There are hints of ethical ideas in the words ’positive’ and ’negative’ in these titles and I have drawn from these two basic concepts in developing the following five paradigms. Please offer comments on any or all of the paradigms as you feel led. (Please note that I am using the term ‘ethnonational identity’ in place of ‘ethnicity’.)
Questions to consider: Which paradigm to you feel most closely corresponds to a ’biblical view’? Which one is most at odds with a ’biblical view’? Why? Which paradigm(s) do you think Christians most commonly hold? Why? Can you think of any situations in which one or more of these paradigms was actually applied? What were the consequences?
Ethnonational identity (or ’ethnicity’) is essentially and ultimately negative because it is a group identity which suppresses individual identity and inhibits those individuals from being integrated fully and equally into a larger, corporate and unified identity. Ethnonational identity, as the basis for ethnonationalism and racism, is itself a primary source of human conflict and tragedy. It should, therefore, be dissolved and integrated into a larger, greater ’meta-national’ identity. This meta-national identity is either the larger multi-ethnic civic nation-state within the international nation-state system or the one global unity of humankind which itself transcends and integrates all nation-states, and therefore, ethnic groups, into one global socio-political order.
The Paradigm of Negative Tolerance: Modified Civic Nationalism/Globalism
Ethnonational identity has some good sides, but it is essentially and ultimately negative because it is a group identity which suppresses individual identity and inhibits those individuals from being integrated fully and equally into a larger, corporate and unified identity. Ethnonational identity, as the basis for ethnonationalism and racism, is itself a primary source of human conflict and tragedy. However, the mere persistence of ethnonational identity in human history demonstrates that it most likely will remain for many decades or even centuries to come as a phenomenon of human identity (at least until the nation-state system is replaced or transcended). It must, therefore, be tolerated and accepted within human society as a strictly non-political cultural construct, but it should not be permitted to take any precedence over the larger, greater ’meta-national’ (i.e. multi-ethnic nation-state or global) identity or any of the other more important human identities, including basic individual ones and regional community ones. Thus, all ethnic groups must be held as tertiary or lesser identities in human society and all given equal treatment in every situation so that none can be favored over another or set in competition to one another. Restoration, preservation and/or strengthening of ethnonational identities do not deserve to be categorized as moral-ethical issues. Their priority status should remain low on the scale and should even be avoided in many cases because of their negative, dangerous, tertiary, and non-essential character. If ethnonational identities are weakened, dissolved, or done away with, it is merely the natural outcome of (amoral) historical processes and should not be of deep concern; it may even for the better. However, in order to accommodate them in the present it is good to offer recognition of and appreciation for their uniqueness strictly at the cultural level in ways that maintain their proper distinction from any and all political identity or power.
The Paradigm of ’Perfect’ Neutrality: Preferred Internationalism/Globalism
Ethnonational identity appears to be a recurring and enduring phenomenon throughout human history. However, it is entirely neutral and non-essential for ultimate human identity within human society. Its assets and deficits ’balance’ or ’nullify’ each other out so that ethnicity does not ultimately matter one way or the other. Thus, ethnonational identity can legitimately and genuinely be appreciated and celebrated for its cultural uniqueness and the way it adds color to human life. It can also help provide a framework for individuals to better understand themselves and function in society. This does not mean, however, that any real efforts need to be made to restore, preserve or strengthen such identities. They should not be treated as a ethical-moral issue. Ethnonational identity, as the basis for ethnonationalism, is often a source of social tension, strife, conflict, and even war through ethnocentrism and racism. If, therefore, a group’s ethnic identity weakens, dissolves, or even disappears it should be accepted as a natural outcome of (amoral) historical processes. The more important identities for humanity are the civic national, international-global and the individual ones. Ethnonational identities are primarily a means to working toward, developing and strengthening these other identities.
The Paradigm of Positive Passivism: Popular Internationalism
Ethnonational identity appears to be a natural (or God-created), recurring and enduring phenomenon throughout human history. It can be negative, but it is generally positive and good, providing human beings with a genuine sense of their historic roots and social familial (i.e. kinship) identity within the larger kinship group of overall (i.e. global) human society. It, therefore, should be appreciated and even celebrated. But, it is strictly a tertiary identity and ultimately non-essential to the greater civic national, international-global as well as fundamentally more important individual identities of humanity. Thus, restoration, protection and/or preservation of ethnonational identity should not be counted a high priority and it should even be sacrificed whenever it conflicts with the building of civic national, international-global and/or individual identities. If ethnonational identities are altered, changed or even lost, whether through tragic circumstances or otherwise, the new resulting identities should still be accepted as the natural outcome of historical processes. The new identities should be treated as socially genuine and valid, without making attempts to undo history, and then used as a basis for incorporating individuals into the greater civic national, ’international/global’ identity within the community of humankind.
The Paradigm of Positive Activism: Nationalistic Internationalism
Ethnonational identity is a recurring and enduring phenomenon throughout human history. It can be negative, but it is generally positive and good, providing human beings with a genuine sense of their historic roots and social familial (i.e. kinship) identity within the larger kinship group of overall (i.e. global) human society. It is not logically necessary, but it is an organic (even God created) part of human society and is, therefore, existentially necessary as something naturally occurring within the human social order throughout history. Individual, ethnic, civic national and international-global identities are all genuine, good, and equally important in their own unique way as distinct facets of human identity. None should be given absolute priority over the others, but all should be held in balance and be emphasized in proper, though perhaps varying, degree in the various contexts of human life and history. True ’international’ as well as individual human identity within human society as natural (even God-created and intended) phenomena, therefore, calls for the ongoing presence as well as restoration, sustenance and preservation of distinct ethnonational identities as much as is reasonably possible within the progression of sin-stained human history. There can be no true international world without its national component preserved and kept in tact. New ethnonational identities can be formed from pre-existing ones, and this can be a good, healthy and natural process. But the tearing apart, breaking down, or ’death’ of an ethnonational group is, as a general rule, not to be desired or contributed to. A sincere and genuine effort, therefore, should be made to restore and preserve ethnonational identities while at the same time allowing for irreversible, necessary and/or dynamic change.