Stay with me for a minute, if you can.
Lately I’ve been noticing how many times the Greek verb ginomai shows up in scripture. Ginomai is a “being” or “becoming” verb, dealing often with coming into existence. Sometimes, ginomai appears in places that don’t appear to be speaking of coming into existence per se. I mean, we get that it’s going to figure into John’s prologue — the only “begotten” or “produced” (mono-genes) Son. But the begetting (generating, producing, beginning) of things is surfacing for me in many other places . . . as is another word: nation.
Having thought, talked, and written quite a bit on denominationalism,¹ I was surprised that I hadn’t stopped to think about the root of that word. It’s not quite “antidisestablishmentarianism,” but denominationalism is a long word, too, and its root might not be apparent. The root, it would appear, is the nat part, and that part would appear to stem from the Latin natale, to be born. I doubt that there’s any connection between the Greek ginomai and the Latin natale, but the concepts are connected; they pertain to beginnings.
Fast forward (Or fast sideways?).
How does a nation get its genesis? Well, maybe in different ways, depending. . . . I once lived near the territory belonging to the Kickapoo Nation. Funny word to me, Kickapoo. But surely not to them. They are a “nation” in a more etymologically tied sense — as are the other native American groupings left in the U.S. of A.
The Javelina Nation (also known as the Hog Nation) is for me a less meaningful type of nation. It seems a conceptual stretch to refer to a university’s adherents as a nation, but I suppose some experience a second birth into a new identity when they attend or work for a university. What is clear is that there are some rather fierce loyalties that emanate from such a “nation” that arises around an educational institution. (What is unclear is whether there is as strong a rationale for the label “nation” when you’re talking about engineering students as when you’re talking about athletes. Although an erstwhile athlete myself, I’ve never jumped on the bandwagon that runs all over campuses and tries to act as if everyone is one of the school mascot’s brothers and sisters. I’m a graduate of Christiana High School, and I self-identify with the word “Christiana,” not calling myself a Viking, although I played two sports while at the school. I have similar feelings about the Bisons, the Blue Hens, the Highlanders, the Roadrunners, the Bears, and the Javelinas.)
A particularly strong affiliative, institutional — almost nationalistic, we might say — feeling comes to me from the Columbine High School story, which is truly, horrifically a standout among all the truly horrific stories of shooting/killing sprees. The school did not have a school “alma mater” song, as composer Frank Ticheli discovered when he was writing a tribute piece for Columbine’s band. So, Ticheli wrote an alma mater for them, too . . . and then he very artfully and heartfully wove a bit of it into the lengthy band piece, which is titled An American Elegy. For me, the moment when an excerpt from the alma mater is appears is the capstone of a very moving instrumental piece. The simple, profound words here are these:
We are Columbine
We all are Columbine!
. . . and I have chills even now, as I type them and feel the music in my soul. What a poignant expression of solidarity and identity — almost national, if you will. Click here to hear the entire piece, (and if you don’t have much time, skip to 6:30 or so to hear the “We are Columbine” exclamation which begins at 7:02). I feel blessed to have come in contact with Ticheli’s An American Elegy, and to have conducted it in two performances. I also feel blessed to be able to experience beauty such as the beauty in music. The blessing of living in a relatively free country, not entirely lost on me, makes musical experiences readily available.
Putting the above-described nationalistic ideas aside, what can we take away? The most important thing isn’t that high school mascots are silly. It’s not that the Kickapoo Tribe constitutes a nation under some definitions. No, it’s not about temporal nationalistic ideals.
It is that believers in Jesus constitute a holy, Christian “nation.” (Peter said so, and Peter knew Jesus pretty well.) We are born from above into the nation beyond nations. And this citizenship transcends all others.
I wish I had the “Columbine nation” kind of feeling more regularly when considering the everlasting spiritual nation.
We are in the Christian Way.
We all are in the Christian Nation!
If you’re a Christian: today, please, don’t draw fatally flawed, irreverent parallels between American military heroes and Jesus Christ. There is no comparison. Spend Memorial Day in the way you wish, being grateful for various blessings, including American ones — and knowing that your primary citizenship is in Heaven.
¹ I once got in trouble with a few folks in Delaware for preaching about the denominationalism within “us.” Yes, RMers, we have it, too. And it can be worse, in some ways, when we have blinders on. In other words, those other guys, the full-blown denominations, can at least acknowledge their situation. We need to be honest enough to acknowledge the status quo, even as we seek to be less than denominational.