Apr 23, 2015

A Response to Rev. Andy Hanson on Ethnonationalism, Part 1

via Faith & Heritage

A Reformed pastor named Andy Hanson has written a rebuttal to my article, “A Biblical Defense of Ethno-Nationalism.” First, I would like to extend my gratitude to Rev. Hanson for undertaking this project. I have been expressing my desire for a while that anti-Kinists would interact directly with what Kinists say and write, and this article by Hanson is a good beginning to what I hope can be meaningful and fruitful dialogue. In his introduction, Hanson identifies himself as “half of an interracial couple, and the father of interracial boys.” This makes Hanson’s opposition to Kinism understandable, if not justifiable, given Kinism’s opposition to miscegenation. Hanson refers to race as “the latest idol in America’s pantheon of paganism.”

Race, like anything else, can become an idol, but this raises the question of what exactly constitutes racial idolatry. Race can still be considered as very important to our identity without devolving into idolatry, but as we read on, we see that Hanson considers national boundaries themselves, if they are enforced, to be idolatrous. Hanson laments with one of his sons that Martin Luther King didn’t fix everything during the so-called Civil Rights movement, and asserts that we “struggle with race” because of our fallen nature. Does Hanson believe that King was right on the issue of race? King was a theological, social, and political liberal, a plagiarist, and an adulterer, with known communist connections. Needless to say, Kinists believe that King and the movement he guided were dead wrong. This is a point that I believe that requires clarification from Hanson, since King is revered by our post-Christian society precisely for having overturned attitudes on race and identity that existed prior to the 1960s. Were the vast majority of our Christian forebears committing idolatry on the subject of race, only to be set straight by a radical leftist icon? I think not!

Predictably, Hanson calls Kinism a heresy that exaggerates the “otherness” of non-white races and seeks to “minimize the unity of the church in Christ.” Of course, it is neither my intention, nor any other Kinist’s, to exaggerate anything; rather, we seek to provide an accurate account of racial differences.1 Hanson states that the problem with Kinism is that our hermeneutical principle is ethnocentric as opposed to theocentric, which he explains in greater detail in his interpretation of Babel. Hanson spends a couple of paragraphs complaining about Kinist name-calling. I personally do what I can to avoid name-calling or hurling base insults during discussions, as it tends to shut down communication. However, it is a legitimate criticism to point out how the alienist view of racial apathy – that race is unimportant and should not be the locus of any kind of social obligations – is consistent with post-modern and anti-Christian Marxist thinking. Furthermore, I would also note that Kinists are far more often the victims of ad hominem attacks by their opponents. Kinists are often characterized as inbreeding rednecks who should be thrown out of the church and shunned for our supposed hatred and bigotry, all because we agree with the vast majority of our ancestors on the topic of race. Naturally, given how intense any discussion of race becomes in our milieu, both sides should be willing to forgive the other for understandable expressions of anger.

The Definition of “Nation” and Its Usage in the Bible

Hanson begins his critique with my definitions of ethnonationalism over against propositional nationalism. In brief, ethnonationalism is the belief that nations are defined by common heredity, whereas propositional nationalism is the belief that nations are defined by common ideas – i.e. that membership in a given nation can be achieved by assenting to a certain set of principles, irrespective of one’s ancestry. He complains that my definition of ethnonationalism is flawed, since I state that an ethnonationalist believes that “the foundations of a nation are based on common ancestry, language, culture, religion, and social customs.” In response, Hanson asks, “Isn’t religion a set of common ideas related to one’s belief in deity? Don’t these common ideas concerning the nature of God and proper worship result in culture and social customs? Doesn’t religion influence the formation and usage of our language?” These are fair questions. Let me clarify that as an ethnonationalist, I believe that nations are defined by their common ancestry, but the foundation for the shared identity is also derived from their common language, culture, religion, and social customs in addition to their ancestry. This is similar to how a particular (nuclear) family is fundamentally defined in an ancestral way – two parents united by marriage plus their offspring – even though the family identity can still be characterized by religious, cultural, social, and/or behavioral patterns. For example, a family can particularly identify itself as Protestant with talent in the culinary arts and a penchant for stubbornness. The blood-unit of the family provides the necessary basis for understanding how a family’s identity can involve other factors. It is the same issue with nations, which are not merely analogues but actual extensions of families.

The primary issue with the propositional vs. ethnic distinction is whether a necessary condition of nationhood involves some sufficient degree of ethnic homogeneity for the citizenry, or whether a set of sufficient conditions for nationhood can exclude ethnic considerations. Every nation, even those that are ethnically homogeneous, will have some cultural and religious propositions that are relevant to their identity. To understand the difference between the two contrasting views of national identity, we can contrast the current American naturalization policy, where ancestry is irrelevant and commitment to “American ideals” is sufficient, with the historic American policy, in which ancestry is quite relevant.

This means that there will be overlap between nations, especially between those who are closely related. There can be several nations that are Christian, for example, and consequently Christian nations will share many, though not all, characteristics of their respective cultures. Someone who believes in propositional nationalism believes that nations are defined by a shared set of ideas, such as a religion or a particular political ideology. Religion, in this conception, not only plays a foundational role in the nation’s culture, but defines the boundaries of the nation itself. Thus a consistent proponent of propositional nationalism would have to argue that there cannot be, or at least ought not to be, multiple Christian nations, since they would all have the same set of ideas that define who they are as a nation; hence any remaining political division would be a form of ungodly separation – exactly the charge made against ethnonationalism.

As an ethnonationalist, I am not arguing that religion is unimportant, but simply that it doesn’t define the members of a particular nation – again, just as is the case for a family. Israel was a nation grounded in shared ancestry (1 Chron. 9:1), and the Israelites were still Israelites whether they were obedient to God’s commandments or whether they happened to be in rebellion. Israelites were still Israelites whether they were pious or pagan. That doesn’t mean that Kinists believe that Christian orthodoxy is a matter of indifference, but simply that it doesn’t strictly constitute our national identity or determine who is a member of a particular nation. I believe Hanson confuses the issue when he states, “Religion, not ancestry, roots the language, culture, and social customs of a nation” immediately after speaking of “common ideas passed down through generations from parents to children, resulting in common ideas among members of a family group.” We cannot separate “generations from parents to children” or a “family group” from common ancestry; common ancestry is the baseline we use to mark out a particular family in the first place, on which basis we can describe them as having particular religious, linguistic, cultural, and other characteristics. Similarly, a nation is fundamentally constituted by common ancestry, even though non-ancestral factors also fill out a nation’s identity.

Hanson complains that I emphasize ethnicity to the exclusion of other sources of identity. He concedes that the Greek word ethnos includes the concept of common lineage: “There is no question that ethnicity is a component of how we should understand nations.” This is a major concession, and one that fellow anti-Kinists would do well to understand. However, after this brief concession, he recants and states that I go “off the rails” by defining nations primarily in terms of ancestry. So Kinists correctly identify the meaning of ethnos, but we are wrong for applying that very definition? This makes no sense. Even the definition that Hanson cites identifies a nation as “a body of persons united by kinship.” Hanson states, “Jesus dealt a fatal blow to the idea that blood ethnicity is preeminent when he said, ‘Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.’ (Luke 3:8).” Neither I nor any other Kinist teaches that race, ethnicity, or ancestry are “preeminent” above Christ or the personal righteousness that accompanies repentance through the Holy Spirit. What I did say, and what I do affirm, is that nations are defined by shared kinship and common ancestry, as even Hanson himself conceded.

Hanson’s superficial analysis of Kinism is easily dismantled when we probe more deeply into his assertions. In no way do Kinists downplay the importance of personal repentance; we easily understand that race is not the basis for our repentance, even while we believe it to be significant in other contexts. Hanson makes a number of ambiguous statements, such as, “Ethnic descent takes a back seat to the sovereign power of God.” Of course, ethnic descent doesn’t somehow limit the sovereignty of God. This doesn’t follow from the Kinist belief in ethnonationalism at all. Kinists believe that the nations are established by the sovereignty of God (Deut. 32:8-9, Acts 17:26-27). Hanson asks, “Are we to believe that those Gentile born descendants of Abraham should not in some way fit in with his blood born children?” What does Hanson mean when he says that Gentile converts should “fit in with” the physical descendants of Abraham? Kinists affirm transnational Christian unity among believers, but this doesn’t mean that national distinctions or boundaries aren’t important. We believe that all believers of all races “fit in with” the one spiritually unified church, but we deny that this entails the propriety of propositional nationhood or miscegenation. This is the same as saying that all believers “fit in with” the singular household of God (Gal. 6:10), even though it doesn’t follow that we can squat at our believing neighbor’s house at will.

Hanson fallaciously makes several category mistakes. (I deal with this issue in my series about Brian Schwertley’s sermon series on Kinism as well as in a forthcoming series on adoption.) For now, I will respond to Hanson’s statement that “Kinists cheapen the theology of adoption by making it a ghettoized adoption. Yes, the kinist says, you are a child of God, but don’t come into my house! May we never treat our brothers and sisters with such contempt.” Does Christian unity mean that nations aren’t allowed to restrict citizenship privileges to hereditary members of their own nation? Does it mean that they cannot or should not control the flow of people across their borders? If all Christians are all part of the same family in an unqualified sense, then isn’t it contempt for individual Christian families to live in separate households on separate property which is inherited by their own children? Hanson rejects the idea that adoption into the household of faith is a “merely spiritual adoption.” I’m not sure what it means to be “merely spiritual,” since I consider spiritual reality to be important. If adoption into the household of faith is not confined to spiritual reality, but somehow extends to be a physical reality as well, then Christians actually commit incest when they marry fellow Christians, since they are brothers and sisters in Christ. Hanson doesn’t take his own position to its logical conclusion, and all that is left are empty slogans. This is a perfect example of why it is essential to understand the differences between physical and spiritual reality.

Next, Hanson addresses my comments on the Tower of Babel incident. He complains that I approach the text with an ethnocentric bias, which causes me to incorrectly interpret the text. Hanson insists that I have “made ethnicity the focal point of the text and missed the point of the Babel narrative.” He assures his readers that the Babel narrative “is most certainly not about the importance of national boundaries” just in case anyone was confused. Yet Hanson makes another major concession to Kinism when he admits, “The LORD did establish the nations and their boundaries, and He did so that humanity may seek after Him” but insists that “that is not what He is communicating in this text.” Hanson is adamant that “it was not unity or homogeneity that the LORD objected to at Babel; rather, it was humanity’s idolatry.” If God was not concerned about unity or homogeneity, why does God specifically mention the oneness of the people as a cause for alarm (Gen. 11:6)? If God is indifferent about homogeneity, why divide the people along ethnic lines? If God was not concerned with the establishment of nations and their boundaries, then why is this text utilized in Genesis to explain the scattering of the nations, in accord with the original dominion mandate? Hanson claims to hold to a theocentric reading of the text, and he claims that such a reading clarifies that idolatry alone is in view. Most of what Hanson says in regards to idolatry is unobjectionable – Babel was indeed about idolatry – but is the Babel narrative really unrelated to the division of nations or the importance of national boundaries? Indeed, the idolatry of the Babelites was constituted precisely in their prideful disobedience to the divine mandate by which they were to scatter throughout the earth as separate nations. In my original article, I pointed out that the Babel narrative occurs within the broader context of the Table of Nations, in which we are given an enumeration of nations as they descend from Noah’s three sons after the Flood (Gen. 10:32). Does Hanson view the Table of Nations as unrelated to the Tower of Babel incident?

I’m interested to read in future posts what Hanson has to say about the division of the nations, seeing as he has admitted that God divided the nations and established national boundaries so that the nations would grope for Him and find Him (Deut. 32:8-9, Acts 17:26-27). For now, Hanson seems to believe that the division of nations at the Tower of Babel through the confusion of languages was a temporary solution until church unity would overcome the need for separate nations or national boundaries. Hanson writes, “At Pentecost, in righteousness, the LORD removed the language barrier between his people.” Actually, what God did is allow the gospel to be heard in several different languages. Pentecost represents the baptism and sanctification of national boundaries, not their removal – not in the least. In my original article, I quote Rev. Francis Nigel Lee, whose quotation bears repeating:
Pentecost sanctified the legitimacy of separate nationality rather than saying this is something we should outgrow. In fact, even in the new earth to come, after the Second Coming of Christ, we are told that the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of the heavenly Jerusalem, and the kings of the earth shall bring the glory and the honor – the cultural treasures – of the nations into it. . . . But nowhere in Scripture are any indications to be found that such peoples should ever be amalgamated into one huge nation.2
Several other quotations from Reformed theologians could be cited to support the position that ethnic plurality persists in the church, and is not reversed by Pentecost. One of the best examples is John Calvin, who, in his commentary on Genesis 35:11, extends the Old Testament principle of ethnic nationalism to the New Testament people of God by describing the church is comprised of many nations corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel:
He then promises that he will cause Jacob to increase and multiply, not only into one nation, but into a multitude of nations. When he speaks of “a nation,” he no doubt means that the offspring of Jacob should become sufficiently numerous to acquire the body and the name of one great people. But what follows concerning “nations” may appear absurd; for if we wish it to refer to the nations which, by gratuitous adoption, are inserted into the race of Abraham, the form of expression is improper: but if it be understood of sons by natural descent, then it would be a curse rather than a blessing, that the Church, the safety of which depends on its unity, should be divided into many distinct nations. But to me it appears that the Lord, in these words, comprehended both these benefits; for when, under Joshua, the people was apportioned into tribes, as if the seed of Abraham was propagated into so many distinct nations; yet the body was not thereby divided; it is called an assembly of nations, for this reason, because in connection with that distinction a sacred unity yet flourished. The language also is not improperly extended to the Gentiles, who, having been before dispersed, are collected into one congregation by the bond of faith; and although they were not born of Jacob according to the flesh; yet, because faith was to them the commencement of a new birth, and the covenant of salvation, which is the seed of spiritual birth, flowed from Jacob, all believers are rightly reckoned among his sons, according to the declaration, “I have constituted thee a father of many nations.”3
The idea that Pentecost represents a reversal of Babel is a modern novelty and is not supported by traditional exegesis. It is also worth noting that many who are opposed to Kinism try to straddle the rhetorical fence between ethnonationalism and one-world globalism by saying that they believe that separate nations will still exist after the conversion of the nations to Christianity, but national boundaries will not play a major role in society. Essentially, this is saying that nations will continue to exist accidentally, but will not have any definite purpose. They will not necessarily be comprised of a major ethnic group, they will not restrict naturalized citizenship on the basis of ethnic or racial identity, they will not restrict permanent property ownership to natives, and they will not have any ethnic requirements established for civil authority. Essentially, nations will no longer play the role that they are given in the Scriptures, since this role is viewed as transitory in preparation for Christian unity under the gospel. It should be obvious that this view of nationhood is not essentially different from the one-world globalist mentality of secularism.

Secular humanists have no problem with the continued existence of the multiple nations, as long as they are stripped of their traditional role and authority and subjected to a global authority. The only functional difference is that the supposedly christened view of globalism believes that the focal point of unity will be the multiethnic church. I will soon review the second part of Hanson’s comments on my article defending ethnonationalism. For now, the reader should keep in mind the two concessions that Hanson has made. First, he has admitted that the biblical word for nation, ethnos, really does denote a people united by ancestry. Second, he has admitted that God separated the nations so that they might seek Him and find Him. This means that Hanson has conceded the major points that I was trying to make at the outset of my article, which is to demonstrate that nations are hereditary. I look forward to Hanson’s comments on the purpose of nationhood and on his eschatological vision concerning the nations.

Footnotes

  1. For more information on race realism, see “Ken Ham on Darwinism and Race, Part 2: Race Realism and Miscegenation” as well as Ehud Would’s excellent article, “The Reality of Race.”
  2. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee. “Race, People, and Nationality.” 2/2/2005.
  3. John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis, Volume 2, Chapter 14.

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