The term “Balkanization” was coined at the beginning of the 20th century to describe how the Balkan region of Eastern Europe was divided during the previous century into hostile sub-group nations by politics, race, ethnicity and religion. The resulting powder keg led humanity into World War I.
Today, our nation faces a similar “Balkanization” along familiar lines.
Applications now contain questions regarding race (White, African American, Latino, Asian, Other). Urban communities are often parsed along even more detailed lines of ethnicity (Polish, Italian, Jewish, Arab, Ukrainian, Russian, Irish, etc.).
The balkanization of America continues in other areas as well. Economically, people are described as “poor,” “rich” or “middle class.” There are the “one-percenters” who unfairly possess the wealth and the “ninety-nine percenters” who supposedly create it.
Religion has become balkanized along the lines of “atheist,” “theist” and “deist.” Among the theists, moderates, progressives and fundamentalists are delineated.
Even something as seemingly “cast in stone” as human physiology is balkanized as “heterosexual,” “bisexual,” “homosexual,” and “transsexual” are categorized.
The clarity of logic and biblical revelation fight against this kind of thinking.
There is only one race – the human race. Racists seeking to divide it would do well to look into the research of matrillineal DNA and Y Chromosomal Adam that pointedly demonstrate that all of humankind traces its heterosexual descent from one man and one woman (the Bible actually gives us their names, “Adam” and “Eve”).
There is only one true religion. Logically, the divergent claims of all the world’s religions cannot all be true if truth is propositionally singular. The exceptional nature of biblical revelation (internally and externally attested to) places it head and shoulders above all other claims of religious “truth.”
Socioeconomic dissimilarities (as real as they are) have always been the result of the degree to which free-moral agents utilize their God-given abilities and opportunities to their fullest advantage. Far from being the “luck of the draw” or “the casting of the lot,” they are an external expression of the sum of individual human potential.
The balkanizers peddle a determinist perspective that promises absolution of personal initiative and responsibility. It divides, accuses and ultimately destroys – all of which are principle points of a demonic agenda (John 10:10).
The founders of our nation knew the dangers of this evil threat. In his farewell address, George Washington extolled the non-balkanized identity of “American” and presaged a warning against a national parsing:
“The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together. The independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint councils and joint efforts – of common dangers, sufferings and successes.”
When the nation faced a terminal breach during the Civil War, it was Abraham Lincoln who argued against balkanization with the words “our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Like Washington before him, Lincoln knew the survival of the nation rested on a singular national identity. Both knew that this could only be accomplished “under God,” Who alone had the authority and wisdom to administer the affairs of a nation.
To turn our backs on the unity found in common devotion to Almighty God is nothing less than national suicide. Ancient Israel stands as a silent witness against our foolish propensity to national balkanization. In the Old Testament book of Judges we find a recurring commentary on the decline and captivity of the Jewish nation.
“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 17:6).
This self-destructive “everyone for himself” mentality ultimately was Israel’s undoing. It is a perspective to be opposed by the healing counsel of the Psalmist: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD ...” (Psalm 33:12).
Tim Clark is pastor of Emmanuel Christian Church, New Vernon Township.