Monday, 6 April 2020

'God' and 'Nation' don't go together.


Lent 2020 - Day 41*

'Gott mit uns' read the buckle on German Wehrmacht belts as its soldiers invaded Europe. 'God with us.' But God was also with us, the Poles, us, the British, us - just about any country other than the Godless atheists of the USSR. Whose side was God on in 1939-1945? Which is God's favoured nation?

Poland decided in 1791 to erect a large Temple of Divine Providence in Warsaw to cement the bond between God and the Polish nation. Three years later Poland disappeared from the maps of Europe. Undeterred, after Poland regained independence, its parliament passed an act to build an even larger Shrine of Divine Providence in Warsaw. Plans were drawn up, money was raised. Construction was due to start in 1939.

By the time Poland threw off the shackles of communist domination in 1990, you might discern that God might have been trying to tell the Polish nation something. Or else you might just say, "hey ho, third time lucky" and carry on regardless. Poland's rulers went for the second option, and so the Temple of Divine Providence - looking like a giant citrus squeezer - was built, and finally opened on 11 November 2016.

Yet since that day in 2016, things have not looked so rosy for Poland. Today they're looking very grim indeed. Indeed, all over the world.

Were I a still Christian, following the message of Jesus Christ, I would look askance at any nation's attempts at appropriating God for itself. Or indeed Christ or the Blessed Virgin Mary. The very purpose of Christianity, as developed by St Paul of Tarsus, was a rejection of a nation-based religion - Judaism - in favour of a universal one that could appeal equally to Jew, Greek and Roman alike. Were I still a Christian, I would reject the nationalist turn in Poland's Catholic Church, considering it contradictory to Christ's teachings.

Wrapping spirituality in any nation's flag has tragic consequences - witness wartime Japan, where Hirohito Emperor of Japan was an arahitogami - an incarnate divinity. One who authorised the use of poison gas against civilian populations hundreds of times during the invasion of China. Hubris visited Japan in 1945, but spared Hirohito, who was forced to renounce his divine status.

Using the language of spirituality, of divinity, to inspire aggression and violence against an external 'other' is abhorrent. Living our spiritual lives, lost in amazement at our conscious existence in this Universe of wonders, we should reject those who try to hitch religion to nationalistic politics.

Pope John Paul II was unique as a Polish pontiff, but his message was universal - no nation should stamp on the face of any other nation. The dividing line between patriotism and nationalism is a clear one - you can love your country while not feeling any animosity towards other countries or their peoples.

[*Incidentally, for those of you who are wondering 'I thought Lent lasted 40 days' - it does if you don't count the Sundays. Traditionally, Catholics could take Sundays off, enjoy meat, wine etc. Not me - I'm going the distance. Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday - one second past midnight :-) ]

This time last year:
Działka update 
(Gosh! so much got done last April!)

This time two years ago:
Łódź is a film set

This time three years ago
Contemplative imagery, Ealing and Warsaw

This time eight years ago:
Baffled: my first visit to Jeziorki's Lidl 

This time nine years ago:
In vino veritas?

This time ten two years ago:
Are we getting more intelligent?

This time 11 three years ago:
Lenten recipe: tuna, chickpea and pesto salad

This time 12 years ago:
Coal train sidings, Konstancin-Jeziorna

This time 13 years ago:
Jeziorki from the air



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