The period following their return from Babylonian exile was a period of intense nationalism and isolationism among the Jewish people. But for that matter, what period isn’t? And what people are devoid of this spirit? What sentiment is more common, around the world and through the ages, than patriotism? What feelings are more easily aroused, around the world in any century, than suspicion and dislike of foreigners and all things foreign?
(Source: Questions God Asks, Hunter Beckelhymer, 1961, pg. 73)
What great questions these are.
When I read this I was reminded of something – there is nothing special about the time we each live in. Our time is not so special as to be all that different from most of human history. History didn’t start when we were born and it won’t most likely end when we die.
This is a humbling thought. It is one that I hear expressed in the words of the Old Testament Bible books of Job and Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes 3 especially speaks about a time for this and a time for that – is this anything new?
What is the desire and draw of nationalism and isolationism? I’ll be honest, I don’t get it.
Why are we drawn to suspicion and dislike of foreigners and all things foreign? Again, I don’t get it.
What is amazing to me is that humanity hasn’t changed all that much for several thousand years – as long as civilization has been something that humanity has valued.
Why are we drawn towards tribal identities? Why are we drawn towards separating others from ourselves, instead of seeing the similarities we share with these “others?”
Why do we start with the belief that we are the norm and anyone else who is different is the odd ball?
I don’t expect to get a lot of good answers to these questions. And really, that’s not the point. Because the answers would never really satisfy the questions. Of course there are answers, but when we dig into those answers, they just seem really lacking, missing some important elements that seem far more important than what the answers offer.