Church and Nation: A Credal Nation, Part 2
At the end of my last installment, I noted that credal nationhood has always been more about the state than about the nation (properly understood). Indeed, the concept of a credal nation makes no sense whatsoever without reference to the state, which is the definer and the keeper of the creed.
Despite my promise to take that up the relationship between state and credal nation in this installment, I'm going to save it now for the next, because there is another point that I think needs to be addressed and discussed.
Reading the comments on the last installment, I have once again been surprised by the strong—and strongly negative—reaction to my suggestion that there could be an American nation that is not credal. And again, this is not coming from neoconservatives or liberals who think that a "credal nation" is preferable to a real one.
I suspect that my failure to anticipate this has something to do with my own experience. Having just turned 40, I still live within a leisurely six-hour drive of every place where all of my direct ancestors, on both sides of my family, have lived for any length of time since coming to this country. If you were to draw a triangle on a map, with the first corner at Rockford, Illinois; the second at Bay City, Michigan; and the third at New Albany, Indiana (or, for convenience' sake, Louisville, Kentucky), you would encompass the entire area in which lived (starting in 1832) the Richerts and Foremans and Janasiks and Gwizdalas whose various interactions brought about my birth.
To me, this area is home, and I don't feel out of place among any of the people who live in it. (Except perhaps the Swedes here in Rockford, but as always they are the exception that proves the rule.) On another comment thread, NGPM wrote, "When you are at home, you know you are." Just so.
From that experience, it still puzzles me that people who do not doubt the existence of a German nation or a Polish nation or an Italian nation find the very possibility of an American nation to be so strange. I'm not suggesting that, in whatever form it may exist, the American nation is on par with those other nations, but simply suggesting that the automatic dismissal of any possibility that there could be an American nation strikes me as both conterintuitive and unhistorical.
Try telling a Northern Italian that he has more in common with a Sicilian than the Dutch, (pre-1848) Germans, Yankees, non-Yankee English, French, and a smattering of Poles who make up the population of Western Michigan have with one another. The latter, while still recognizably distinct as groups in many important ways, also have ties of tradition, history, and genes from 200 years or so of living closely together. Those ties are not "credal" but organic. Perhaps we can't "define" them, but again, would anyone say that the failure to offer a succinct definition of what it means to be Polish or German proves that there is no Polish or German nation?
"When you are at home, you know you are." Conversely, those who never find themselves at home should not assume that no one else does—just as I should not have taken my own experience as representative. On the other hand, my experience may be normative, or at least more nearly so, just as the experience of my father and my father-in-law, who both live within a few miles of where they were born, is more nearly normative than my own.
Previous Installments in "Church and Nation":
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- Eunomia » “Just” Loyalty To A Place On The Map
- Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture | Your Home for Traditional Conservatism » Church and Nation: A Credal Nation, Part 3