Do you think of yourself as a patriot? If you do, have you thought about expanding the definition of patriotism from your country to your planet?

That’s one of the central leaps of faith the Baha’i teachings ask us all to make:

Ye were created to show love one to another and not perversity and rancour. Take pride not in love for yourselves but in love for your fellow-creatures. Glory not in love for your country, but in love for all mankind. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138.

The Baha’i teachings on world unity and global patriotism all work to expand our vision from the artificial boundaries of our nations and homelands until it takes in the whole Earth. They ask us to refine that vision, so it excludes the excessive, belligerent patriotism that can lead to chauvinism or even jingoism. They urge everyone to widen the scope of their patriotism, in much the same way Tolstoy did:

It will be said, “Patriotism has welded mankind into states, and maintains the unity of states.” But men are now united in states; that work is done; why now maintain exclusive devotion to one’s own state, when this produces terrible evils for all states and nations? For this same patriotism which welded mankind into states is now destroying those same states. If there were but one patriotism say of the English only then it were possible to regard that as conciliatory, or beneficent. But when, as now, there is American patriotism, English, German, French, Russian, all opposed to one another, in this event, patriotism no longer unites, but disunites. – Leo Tolstoy, Patriotism and Government

In fact, Abdu’l-Baha said that:

The foundation of all religions is one; now is the time that all of us may embrace the law of peace, and treat each other with honesty and straightforwardness. Let all racial supremacy be done away with; let political expediencies be discontinued, and let the love of country be superseded by the love of the world. – Star of the West, Volume 7, p. 12.

Does any of this mean that we should stop loving our countries? No:

Though loyal to their respective governments, though imbued with the love of their own country, and anxious to promote at all times, its best interests, the followers of the Baha’i Faith, nevertheless, viewing mankind as one entity, and profoundly attached to its vital interests, will not hesitate to subordinate every particular interest, be it personal, regional or national, to the over-riding interests of the generality of mankind, knowing full well that in a world of interdependent peoples and nations the advantage of the part is best to be reached by the advantage of the whole, and that no lasting result can be achieved by any of the component parts if the general interests of the entity itself are neglected…. – Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, pp. vi-vii.

The Baha’i teachings do not ask anyone to reject their patriotic feelings for their own country—instead, they ask us to retain a “sane and intelligent patriotism,” tempered by the “paramount claims of humanity as a whole:”

The love of one’s country, instilled and stressed by the teaching of Islam, as “an element of the Faith of God,” has not, through this declaration, this clarion-call of Baha’u’llah, been either condemned or disparaged. It should not, indeed it cannot, be construed as a repudiation, or regarded in the light of a censure, pronounced against a sane and intelligent patriotism, nor does it seek to undermine the allegiance and loyalty of any individual to his country, nor does it conflict with the legitimate aspirations, rights, and duties of any individual state or nation. All it does imply and proclaim is the insufficiency of patriotism, in view of the fundamental changes effected in the economic life of society and the interdependence of the nations, and as the consequence of the contraction of the world, through the revolution in the means of transportation and communication—conditions that did not and could not exist either in the days of Jesus Christ or of Muhammad. It calls for a wider loyalty, which should not, and indeed does not, conflict with lesser loyalties. It instills a love which, in view of its scope, must include and not exclude the love of one’s own country. It lays, through this loyalty which it inspires, and this love which it infuses, the only foundation on which the concept of world citizenship can thrive, and the structure of world unification can rest. It does insist, however, on the subordination of national considerations and particularistic interests to the imperative and paramount claims of humanity as a whole, inasmuch as in a world of interdependent nations and peoples the advantage of the part is best to be reached by the advantage of the whole. – Ibid., p. 122.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.


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