By J. Parnell McCarter



The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition has these definitions for ‘nation’:

    1. A relatively large group of people organized under a single, usually independent government; a country.
    2. The territory occupied by such a group of people: All across the nation, people are voting their representatives out.
  2. The government of a sovereign state.
  3. 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 and tongues”?


The German sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies noted the distinction of ‘nation’ by these two categories of human association:  Gesellschaft Versus Gemeinschaft.  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 conflicts. 


Most modern nations seem to be carved up the way they are based on imperialistic motives.  Let’s consider some examples:





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 secularist constitutions. 


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?