In my previous post I asked whether the Golden Rule applied at the geo-political level. That is, are nation states obliged to do unto others just like individuals are? In one sense this is an easy question to answer. Nobody — individual or nation — has the right to treat others wickedly and yet expect goodness in return.
But the question of golden rules at the level of nation states really conceals another question: are some nations chosen for certain roles which give them certain rights over other nations? If a policeman pulls up behind me on the road with his lights flashing I better get out of the way because as a policeman he has certain rights I as an average motorist do not have. But if some punk kid driving his mom’s Camry pulls up behind me with his lights flashing I’ll slow right down and block him so he can’t get by. (Hey, I never said I was fully sanctified.) The difference is that I have no obligation to yield to the punk kid. He isn’t a policeman.
At the level of nation states are there some nations which have certain rights over other nations akin to the policeman’s rights over me? And if so, how does one discern which nations those are? And what rights do they have anyway?
Imagine, for instance, that Canada suddenly emerged as the global superpower of the world based on a truly unstoppable force of Eskimos* and iceballs. Would the mere fact that Canada had become more powerful than all other nations suddenly give them rights over other nations as a policeman has rights over individuals? If so, is it merely power that confers such rights? Is that not might makes right?
Or maybe another criterion confers those rights. Perhaps a nation would have such rights over other nations if a certain percentage of their population has certain religious (e.g. Christian) beliefs. Thus, a nation in which more than 90% of its citizens identify themselves as Christian gets a special right. Is this plausible?
Or maybe rights are conferred only if the nation in question is a representational democracy. Thus to be a policeman for other nations it is necessary, and perhaps sufficient, that your nation be an “open” one meaning that it includes the democratic right to vote, the freedom of the press, et cetera. But if this is important, how effective does that representational democracy have to be? And how free and naked the public square? And why think this criterion is apposite to begin with?
So my question is this: what would it take, beyond Eskimos and iceballs, to give Canada special rights as a nation distinct from other nations? Or does it just come down to having the biggest and most powerful army? And if this, then are we not simply back in the territory of Machiavelli, an anti-Christian political science if ever there was one?
These are critically important questions for a Christian to answer because Christians recognize that human institutions like nations are fallen as surely as human individuals. As a result, nations portray the self-serving and self-justifying corruptions as surely as individuals. And nations are as likely to make claims for their own unique status which are just as indefensible as the claims made at the level of individuals. Consequently Christians who do not ask these important questions about their own nation are failing in a critical prophetic role to which they have been called as salt and light in the world.
*Actually, the term “Eskimo” is considered politically incorrect within Canada to refer to people of the North. The preferred term is the Inuit. However, in fanciful illustrations like this the term Eskimo is preferable, just like we all prefer a tasty Eskimo pie on a hot summer day. (If you don’t know what an Eskimo pie is then I invite you to visit Nestle’s website and become informed.)