“Patriotism is more easily praised than explained.” So begins this tract written in response to World War I. The series of papers assumed that it was necessary for Britain to enter the war, but just as convinced that the church exceeds all national boundaries. Dearmer’s essay begins by engaging the question of why war has begun in a time of growing international solidarity. It would seem that “intellectual” unity, disconnected from the affections of place and other presumably “organic” forms of belonging, is a failure to the extent that it has not prevented the war. Patriotism, Deamer says, can be neutral, or noble, or evil. He spends a fair amount of time on what it can contribute to peace. He seems to have a positive view of patriotism, or at least what good patriotism can be.
But as the essay progresses the argument shifts slightly to a discussion of the Kingdom of God. This shift has the effect of turning what seemed to be the main thesis of the essay on its head. We are returned to the internationalism of the Kingdom of God, of a unity not bound by mere local custom or family. The benefits of true patriotism are the benefits of seeking God’s kingdom. Only when this universal kingdom is sought can a local, cultural unity be of any use; only then will it be purged of prejudice and pride - and not devolve into war. Dearmer’s essay a useful tonic to the praise Vida Scudder or has for patriotism in her Socialism and Character, or even Conrad Noel in a chapter he contributed to an edited volumed entitled England A Nation. There is more to explore with both the former and the latter, but Dearmer's essay, in my judgment, hits the right theological notes. The hyperlink below should get you the pdf.