I am Marie-Luise Großmann, 26 years old and studied theology. I come from the Lutheran Church in Bavaria and would like to become a pastor in this church. Above all, I find the contacts to other churches, within and outside Germany, enriching, in order to become aware of my own tradition and identity. On the other hand, I also want to continue to strive and struggle together with others for good and perhaps even better solutions and the shaping of our faith in this world. Identity is something dynamic and needs several counterparts – Martin Buber puts it this way: “Man becomes I in the Thou”. I am enjoying the process, the encounters, the development and I am curious to see where it will take me – for now I am very happy to have been in Vienna and to help shape the (church) future with other young theologians.
I am interested in the topic of “nationalism and cosmopolitanism” because for me there is the underlying question of how we shape this world: All living beings share the earth and its resources, need some of it and ideally give some back into the cycle. So how do we divide it up? What social, cultural structure helps us do that? And what role does/can religion have? I think we definitely need boundaries in this, to have smaller sub-units that make it easier to keep track of things, keep groups together and combine forces. Borders thus have a purpose and a function; they must not become an end in themselves. Rigid nationalism no longer fulfils the constructive function of borders. Nationalism is not enough, I think, to form an identity – there needs to be an unifying element at the same time. That’s where the Christian faith comes into play for me. It enables us to see the world as creation and integrates us as human beings into it. How we, supported by the Christian faith, can have a say in society and world events, how we can stand up for democracy and diversity and how encounters can happen across borders is what interests me in this topic and I’m very excited to have met young people, share ideas and ultimately give shape to and celebrating our reconciled diversity. I hope to continue doing so by being part of the Forum Young Theology.
My Name is Alexander, i am 24 years old and I am studying Protestant Theology. My Church is the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Bavaria. During my studies in Neuendettelsau, Tübingen, Ecumenical Institute of Bossey and Leipzig I raised a lot of different experiences about being a Christian in this world and having different contexts. Currently I am preparing for my final exams in autumn and after them I want to become a pastor in my church. Trough all crisis of society and churches I am convinced that the message of the gospel leads us to live our faith out in a joyful way. In my free time I appreciated to play football, meet friends and helping at my family’s vinery.
What I think about the topic?
The ambiguity of nationalism and cosmopolitanism is an ongoing question in the different countries in our world. Some people and states emphasis (strongly) their national identity connected to language, culture etc., while others shape their identity more open and cosmopolite to everyone. Thinking about this two terms is urgently needed in our times, while the nationalist/national movements increase in the different countries of their and are risking the way to stay in a worldwide community. Personally its important for me to come from Franconia/Bavaria, especially in comparison to the rest of Germany, and I am a Christian with Lutheran confession. But it’s my context and does not prevent me to meet other people from different contexts and to celebrate services and build up Christian community. Being a Christian is more essential for me than other things. My Question’s to the conference are, how different churches, Christians and theologians are acting between the points of nationalism and cosmopolitanism. And also: How we as Christians can contribute to this topic.
What I take home?
As Christians, who are living in different contexts and have different identities more or less shaped by national/cosmopolite ideas, we are challenged every time when we work ecumenical and meet our brothers and sisters. There is our national origin we cannot deny, but when we are together in community with Jesus Christ, our identity, which is also Christian, we have to learn to overcome everything, which is us separating from our community with god. Because our Churches more or less focus on this national identity, young theologians like us have to work on it and try to provide a way of reconciliation towards a Christian identity, where national/cosmopolite contexts play a role, but not are dominating our christian hearts. Essential for this is the experience of community like in this conference, which is dismounting stereotypes and exclusive narratives between us as Europeans and Christians. Through the conference I developed my understanding of the European Protestant Churches and it opened for me another way of having ecumenical relations to my brothers and sister with their specific (national/cosmopolite) contexts/identities.
An identity is not the individual “art project” of the ego. A person’s identity – and thus also my identity – is formed through relations. Being a person is not the dialectical becoming of a thinking substance surrounded by material substance, but rather being is both individual and one as consciousness unfolding in and through relations. Identity is found in mutual love, respect, empowerment and encouragement and is perverted through the lack of these. Apart from truth, goodness, beauty and love one cannot find one’s identity. We learn this through the mirror of trinitarian relations.
National identity is an abstraction of the common features of certain relations individuals appreciate. However, my concern with nationalism is that it is a rigid concept, which extrapolates a Freudian ego-project to a larger scale and neglects a certain fluidity and dynamic plurality of identity. The second issue I have with the concept is that the idea of pure self-determination or self- governance of a nation (and an individual for that matter) is an illusion of the ideal of Kantian autonomy and a problematic concept of freedom as simple freedom of choice. Not only is nationalism in tension with the trinitarian idea of personhood, but when fused with Christianity, it creates a community uncapable of communications, cooperation, mission and true relation of reciprocal love with anyone outside the group. It is the uncertainty of one’s identity and the fear of losing one’s self that fuels nationalism. Any talk of national virtue or a “nations’ sin” distorts the core Christian doctrines of original sin and the efficacy of Christ’s salvation for the whole creation. Through the example of the Lutheran Churches in Myanmar I have seen that these nationalist Churches have no future. I strongly believe this same applies to a community of people as a “nation”.
My name is Vittorio Secco, I am 29 years old and I am a member of the Evangelical Waldensian Church in Italy. I graduated in History, Classical Philology and Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Genoa. Following the vocation to the pastoral ministry I started studying Protestant Theology at the Valdese Faculty of Rome.
I am currently a student for the master’s degree in theology at the same faculty. I like very much ancient languages and translation. I am very grateful to be able to participate in this conference, because I believe that to some extent phenomena such as nationalism and populism do not concern strictly only the political sphere, but involve us as believers and citizens, in Europe and in the world. Meeting and listening to different voices can only be useful for each of us.
I am a Danish theology student, who is proud of being Danish citizen but also a EU citizen. I am currently writeing my bachelor, in the field of New Testament, Pauls letter to the Galatians.
Why Nationalism concerns me
Nationalism is a concern for me within the church, because it is easy for a majority church to isolate itself and thereby make an isolated theology, where its easy to forget that the church is a part of a bigger narrative, a bigger picture. The same goes for politics. I think we have to define us together and remember that more perspectives can fill out a bigger picture.
My studies of Paul has led me to a greater understanding of the ecumenical work. Reading his letters has left me with the feeling of the work he had to do to keep the early congregations together. I see a potential danger in churches only defining themselves without other churches in other countries who identify as the same church, ie. Lutherans or Calvinist. Therefore im looking forward for this conference, to actually meet people representing other protestant churches from other EU contries. I find it so important that the churches keep the conversations alive, and keep getting a better understanding of eachother.
Born in the freshly united Berlin and grown up and educated for ONE half of my life in progressist and liberal cities of Germany (in Baden, Württemberg and Franken), but shaped and impregnated mainly through the OTHER half of my life in the home region of my parents and hole family, romanian Transsylvania, I feel myself as a wanderer between the worlds and a sensible knower of their slight differences. As lutheran Saxon, earning a lot from local community´s cultural and spiritual richness, I early began to feel resistance against the defamation of home („Heimat“) and heritage, which I was learned to in German schools. On the other hand my inner conviction converges to Paul´s „All things are lawful for me; but not all things are expedient“ and to a justification of any lifestyle which offers love to the neighbour.
Being on the path from a freelancer musician to a church pastor, I´m continously looking for ways of communication between the multifaceted beauty of our world and our understanding of God´s will. I try to tolerate all, also extreme, postions (of different friends I have) concerning the relation between identity and society, national (/ethnical/familiar…) belonging and foreign attractions and I try to look always for their good motives. A big curiosity for opinions and perspectives fulfills the meaning of our existence.
First of all, I think that today the issue of nationalism is back in the limelight, not only in Europe, but in much of the world. For example, in Chile we are currently discussing whether or not we should be a plurinational country, which would imply recognizing the indigenous people of the territory. This has led to criticism, such as that the country could fragment and lose its sense of unity. It is therefore worth asking, what is it that unites a State and its population, and whether we are prepared to discuss the diversity of its members. In this sense, I see with concern how nationalist discourse is used at the political level in order to exclude those who “do not belong” to a certain place, without carrying out a deeper reflection in terms of identity. Therefore, the relevance of talking about this issue and its implications in the life of society and the church.
On the other hand, talking about identity is always a complex matter, and even more so if we have to define ourselves in those terms in a country that has different peoples and cultures. I could say that I am a Chilean from the south of Chile, with German roots (my name, my paternal origin, the school where I study, etc.) which differentiates me from a good percentage of the Chilean population in general.At the same time, I have my maternal origins on an island in the south of Chile, Chiloé, which is also somewhat particular for the Chilean context. Still, I identify with the Chilean idiosyncrasy, with its particular language and culture. I would then define myself as a Chilean, southern, with German and Chiloé roots.
Why the topic of nationalism concerns you personally and how your identity is defined.
My name is Jonas, I’m 25 years old and I am approaching my last year of my master’s degree.
Im from Denmark and study at Aarhus University Arts, Theology.
Though my personal interests and studies I’ve worked with the topic of extremism within Christianity. Quite often the topic of Christian extremism and right-wing nationalism goes hand in hand and as such I have experience with that as well. As such I have also in regards to my work studied multiple nationalistic manifestos on the topics that concern Christianity. Namely those of Brenton Tarrant and Anders Breivik. Extending that, I have investigated the more fringe organizations such as Qanon, Incel culture, 3%ers and the like. I have not as such worked with the more mainstream politics on a professional level though I do have some political interest.
Personally I find that there is a worrying increase in nationalist sentiments that are unhealthy for unity and cooperation, and I find that many of these tendencies needs to be counteracted on multiple fronts, primarily, as in concerns us, the church front. I find there is a need for greater understanding of the issues of nationalism and how to increase cooperation across cultures and, by extension, religion.
This may very well place me on the more cosmopolitan aspect of the spectrum.
Nationalistic ideas are not just widespread in Middle-East Europe of the 21th century, but they also seem to get stronger political representation in most of the countries. The rhetoric of Nationalism is so much present in the public life and debates as it cannot be left unnoticed or ignored. I was always interested how the followers of the same ideas can be sometimes the worst enemies of each other. By studying the logic of Nationalism, I hope that we can get insight into the failures of the past, and we can shape our future better. It is important to perceive the dangers behind nationalistic ideas, which lead to exclusion, but also to identify the resources lying in the benevolent national sentiment of the individual.
I would describe myself as a reformed Hungarian, who comes from a region with rich cultural heritage. The multilingualism, -etnicity and -culturalism of Transylvania can show us how living together in peace is not self-evident, but possible, and working together for an inclusive society should be one of the top priorities of every community. The history of Transylvania in the last century provides us both good and bad examples – we have to choose our way, which one we want to follow.