The Last Crusade: Superseding Nationalism

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This  morning I read a lecture from a Catholic-American artist, speaking of art and culture in the context of the overall health of mankind. Naturally, he finds the current neo-Babelism of the globalists to be something troubling, but what’s interesting is he takes a step back in the conflict between nationalism and globalism and finds something more important, and something eternal:

“As much as I lament that these knots and spirals would not be found in a church nowadays except as an expression of Irishness, I lament more that a church nowadays is likely to contain no artwork at all. We are living in a time comparable to the iconoclastic crises; contempt for tradition and sacred art is encountered at all levels of the Church.

Moreover, contemporary secular society is decidedly antitraditional. Those who mass-produce and peddle its culture profit by arousing the desire for novelty; things that are made to endure or to live with can only be sold once. Its music and art exist primarily as electronic simulacra. These can be sent across the world within seconds; bound to no particular place, they go to every nation and move them toward sameness. I do not know if such things can properly be called culture; I do not know if they can even properly be called things. A similar movement toward a postnational world is made in political and economic matters. The rules of national sovereignty are reduced to legal fictions, just as the marks of cultural identity are overwritten or erased.

Unsurprisingly, this provokes a reaction. All over the world, people are concerned to protect their self-determination and cultural identity from foreign influences, from invasive ways that are not theirs. That is to say, that are not theirs as Frenchmen or Englishmen or Germans or Americans. In such a time, when nationalism provides the motive to preserve tradition, and postnationalism the motive to destroy it, it seems that anyone who is a traditionalist in matters of religion or culture or art should and must be a nationalist as well.

The curious thing, however, is that in the history of Christianity, nationalism is not an especially traditional idea. A distinction between nations certainly is as ancient as the Tower of Babel, where the language of the whole earth was confounded: and from thence the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of all countries. But the idea that nationhood be the foremost way for a man to understand his identity, his place in history and in the world, began in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The choice presented between nationalism and postnationalism is a false dilemma; there is older way, and that is what is actually expressed in works of art such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and Chartres Cathedral. It is the idea of Christendom: that a man should understand his place in history and in the world not foremost as a member of a particular nation, but rather as a member of the universal Church. This is the way that once was maintained by the Church, and that naturally would be yet, were it not for the failure of its institutional authorities to stand fast, and hold to the traditions they have learned. Perhaps artists can take up the task, if churchmen will not, of reviving this magnanimous idea.

This idea of Christendom does not destroy the particular genii of nations, but neither does it provoke them to battle against each other. It rather establishes principles by which they may together praise the same God. Moreover, it establishes principles by which the Christian tradition may withstand foreign influences; not by barring them entry, but by converting them to its same sacred end, by staking upon whatever is true or good or beautiful in them a legitimate claim. “

He is right that our identities must first and foremost be our eternal citizenship, that of  the Kingdom of Heaven, and also that we should remember the context of our lives and purpose in these end times. What’s great about our heavenly citizenships, is that we may carry dual citizenships with our Earthly nations. Christ in his time on this Earth gave his ministry to one people, the people of Israel, though his focus was on the eternal birth of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Likewise he urged his followers not to be at odds with Rome, within the bounds Paul created most of his ministry.

I don’t think this is implying nationalism is wrong by any means, and I think it’s important tool to fight the neo-Babelists, but we do have to remember our priorities lay beyond it.


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7 thoughts on “The Last Crusade: Superseding Nationalism

  1. A bit of a challenge to you Jon… But first (and I’m assuming you’re not Catholic, but perhaps some form of Non-Denominational or Evangelical), have you read into the traditional Catholic views of Church and State? Not guys like Weigel or Novak (or the majority of the “tradition” out of which John C. Wright and similar writers (John Zmirak being a major popularizer) gets their political ideas), but the full throated, anti-Liberal (meaning the ideology which includes things like “Classical Liberalism”), “Church and State should be united” views. They tend to be scandalous to the modern post-Revolutionary.

    If I’m reading Matsui correctly (and I’m aware of his associations with certain Latin Rite movements in the [Catholic] Church, which add to that assumption), he may very well, at least tentatively, subscribe to them. A quick overview of the ideas can be gleaned from . Though a more robust discussion of the matter (with a lot of contemporary thinkers) can be found at .

    The challenge I’m positing is where you write “Christ in his time on this Earth gave his ministry to one people, the people of Israel, though his focus was on the eternal birth of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.” What is this “Kingdom of Heaven on Earth”? Is it just the invisible church, the community of believers who nod and wink at one another as we move about in the mist of this world awaiting the coming of some future kingdom? Or is it actually an institutional society, one capable of acting in the world, rightfully demanding, by the grace of God, due obedience from its citizenry and even the nations of the world?

    Christendom was once consciously the second. This was something foreshadowed not only in Israel’s devotion to God (representing the supernatural goal of man), but also in the Roman desire to unite all the diverse nations into a single empire (the natural goal of man) – one where the diverse nations remained themselves, but bound by devotion to the civilizing impetus of Rome. As the Church (sorry, doffing the ecumenical cap to let my Catholic locks fly free) took from Christ through Peter the keys which gave Her rightful authority over man’s supernatural life, so in conquering the decaying Roman empire she inherited the rightful authority to guide the natural life of man through the submission of the nation’s – all of this being the providence of God. Kings and emperors, of course, bucked this authority – so do we all – but only under this authority could the nations be united as one Christendom. Without it, they became the bloody, fight-for-what-is-mine nations we’ve seen struggling to kill one another for the past 500 years. It’s little wonder that the age of mass combat returned only after the first attempts to truly shatter Christendom came with the cuius regio of the Peace of Augsburg.

    I wonder how much nationalism is actually an “important tool to fight the neo-Babelists”. Jeroboam believed setting up the cult of the calves, calves he truly believed represented the LORD, would help keep his people from being enslaved to the true wickedness of Rehoboam, which it did. But from then on, the history of the Northern Kingdom was but a slow decline into destruction.

    (Yes, I’m aware one could paint the imperial ambition of Rome, the Holy Roman Empire, and similar empires, as just a flavor “neo-babel”. I think that’s being far too superficial and not fairly recognizing the differences between EU-style, secularist globalism and supernaturally-oriented imperial union. The first seeks to do away with all distinctions to make oneness, the second to have the distinctions exist, but purified in their unique devotion to the one transcendent goal – civilization in the case of Pagan Empire [Roman, Chinese, Japanese], Christendom in the case of the Catholic west [and maybe the Anglicans, but the British empire, for all it’s awesomeness, quickly fell into mercantile aims…])

        • There’s a lot of fun church and state synergy in countries like Iran, Jon. Maybe you should live there instead, since you lack a grasp of the actual U.S. constitution.

      • Tomas
        I oppose bring back Throne and Altar. As to synergy you’ll need to elaborate as to what it entails.
        Idon’t have any alternatives to propose right now.
        @toohpick pete

        Islam has aleays benn monist. There’s no such thing as church state relations in islam. What you have divine depotism. It’s chilastic and unstable.

        • Xaver,

          I can’t lie and say I don’t affirm the old Throne and Altar ideology – it affirmed both the superiority of the supernatural order while recognizing the dignity of the natural in a hierarchy which oriented all things to God.

          However, I don’t think it requires a king or theocracy. The fundamental truth of the Throne and Altar ideology is firstly, regarding the Throne, that Human nature is oriented according to it’s own natural powers to submitting to the divine will and thus all government must recognize it’s authority as coming from God and organize itself to facilitate the submission of man to God (NB: My use of submission [and the way some will have a red flag rise in it’s similarity to Islam] is intentional – Islam is not wrong because it calls for submission to God, it’s wrong because it doesn’t, at least in it’s Koranic form, recognize who God truly is [I leave aside the question of it’s Avicennian and Averrorian philosophical tradition or the Sufis and the complications entailed]).

          The second part of the ideology – the Altar – is an understanding that God has not only left us the natural, but has elevated man to a supernatural life wherein he may become a friend of God. This is the mission of the Church.The Throne participates in this mission to the degree that it carries out its own natural mission which, because it submits to God, thus also submits, in matters of the supernatural life and those things related to it, to the Church [Christ, God, and the Church being one, as explicated in the Pauline Corpus].

          Though I personally this relationship is best manifested in monarchical government (see, monarchy is not required. Look at, say, the original constitution of the Republic Ireland with it’s explicit Trinitarian invocation. Hungary and many Eastern European countries are moving in this direction (some Catholic, e.g. Poland, and others Orthodox), at least rhetorically. This are inheritors, sometimes obscurely, of the Throne and Altar ideology.

          NB: None of this is a reflection of Jon’s own thinking, but is purely my own. His use of the term synergy is not contradictory to my own understanding, but I prefer to eschew that term – it has overtures of Orthodox symphonia theology which, on my reading, is just caesaro-papism. I do not subscribe to caesar-papism.

  2. It is interesting that we live in a time when creating true beauty and art should be relatively easy. (I mean that the tools for creating such are more accessible than ever.) And yet we have a lot of noise and flashes of color, but rarely beauty (as opposed to attractive).

    I think this, along with the outright absence or removal of art where it would have been traditionally found, is because so many cultures (which necessitates people) have lost sight of truth.

    You can’t have beauty or art without truth.

    And looking at modern design, they strip out beauty and character until you’re left with something dull, but maybe sleek. The overall effect is erasure of the past with all its traditions and roots. Which I suppose is the end goal of globalism—no identities, sympathies for, or roots in the nations that came before. And, of course, to lose all those truths that truly make us happy and set us free.

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