THE STATE AS PROTECTION RACKET: ALTRUISM, CITIZENSHIP, AND EXCLUSION
6-1. The state is the ultimate "protection racket" because the price of its
protection can be the highest tribute that may be exacted from persons: their souls,
their moral autonomy.
The coercive state, that is, often demands the moral autonomy of its citizens as a
condition of its protection of their material well-being. Many surrender that
autonomy without a struggle, by gladly affirming the "legitimacy" of the violent and
coercive hierarchies which rule over them.
Why is this so?
6-2. If the officers of the state are ultimately only the enforcers of a protection
racket, do we owe them honor and respect solely by virtue of their offices?
No. Their offices too often represent routinized hierarchy and domination. In
addition, the occupants of these offices are too often the most sophisticated and well-
entrenched of the criminals among us. Yet, even when they are, they are ironically
victims, too, of a system and of a way of thinking.
6-3. From a purely ethical perspective, the problem with the coercive state is that
it protects one group of God's children at the expense of others. The realm
("kingdom") of God, by comparison with earthly states, offers universal "citizenship":
no one is excluded by God. (It may yet be safe to say that all of us exclude ourselves
The state, that is, is not based upon altruism, but upon egoism, for it is always
egoism that motivates individuals and groups to include some and exclude others.
Any serious critique of the state--the realm of all violent, coercive, and judgmental
practices--must begin with an analysis of the egoism-altruism dilemma.
6-4. The first question that one must answer when coming to grips with the
altruism-egoism dilemma is whether that dilemma can bear the weight that one would
put upon it. Therefore, one cannot fruitfully proceed in ethical analysis until one has
answered the first question of ethics: is altruism really possible?
If it is not, if everything is simply veiled self-interest, then one has to ask what it
is that impels us to try to extend our moral perspective such that we feel either a
kinship or an obligation (hardly the same thing) for more and more sentient beings--
why we feel compelled, that is, to extend the boundaries of the category of those to
whom we feel loyalty. If one admits that one is so impelled, what is it that impels one
to try to extend the limits of loyalty, if not altruism pure and simple? Surely it is not
egoism which is at work when we make the group more inclusive, for self-interest is
typically better served by exclusion rather than inclusion. Some force seems to be
impelling us to go beyond ourselves, and it must be God, who surely did not create
us for his own self-interest, but for our own.
If one starts from strong theistic premises, one seems to be on safer ground in
assuming that a strong altruism-egoism dilemma is a valid one, one that cannot be
rationalized away by reference to some kind of milksop such as "reciprocal altruism,"1
or by some appeal to "enlightened self-interest" or "mutual advantage."2 We do well
to preserve a clear egoism-altruism distinction as the basis for our further analysis.
6-5. The ultimate basis for all contracts is ultimately egoism: "What will I get in
Another problem with a contractual theory of obligation, as opposed to one based
upon unconditional altruism, is that contracts are always between subsets of the set
of all human beings, and benefits and entitlements are seen to be owed only to those
who are members of the subsets which contract together.
Contractualism as a general social theory is thus by its very nature exclusive: this
is the nature of egoism as manifested in social practices and structures. When
contractualism is extended from ethics pure and simple to the realm of political
theory, the exclusivist orientation of social contract theory is manifested as a bounded
conception of rights and citizenship. Some persons, that is, are the objects of loyalty
and moral concern. Others are not.
Altruistic obligation, by contrast, is transnationalistic and universalistic. It does not
6-6. Conventional altruism (or what passes for altruism) is usually circumscribed
by familial, tribal, national, religious, or ethnic boundaries. The soldier who falls on
a grenade is altruistic and selfless toward his comrades, but not toward his enemy.
His altruism is to be applauded, for he demonstrates that he is capable of sacrificing
himself for the sake of his fellow soldiers or his fellow countrymen.
Yet, to the extent that a soldier is prepared to die only for his countrymen while
remaining prepared to kill those outside the limited bounds of loyalty, his altruism is
circumscribed by the limits of the group identified as his own. Indeed, whether we
say that he is selfish in the limits of his national identification or altruistic in his
predisposition to die for those with whom he identifies, the fact remains that he is not
altruistically inclined toward all humankind.
The riddle of patriotism therefore remains: is nationalism, patriotism, an expression
of altruism or of egoism? What makes the issue problematic is the fact that the
noblest patriot seems to be disposed to sacrifice himself only for those with whom he
can identify. It is not clear that his actions really should even be called altruistic in the
first place: he seems to be prepared to sacrifice himself only for an extension of
himself. This limitation of his perspective allows him to kill others outside his group
who are a threat to that which is dear to him, and so a nationalist perspective seems,
if anything, to make the soldier more dangerous to humanity than if he were
indifferent to the welfare of others.
In any case, patriotism qua nationalism is not something that one wants to exalt:
on the best interpretation, it is the result of an imperfectly developed moral
perspective, whereas on the worst interpretation it is self-interest pure and simple.
6-7. Early Christian teachings may well be unique among altruistic systems of
thought in that they require one to love all human beings, even those defined as "the
enemy" (including, one presumes, criminals and other internal enemies to society).
All other religions and ethical systems require altruistic sacrifice for the sake of
members of some group, to the exclusion of others outside the group. Yet, insofar
as the "others" are not universal, neither is the altruism complete or universal.
In Christian ethics, one must even be disposed to make sacrifices for the truly evil:
we are obligated to follow the Christ, and he died for the sake of all persons, including
the most ungodly. How is this is to be accomplished without furthering the cause of
evil? This is the paradox of Christian ethics, and it is a reason that Christian ethics has
been a "stumbling block" to those who cannot accept the ideal of unqualified for-
giveness or of universal altruism.
6-8. Why should one die for the sake of an enemy, an enemy not only of oneself
but of persons and ideals which one may hold dear? If so doing leaves these dear
ones vulnerable, what has one achieved by one's sacrifice, if not the promotion of evil?
Is it not necessary to make a decision as to more or less worthy others and to be
prepared to sacrifice accordingly?
This is an entirely reasonable position, and many nominal Christians have acted on
the basis of some such rationale. Yet, the early Christian view does not seem to
support it. For, having ranked others in terms of significance and worthiness, has one
not only judged others but also indicated a predisposition to regress to the same
exclusive nationalistic and ethnocentric impulse which feeds acts of war in the first
6-9. Even Jesus himself called for the sacrifice of his own followers for the sake
of demonstrating his commitment to all humankind, even the worst sinners. Since he
loved many of his followers, did this not pain him? Surely it did, but by his divine
logic he had no alternative: if he as a human being was not to judge but to forgive and
to be prepared to sacrifice, then was he not exemplifying the kind of universalist logic
which is to guide and perfect our own altruistic impulses?
Was he not also saying that even sinners are still "in the family," still children of
God--no matter how wayward?
6-10. Perhaps it is not too strong to say that the main point of returning good for
evil in hard cases is that one might find a way to change the evildoer, not merely
reduce the level of conflict. Even if the practical effect of a personal sacrifice is small
or nonexistent, there may be long-term benefits of a non-material nature: persons do
change when inspired by the examples of others.
This way of looking at things could be in error, of course: perhaps we should
always return good for evil simply because that is the divine imperative. Either way,
the proper response to any injustice is always to respond with good. This is what
many would call "coddling the criminal" or even "rewarding injustice." Yet, original
Christianity required one to return good for evil in the most literal sense, showing by
one's actions that one's own physical welfare and social status are subordinate to the
spiritual and material welfare of the person, group, or country which is threatening
or injuring one or one's own.
The requirement always to return good for evil would clearly preclude war or
punishment as possible moral courses of action.
6-11. Returning good for evil is a powerful example because it has the potential
to convince others of the sincerity of one's beliefs, and it does this by convincing them
of the importance one attaches to their beliefs and to their moral condition or spiritual
Giving one's life is a small thing if the possible result is a paradigm change in the
thinking and behavior of others, a change which will prepare them to face God and
to live in peace with all persons.
6-12. Christianity leads us to apparently absurd conclusions if it demands us to
make vulnerable our loved ones, but any lesser predisposition to sacrifice does not
offer a truly universalizable example: God is no respecter of persons, including one's
loved ones, for all are loved by him. It is possible that a Christian action may require
one to leave vulnerable those for whom one has the strongest emotional attachment
in favor of those for whom one has absolutely no emotional attachment, but whom
one has reason to believe are nonetheless children of God.
If a predisposition to risk the sacrifice of the physical welfare of one to whom one
is emotionally attached is required in order to promote the spiritual welfare of one to
whom one has no attachment (and who might even be brutal toward oneself and one's
loved ones), then the divine logic of spiritual priorities would seem to require that one
might have to risk losing that which is more precious than one's own life: the life and
well-being of those whom one most dearly loves. If our willingness to suffer the loss
of our loved ones demonstrates to those who call themselves our enemies the depth
of our commitment to the spiritual well-being of those same enemies, then we have
not only promoted their spiritual understanding but in the process contributed to their
conversion and the subsequent saving of lives of other innocent persons.
We must always remember that our "loved ones" are no more loved of God than
are our enemies, or the enemies of society.
6-13. On such things as the willingness to sacrifice our loved ones, we tend, of
course, to "think like men" and not like God. The physical welfare of ourselves or our
loved ones, as important as it is, is a small thing compared to the spiritual welfare of
our enemies. Jesus even knowingly called for his own loved ones to go out and be
killed for the spiritual welfare of those who were enemies to his cause. To drive home
the point, he accepted his own execution--that of the most perfect human being--in
order to prove his own unconditional love (even for his own tormentors), as well as
to convert those who could not be converted by a lesser example of selfless sacrifice.
6-14. This is the example of Christ: he not only died for all persons, but he called
upon those whom he "loved" (to whom he was personally attached in a human sense)
to make a comparable sacrifice. This was probably his greatest sacrifice, although
most of us are more impressed by his own disposition to die for those who were
enemies to his cause. The crucifixion gets our attention, but his willingness to
encourage a similar sacrifice on the part of those whom he loved is, upon reflection,
the most astonishing attribute of his divinity.
6-15. Jesus told Peter that in his old age others would come and take him where
he did not want to go. That he loved Peter is beyond doubt. It is noteworthy that he
still said to Peter at the last, "Follow me." (John 21:22)
6-16. Perhaps it is well to say, with Abraham, that we should be prepared to
sacrifice our loved ones if that is what God requires; and, being prepared to do so, we
may yet pray that we shall not have to. God will provide the sacrifice--most probably
in the form of ourselves. It is thus reasonable to hope that we may be able in every
case to find a way to sacrifice ourselves in order to save our loved ones, and thus to
be true to the demands of peace and of universal altruism without being called upon
to let our loved ones die before we do ourselves.
6-17. In its typical chauvinistic but moralistic manifestations, the mutual security
argument manifests itself as a claim that all persons have an obligation to be prepared
to use force to protect some group (the family, the community or the nation) against
outsiders. Although the varieties of the argument differ, as do the settings, the
general presumption is that the members of the family, the community, or the nation-
state are or ought to be dearer to one than those persons or groupings outside of that
family, community, or nation. In addition, on such a view, being entitled to the
benefits of that community or nation obliges one to do one's "fair share" by way of
providing for the common defense.
The mutual security premise thus leads to conclude that there is an "obligation" to
do some supposed "fair share of the killing." This is the foundation of all jingoistic
arguments in favor or war and the military draft.
Such is the final fruit of egoism writ large.
6-18. One part of the revulsion which the Christian pacifist feels in the face of the
mutual security argument is moral: one feels strongly that moral obligation is of a very
different nature from the idea of mutual protection and mutual advantage found in so-
cial contract theory, and one also feels that moral obligation has as its end something
more significant than collective security for some exclusive group (even one as large
as the nation), at the expense of others outside that group.
6-19. The mutual security corollary which calls for a moral imperative of violence
also comes to fruition as hostility toward the pacifist, who is characterized as a shirker
or a coward, or both.
Pacifism is thus a defense not only of the welfare of those excluded from one's
immediate group, but also a defense of a higher conception of honor than that
contained in any claim of an obligation to kill or punish. Perhaps the pacifist should
be above the capacity to be insulted, but there is no denying that those who tell the
pacifist that he has an obligation to kill have insulted the foundation of his belief
They have also, I think, insulted God as well. Had they been around at the time
of the Christ, they would have joined the chorus calling for his crucifixion. He was
not the nationalist zealot his countrymen had been led to expect of anyone who
claimed to be the Messiah, and he wanted to include Greeks and Arabs in his family.
It was this denial of exclusivity which infuriated his own countrymen the most, for it
was a denial of their special status in the eyes of God.
Yet, his pacifism, too, must have played a role in inflaming their passions, for
human nature has not changed in two thousand years, and the pacifist is almost
universally hated and probably always has been.
Why is this so?
6-20. A coherent Christian pacifism is averse not only to war and punishment as
expressions of group egoism, but it is equally averse to the state's honoring of those
are prepared to kill, those who accept the conception of honor implicit in the mutual
One may yet memorialize those who have died in war without yet honoring their
actions. Yet, if one does so, one must be prepared to memorialize non-combatants
as well. The state, however, tends to build monuments only to those who are
prepared to kill. It tends to remain indifferent to those who simply died.
The state wants, that is, to encourage warriors. It does not care about those who
are simply victims of war. It certainly does not care about those who died on "the
6-21. Ultimately, of course, the state does not even really care about those who
died as warriors. If it did, it would not have sacrificed them on the altar of war in the
first place: the group (the state in this case) uses some for the sake of its own survival.
The monuments to veterans are too often not really for the sake of those who have
died. Such monuments are too often directed at the next generation, those who can
be induced to serve the exclusive group by being prepared to kill and die for it. We
should thus look at monuments to warriors with a certain scepticism, and sometimes
even cynicism. Such monuments are not only valid memorials. They can also be one
of the means by which society recruits new sacrificial lambs--young men who will then
go out and create other sacrificial lambs on the "other side."
The state, that is, does not even honor its own dead unless they are warriors. The
state, in pretending to honor warriors, honors war. It does not really care about the
victims--including that class of victims who were combatants.
6-22. Jesus of Nazareth was telling his fellow Jews that their conception of a
chosen people was faulty, that all persons were children of God. He challenged, that
is, the exclusivity premise which is the foundation of the mutual security position of
all egoistic groups. He was thus hated and misunderstood for trying to promote the
truth of a higher, more inclusive standard of justice.
Every pacifist should be prepared for the possibility of a similar fate: the merits of
pacifism and universal brotherhood do not evoke insight and respect as often as they
evoke perplexity and anger.
Every pacifist must be prepared to die for his or her "country": the brotherhood
and sisterhood of humankind.
6-23. What the pacifist also rejects when facing the advocates of mutual security
and exclusivity is the taking of sides in a zero-sum game. The pacifist thus never
adjusts to the typical complacency about casualties in warfare and other conflict.
Regardless of whether or not these casualties be military or civilian, whether on one
side or the other, the pacifist is concerned. The advocate of mutual security and its
exclusivist and egoistic premises, by contrast, is concerned only with casualties on one
side while applauding casualties on the other.
Can one imagine God doing that? Can one imagine God's applauding one group
of his children for their abuses against others of his children?
6-24. A concern for mutual security leads inexorably to the taking of sides in such
a way as to exclude others, and this is the foundation of war. Any kind of social
conflict can be war, even where overt violence is not used. Even philosophy can be
warlike if its goal is to humiliate or to make outcasts those of a differing persuasion.
The pacifist is thus opposed to fruitless social conflict, including but not limited to
that which entails the use of force, punishment, and other violence. Any practice or
any social grouping which offers a de facto condemnation of those who are outside
the circle is thus the kind of "war" which the Christian pacifist wants to abjure.
What pacifism rejects, that is, is not only violence but a general manifestation of
ethnocentric exclusivity. In the United States, nationalistic exclusivity is manifested
through much talk about something called "national security," the local variant of the
mutual security dogma.
6-25. Patriotism is primarily a glorification of a mutual benefit association. At its
core it is thus egoistic.
The disguised egoism surfaces in the euphemism of "military service." Yet, what
is this "service" but a disposition to kill for one's country?
6-26. Courage as a willingness to die for one's country has rarely been the true
issue, as the patriot would have us believe. In a nuclear age even babies and quad-
riplegics are capable of the dubious virtue of dying for their country. What the group
qua state is actually asking is for one to kill for it. "Are you prepared to kill for your
country?" is thus a more nearly correct interpretation of what is being asked.
Even here, however, the appeal to "country" hides the uglier reality of the claim:
one is being asked to kill so that the group qua state can enjoy security and
prosperity--even if so doing reduces the security and prosperity of other groups, not
to mention those young people of one's own country who are the routine sacrificial
What the patriot is really asking is, "Are you prepared to kill for me and my
group?" The self-righteous patriot is thus a egoist in moral disguise--a scoundrel
6-27. In the best case, the call to arms means being asked to kill members of
another nation so that one's own nation might survive. At worst, the unwitting pawns
of one ruling elite are being asked to kill the unwitting pawns of a ruling elite of a rival
state so that one order can dominate the other--so that the elites on both sides can
6-28. Patriotism in the usual limited nationalistic sense is as beguiling as a
prostitute--pretty and wholesome-looking on the outside, but riddled with moral and
physical disease and putrefaction of all sorts on the inside.
Like most diseases, patriotism and other forms of group chauvinism often do not
show their worst manifestations in their early stages.
6-29. If we should do good to those who persecute us and oppress us, then how
are we to treat our ultimate oppressors, those who would dare to try to rule over us,
to dominate us and try to control our very lives while claiming to be our "public
Consistency would require that we try to treat them with good also. The apparent
absurdity of such a view can be countered by the positive side: the potential beneficial
consequences of converting those so powerful are great enough to justify the likely
sacrifice of oneself in a given instance. Admittedly, those who would do good to
those in power are not likely to convert them in any given instance, but the possibility
is nonetheless real and justifies the likelihood that one may not survive the effort.
After all, one is not talking here about "being nice" to those in power: one is talking
about talking straight to them with the full knowledge that one is likely to get into
trouble that way, while still preparing no contingencies for retaliation.
6-30. But what about Hitler? Should one not be prepared to knock off a Hitler?
No, but one should be prepared to talk straight to a Hitler, and one should expect
retaliation from a Hitler. There is only one consolation: against unjust rulers in
general, one is morally permitted to speak and then run, or to speak on the run. There
is nothing that requires one, like Socrates in prison, to sit and go too easily to one's
death, if a moral avenue of escape presents itself.
On the other hand, one should not delude oneself into thinking that one is always
going to be able to make a clean getaway. How does one deal with a Hitler?
Consistency requires that even a Hitler is worthy of one's sacrifice, if one's sacrifice
can offer some small hope of showing him the error of his ways. Even a Hitler, after
all, is a child of God, regardless of the scope of his atrocities and his delusions.
If God is all-powerful, God can and will salvage all persons. Can our attitude be
6-31. One's ethic is found out when one's own welfare or survival is on the line.
What will one do to save oneself--or one's reputation? Who will one publicly declare
to be the villain? Who will one throw to the dogs? How will one do all of this?
The answers given to all of these questions are what distinguish the true pacifist
from those who merely talk laboriously of peace, but who are as treacherous as
snakes in their interpersonal relations.
6-32. Rather than promote peace as some end state, human beings do well if they
learn to act and to achieve their more limited goals in the world by peaceable means.
They cannot guarantee thereby that others will do the same, although the strong
presumption here is that acting peaceably as individuals is the best single way to
promote a similar behavior on the part of others.
The motive for acting peaceably must not be so that others will treat one peaceably
in return, for that would be a narrowly selfish motive. Besides, the reaction to pacifist
ideals is often hateful and violent, so that what one really must be prepared to do is
to travel the path of peace alone: one's peaceableness should not be contingent on the
reciprocated peaceableness of others.
6-33. The conception of ethics which I am defending can be called an exemplary
conception: a conception which, if correct, would bear emulation and universalization
in the behavior of all persons.
An exemplary conception is also one that would be worthy of being emulated
unilaterally, with or without the reciprocation of others: God incarnate would not take
a poll before deciding what is the right thing to do, and neither should his children.
Most of all, God incarnate does act unilaterally in the sense that he continues to act
benevolently toward his children, no matter how they act toward him or toward each
If God incarnate acts in a unilaterally benevolent fashion toward those who are
unworthy, can we (who are the unworthy ones) do otherwise if we think of ourselves
as his children?
6-34. The most fundamental kind of betrayal is that found in sacrificing another
person or group for the sake of oneself or one's group. Much that goes by the name
of "patriotism" is betrayal of one segment of mankind for the sake of the survival of
oneself or the group to which one belongs.
In addition to the term "patriotism," an even more common and inclusive
euphemism for betrayal is the so-called "right of self-defense."
6-35. The usual (including the statist) way of looking at betrayal is to say that
betrayal is the forsaking of one group or person for another. The pacifistic Christian,
whose loyalties are to all persons and not to one group or person at the expense of
others, must come up with another, more inclusive, way of looking at the concept of
betrayal. Thus is it necessary to see any sacrifice of another as a form of betrayal, and
thus it is necessary to see why it is that what the state calls virtue is really vice: all
violence done in the name of "patriotism," "self-defense," or "official duty" is really
a form of betrayal.
6-36. The first step in the process of the betrayal of God is to define another
person or group as "the enemy." Once this has been done, thereby imputing inherent
evil and worthlessness to the other, the actual act of betrayal comes easily enough: the
execution of judgment follows easily from the making of the moral judgment.
That this process of betrayal occurs everyday, at the level of ordinary interpersonal
relationships, should be obvious enough. Indeed, betrayal begins on a small scale,
with the so-called "minor" brutalities which persons commit against one another
during everyday life.
6-37. One wonders how God feels when one of his children calls another of his
children "the enemy."
6-38. The so-called "right of self-defense" is one of those concepts which is the
product of rationalization. Like all products of rationalization, the idea of such a
"right" is very difficult to break down in the minds of those who have succumbed to
it. Thus a "right of self-defense" is thought by many to be more or less self-evident,
perhaps because the primal instinctual urge toward self-preservation is so strong, or
else (in truly pathological cases) because other rationalizations have so distorted a
person's moral judgment that he or she exaggerates or even imagines the potential
threat which another poses.
Perhaps this latter evil can be seen at its worst in the tendency to scapegoat those
who, from a state of moral and psychological distortion, are viewed as sufficiently
threatening to one's survival that one must be prepared to exterminate (or at least to
banish or incarcerate) them in order to feel secure.
The destruction, banishment, or extermination of other individuals or groups--these
are what the so-called "right of self-defense" is really all about in practice.
6-39. Did Jesus of Nazareth speak of a "right of self-defense," or invoke such a
concept in his own behalf? Did he try, that is, to defend a "right" to do wrong?
6-40. What the right course of action is in the face of perceived threat might be
very much in opposition to common sense and instinct: the right course of action
might be to be disposed to sacrifice oneself for the sake of another, even for another
clearly in the wrong.
Otherwise, how does one explain the behavior of Jesus of Nazareth?
6-41. Jesus of Nazareth sacrificed himself to those who were less worthy than
himself, and in so doing communicated in the strongest possible way--with deeds and
not merely with words--that the will of God does not require us to save ourselves at
any cost, such as by accusing, judging, or coercing others, but requires us instead
always to be a living example of the divine altruistic impulse, which can be counter
to mere instinct--especially the survival instinct.
6-42. Did Jesus of Nazareth save himself from his accusers by engaging in
counter-accusation? Did Jesus save himself from those who threatened him by engag-
ing in counter-threat?
Why was Jesus almost totally silent before his accusers and before Pilate?
6-43. What is counter to instinct seems almost certain to cause some emotional
distress. Yet, one dare not confuse all such distress with a bad conscience.
Otherwise, one will not have the moral courage to do what must be done in those
cases where one's sacrifice really is called for, when a given cup refuses to pass.
6-44. Without the rational intuition of the divine will, perhaps each of us could live
well enough--as animals. If human beings were animals and nothing more, this
possibly would be enough to please God. Therefore we might justifiably behave as
ferociously as the most savage beast if we were attacked, or even remotely threat-
ened, after the manner of truly wild beasts.
Being neither beasts nor wild, however, human beings cannot justify as acceptable
to God that which God might tolerate in other animals at their present stage of
development. Thus it is that human beings are called to aspire to a higher plane of
existence, to an ideal which goes beyond the rationalization of the instinctual as
"right" or "duty."
6-45. Does anyone truly doubt that other animals besides humans are also engaged
in the evolution or development of "moral faculties"?
6-46. Betrayal can ultimately be understood in its most fundamental sense when
it is seen in the simplest kind of social situation--one in which the welfare of one
person comes into direct conflict with the welfare of one other person. Group
situations, by contrast, have a way of causing confusion as to the real meaning of
betrayal, for the group makes claims upon individuals for violent defense of itself,
claims which seem plausible because moral claims about the welfare of all get mixed
up with egoistic claims.
Perhaps that is how persons in most human societies have come to believe that
killing for the group is really a virtuous act: the conviction has developed that killing
is a thoroughly selfless act, as has the corresponding conviction that a disposition not
to kill is a very selfish act. Nationalistic prattling about a patriotic "duty" to kill in
order to preserve the country or other group is the worst kind of double-talk and
Individuals may actually help themselves (i.e., act egoistically) two different ways
when they kill for the group: they may be really killing for themselves as members of
the group, or they may be killing for the approval of the group, or both. The fact that
actual self-sacrifice might occur does not change the egoistic logic of the situation,
even if a genuinely altruistic disposition motivates the individual actor in a given case.
6-47. If one kills others for the sake of oneself or the group to which one belongs,
one betrays Christ, who died for all persons and not merely for one small segment.
If one kills one person to preserve oneself, one has also made the judgment that
that person is less worthy of existence than oneself, and this is a judgment that is to
be left to God alone. One has, in any case, denied the infinite worth of that person.
6-48. The pacifist who refuses to fight is seen by the patriot to be a traitor to the
group, one who shirks or who leaves others in the lurch. In fact, the principled
pacifist simply refuses to betray the larger group of humanity and its Lord who died
One who calls oneself a "patriot" may well be the traitor to the "nation" of all
humankind, the only nation ordained of God.
6-49. Pure altruists do not claim a right of self-defense, either individually or
collectively. Not recognizing such a right, they also do not encourage others to
defend them through violence or counter-accusation. Indeed, they discourage others
from such a defense of themselves, as Christ implored his disciples not to defend him
with the sword.
Christ was saddened, however, that his disciples did not stand with him. Refusing
all methods of defending him or sharing his fate was betrayal, as the story of Peter
6-50. When children and those in obvious need of assistance are threatened,
extraordinary defensive measures may be called for, such as interposing oneself
between them and the threat, so that harm comes only to oneself if escape for all is
not possible. Diversion of aggression from them to oneself is perhaps the recom
mended way to protect them--and it may be quite effective. One reason for this is that
humans respond to obstacles to their aggression in ways that are similar to beasts: that
which stands up to them either discourages the assault or enrages the aggressor and
diverts his wrath against the one who interposes himself or herself, thus tending to
lead to forgetfulness about the original prey.
These arguments are not decisive for all cases, of course. Such a strategy will not
always work. Where it would not work, one has to ask oneself why it is that one
might be obligated not to use evil means to come to the assistance of someone in
need. Is it because there is always some creative alternative, or is there simply some
categorical prohibition against the use of imperfect means? Is such a prohibition ab-
Such questions get to the heart of the problem of finding and defending a coherent
pacifism. The only coherent response seems to be the absolute prohibition against
returning evil for evil.
6-51. "Nationalism" in the conventional sense implies not only allegiance but strict
limits to that allegiance. Expanding the limits of nationhood means holding onto the
positive aspect of allegiance or loyalty while expanding the scope of those included
in the concept of "nation." How national boundaries are presently drawn, while not
accidental, is nonetheless ethically arbitrary: which nation one is a part of is really a
matter of which super-extended family one is a part of, and which family one is a part
of is an accident of birth.
6-52. The fact that national or familial identity, like bastardy, is an accident of
birth ought to alert us to the possibility and desirability of defining our allegiance and
loyalty to the largest possible concept of nation, a concept whose limits are not
arbitrary or exclusive.
The ultimate ideal is allegiance to God and loyalty to all of humankind. Far from
being "impractical," this is in fact the only practicable ideal, for it is the only
conception of nationhood not likely to come to fruition in war.
6-53. God does not judge groups, references in the Old Testament to a "chosen
As it became clearer to religious thinkers that there was no such thing as a nation
which was favored in the sight of God to the exclusion of other nations, the whole
idea of a divine judgment of nations rather than individuals lost its entire rationale.
Why judge nations if only individuals could be spoken of as having responsibility?
What point, that is, could there be in making claims about the virtue of groups when
only individuals can meaningfully be referred to in terms of virtue and vice?
"Is this the best country?" is a question which can only meaningfully be answered
in the context of an attitude of self-exaltation--in this case extended to some group
to which one might claim membership. Since original Christianity forbade such an
attitude, it forbade as well such a concern, rendering the question meaningless.
6-54. The foundation of peace is ultimately that no one is excluded. The
foundation of peace is also liberty, freedom, for when one is excluded one has only
the freedom to starve. To be outside the group, to be excluded, means that one does
not exist in a state of peaceful harmony with those inside the group. If one is
excluded, one has been declared to be a de facto enemy, or at least a non-person.
6-55. The foundation of exclusion is judgment, and thus it is that the foundation
of war is also judgment, especially that kind of judgment which excludes some as
worthy of acceptance while including others. The nation-state is the largest and most
dangerous form of exclusive mutual benefit association (hereafter referred to as an
"EMBA"). The nation state, and allegiance to its tenets of exclusivity, is thus the
basis of the most destructive form of warfare.
Perhaps nationalism or its equivalent is the foundation of all warfare: "I am inside;
you're out. I count; you don't. I am worthy; you are expendable."
6-56. "The few, the proud, the Marines." The message appeals to the worst in
human nature, which is appropriate for an organization which exploits children
(recruits) and glorifies brutality.
Is it any accident that that branch of service which most appeals to pride and vanity
is also the most likely to be used to defend Hobbes' "King of the Proud," the nation-
state? Here lies a problem: the Corps builds men (or automatons) who are loyal most
of all to the Corps, not to the nation, for the Corps is the more exclusive grouping.
If everyone went into the Corps, the appeal of pride would be lost.
One sees the same exclusivity in educational institutions, of course. The military
has no monopoly on arrogance and social exclusivity. Educational institutions are
also capable of violence, although they are more subtle about it.
Perhaps that makes them more dangerous.
6-57. Hear the sad chant of the Vietnam veterans: "Why do they not honor us for
our deeds in war?"
The Memorial has been built. The chant continues. How does one, after all,
compensate another for the theft of his or her youth?
6-58. How is allegiance to a universal nation possible or practicable? Perhaps
it is possible to give allegiance to a nation which is in the process of becoming, of
coming into being. Such a nation would be composed of persons who shared
enduring core values. The values of the Christian ideal of the Sermon on the Mount
and associated teachings of Christian idealism may be an example of the "nation"
which is only coming into being, for it is not a nation that one expects to see achieving
its universalist potential in one's lifetime. It is nonetheless a valid object of allegiance
in this life, provided that allegiance to its principles is not seen as an excuse for
limiting one's loyalty to only that segment of humanity which believes as one does.
Otherwise, one's pretensions to universality would only come to fruition in the
worst kind of ethnocentric exclusivity: religious bigotry.
6-59. Concepts such as "citizen" and "member" are implicit judgments of
exclusivity. To the extent, that is, that some are labeled as citizens or members,
others automatically are not. There follows an inevitable tendency among those who
are among the officialdom of both realms to grant certain rights or make certain
claims on behalf of those who are official "persons" in both realms.
Those who are excluded, and who are thus denied certain attributes of personhood
by virtue of denial of certain rights, are thus for all intents and purposes "non-
persons," beings who are treated as if they were lacking in certain of the attributes
associated with personhood and rational autonomy. The important point, of course,
is not any claim that anyone is actually lacking in certain rights, but merely that they
are treated as if they were.
6-60. The state may profitably be viewed as an "EMBA," an exclusive mutual
benefit association, or even an interest group writ large. Only those who contribute
to the state and who give a more or less exclusive allegiance to it are deemed to be
eligible for the benefits which it bestows. The state can thus be seen to be enforcing
loyalty through its threat of exclusion and denial of benefits to those who refuse to
grant it obeisance.
Such is the nature of "protection rackets": those whom they do not protect they
tend to destroy.
6-61. The state is a jealous god, withholding its severest penalties for those who
affirm that loyalty to God has priority over loyalty to the state and its laws. Usually,
of course, the state manages to co-opt potential religious objectors.
The means by which this cooptation typically occurs is by convincing the citizenry
that legal obligation is the locus of all moral obligation. At other times, the state (in
collusion with ecclesiastical authorities) propounds the doctrine of dual or parallel
loyalty (Protestantism), or the idea that the state, subordinate to the church, is still in
the service of God and thus in the chain of command from God (Catholicism).
6-62. By placing legal obligation at the locus of all moral obligation, the state
manages to usurp the title of Sovereign or Most High: God had better not get in the
way. So clever is the way of thinking by which earthly rulers have duped their
underlings (and themselves: this is no conspiracy theory) that persons are made to feel
guilty if they do not consult the state before acting. It is true that the U.S. Constitu
tion has come closer than all previous legal constitutions to exploding the myth that
rights come from the state. It has done this through its almost unknown Ninth
Amendment3 which affirms that there may be rights which exist whether or not the
government recognizes them or not. This is by far the most radical element in the
U.S. Constitution, and when the time is ripe it will perhaps bring the next wave of
significant constitutional interpretation and amendment.
At present the Ninth Amendment serves to remind us that the source of rights (and
of right) is not in the U.S. Constitution or any body of man-made law but in some
higher law of nature or nature's God. When that idea has reached its maturity, the
Ninth Amendment will not have merely changed the U.S. Constitution: it will have
helped demythologize it to the point that it will be seen to be totally superfluous and
Or does one think instead that societal perfection will come through perfecting the
legal system and its coercive sanctions backed up by the threat of violence?
6-63. Breathes there a man with soul so dead who has never felt that the entire
world is or ought to be his home, his native land? Is there anyone who has not chafed
at the limits of experience and fellowship promoted by the culture of nationalism?
The irony of nationalism, of course, is that it is a transnational phenomenon. It is
transnational without being international.
6-64. Collectivities have ways of preserving their exclusivity, of course, and one
of these is the practice of conferring honor on those whose actions preserve the
exclusive collectivity. Another way is to confer blame and denigration upon those
whose actions are a challenge to that exclusive collectivity. Typically the collectivity
is the state, but it can also be the local Rotary Club, a graduating class, or any other
group which defines itself in exclusive terms.
The horror which seems to go unnoticed is how deliberate and manipulative are
most schemas of both approbation and condemnation.
6-65. When the state honors its killers while never memorializing those on the
"other side" who are killed by them, it affirms the Greatest Lie: the idea that only its
people are valuable in the eyes of God. In the domestic realm, this kind of chauvinism
exalts the police, not the military, but the basic ethical problem is the same: someone
is being either banished or destroyed so that someone else might live and prosper
And this is thought to be moral.
6-66. The violence employed to enforce exclusivity may not be physical violence.
It may be psychological, taking its typical form in a kind of symbolic ritual of
banishment--being incarcerated, fired, or denied membership.
Whether the violence be symbolic or substantive, however, it is manifested as
exclusion, which presupposes a de facto judgment of unworthiness. Such judgments
are the essence of barbarism.
6-67. Let those who would exalt nationalism remember to extend its bounds to
include all persons, and then it will not have as its obverse the tendency to stigmatize
the outsider: the "alien," the "foreigner," the "Jew," or some other group or individual
which feels the irrational and hateful reaction of the group sooner or later.
6-68. In any social contract theory, the state can best be viewed as an exclusive
mutual benefit association. As with any such association, one either is a member or
one is not. Some ruling order must, of course, be able to make the determination of
membership. Since benefits and privileges can be withheld on the judgment of the
ruling order, it is not meaningless to say that those whose benefits are withheld are
treated as if they had no rights, and thus as if they were not "official persons."
An even graver problem with social contract theory is that claims of right or justice
are based upon perceived group (or national) self-interest. The result is that the ideal
of "patriotism" becomes the rather sordid one of self-interest writ large. Loyalty to
the group becomes just another expression of self-interest, since compliance comes
to be based upon a recognition that exclusion could mean the end of all benefits: thus
the ultimate sanction is not even a limited altruism, but fear.
This emphasis upon fear as a social regulator (in this case the fear of exclusion)
goes to the heart of my claim that the state is the ultimate "protection racket," for all
protection rackets depend finally upon terror.
6-69. The state as exclusive mutual benefit association (the contractualist view)
typically limits its ethical concern to those who are members: it is not unfair to see the
state on this contractualist view as a huge country club with incredibly elaborate
restrictions. Social contract theory in practice thus becomes de facto bigotry: the
basis for exclusion becomes almost reducible to the place of one's birth, surely as
arbitrary a criterion as skin color, religion, language, or any of the many other bases
for exclusion on a smaller scale.
"Rules of immigration" become in fact restrictions governing membership, and, as
with all such exclusive associations, those who can offer the most to the group are the
more likely to be admitted, and those who have the least to offer but are most in need
are the more likely to be rejected: the poor, the uneducated, the diseased. Those least
in need are admitted, and those most in need tend to be rejected. Membership is
never universal on any contractualist view, of course, since the whole point of any
mutual benefit association is the distribution of entitlements, and universal mem-
bership threatens a dilution of entitlements for those who already belong.
The guiding principle is not altruism, but "reciprocity," which is nothing but
6-70. Property being the first raison d'̂tre of any mutual benefit association, those
who found a statist association can be expected to agree to arrangements which
ensure their own healthy share. Significant others (including those immigrants who
can make a contribution through their cheap labor or professional services) are invited
to join for the sake of strengthening the association economically and politically (akin
in some ways to selling shares in a corporation to stabilize it at the risk of diluting its
assets). Beyond a certain point, however, the inclusion of new members obviously
does not make the association more wealthy or secure, but less, and so acceptance
and inclusion become increasingly more limited. At every point, of course, the
"national interest" is invoked to justify rationales of exclusion, so that those who
support the pristine status of the association (state) are honored as being the true
"patriots," those who are working for the "common good." The "common good"
unfortunately does not extend to all persons, of course, but only to those who are
Such is the general egoistic legacy of social contract theory, the morality and logic
of which seem to many persons to be very nearly self-evident. Contract theory does
seem, however, to be counter to the very principles of universal charity and concern
which made Christianity such a radical force in its infancy.
6-71. Patriotism is typically defined as loyalty to one's country. To the extent,
however, that loyalty to one's country implies the absence of loyalty to other human
beings outside one's country, then patriotism is nothing more than a kind of egoism:
the self writ large. The automatic anger that most persons feel when one of their own
countrymen (or an ally) is attacked, at the same time that they remain indifferent to
attacks on those not of (or allied with) their own country, indicates a kind of identifi-
cation with countrymen combined with an indifference toward the welfare of others
with whom one does not identify.
This simultaneous combination of apathy and outrage is characteristic of all
6-72. The process of identification with others is hardly evil: it is the moral
foundation of family sentiments and fellow feeling for other human beings. The
problem is the kind of socialization which encourages it to be limited to some group
smaller than the entire race of humanity.
Loyalty in and of itself is, of course, a virtue. Thus is the concept of "patriotism"
usually thought to connote virtue. The problem in real human situations, however,
is that those who are vying for our loyalties are often (typically?) trying to recruit us
to join or identify with one group in lieu of another: they wish us to take sides for (or
advance) one group (of which they are, of course, a part) against some other group
which threatens their positions of power, privilege, or prestige.
6-73. The problem with patriotism as a general virtue is that it is typically invoked
at just those times that battle lines are being drawn, or else it is taught in terms of
loyalty to one group in anticipation of threat to that group by some other group.
Thus the very "institution" of instilling patriotism qua nationalism is socialization for
war, for it trains us to limit our perspective and moral concern only to those most like
us--and to be prepared to oppress or destroy those who are different.
6-74. What is true of patriotism is likewise true of the concept of "solidarity," and
woe to that person who believes that he or she can be accepted as neutral in a labor-
management dispute. If one tries to remain neutral, on the premise that taking sides
does not promote the process of problem-solving, then one is automatically branded
This tendency toward banishment of the "neutral" or the pacifist is the most
marked in all-out war, of course, especially after the opposing group or country has
indeed committed atrocities. To try to put these atrocities in perspective (by compar-
ing them with the atrocities being committed by one's own group) is often interpreted
as an attempt to minimize them or even to try to justify the actions of the "enemy,"
when in fact one's only goal is to try to reduce the polarizing tensions which
exacerbate the conflict and lead to escalation.
When one tries to encourage persons to try to see things from the "other side's"
point of view, one is, of course, open to the charge of "giving aid and comfort to the
enemy." This tendency is evident not only in international warfare, but in small group
conflicts, such as post-divorce family squabbles and labor-management disputes.
What all of these polarizing disputes have in common is competition for the
loyalties of fellow "hate-mates."
6-75. The transnational perspective of Christianity ought to encourage the clear
distinction between a Christian and a nationalistic perspective, but of course the
distinction is not typically thought to be a valid one: thus do many churches have a
"Christian flag" (whatever that is) displayed at the same time that they have a U.S.
flag displayed. They fail to see that, in a very essential sense, the claims of
Christianity and the claims of nationalism are not only contingently opposed but
necessarily opposed: it is one thing to cooperate with the state when its purposes are
worthy, but it is quite another thing to identify with the state to the exclusion of
loyalty to persons in other states.
6-76. In the era of state nationalism, patriotism has tended toward a group
psychosis deriving from a sense of impotence and lack of self-esteem on the part of
more and more individuals. Nationalism has become the glorification of power and
Not long ago, I had the personal misfortune of starting the day by turning on the
television just in time to see and hear a U.S. Air Force presentation of the national
war anthem, accompanied by all manner of Air Force weaponry. This particular
sequence was particularly unfortunate, however, for it ended with a beautiful profile
of an advanced aircraft flying steadily along above the clouds in a scene of total
serenity and peacefulness--interrupted suddenly at the end when the plane began to
bank, displaying rather ostentatiously two missiles, one on each wingtip. The picture
was frozen, so that the last thing seen during the last bars of the national war anthem
was the very pointed claim that the reason for the peaceful scene just witnessed was
the missiles which had previously been hidden from view.
Why the Air Force produces such patriotic vignettes for early and late night
viewing is obvious enough: it intends further to indoctrinate the public with the view
that the road to peace is paved with weaponry and preparedness of war. It also
further cultivates the image (in the crassest kind of way) of itself as the guardian of
the rest of us--and therefore as our greatest group of heroes. Were this simply Air
Force public relations and rather devious lobbying for more defense dollars through
the "public service" of providing tapes of the anthem for television stations
everywhere, it would be obnoxious enough. Unfortunately, it is more than that: it is
a manifestation of the neurotic obsession with power by the military mind. It is also
self-glorification of the worst kind.
If the militaristic trend of the late twentieth century continues, this nation could
become by far the most dangerous on the face of the globe, if it is not already.
6-77. As a form of pride, chauvinistic patriotism can best be exorcised by
replacement with a sense of gratitude, not to the state or its founders, but to God
from whom all blessings flow. Patriotism is false religion of the worst kind, wholly
incompatible with the humble, transnational message of equality before God. To
crow about the blessings of being an American is not to express gratitude so much as
it is to exult in the good fortune which one enjoys, all too often a fruit of the exploita-
tion of some (such as slaves, former slaves, and immigrants) or the extermination of
others, such as the native inhabitants.
It is ironic that the original inhabitants of this land were apparently more reverential
toward the land than those who came in the name of "responsible Christian
6-78. In spite of the fact that almost all societies differentiate between those who
"belong" and those who do not, it is certainly conceivable that societies could exist
which would welcome others totally and without reservation--and who thus in some
sense would be capable of universalizing their own identity and membership to include
all of humankind.
Another way of saying this is that it is possible to conceive of a society which had
no limitations either on diversity OR on citizenship: all would be accepted.
6-79. If a society existed without limitations on citizenship, we should say that
such a society did not "exclude," was not "exclusive." What would be the logical
preconditions of such a society?
The only totally non-exclusive society conceivable would unfortunately be one
based on a perfect consensus of basic values: there would be no barriers to
acceptance because everyone basically thought alike. Such a society is not a practical
likelihood, of course, but it would be at least theoretically conceivable. What is not
so obviously conceivable, even theoretically, would be a society which tolerated
totally divergent values but which still had no barriers to full and equal acceptance
throughout all subunits of that society.
The theoretical limitation to such a conception is made obvious in the hypothetical
case as to how a group which practiced human sacrifice could possibly be granted full
acceptance (in any meaningful sense) in a society whose other members all believed
in the absolute sanctity of human life.
The example seems far-fetched, but it does remind us that the barriers to full and
equal citizenship (that is, the foundations of exclusivity) seem to be ultimately
reducible to lack of consensus on basic values: cultural differences. Therefore, one
may say that the first precondition of a truly non-exclusive, transnational society
would be that there would have to be a consensus on some core basic values. That
being so, the first order of business for social and political philosophy must be the
determination of what values are truly universal: what goods or principles of right are
ordained of God.
In this country, it is generally thought that the core values which can persist are the
procedural democratic values which allow persons peacefully to agree to disagree.
Yet, this very belief is at the crux of the civil religion of American democracy. As
powerful a force as this consensus on legal procedure and basic rights is, it is still not
sufficient. We shall have to proceed to a different constitutional foundation if we
expect to realize the truly just society.
The United States will not soon attain this state of true justice because Americans
seem to be complacent and blind to the inherent defects of the existing system. Those
who do not seek will not find.
6-80. If a genuine moral consensus--and not mere "toleration"--is an absolute
precondition for a perfectly non-exclusive society, then the first order of political
business in the quest for a totally non-exclusive society would be a corresponding
attempt to forge a genuine, voluntary consensus on such values--a consensus based
not on convention or blind acceptance, but on true moral understanding across an
entire society. It does not seem likely that such a society could ever come into being
in this life, but that is no reason that one cannot work toward it. Even existing
societies are true communities only to the extent that they have made at least some
progress toward the goal of a valid and meaningful consensus.
The irony of all this is that, without the norm of toleration, the exchange of ideas
necessary for the emergence of a true consensus would not occur. The prime political
virtue for the non-exclusive society must therefore ironically still be the virtue of
toleration. Such a virtue would not only make it possible to work toward a true
consensus--it would also allow for a high degree of acceptance and community where
the consensus remains highly imperfect.
6-81. One may hope that cultural diversity and non-exclusivity are not totally
incompatible values, since a non-exclusive society bought at the price of total
homogeneity of all values would seem to be a very dreary ideal toward which to
Perhaps the point must be that there are certain values which have universal
validity, whether persons recognize their validity or not, whereas there are other
values which do not and need not have such universal truth or acceptance: they are
simply a matter of personal or ethnic taste. We should exalt both types of values, but
first we have to know in which category a particular value really does fall--the
category of universal truth, or the category of mere taste and convention.
6-82. The original Christian vision (revised almost immediately by Paul) was of
a society constituted on the ethical ideal of tolerance and non-judgment of others,
simultaneously combined with strong appeals to particular ethical claims as to that
which was absolutely right or "best" among competing ethical values.
Thus there was the paradox of the original Christian vision: one could be enjoined
to love one's enemies without embracing their values. Thus could one be enjoined to
be tolerant of (even gentle with) the offender without yet embracing the offensive
Such a vision of society seems to have been revised so early that nominal Chris-
tianity can be seen to have been universalist only in its evangelical mission: it wanted
everyone to belong, but it tended in practice to specify certain terms of membership
and thus immediately backed away from the goal of universality in the direction of
The formal organization of Christianity led to the dilution of its core tenets. The
voluntaristic ideal succumbed to the coercive methods of the state, and "Christians"
ever since have not hesitated to force certain of their values down the throats of
others. Other core values--those of peace and non-judgment--were lost sight of in the
This is the essential failing of organized Christianity.
6-83. One thing that one absolutely must insist upon with regard to the fact of
cultural diversity in the face of a quest for genuine consensus and the non-exclusive
society is that, where significant cultural differences do exist, one cannot use force,
violence, snubbing, or banishment in order to try to create unity out of diversity.
The Christian message is quite clear on this point: the means one uses must be as
pure as the end one envisages. This is where nominal Christianity has failed to live
up to the non-judgmental, transnational, and non-violent ideal of Jesus of Nazareth:
it has tried to implement a literal Kingdom of Heaven through a combination of social
ostracization and the sword.
6-84. It is possible to define the Christian church in such a way that it is indeed
circumscribed by certain doctrinal beliefs (the content of which can be considered to
be a matter of continuing dispute), at the same time that it holds to the even more
central ethical belief that literally all persons should be treated as God's children, as
members of humanity, even as they might not yet be considered to be members of the
church as defined by adherence to certain beliefs.
I believe that it is fair to say that some such paradox of simultaneous exclusivity
and universality of membership was not so much the original ideal as it was the
original reality of the early church. There was thus the very real paradox of separate-
ness from the world combined with unity or brotherhood with the world. These two
ideals existed simultaneously in Christian thought and organization, and what still
tends to distinguish certain variants of Christianity from one another has been the
relative emphasis placed on one value at the expense of the other.
The true Christian community must affirm both, thus accepting the tension between
them without surrendering to a vacuous universalism, on the one hand, or to an
oppressive enforced homogeneity, on the other. Christianity has coped no better with
this problem in terms of its own self-definition than it has in terms of reconciling itself
with those who are total non-believers, but who are thus entitled to all of the
privileges of community and beneficence.
6-85. As for the concept of "privilege" itself, consider its roots in the Latin words
for "private" and "law." As Christianity either made its peace with the state or else
organized itself in more or less statist fashion, the various "Christian" organizations,
both Protestant and Catholic, tended toward exclusion: nominal Christianity, that is,
has tended to be characterized as a great variety of EMBA's, exclusive mutual benefit
This tendency toward elitism and exclusivity has been the greatest for mainstream
Protestant groups, which have clannish tendencies in their congregations. The
message of universality has, by contrast, been the great driving force for the Catholic
Church and for the larger Protestant denominations. On the other hand, too ready a
universalism on the part of the Catholic Church and the large evangelical Protestant
denominations has required too strong an endorsement of the civil order, with a
corresponding watering down of core ethical tenets as the price of universal
I see no easy practical resolution of this problem: one can empathize with both
broad traditions, since one sees the value of insisting upon the stringency of certain
doctrinal tenets (and thus risking exclusivity) at the same time that one can see the
value of promoting greater universality, sometimes at the cost of doctrinal integrity.
The two largest groups in this country, Roman Catholics and evangelical
Protestants, have tended to emphasize inclusiveness, sometimes at the cost of anti-
intellectualism and of being all things for all persons. The goal must continue to be
to affirm the value of universalism without becoming some kind of "lowest common
denominator" of belief systems and core values.
Attainment of this goal is difficult enough at the level of individual ethical action.
It seems to be very nearly impossible at the level of organized entities.
6-86. The institutionalization of Christianity, intended to promote Christianity, in
reality actually served to dilute its ethical impact. A nominal Christianity was the
result, and the church as the (potentially infinite) spiritual body of Christ gave way to
the idea of church as finite, exclusive organization. In spite of this bureaucratization
(a statist or political tendency), "churches" in this diluted sense could be and often
were instruments of good will and benevolence to outsiders.
It is clear enough, however, that these nominally Christian organizations were also
often the opposite: instruments of hatred, bigotry, and horror. Such was the
consequence of failing to face up to and deal with the paradox of membership and ex-
clusivity: the so-called "churches" all too often became state-like instruments of
human judgment rather than of divine salvation (in the practical, down-to-earth sense
of rescuing those who had fallen afoul of the social and political order).
6-87. What possible justification can there be for accepting the prevailing limits
on loyalty? Why not insist from the outset that one is a citizen of the world first and
a citizen of this country second (if at all)? Why not insist that, no, indeed, there is
absolutely no rational reason to assume that an American is more valuable than a
member of any other nationality? Why accept without comment or challenge the
common indictment of "unpatriotic" which almost invariably follows one's attempt to
define oneself as equal to--but no better than--the member of some other group or
nationality in the eyes of God?
Is God an American?
6-88. What is this nonsense called "patriotism"? It is loyalty to a "fatherland"
(from patrios, "forefathers," which in turn is from pater for "father"). Well, if all
persons have one Father, and if all land or lands belong to Him--and if no person can
serve more than one master--then loyalty to some exclusive segment of humanity in
lieu of loyalty to all of humanity is not only arbitrary and nonsensical from an ethical
point of view: it is wrong. It is also not truly "patriotic." The best patriot (if one
insists upon the use of the word) is the patriot whose father is God, and whose father-
land is God's creation.
6-89. Parallel loyalties to God and the state are not possible: dual loyalty would
be possible only if God were sovereign and the state were his agent. This unfor-
tunately seems to be the conventional view: it is the entering wedge of statism and
conventional patriotism, the seeds of war.
6-90. When the state serves divine ends with divine means, then and only then can
it be obeyed without reservation. At such times, however, it is not really the state in
any meaningful sense.
6-91. Although "citizenship" as the term is commonly used implies exclusivity, the
concept of citizenship is not an inherently statist, nationalistic, or exclusivist concept.
One can, after all, reasonably think of oneself as a citizen of the world, emphasizing
the fact that one is a member of humankind. One would, of course, have to affirm
one's unconditional acceptance of all persons before one could speak of a non-exclu-
sive, non-statist grouping, no matter what its size. If the implication of being a citizen
of the world is that no one is excluded from one's loyalties, then it also follows that
one does not exclude anyone from one's obligations, for loyalty implies obligation:
if one is loyal to all persons, then one has obligations to all persons.
Even where such obligations are negative (such as in the requirement not to kill or
harm another), they are nonetheless significant. In fact, of course, we have many
positive transnational obligations of a humanitarian nature. We could feed and
otherwise assist persons all over the world, if only we could learn that the best way
to do it is not at the point of a gun.
6-92. It is necessary to emphasize obligations when speaking of loyalties, because
loyalty is a de facto way of describing the limits of one's sense of obligation: the limits
of one's loyalties are the limits of one's obligations. If there is no theoretical or
practical limit to one's loyalties, then there is no theoretical or practical limit to one's
An unconditional, universal citizenship thus implies a perfectly altruistic
orientation, for a perfect altruism implies no limits to obligation except those
limitations inherent in one's capacities.
6-93. To say that one is loyal to one state is really the same thing as saying that
one feels a special force of obligation towards those who are members--citizens--of
that state. To the extent that one has a greater loyalty to some, one is presumed to
have a lesser loyalty to others. Although statists might recognize some general
responsibility to others who are not citizens, they will at best emphasize that this
responsibility is a lesser obligation, and at worst they will say that it is not an
"obligation" at all. One's responsibilities, where they exist on such a view, are not
seen as "duty," but as what ethical deontologists call "supererogation," a concept born
of the presupposition that virtue and attention to duty are not synonymous--a point
of view derived ultimately from contractualist modes of thinking.
6-94. The state claims to secure our liberties and otherwise to protect us. To the
extent that we can be said to have made a deal or contract with the state, it is a rather
The state offers "protection" in the same way that gangs offer protection: if you
do not join the club, you not only will not get protection, but you will also have bad
things happen to you. These "bad things" may be overt, as in the case of gang
beatings (as is the case for those who vocally challenge state authority in street
demonstrations), or these "bad things" may be less overt but nonetheless real, as in the
deprivation which comes with the withholding of those "privileges" which the state
(like all clubs) extends to its members but denies to non-members. Among these
privileges, of course, are the rights to work and to eat.
"Aliens" are, of course, denied these except as the state as collective and exclusive
grouping deigns to drop them a few crumbs--for its own benefit, not for theirs.
6-95. If one joins or is otherwise accepted by the state "family" or "club," one will
indeed receive its protection, within limits. Yet, one's godfather the state will almost
inevitably call upon one at some later date to reciprocate the favor, to perform one
of its filthier services--being a party to the incarceration or extermination of some
misbegotten member of humanity who has fallen afoul of the "family."
If one is not obliging in returning the favor, the state (a variant of organized crime
on a massive scale, after all) may indeed make one an offer one cannot refuse. Since
the state is a criminal association, a legalized "protection racket," the question for all
of us is how we are to get free of it with both soul and body intact.
6-96. Once more, Da Capo: If one's emergent country is all of humankind, then
whom would one kill in defense of it? One of its own citizens?