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America Must Get Off the Road to Germany’s Fate – What Living Abroad Taught Me About Christianity and Politics: Part 3

March 14, 2016


In Part One of this article series, I explained the first way my Christian political opinion “shifted” while living abroad in the Czech Republic for three years: Living abroad opened my eyes to the moral problem of political corruption. In Part Two, I shared that living abroad brought a teacher into my life who explained the deep impact of post-modernism on government. In Part Three, I share the third of four shifts.

Shift #3: Living abroad introduced me to the political and spiritual dangers of extreme nationalism.

During my second year in Prague, I had a conversation with a German, Christian expat. As a history nerd, I was brazen enough to ask Anke her perspective on World War II and Hitler. I learned that German nationalism has been at an all-time low since the war.  Why?  Because extreme nationalism gave Hitler his power. He promised to make Germany great again. This was amazing to me since I had recently graduated college where I had studied amazing German concertos, cantatas, opera, quartets and lieder. I was in love with German culture (and still am) – how could they not be proud of it? Yet their nationalism went so overboard in the 1930s that their national pride disappeared in the aftermath of Hitler’s Third Reich.

Anke was not the only German who revealed this to me. My husband, Matt, had the privilege to go on an informal fellowship retreat of Christian brothers in the German region of Bavaria, invited by a new friend. In the foothills of the Alps, they stayed in a small castle inherited by one of the participants. Matt asked one of the German men, Dietrich, what annoyed him most about America. First, Dietrich jokingly said hamburgers, since they are symbolic of American over-consumption of food. Then he followed that answer with a serious one, and that was over-nationalism. At the time, Obama and Romney were campaigning for the presidency and both were using rhetoric that America is and should continue to be the greatest nation in the world.  This greatest-nation rhetoric was very offensive to him and reminded him of the movement which gave rise to the Nazis. He confirmed what Anke had told me about the lack of German nationalism after the war. Only recently had Germans had the courage and reasonable pride to fly their national flag at a sporting event, and it was a very, very big deal. Something like that had not been done since the war. Lack of pride in their national identity was the sad repercussion of over-nationalism in Germany.

These contemporary German perspectives on nationalism brought depth to what Dr. Gillis Harp, a professor at the conservative Christian school Grove City College, had taught me in American History. America is not the embodiment of Jesus’ kingdom, contrary to what many Christian school curricula would teach us to believe. His Church is. I have realized that Christians can pray and vote for moral values in our government, but our pride and mission should rest in the spiritual kingdom of God. If the church is on the fringe of culture in America and has little earthly power, that’s okay.  God doesn’t need earthly power to spread his kingdom. Christians have no business equating their national pride with their Christian identity.

We must be careful not to idolize our country. God delights to give people good gifts- like a great Constitution and a beautiful heritage. It is good to preserve these things as well as we can – besides, the Olympics wouldn’t be as fun without some nationalism!  However, extreme nationalism is dangerous because it twists the redemptive mission of God’s kingdom into evil and injustice. Adolf Hitler claimed to be a Christian, and so does Donald Trump. Like Hitler’s bewildering success, Trump’s popularity rests largely on extreme nationalism that sadly draws misguided Christians. His campaign is fraught with political and spiritual peril, and uses bullying and intimidation as primary tactics.

Neither should we reject any candidate merely because their ideas are “un-American.” If other countries are doing well, it is reasonable to consider their systems with an open mind.   I think we may find that other countries have examples of more democratic, more free, and more just policies that we haven’t noticed because our heads are in the sand.

Christians, we are called to a higher allegiance than America: the Lord Jesus Christ and his Church. As I said in part 2, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. But we are called to further his Truth and Justice however we can, regardless of national pride. Trump is not Hitler, and we are not in post-WWI Germany.  Yet we may find a Hitler in the White House someday if we continue to make nationalism our guide. Vote strategically, my friends!

Continue to Part 4!

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