Following the collapse of the old communist regimes in the post-1989 world, it quickly became apparent that a resurgent nationalism filled the power vacuum left by the collapse of the old world order. The precarious bonds of unity appeared to dissolve as rival ‘nationalities’ struggled for dominance within the borders of the new states established in the settlement of two world wars. Although some of the former Soviet Republics and satellite states made a smooth transition to liberal democracy and eventual membership of the European Union, there was nevertheless a significant level of nationalist strife and even civil war in parts of Eastern Europe, most obviously in the former Yugoslavia, as well as in parts of the former Soviet Union, which have still not been resolved. This chapter addresses some of the theological issues raised by such nationalism1 by discussing some examples of theological ethics produced in response to the extremes of nationalist fervour which in part led to the First World War. First it discusses the apparent irreversibility and inevitability of nationalism and the nation it proclaims. Even when this chapter was first written it was hard to agree with Eric Hobsbawm’s optimistic conclusions that the mere fact of historical analysis of nationalism proves that it is past its peak. Admittedly, however, he continues: ‘It would be absurd to claim [that the day of its demise] is already near’.2 What is important to stress is that the very definition of nationalism, nation and nation-state proves elusive. All the criteria which might be used to define the concept of ‘nation’ – such as, for example, a shared language, ethnicity or history – prove to have frequent exceptions, and are themselves ill-defined and hazy. This can be demonstrated in Stalin’s relatively uncontroversial definition of a nation as ‘a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture’.3 Nationalism, which in itself may be no more than a ‘principle which holds that the political and national unit should be congruent’,4 nevertheless acts as some sort of constraining condition on all human activity:  if, as Ernest Gellner suggests, ‘the nation is all we’ve got’,5 it would be quite irresponsible to fail to subject nationalism to theological

enquiry. Although there may be no ‘objective fact’ of nationhood which could ever satisfy the strict empiricist, there is surely some truth in H. J. Laski’s assertion that ‘the reality of the State’s personality is a compulsion we may not resist’.6