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.
My identity 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.
Nationalism is a hard word to describe. In the later years it has become some what a buzz-word – an adjective that brings connotations to isolationism and fascism. While history shows that nationalism can bring totalitarianism it has also brought with it a feeling of safety – a place to belong to. It has brought movements of democracy. To have a national identity or to be proud of the country you belong to can be a great thing. The same applies to studies of nations history, to find examples of great leaders or events that formed a given nation. But nationalism is like a wild animal – it becomes dangerous if threatened. When a group of people get scared that their traditions, rituals, or life quality is slowly slipping out of their hands, they will rise to protect it. Then national history becomes a steppingstone for an aggressive, land gripping policy. Then identity becomes a border – religion a weapon.
I define myself as Danish. I am born in Denmark; I speak Danish and I feel at home in the small northern kingdom. But these geographical things are not what have formed me. Rather than my skin color or place of birth it is the Danish mentality that I find most important. Two things of this mentality should be presented here. Firstly, is the idea of an educated populace both in the traditional school way: history, maths, languages, and in spirit (german: geist). Secondly Denmark has had a high historical tolerance level. For example: Some cities had religious freedom before it was constitutionalized in 1849 and our strategic position geographically meant, that Denmark could have relative positive relations with the Soviet Union. I am of course a product of all this history. And I embrace it. Both the regrettable things that have happened throughout history and the warm feeling of home when I cross the border into the Kingdom of Denmark.
My name is Anna (Neldeberg Fallesen) Ravn, and I’m 25 years old. I’m born and raised in Sønderjylland (the southern part of Denmark that is linked to Germany), but today I live in Aarhus where I study theology at Aarhus University. My family isn’t very religious, but they more have a kind of “cultural Christianity”. I have especially got my interest for the church and Christianity during my childhood and a church choir I sang in. I’m dreaming about becoming a priest in the Danish church when I have finished my university studies, and I want go back to Sønderjylland to get a job.
For me nationalism is a very interesting and important issue – especially in connection to Sønderjylland. The area is originally the Northern part of the duchies Schleswig and Holstein, that had been under the Danish king – and later was made a part of Preussen in 1864. In 1920 after WW1 there was a vote about where to place the new border between Denmark and Germany, and that was the foundation for the Danish-German border today.
All this makes Sønderjylland an area with a lot of Danish nationalism. On the other hand, is the Danish and German minority on both sides of the border some of the best cooperating minorities in the world today. I think that is very inspiring.
During my master I have studied Protestant Theology in Zürich and did an ecumenical exchange program in Jerusalem (Theologisches Studienjahr Jerusalem). In Jerusalem I had the chance to take classes in Jewish and Islamic studies and I got in touch with contextual Palestinian Theology. I am currently a vicar in the Reformed church Stäfa-Hombrechtikon, which is part of the Reformed church canton Zürich. In August I will be ordained as Verbi Divini Ministra at the Grossmünster Zürich, Switzerland.
Switzerland has four recognized national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. The history of the Swiss reformation was with Zwingli and Bullinger (German), Calvin and Farel (French), Gallicius and Chiampell (Romansh) et al. multilingual from the start. The Protestant Church in Switzerland (PCS) represents roughly 2 million Protestants and is associated with 24 Reformed cantonal churches and the Protestant Methodist church in Switzerland. So, my questions – living and working in Switzerland – are: How can this (maybe forgotten) inward diversity be made fruitful for a welcoming and integrating church culture? And how can outward facing diversity, ecumenism and cosmopolitanism be fostered in a more complex and connected world, with the thread of nationalism on its horizon?