Yoder on the Canadian threat

The beginning difference between the nationally defined vision of human dignity and the biblical one is the place of the outsider. The Abrahamic covenant begins with the promise that all peoples are to be blessed. The early centuries of Hebrew experience seemed far from that goal, with the exclusion of the Egyptians and the Canaanites in particular and of the "enemy" in general from the scope of saving concern. Yet the story moves steadily toward the inclusion of all nations. The concern of the Mosaic laws for "the stranger in thy gates," Jeremiah's acceptance of the dispersion, Paul's mission to the Gentiles and Jochanan Ben Zakkai's acceptance of the fall of the second temple are only the most notable of the milestones along the way to the deterritorialization of the believing community. "They take part in everything as citizens and put up with everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is there home, and every home is a foreign land...

It seems clear that in the ordinary meaning of "civil religion," the American experience has always needed the polar outsider to precipitates a common self-awareness: the savage, the slave, the infidel, the "hun, the "Jap," the godless communist...It may be that our own ethnically mixed society demanded a foil of a racially polar bad guy nation to reflect upon ourselves a borrowed sense of natural unity.

The challenge is simple: if we accept that traditional territorial definition of the community under God, we deny the unity of the human race in creation, the cosmopolitan reality of the church in mission and the eschatological vision of the world in redemption. The alternative is to accept the claim that this nation, any nation, every nation under God is called to multicultural reconciliation internally and to practical humanitarianism globally. Is it too much to ask of the United States that national interest be seriously qualified by commitments to the dignity of other nations and peoples, acknowledged in the form of real claims held by others upon our cultural and economic resources? If we are willing (as I fear we are) to leave it to the Swedes and the Canadians to project internationalism as a realistic policy, then let us at least not burden the God of Abraham with our provincialism. The Priestly Kingdom, p. 189 -90, emphasis mine.
Strong medicine, that.
It’s fascinating to me how the outsider lends a “borrowed sense of identity” in his thought, as if our national identity, insofar as it is defined in contrast to others, is false somehow, with no intrinsic identity. Or perhaps it is false, just a cover for greed? I also appreciate Yoder’s estimation of the sweep of history in scripture, and how it applies to our understanding of community. But most of all, I am glad to see his warning about the Northern Threat.

Don't let Canada win.

(What'd I miss?)


Popular Posts