Nation as a cultural phenomenon theologically understood

Rev. Prof. dr hab. Czeslaw Stanislaw Bartnik

Czeslaw Stanislaw Bartnik (1929-),
Professor of Systematic Theology at the Catholic University of Lublin, Poland. He has especially developed the theology of nation in Christian social anthropology. Rev. Bartnik wrote about 60 books and 1500 articles, and he promoted 60 doctoral dissertations. His famous books are: Personalistyczna teoria historii (Poznan 1964), Narod i spoleczenstwo (Czestochowa 1990), Personalizm (Lublin 1995, 2000), Teologia narodu (Czestochowa 1999), Dogmatyka katolicka (Lublin 1999 - vol. 1, 2003 - vol. 2)

Not all Western intellectual movements consider 'nation' as a subject of science. Some consider only state, society, social groups or population. Although, such tendencies have long tradition reaching Enlightenment, they are nevertheless wrong. This position arises from the utopian spirit and atheistic idealism. In Poland 'nation' is considered unreservedly by such sciences as history, sociology, ethnology, culturology, law sciences, philosophy and - by my initiative - theology. From the anti-national perspective, it may seem that this is, particularly theology of nation, a nationalistic provocation. However, the theology of nation categorically rejects any nationalism, however it acknowledges the existence of the nation and tries to characterize it in the context of God, Christian revelation and the Church.
There exist opinions that the notion of the nation appeared in the Western world only in the XIX century due to the development of national ideology (e.g. J. Szacki). However, it seems that this position is rooted in the idealistic understanding of national idea. However, research suggests that some, although rudimentary, notion of the nation, ever changing and developing, was present in ancient imprecise notions of am, ethnos, Laos, natio, populus and gens. In any case, some form of nation science, including nation theology, becomes indispensable, particularly in the context of European and world globalisation. They should be included in the broadly construed social anthropology.

From community to individuality

In all ancient religions and cultures, a notion of community seems to be dominating. It was even the case in the pre-national forms of social structures such as kinship or tribe. Individual life in such communities was in fact revolving around the community and was regulated by laws, ethics and religion. Individuality was not significant, unless the person was performing an important, particularly leading, function in the community. Community possessed more human attributes than an individual. Perhaps such an arrangement was necessary for the development of mankind.
The revolution in respect to this started with expansion of Christianity in the Mediterranean world. Thus, appeared not only everything defining individuality but also a person, namely Jesus Christ. In the past only gods and rulers were individuals. Now, Jesus Christ became an archetype of human as a person: Nazarene Jesus, Human and God in one.
This individual person summarized the whole Chosen Nation, the Messianic Nation, indeed the entire human kind and the whole world, "to unify everything anew in Christ as the Head, this what's in heaven and that what's on Earth" (Ef 1, 10). The basic social category was diverted: it was the individual that was all-important not the community. At the same time all believers and all people were to become a reflection of Christ, even if a distant one. Thus, they were to be God's Children and thus individual and unique. Man started to discover his individuality.
In the Christian Western world the conditions favoring a balance between individuality and community existed for a long period of time because Jesus Christ appears at the same time to be the social Christ, Mystic Body, God's Community and Head of the entire human kind. In addition, the Roman Empire with its universal spirit supported a category of the general society. However, after a millennium in western Christianity an idea opposite to ancient times started to dominate: it's the concretum that's important and not commune or universale. Thus it was the individual that was important not the community.
From XII century, after Boethius, a human became more frequently characterized as somebody individual, particular, singular, 'aliquis singularis', 'singularitas' (Richard of St. Victor, St. Thomas of Aquinas, Blessed John Duns Scotus). From XIX century this process accelerated significantly: individualism, liberalism, positivism.
Today it culminates in postmodernism: individual is an only autoexistance, norm of everything, law upon himself, ethics, and 'god'. This leads to a paradoxical revolution in democracy: it's not an individual that follows the community but the anonymous community, which obeys an individual, who is of course extraordinary, demiurgic. This leads to social destructivism and social fragmentation and even to some sort of solipsism (solus ipse meaning alone), to relativisation of another person and a society, constituting at best a background for a single actor only. It thus is a distorted interpretation of Christian dogma about Jesus Christ.
In current frankfurtian or globalist anthropology, society is not human; human is only an individual, extraordinary, conquering. Thus, he can do with the society, with the 'masses' whatever he wishes. He can experiment on the masses, treat them as a collection of animals or objects, mould freely, perform genetic profiling, limit births and life spans, kill some subpopulations in any stadium of development and finally lie to. The individual does not have any obligations ethical, legal, educational or religious.
As a consequence, nowadays in the euro-atlantic culture such notions as marriage, family, nation, mankind are increasingly widely negated. All that matters is individuality, my 'myself' and population - some secondary products: collectiveness of life, work associations, interest groups, companies, firms, parties and others. This perfectly reflects the idea of marriages between people of the same sex - as a bond without somatic, psychic or natural relationship and only based on feelings, accident or interest. It's a relationship in which the two or more sides remain alone and for themselves. As a result, it seems that the radical rejection of the human society is a simple consequence of negation of God.

"Nation" against individualism and collectivism

Individualism gave rise by contrast to a collectivist reaction: socialism, heglism, marxism, structuralism. In this situation, Christian anthropology seeks equilibrium by means of ideas of the nation and God as a Creator of individual and social mankind. Such trends were very strong in Poland: romanticism, Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski (Primate of Poland), Pope John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla), Archbishop Ignacy Tokarczuk, Czeslaw Stanislaw Bartnik. Recently they appear in the United States as a defensive reaction against globalistic and Zionistic manipulations. The leading theme is not an ideology or computer technology but nature's reality. After all, individual and society constitute a dyadic entity. It means that God created human not only as an individual in the material world but also as a social multidimensional being: of two sexes, familial and national.
Thus, one must not treat man as a mere individual. A person should be considered only in relation to others: he fulfills himself only by reaching out to others (reditio ad seipsam), thus he becomes a person in a super somatic sense due to the presence of others and a relationship with them.
A person is somebody existing among others, 'somebody coexisting in a human way' (aliquis realiter coexistens).
Marriage and family can be ontologically understood only as a complete correlation of people on the basis of nature, God's will, ethics and social law. On the other hand the national society is not only a figment of engineering, agreement or purely human law, nor is it a geographical region, a state nor ideological or political orientation. It exists because of God's will, because of some anthropogenesis in the world of creation.
Nation consists of persons of absolute value: parents, siblings, ancestors, children and grandchildren, teachers, relatives and kin - one big human organism with common sentience, mind, will, emotions, deeds, creativity, with a common thematic screen. Man becomes himself in the nation and nation is a social living 'human', preserved by specific God's and human laws.
Generally, it is accepted in all ethical codes that one must not kill innocent individuals (perhaps with an exception of euthanasia and abortion), however still it is not considered a crime to kill innocent human groupings: freedom fighters, political opposition, immigrant, victims of terrorist activities. It is also a consequence of a mistaken concept of society and lack of nation theology.

What and who is the nation?

Briefly, nation is a particular antropogenetic branch, bound by common origin, consciousness, patria, language and culture, thanks to which a population perceives a common national identity (a common biological origin is not necessary for this).
More generally, nation has to be understood as a particular, developed and relatively autonomic branch of common anthropogenesis, arising on the grounds of common ancestry, patria and space-time. It is consolidated together by history, tradition, culture, self-awareness, emotions and language (or a language group) into a living material organism, psychological and social and realizing in itself bodily and spiritual dimension of human nature, towards collective personality and awareness expressive in its praxis and creativity.
Thus, there exists a form of parallelism between notion of a nation and an individual human being. There are three common dimensions: somatic, spiritual and personal. Discussing all the characteristics of these dimensions goes beyond the scope of this article, however some more important ones need to be discussed.
Somatic aspect of a nation constitutes its material dimension: biological, genetic and natural - anthropogenetic paths as well as geographic location, economy, nature, heritage, material culture, traditions and any other objective aspects of a given population in space and time.
The spiritual dimension constitute ideas, spiritual culture, 'psychological character', language (or languages), acquired experiences, customs and habits, kinds of occupations, character of arts, ethical sense, religion, awareness of a purpose, mythology, heroes archetypes and others.
Personal dimension constitutes of: 'national spirit', a kind of national awareness, a type of self-identification, an internal communication style, morale levels, collection of ideals, coherence of thought, will and action, character of the role played on the world scene, choice of goals and values, religion, dreams, poetry and others.
The last personal dimension is the most important. It determines that a particular anthropogenetic branch constitutes a particular nation: it has its own identity, awareness, sentience, uniqueness and a relative historical stability. Therefore, the belonging is determined not so much by biological ancestry, 'blood and body', but rather by decision, affirmation and feeling of bond.
There is a feedback between the 'nation of individuals' and a single individual: individual lives in the nation, due to the nation and for the nation (communities created artificially by humans are only supportive), and the nation exist for, in and of every individual (hence follows an absolute prohibition of euthanasia, abortion and anti-family marriages).
The Nation is neither a superorganism with absolute determinism nor a mere sum of individuals or families nor loose collection of interests and profits. It is also not a virtual society but a real and living one demanding rejection of individual egoism. The nation is a particular denominator of religious, spiritual and moral life.
That's why Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski and Pope John Paul II talk about the Christian nation, 'baptized', 'accepting Confirmation and Holy Communion', 'believing'. The nation is a denominator of common morality. As demonstrated throughout history there exist nations that are criminal, nefarious and conquering. However, a nation deeply immoral and degenerated is rather an anti-nation. The proper national covenant is truth, goodness, beauty, freedom of spirit and faith in God.
Religion, ethics, law, pedagogy and all other higher values determine the personal dimension of a nation. Fundamental God's and human laws and norms strictly delineate national politics and pragmatics, although throughout history nations usually were fighting with each other and were committing horrible crimes towards the others. Probably mankind is bound by the law of defense, from which it needs to free itself.
Nowadays, we start to appreciate more clearly that every nation, and not only individuals, has its own rights, unassailable by the rulers, politicians and social engineers. These rights are: the right to be born, the right to somatic and spiritual integrity, the right to patriotic love, to one's own awareness, to sovereignty and freedom, to access to the natural resources, the right to the Family of Nations, the right to the world scene of nations, the right to peace and assemblies, to tradition and remembrance, to access mankind achievements, to development, to creativity, to one's own contribution towards general world well being, to participation in the cosmic life, to the future, the right to somatic and spiritual improvement, to religion and dreams. All these rights are associated with the corresponding duties.

Modern negation of a nation

Modern negation of a nation. Starting in XIX century both individualists and collectivists have been undergoing a significant atheisation, which consequently has led to increasing aggression against a nation as it is bearing religions, moral and creative meaning. First of all, the notion of a nation seems to constrain the owners of this world and is not amenable for 'human engineering' manipulation. In addition, a nation seems to be, related to the Church, a hindrance on the way towards creation of European super-state. It's possible to annul or dismantle the member states, but it's difficult to eliminate or equalize European nations.
And thus makers of the European Union face a dilemma: either grant some national autonomy and create an international empire or attempt to create a new 'European nation', thus treating present nations as transient in the overall human anthropogenesis. However, the latter choice would not be a good one. It is possible to form a new state out of old states, but nation is a different matter - one needs centuries and understanding of all the factors shaping formation of nationality.
European unity must be achieved by indirect means: via confirmation of autonomy of the nations, their development, intellectual and spiritual perfection as well as creation of grand national family on the basis of common economy, technology, mutual support and undertaking great human, as well as religious, ideas. It is necessary to improve nations in a worldview, in belief in God, in ethics, work, creativity and international pedagogy.
Perhaps in the distant future mankind will achieve a creation of one common nation on Earth or on other celestial bodies, but there is a concern that it would thus loose the genetic diversity, and the richness of goals, which would bring about biological and spiritual stagnancy. Anti-national theories nowadays have idealistic roots and suffer from a lack of realism.
Consequently, atheistic social ideas are too unilateral, minimalist and thus erroneous. Dream about virtual societies is the most utopian concept, negating a realism of God as the Creator and considering as such a human individual.
Giving up marriage, family, clans, nation and whole worldly Family of Nations into the hands of world 'creators' and destroyers of life, almost invariably leads to the annihilation of mankind. In creative and scientific courage there must be a great wisdom, and patient search for the light of God the Creator.

Translated by David G. Poynton


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