Dec 2, 2015

Yes, Ethnonationalism Is Biblical: A Response to Kevin Craig, Part 1

via Faith & Heritage

Kevin Craig, a perennial libertarian candidate for the United States Congress, has responded to my article, “A Biblical Defense of Ethno-Nationalism.” In my very limited interactions with Mr. Craig I have had positive experiences. I have not found Craig to be belligerent or rude towards those with whom he is in disagreement. I appreciate his demeanor, and it is my hope that he will interpret my response in kind. I believe that Craig’s understanding of morality and ethics is mistaken given his attempt to read libertarian philosophical presuppositions into biblical law. He is committed to a libertarian idea commonly referred to as the non-aggression principle which rejects government compulsion in moral matters, and this will be fleshed out very clearly in his critique.1  Craig’s response to the Kinist position on national identity is particularly valuable since it affords readers an opportunity to see firsthand where the common objections against Kinism must eventually lead. Many who reject Kinism seem to talk out of both sides of their mouth by rejecting ethnonationalism while still believing that national boundaries have some residual practical function in society. Not so with Kevin Craig. He rejects the idea of separate nationality as a legitimate concept at all, and that is why his critique is a worthwhile read.

Preliminary Issues with Craig’s Use of Terms and Category Mistakes

One recurring problem plaguing Craig’s response to my original article on ethnonationalism is that he often equivocates in his usage of certain words. At the outset of his response, Craig characterizes my essay, and presumably all of the content on Faith and Heritage, as a defense of racism, which he defines as “the belief that race matters.” Normally I have to chastise critics of Kinism for not providing a definition of the ubiquitous pejorative “racism” or “racist,” but that problem does not apply to Craig. He has provided us with a definition of racism which is necessary for any meaningful dialogue on the issue. What is striking is that he believes that racism is simply the belief that race matters. That’s it! While I applaud Craig’s candor, I must draw attention to the fact that this is not how this word is frequently used, and that the multiple definitions of this word pervading contemporary discourse on race serve only to muddy the waters. Many will make statements such as “I’m not a racist, but…” in which what follows invariably makes it evident that the speaker does believe that race matters in one way or another, even if only to afford nonwhites a common identity in their struggle against the ever-present evils of “white privilege” or “white oppression.” No doubt Craig may reject these competing definitions of the word, as is his prerogative, but we must be aware of just how abstract the concept of racism has always been, even among Christians who have attempted to ascribe a Christian meaning to the word.

Given Craig’s definition of racism as the belief that race matters, I readily admit that this definition fits me as well as Kinism and Kinists in general. I believe that race does matter for the reasons that I expounded in my original article, and I am certainly willing to defend those reasons here. Like many who oppose Kinism, Craig pretends to be ignorant of what race means on the one hand, and on the other hand he demonstrates an ability to understand race just as we do. Non-Kinists will often insist on qualifying the concept as different “people groups” or “cultures” with the caveat that they believe there is only one race, the human race. When Craig defines “racism” as the “belief that race matters,” I assume he is not using the word to mean “the human race,” but rather to mean the major hereditary subdivisions of mankind. He is using the term “race” in a way that he himself understands. This is why Craig is inconsistent when he asks later in his response, “What exactly is ‘race?’ Where is this crucial word defined in the Bible?” It is ironic that Craig states that Kinism is a defense of “racism” in that it is a “belief that race matters,” only to ask later what race is and where it is defined in the Bible. I suppose what Craig is really asking is what moral or other significance Kinists attribute to race, and where such a principle would be located in the Bible.

From a biblical perspective the concept of race can be derived from the concept of kindred nationhood. Nations are an extension of families, as has already been demonstrated. A race is made up of kindred nations who are closely related. We see this concept when Moses addresses the Edomites as brothers on account of their common descent from Abraham and Isaac, even though they are a separate nation from the Israelites (Num. 20:14; Deut. 23:7). The word Hebrew is also a name derived from the Shemite patriarch Eber (Gen. 10:21, 24-25). The nation of Israel is thus a constituent nation of the broader Hebrew people or race. This is why I believe that the NIV appropriately renders Rom. 9:3-4a, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel,” whereas the people of Israel are clearly a subset of all humanity. The typical convention among Kinists is to speak of mankind as one united species comprised of multiple races, and I believe that this convention conforms to the biblical data mentioned above.

Craig’s analysis is also hampered in several instances by his failure to recognize the distinct ways words are used in the Bible, specifically in regards to the concept of a nation. At times Craig pits the spiritual nation of all Christians mentioned in 1 Peter 2:9 against the concept of multiple physical nations defined by common ancestry and ethnicity. For Craig, if the concept of the spiritual nation of 1 Peter 2:9 is legitimate, this must make the existence of multiple physical nations illegitimate or irrelevant. Several observations are appropriate in response to Craig’s claims. First, though Craig seems unequivocal in his commitment to the idea that the only nation that matters or is legitimate in any sense is the one holy nation of all Christians mentioned in 1 Peter 2:9, he is in fact inconsistent on this point. At one point Craig concedes, “‘Nations’ in the sense seen in Genesis 10, are just ‘extended families.’

Another example of Craig’s inconsistency on this point is found in his linked article on what he calls Christocracy: “All nations obeying God, and blessed. This is ‘good news.’ That is Christocracy.” How can multiple nations be blessed by God when Craig has also stated, “There is today only one legitimate ‘nation’: that is the nation described in 1 Peter 2:9,” and “The only nation that matters is the ‘holy nation’ of 1 Peter 2:9, and whether you are a citizen of that holy nation, or a rebel against it.” Here we see equivocation that is all too typical among non-Kinists who pit the one nation and family of the church against the objective existence of multiple physical nations and families. Kinism can harmonize these concepts because we accept the reality of Christian spiritual unity but also the equally real and valuable solidarity of a kin-based nation. When the Bible speaks of multiple nations being blessed by God, as it does in verses like Galatians 3:8 (cf. Gen. 12:3), it is referring to nations as legitimate sources of identity, not as an “arbitrary humanistic contrivance” or an “arbitrary political fiction created by humanists,” as Craig calls them earlier. If there is only one legitimate nation, we cannot also state that all nations in the plural will be blessed by God. These statements are mutually exclusive, and this undermines the thrust of Craig’s assertion that the spiritual nation of 1 Peter 2:9 trumps the legitimacy of any other kind of national identity. In both of these quotes Craig tacitly concedes a major point of my original article to the Kinist understanding of nationhood!

Given these inconsistencies, what are we to make of Craig’s statements throughout his response, in which he states that all physical nations are illegitimate and arbitrary? Is the meaning of a nation as an extended family, which Craig concedes is in Genesis 10, unique to that chapter, or does this meaning resurface throughout the Bible? If Craig refuses to concede that the concept of nations as an outgrowth of extended kinship is not used outside of Genesis 10, upon what basis is his claim founded? Why are we to believe that Genesis 10 is unique in the way in which nations are discussed? If indeed this meaning of nationhood is used throughout the Bible, as I will argue, then Craig’s dichotomy obviously fails. We conclude by noting that Craig’s failure to account for the distinction between the spiritual nation of the church and legitimate physical nations undermines his position. The Bible teaches Christian unity as well as racial, ethnic, or familial particularity. There is no basis for Craig’s belief that these two concepts are somehow in conflict.

Unpacking Craig’s Statements on the Illegitimacy of Physical Nations

Throughout his response, Kevin Craig fails to make the valid distinction between the spiritual nation of the church and the multiple physical nations of mankind. Craig posits a false dichotomy between our loyalty to the spiritual nation of 1 Peter 2:9 and our loyalty to the nations pertaining to physical birth. Craig’s position is implicitly Unitarian in denying the orthodox Trinitarian solution to the problem of the one and the many. Just as one God exists in three distinct Persons, orthodox Trinitarian Christians understand that Christian unity is not in conflict with racial and ethnic plurality. I would like to examine the specific statements that Craig makes in regards to the illegitimacy of physical nations:
  • The nation as ‘state’ is an arbitrary political fiction created by humanists. It is the law of man, not the Law of God.
  • There is today only one legitimate ‘nation’: that is the nation described in 1 Peter 2:9. . . . If you are not part of this ‘race of the redeemed,’ then you are still a rebel in the fallen race of the First Adam. The Second Adam is the ruler of a new nation. If you want to start a baseball team and call it a ‘nation,’ that’s OK, but irrelevant. The Bible has no ethical or moral mandates concerning your ‘nation’ or any other human-created ‘nation.’ The only nation that matters is the ‘holy nation’ of 1 Peter 2:9, and whether you are a citizen of that holy nation, or a rebel against it.
  • [I]t wouldn’t surprise me to discover that the Bible also uses the word ‘ethnos’ to describe an arbitrary humanistic contrivance known as the political ‘nation-state,’ or ‘empire.’
  • Nations “aren’t ‘meaningless,’ they are just irrelevant.
  • There is no Biblical mandate to prefer heredity and lineage over the Church (the Body of Christ, the ‘Household of Faith,’ the ‘holy nation.’). Any family or business or school is free to prefer a genealogically un-related Christian over a brother, sister, father, or mother who is in rebellion against Christ and His Family/Nation.
  • Against my contention that “[e]mpires are a cheap imitation of Christ’s spiritual kingdom which will grow to encompass all physical nations and people,” Craig argues, “This sentence refutes the entire article. Christ’s Kingdom is in fact an empire which ‘extends over several different tribes, nations, and peoples.’ It is a propositional nation, or a doctrinal nation, or a nation based on faith, not genetics.
  • All ‘nationalism’ – ‘ethno-’ or otherwise — is a failure and a rebellion against Christ’s ‘holy nation.’
After stating his opposition to racism as he has defined it, Craig begins by distinguishing between a nation and the nation-state. Craig states, “The nation as ‘state’ is an arbitrary political fiction created by humanists. It is the law of man, not the Law of God.” I agree that the concepts of nations and states should be distinguished. I generally don’t speak positively of the state because of its connection to modern statism, although I do believe that there is such a thing as legitimate civil or governmental authority. Craig’s disagreement with Kinism on this point will be fleshed out more as his critique progresses. Craig not only rejects the legitimacy of civil governments with coercive power against crime, but also rejects the idea of national plurality within a Christian context as well.

Craig states, “There is today only one legitimate ‘nation’: that is the nation described in 1 Peter 2:9. . . . If you are not part of this ‘race of the redeemed,’ then you are still a rebel in the fallen race of the First Adam. The Second Adam is the ruler of a new nation. If you want to start a baseball team and call it a ‘nation,’ that’s OK, but irrelevant. The Bible has no ethical or moral mandates concerning your ‘nation’ or any other human-created ‘nation.’ The only nation that matters is the ‘holy nation’ of 1 Peter 2:9, and whether you are a citizen of that holy nation, or a rebel against it.” It is simply foolish for Craig to suggest that nations have as little ethical basis as something akin to a baseball team. In this verse Peter is speaking of national identity in a particular context. Just as nations are rooted in common birth, the holy nation of which Peter speaks is rooted in the common rebirth of the Holy Spirit. This does not negate legitimate uses of the word nation in other contexts with different meanings. Examples of this include the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), in which Jesus tells His disciples to teach, disciple, and baptize the nations, and there is no indication that the nations will be abrogated or amalgamated as a result. This also applies to the division of the nations at the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11), and the division of the earth into homelands for the several nations (Deut. 32:8-9; Acts 17:26-27). The distinction between physical and spiritual realities is dealt with more thoroughly in my article “Adoption Reconsidered: Reexamining the Contemporary Trend of Adoption, Part 2,” so there is no need for a comprehensive treatment here.

When commenting on the meaning of the word “nation,” Craig states, “[I]t wouldn’t surprise me to discover that the Bible also uses the word ‘ethnos’ to describe an arbitrary humanistic contrivance known as the political ‘nation-state,’ or ‘empire.’” Craig expresses credulity that the biblical authors use the word “nation” in precisely the same fashion as it is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary. Craig provides no lexical evidence of his definition of a nation as an “arbitrary humanistic contrivance,” so there isn’t much that needs to be said in response. The point I was making in my original article is that the English word “nation” corresponds well to the biblical concept being translated from the word ethnos, since “nation” traditionally denoted people of a common hereditary origin as opposed to people governed by the same geopolitical entity. We should recall that Craig has conceded that “nation” is used in Genesis 10 to denote an outgrowth of extended families, and this demonstrates that the existence of multiple distinct nations is not the creation of statist humanism. National identity is a natural outgrowth of familial identity, neither of which are arbitrary. The burden of proof is on Craig to demonstrate that the meaning of “nation” is ever used to mean “an arbitrary humanistic contrivance” in the Bible. This burden has not been met. From here Craig’s confusion only seems to become more pronounced.

Craig demurs from the Kinist belief that we owe a particular allegiance to the welfare of our own physical people. Craig compares nationhood and race to the loyalty one might have to a baseball team, concluding that nations, “aren’t ‘meaningless,’ they are just irrelevant.” This is nothing but sophistry. I honestly don’t understand how ethnic and racial identity can be irrelevant yet meaningful. What meaning does Craig ascribe to ethnic or racial identity? Kinists concede, as I did in the original article, that salvation does not depend upon one’s national identity, as though salvation were a matter of having the right lineage. This is why I don’t understand why Craig feels the need to point out the comparative importance of Christ’s transformative work as opposed to the importance of a familial identity. Christ should be our first and foremost loyalty, but it does not follow that national identity has no essential role to play in society even after the conversion of the nations.

After repeating his error that the division of Babel was indifferent to ethnic or hereditary identity, Craig asserts, “Patriarchal authority is meaningless. It is often ugly and ungodly. . . . And since the family is the basis for ‘ethno-nationalism’ as defended in the article at left, we must conclude that ethno-nationalism is sinful. The only nation that matters is the ‘holy nation’ ruled by Christ the King.” True, patriarchal authority in a godless, unbelieving society can be and often is abused, but this should not lead us to the conclusion that patriarchal authority is meaningless. In Jeremiah 35, the Rechabites are praised and extolled for their fidelity to the precepts of their ancestor. Furthermore, honor and obedience to parents is clearly enjoined in Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16; Prov. 1:8; 6:20; Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20. The role these commandments play in establishing patriarchal authority becomes clear when we juxtapose these verses with others that call our ancestors fathers.2 No human authority can ever trump or negate the force of divine law revealed to us in the Bible, but this does not mean that patriarchal authority, which definitely has a biblical basis, is “meaningless.”

A final example of Craig’s sloppy rhetoric is in his statement, “There is no Biblical requirement for ‘race’ or ‘nation’ because they are too far outside the concentric circle of ‘household.’” Here Craig has failed to provide us with any criteria for why national and racial identity are “too far outside” of a household or family. Why are we to believe that households are meaningful with ethical requirements while national and racial identity lack any ethical requirements? Craig would have us believe that the only nation of any kind of legitimacy is the holy nation of 1 Peter 2:9, but he could just as easily say the same of the “household of faith” of Galatians 6:10. Craig could just as easily have stated, “The Bible has no ethical or moral mandates concerning your ‘household’ or any other human-created ‘household.’ The only household that matters is the ‘household of faith’ of Gal. 6:10, and whether you are a member of that household of faith, or a rebel against it.” This confirms the Kinist maxim that an attack on the concept of race and ethnonationalism must ultimately devolve into an attack on the family itself.

Craig’s False Dichotomies, Unsubstantiated Claims, and Straw Men

Throughout his response, Kevin Craig makes what amount to several unsubstantiated claims and caricatures of the Kinist position. Craig states, “The Tower of Babel has nothing whatsoever to do with the existence of separate ‘nations.’ They existed in Genesis 10, before the Tower. Nations were not created by God as a judgment of ‘the Religion of Humanity,’ differing languages were created by God at the Tower.” Later Craig similarly comments, “The division at Babel was linguistic, not national or racial. It was not a ‘reaffirmation of a preexisting social structure.’ God’s purpose in creating new languages was not to keep families apart.

The Kinist position is precisely that the existence of nations predates Babel. I used the Babel narrative as an example to demonstrate the corrosive effects of the blurring of national distinctions. I disagree that the Babel incident was only about a division on the basis of language as opposed to ethnicity. Genesis 10 makes clear that ethnic or national identity corresponds to linguistic identity (vv. 5, 20, 31-32). The usage of language in the division of Babel did not occur independently of preexisting national identities. Craig asserts, “There is nothing whatsoever in the Bible that says people can only speak their mother tongue.” This is true, but no Kinist would insist that we are only allowed to speak our mother tongue. We would simply suggest that the plurality of languages and their corresponding cultural distinctions are good, and that they ought to be conserved. The replacement of native languages with other languages such as Latin or English is most often the result of imperialism and forced integration.

Craig believes any concern for ethnic distinctions or genealogical relationships is “humanistic.” At one point Craig states, “The issue is morality, not blood. . . . The issue is God’s Law, not man’s ethnicity. . . . The issue is building God’s Kingdom and looking forward to the future, not preserving a humanistic ethnic ‘past.’” He also states, “Focus on human genealogy is, by definition, humanistic. It is human-centered rather than Christ-centered.” This is but another example of Craig’s casual use of language. What does he mean by “focus on human genealogy,” and what exactly is “humanistic” about a particular concern for ethnicity?

Humanism is not the same thing as a concern for aspects of human identity. Craig could just as easily reject the concept of innate differences between the male and female sexes and policies derived from these differences: “focus on human gender or sexual identity is, by definition, humanistic.” This simply does not comport with any meaningful definition of humanism, which Merriam-Webster defines as “a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values; especially: a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual’s dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason.3 Virtually all who identify themselves as humanists in accordance with this definition deny that race is or ought to be consequential in any meaningful way. The reason for this is that humanists do not want divinely ordained categories like race, ethnicity, or sex “imposed” on them and their autonomous self-identification. The reality is that the Bible has many chapters devoted to human genealogies. I will develop this further when I discuss Craig’s belief in the radical discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments.

Perhaps Craig’s most egregious straw-man argument is the following:“‘Ethno-nationalism,’ because it is a false and unBiblical concept, leads inevitable [sic] to imperialism and mass death.” First I would point out that ethnonationalism is fundamentally opposed by definition to any kind of imperialism, since imperialism would inevitably lead to the opposition of the very foundational principles of ethnonationalism, such as the law of kin-rule. Craig could argue that while ethnonationalism and imperialism are opposed in theory, they are not in fact opposed in practice. This is analogous to the observation that while anarchy and tyranny are diametrically opposed to each other in theory, anarchy and tyranny are in reality two sides of the same coin. Anarchy often results in tyranny once someone strong enough to bring order from disorder gains power while ruling arbitrarily. This lapses back into anarchy as people rise up against the tyrant with anarchy emerging between rival factions.

In a similar way, Craig could argue that although ethnonationalism or Kinism are opposed to imperialism in theory, the end result is inevitably a lapse into imperialism over people who are believed to be inferior. In response, I would simply ask for any historical evidence of this position. European nations after their collective conversion to Christianity essentially functioned by following Christian ethnonationalist principles for centuries. Imperialism, when it could truly be called imperialism, came about during the post-Christian rationalist Enlightenment. Wars fought between Christian nations were often fought for political, cultural, or economic reasons, but not because of imperialistic pretensions. The charge that ethnonationalism leads to mass death is nothing short of slanderous. The twentieth century has witnessed the repudiation of Christian moral principles, among them the Christian concept of nationhood, and it has been perhaps the bloodiest century in the history of mankind. This is especially relevant to the contribution made by communism and cultural Marxist practices like abortion, considering that communism is explicit in its rejection of the Christian concept of nationhood. Craig’s accusation that ethnonationalism or kinism leads to “mass death” must be rejected as slander which lacks any historical foundation.

Conclusion to Part 1

I value Craig’s libertarian critique of my position on Kinist ethnonationalism, because I believe that his critique gets to the heart of major issues separating Kinists from those like Craig who try to reconcile Christian morality with the principles of libertarianism. Many Christians in the West like Craig believe that they have found in libertarianism an alternative to the anti-Christian zeitgeist. The reality is that libertarianism is part of the problem, for libertarian presuppositions require much of biblical morality to be ignored. I believe Kevin Craig unwittingly reads the Bible through a libertarian lens, causing him to reject much of what the Old Testament teaches about a truly godly social order. The next article will focus on Craig’s belief in the discontinuity between the testaments and the implications this has for his worldview.

  1. For a refutation of the non-aggression principle (NAP) as it is used to argue for open borders, see Nil Desperandum’s critique of Doug Wilson’s “Open Borders but No Freebies.” 
  2. Gen. 10:21; Lev. 26:45; Deut. 1:8; 5:3; 29:13; 30:20; 1 Ki. 19: 3-4; Prov. 22:28; Eze. 2:3; Amos 2:4; Matt. 23:30-32; Mk. 11:10; Lk. 1:72; Jn. 4:12, 20; 6:31, 49, 58; 7:22; Acts 26:6; 28:17; Rom. 4:1; 9:5; 11:28; 1 Cor. 10:1; Heb. 7:9-10; Jam. 2:21 
  3. Merriam-Webster definition of “humanism.” 

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