One of the most ingrained, and mistaken, ideas about the 'Yes' side of the Scottish independence referendum is that, as a friend from England wrote to me, "really its all about nationalism, identity and flag-waving."
I've been wary of blogging about Scottish independence, not least because I'm well aware of how many English people are writing about it in a way that implies they know more than the Scots. It seems that the referendum debate is engaging thousands of people in Scotland who were previously seen as apolitical. I don't doubt that they know more about the issues than commentators in London.
On the eve of the European elections, patriotism – or at least politicians' appropriation of that condition – is much in the air. I shall refrain from any temptation to refer to scoundrelly tendencies and consider instead, the gentler, and what I believe to be the more fruitful concept of a 'sense of place.'
The nationalisms represented in the Eurovision Song Contest the European Football Championships and the Queen's Jubilee are of different shapes and levels of intensity, observes Graeme Smith, editor of the international journal Political Theology. What Christianity at its best offers is a vision of how we hold local commitments in a wider, plural context: because of Pentecost, in fact.
For many people these days, much 'religion' has become synonymous with division, bigotry and violence. Sadly, there is plenty of good evidence that this is so. But it is not the whole picture. There are very strong faith traditions that point in exactly the opposite direction.
Goshen College, a prominent Mennonite liberal arts institution, has reversed its decision to play the militaristic and nationalistic US national anthem at sports events. Andy Alexis-Baker welcomes the move, after a long process of lobbying which he and others led. Never before have so many Christians - and not just Mennonites or other Anabaptists - stated so clearly that these anthems and rituals have no place in Christian formation, he observes.
A leading Mennonite college in the USA has started to play a version of the national anthem. Student David Jost is one of the objectors. He argues that loyalty to the God of Jesus Christ precludes endorsing nationalism and state violence.