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Nationalism good and bad  

19 May 2017

LORD HUGH CECIL [an MP for the University of Oxford and a prominent High Churchman] thinks nationalism so evil a thing that he would like to see an effort made by Christian ministers in all countries to enforce as a commonplace that nationalism, equally with war, is inconsistent with Christianity. What does he understand by nationalism? Its first definition in standard dictionaries is “patriotic feeling, principles, or efforts”. That is not contrary to the spirit of Christianity, which during many centuries has striven to foster the love of country equally with love of home. It is not a base but a most proper pride which makes the most of whatever is good and distinctive in the history of a nation, its art and literature, its achievement and its spirit. It is fully as justifiable as a proper pride in family, which Lord Hugh Cecil would surely not deem to be censurable. Political thinkers are practically agreed to-day that a right spirit of nationalism is by all means to be encouraged, by educational and other methods. The war aims of the Allies are definitely based on the principle of conserving nationality, as distinct from the principles of political and military expediency which have determined the course of diplomacy in the past and which have been worked out to their inevitable consequence in the present war. That there are false forms of nationalism we do not for a moment deny, but if Lord Hugh Cecil intended them he should have been more explicit.


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