Richard Beck, on his Substack today, on American nationalism resulting from the need for deep meaning:
…for most of human history, we achieved deep meaning by a connection with an ancestral people. Our tribe, kin, and clan. These relations gave us a history and roots.
But with the rise of the modern nation state, especially with such a rootless nation of immigrants like America, our identities have become increasingly associated less with a tribe than a state, a flag, a country. I am who I am–I matter, I have worth–because I’m an American.
It’s an easy observation that American nationalism is characterized by pride in the country, but Beck’s piece pushed me to think more about how Americans, and especially Christian Americans, could be helped away from the more vitriolic forms of nationalism by finding more meaning in other parts of their self-identity—perhaps specifically in their Christian faith.
Without deep meaning Americans achieve self-esteem via the status of the nation. You elevate the stature of the nation and you elevate the worth, value, and dignity of its citizens. Make America great and you make its people great. There is a primal pull here, rooted deep in the limbic system. It’s not abstract, but a raw, visceral ground of dignity.
How can I encourage other Christians to find more deep meaning and identity in their faith instead of (or even more than) their country?