Loyalty, identity and cohesion in a religiously plural and culturally differentiated ‘nation’
Videos of the presentations from this conference can now be viewed at the Lincoln Theological Institute's YouTube channel.
Saturday 19th May 2012, 10am-4.15pm
A conference organised by the Lincoln Theological Institute, The University of Manchester, with its partners:
- Faith and Public Policy Forum, King's College London
- Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, Cambridge
- McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Policy, University of Oxford
Venue: Samuel Alexander Building (no.67 on the campus map), room A101, The University of Manchester
How might national loyalty, identity and cohesion be understood in a religiously plural and culturally differentiated ‘nation’? The conference aims to achieve greater clarity over whether or not the revivification of Patriotism is warranted, and in what ways a revitalised Patriotism may differ from past Patriotisms.
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- Stephen Backhouse, St Mellitus College, London
- Nigel Biggar, Oxford University
- Ian Bradley, St Andrews University
- Jo Carruthers, Lancaster University
- Doug Gay, Glasgow University
- Anthony G. Reddie, Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham
- Max Wind-Cowie, Demos
Conference chair: Peter M. Scott (Director, LTI)
Conference administrator: Hannah Mansell
HOW TO REGISTER:
The conference is free to attend, but registration is essential (otherwise no lunch!)
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Patriotism, Nationhood & Neighbourhood
The paper will consider the value and place of patriotism in the pursuit of social cohesion and civic participation. It is not only politicians who espouse the value of patriotism. Christian leaders too are often quick to adopt patriotic rhetoric in service of their commitment to society. The paper will address two assumptions at work here. One is that patriotism – love of country – is essentially synonymous with the celebration of a strong sense of national identity. The other is that patriotism is a virtue capable of shouldering the burden that is expected of it. A perceived lack of patriotism is often accredited with poor citizenship, internal security tensions, lacklustre international performance and the like. In contrast, the possession of a strong sense of patriotism is thought to lead to all manner of (possibly predestined) political implications from national independence through to a culture of civic engagement. This paper suggests how patriotism sometimes works against the very things desired in a healthy society: namely a sense of engagement, equality and participation for all citizens. Indeed, a society may well lack a strong sense of nationhood, but might not this furnish the opportunity to develop a healthy sense of good neighbourhood? The suggestion that ideas of neighbourhood stand in tension with ideas of nationhood lies at the heart of a theological critique of patriotism presented in this paper.
Monarchy, church and national identity
To what extent does the monarchy still embody national identity and patriotic feeling and in what ways? It is highly significant, for example, that in the current discussions about Scottish independence, the leadership of the SNP remains strongly pro-monarchical and enthuses about the Queen of Scots. Does the monarchy have the capacity to embody diverse and multiple/overlapping identities? What now is the significance of and justification for its close ties with Christianity and with the principle of church establishment and the defence of the Protestant constitution? Should a Roman Catholic monarch be allowed? Should the sovereign remain Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England? This is set in the context of this Diamond Jubilee year and current debates about the future of the monarchy.
Patriotism, Protestantism and Islamophobia: The Re-forming of State, Self and Enemy
The Runnymede Trust’s commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia from 1997 opens with a discussion of a naval officer’s rhetorical comment about the appropriateness of having Muslims in the navy. ‘Where would you pray to Mecca on a submarine?’ is interpreted as expressing an attitude that ‘it is inappropriate for British Muslims to play a part in defending their country’. If willingness to defend one’s country is at the core of patriotism, the logical extension of the officer’s attitude is to consider Muslims inherently unpatriotic. I want to explore one source of this assumption which lies in the re-forming of notions of state, self and enemy in the early modern period in England. At this period, the State became depersonalized (negating expectations of forgiveness), the homeland became represented by the vulnerable woman and child (necessitating defensive strategies against the enemy), and the self became increasingly internalized (making foreign any overtly ritualized and materialized forms of identity). These shifts formed simultaneously the necessity of patriotism and a specific sense of who can and can’t be patriotic.
Patriotism Good - Nationalism Bad? The News From Scotland
This paper examines the conceptual tendency among religion and theology scholars for 'patriotism' to be seen as more ethically acceptable than 'nationalism' and asks why this is so. It seeks to problematise the notion of patriotism and rehabilitate the discourse of nationalism. Paying specific attention to current debates in Scotland it argues that many English/British discourses around patriotism are sentimental, myopic and dated and they need to be revised in the light of rapidly changing conditions within the 'Union'. It will advocate the need for English political culture to take responsibility for remaking the discourse of English nationalism in a theologically/ethically disciplined way, which can respect internal ethnic and cultural diversity/hybridity and support free and respectful external collaborations within a variety of political unions.
Anthony G. Reddie
Being the Enemy Within: Re-asserting Black otherness as a riposte to the homogeneous construction of Whiteness
One can chart a genealogy of racialised discourse in Britain around notions of ‘sameness’ and the othering of ‘non-White’ bodies from the later Elizabethan age, through the epoch of Windrush, Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘River’s of Blood Speech’ to Margaret Thatcher’s notion of Britain being swamped by alien cultures in the late 70s and David Starkey’s polemical rant against the contamination of White youth by aberrant Black cultures. Using the trope of ‘home’ and the homogeneous constructs of Whiteness predicated on notions of ‘Christian values’ and ‘Imperial Mission Christianity’, this paper seeks to position Black bodies as the essential ‘other’ within the nation state of Britain. I argue that rather than seeking to apologise for or trying to overturn this sense of being the other, I want to use the frameworks of Black Liberation Theology to positively position Black bodies as the ‘other’ and so offer a riposte to a middle class gentrified Christianity that remains the synonym for Whiteness and notions of belonging.
Patriotism as a mechanism for virtue
The politics of virtue is back. From the Big Society to Ed Miliband's 'responsible capitalism' we see the major British parties crowding a field that, until recently, had long been abandoned. We all now, it seems, believe that moral behaviour is about more than rational self-interest. And the policy implications that spill out from this acceptance speak volumes about what we, as a society, regard the virtuous citizen to be like. We want them to volunteer. We want them to exercise self-restraint in what they pay themselves and how they approach the business of their business. We believe that parenting matters more than ever and that involvement in one's community - be it through social action or democratic process - is a good in and of itself.
How to make it happen? The Big Society agenda (like the responsible capitalism meme being developed by Miliband) is heavy on outcomes and weak on motivation. What mechanisms might drive such a change? My case would be that pride - in oneself, in one's community and ultimately in one's country - can and must serve as a mechanism for developing a more virtuous citizenry. Polling analysis - undertaken by Demos for our recent book A place for pride - has shown strong correlations between patriotism at both the civic and national level and greater interpersonal trust, volunteering, democratic engagement and positive, pro-social behaviours. Furthermore, groundbreaking longitudinal work undertaken in the US has demonstrated the strong relationships between personal pride and greater levels of altruism (and more sustained voluntary endeavour). It is these relationships - complicated and nuanced as they are - that we must tap into if we are to build a more collective sense in our citizens.
Of course, patriotism can be confused with nationalism and xenophobia. And so much of the Left's engagement with patriotism has been predicated on the fear that one morphs naturally into the other. But I would argue - backed by evidence from polling and qualitative focus group work - that patriotism is in fact a force for tolerance and pluralism rather than a motivator of exclusion. It is a naturally virtuous sentiment whose frustration causes the myriad problems we associate with it. It is time for policy to take patriotism seriously.
In an effort to pacify and unify, politicians will appeal to the values that are—it is claimed—common across a populus. The values cited include fair play, respect, tolerance, desert, value of the individual, and freedom. These values are not the property of the state nor are they legislated for by government. Instead, they are—implicitly at least—understood to be prior to legislation and governance. The site of these values must therefore be civil society.
Conspicuously absent from this list of values is Patriotism, love of or devotion to country. Why should this be? What is it that is presupposed by Patriotism that can no longer be assumed? To be sure, a common object of love or veneration is required by Patriotism. For Britain, such a common object has been provided by a national church, a national culture, and the monarchy. None of these has the pre-eminence they once did. The standing of the national church has been changed by the development of other religious traditions in the UK in turn raising the question of competing loyalties. A national culture has declined under the pressure of contrasting nationalisms and other national and religious loyalties. The monarchy has been suborned by a celebrity culture and by the erosion of difference that has been secured by a democratic ethos.
Nonetheless, a sense of place and a sense of belonging run deep in the culture. Moreover, these senses may not be eroded—indeed, they may be reinforced—by some of the developments reported in the previous paragraph (nationalism is a good example). In addition, many find themselves adept at negotiating multiple loyalties. Such negotiation may in turn provide a firmer foundation than heretofore for distinguishing between the nation and the state.
This conference explores these themes from religious, ethical, social and political perspectives. It focuses on issues concerning national loyalty, identity and cohesion to explore how national loyalty, identity and cohesion might be understood in a religiously plural and culturally differentiated ‘nation’. The conference aims to achieve greater clarity over whether or not the revivification of Patriotism is warranted, and in what ways a revitalised Patriotism may differ from past Patriotisms.