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we can make up great things — like national identity!

March 8th, 2018 | 1 min read

By Matthew Loftus

Michael Brendan Dougherty has a bone to pick with people who want to sneer at “made-up” national identities:

Nationalism as a political movement was also what made democracy possible; it helped to overthrow ancient monarchies that routinely bequeathed nations with foreign rulers who just happened to inherit the chair. Further, national identity helped to create the social trust necessary to institute massive social-welfare systems. We might also note that while the Nazis made use of national loyalty, so too did the Poles, the French, the British, and the Americans who resisted and defeated the Nazi regime. And they could not have defeated the Nazis without that loyalty.

He goes on to say:

One would imagine that the level of sacrifice that a universal human community would demand of elites would be greater than the one called upon by national loyalty. But it never is. Instead the dissolution of national loyalties liberates the elite from any practical moral and political restraint on their self-seeking, and confiscates from the poor and the weak the benefits that national loyalties confer on them.

I personally wonder about the value of national identities superseding local (and, of course, trans-national religious identity). That being said, there’s nothing inherently bad about national identity, and the people who think they have somehow transcended its clutches are probably in the thralls of another identity that is just as dangerous (or more).

Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at