Sunday, February 08, 2009

A National Identity: Dt 15:2-3

"This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the Lord's remission has been proclaimed. From a foreigner you may exact it, but your hand shall release whatever of yours is with your brother." (Deuteronomy 15:2-3)
There are many places in the Book of Deuteronomy from where this principal could be taken. In several places God makes a distinction between a person's neighbor and brother and a foreigner. Consider the following two scriptures.
"You shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman." (Deuteronomy 17:15)

"You may charge interest to a foreigner , but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess." (Deuteronomy 23:20)
One of the keys to the establishment and endurance of good government is a strong sense of national identity. It is interesting to consider the results of the fall of the Iron Curtain and the turmoil that has erupted in some of the former Soviet states. While for some, the transition was peaceful, for others the void left by the disintegration of soviet power lead to unrest and civil war. In some cases, waring factions were divided along lines of ethnic, cultural, and religious histories.

What is important to understand is that what the Soviets could hold together through force, fear, and intimidation, failed to provide a cohesive unit under the possibility of popular governance. I believe one of the key reasons is the lack of a strong national identity within the individual former Soviet states. Once the iron claw of dictatorial rulership was removed, the state lacked a single national identity which could sustain the peoples through the transition to a popular form of government. They did not see themselves as one people but as separate, and as such, resisted the forming of themselves into a single state with a single government. For some, this tension lead to the resulting civil wars.

The same is true regarding our country. What enabled the states to come together and form a strong federal government was, in part, a strong sense of national identity and the participation felt by the citizens of each individual state with the history, identity, and future of the whole.

The lesson to be learned is that you cannot simply draw some imaginary line around a collection of people and seek to form them into a single state under a unified government. Waring factions will continue to be waring factions, divided people will continue to be divided people, unless there is some greater unifying purpose to unite them. In forming governments, the importance of a strong national identity can not be ignored.

David Robison

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