus Gemeinschaft.
is an association in which individuals are oriented to the large association as
much if not more than to their own self interest. Furthermore, individuals in
Gemeinschaft are regulated by common mores. Tönnies saw the family as the most
perfect expression of Gemeinschaft; however, he expected that Gemeinschaft
could be based on shared place and shared belief as well as kinship, and he
included globally dispersed religious communities as possible examples of
Gemeinschaft. In such societies there
is less need to enforce social control externally, due to a collective sense of
loyalty individuals feel for society. Historically, Gemeinschaft societies were
largely ethnically homogeneous, with differences in the community (such as
marriage of a person from outside) rather rapidly assimilated into the
whole. Gesellschaft, in contrast,
describes associations in which, for the individual, the larger association
never takes on more importance than individual self interest, and lack the same
level of shared mores. Gesellschaft is maintained through individuals acting in
their own self interest. A modern business is a good example of Gesellschaft:
the workers, managers, and owners may have very little in terms of shared
orientations or beliefs, they may not care deeply for the product they are
making, but it is in all their self interest to come to work to make money, and
thus the business continues. Unlike Gemeinschaften, Gesellschaften emphasize
secondary relationships rather than familial or community ties, and there is
generally less individual loyalty to society. Social cohesion in Gesellschafts
typically derives from a more elaborate division of labor. Such societies are
considered more susceptible to class conflict as well as racial and ethnic
Most modern nations seem to be carved up the way
they are based on imperialistic motives.
Let’s consider some examples:
- The European Russians want to control territory far in excess of the
area where European Russians are numerically dominant. Chechnya is an example. It is predominantly Chechen in
demography, yet part of the Russian Federation.
- The Han Chinese also want to control territory far in excess of the
area where they are numerically dominant.
western provinces of China - Yunnan, Tibet, and Xinjiang – contain
majority populations ethnically and socially diverse from China. To take the example of Xinjiang, there
8 million Muslim and Turkic-speaking Uighars outnumber the Han within its
- The Turks also want to control territory in excess of the area where
they are numerically dominant, including area in southest Turkey where
In the above cases, as well as others, many conflicts
and much strife have arisen because of imperialist ambitions. In order to hold such diverse populations
together, nations like China, Turkey, and Russia have tended to adopt more
But as Christians we should ask: is this policy wise and Biblical? Should we instead encourage the **peaceful**
establishment of nations (according to the first definition) that respect
national (according to the third definition) identity, while also encouraging
each such nation to establish Biblical Protestantism?