When the Church Fought Nationalism

Today the church honors one of our moveable feast days, Christ the King Sunday, also known as Reign of Christ Sunday.

In 1922 the world was still reeling from World War I. Pope Pius XI, in his first official encyclical, said that while war hostilities had stopped, global tension was ever present. He decried the rise of nationalism across the globe.

Gonna say that louder for people in the back: the rise of nationalism across the world was seen as a real and present danger.

So Pope Pius XI, as a call for the church to take a stand against nationalism and extremism, instituted the last Sunday of the liturgical year to be a reminder for the world that our private ideologies and personal saviors will not, in the end, accomplish the peace necessary for humanity to thrive.

Only Divine peace can do that.

Now, I’m not a fan of this particular Sunday. To tag it on at the end of the liturgical year feels forced in many ways, and the readings are totally non-sequitur (though they fit with the theme of the day).

However, when seen through the lens of the original intent, especially in these days, it can be a corrective day for a humanity that is once again in the throes of nationalism, much of it housed in the pews of the church.

Nationalism is anti-Christ. There is no work around here; it just is. It puts hope in nativist ideology and not shared peacemaking.

Christ the King Sunday is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that there was a time when the church took on the rise of nationalism with a full throat.

And it could again.

-icon written by Vasilije Minić

3 thoughts on “When the Church Fought Nationalism

  1. It depends upon what you mean by Nationalism. Pius XI was opposed to Italian Nationalism as it had stripped the Papacy of its temporal powers Remember he did the deal with Mussolini which ended teh Roman Problem.
    Europe was going through an age of nationalism on the basis that the people who lived in an area were better rolling themselves than the previous empires – all of whom were affected by Nationalism in that parts of them became independent countries.
    This is very different to the Chauvinism which we are seeing in the US.
    As I was saying today the Reign of Christ the King is an important Sunday as it is the story of what the whole journey of the Church is about – that we exist for the in-breaking of the rule or Kingdom of God into the world with justice and peace, which it is the task of the people of God – the Church to realise.
    Next week we look to the return of Christ as King, but the two events are very different. The reign of Christ the King is realised eschatology. the Advent hope is to come. Come Lord Jesus Come.

    • Thanks, Edward.

      I mean, I guess I’d suggest that while the good Pope may have meant something contextual, there are echoes today that can’t, and shouldn’t, be ignored.

      Appreciate you reading and commenting!

      • I realise that you are writing in the context of the problems of the American Church – which I sympathise with you on, though as one who studied American Christianity I am not surprised at the present problems.
        For your support and help I suggest that you look at the Theological Declaration of Barmen which ironically is in the book of confessions which is Part of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church USA.

        It directly addresses the problems which you are facing

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