A 2023 Choice Reviews Outstanding Academic Title
Nationalism is a globally resurgent phenomenon. From Britain to India to the United States of America, we find nations vociferously reasserting their own sovereignty, ethnic composition, and intrinsic superiority. Thomas J. Millay demonstrates how Kierkegaard’s ascetic voice speaks directly to our present crisis.Kierkegaard and the New Nationalism: A Contemporary Reinterpretation of the Attack upon Christendom analyzes the late writings of Kierkegaard in light of this new relevance, for Kierkegaard’s attack upon Christendom is also an attack upon nationalism. For Kierkegaard, taking on nationalism is not simply a matter of undermining false identity constructions. Attacking nationalism is a matter of renunciation: it requires ascetic discipline, such that the selfish motives at the core of one’s identity construction are uprooted and replaced by a self-giving love marked by the willingness to suffer.
Thomas J. Millay is senior research fellow at St. Olaf College.
About the Author
Rigorous argument meets beautiful prose in every chapter of this book, and Millay shows Kierkegaard to be most important when he is most polemical. Of particular note is Millay’s engagement of Kierkegaard and James Cone regarding the social praxis entailed by a faith that calls for self-denial. This book is an excellent contribution to Kierkegaard scholarship; more important, it warns about the dangers that continue in light of a nationalistic populism that presents itself as “Christian.” Those who care about the future of Christianity and of democracy should read this book. Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
This book is engaging and without doubt encourages the reader to engage with the least studied aspects of Kierkegaard's authorship with an eye to contemporary relevance.
"Brazil. Hungary. Australia. Poland. Britain. France. Denmark. Russia. America. A heady mix of patriotism, racial resentment, and aggrieved Christian identity has catapulted religious culture warriors to prominence in these and other countries over the past decade. These populist movements are not marginal. In their countries they enjoy access to the highest political places, hold many levers of power, and sit in the inner circles. Anyone who thinks that Christian nationalism is no longer a relevant ideology has been living under a rock. It is high time for a re-assessment of the one who saw this coming and had an idea of what to do about it. In his excellent book, Millay brings Kierkegaard to bear on the modern versions of an old problem, finding in Kierkegard’s attack upon nineteenth-century Danish Christendom a potent critique of patriotic religion in modern America and beyond. Millay focuses on the Kierkegaardian themes of humility and suffering, using these to puncture the bubble of triumphant Christian nationalism obsessed with greatness. His argument is convincing, relevant, and true. Millay writes with wisdom and skill and has produced an exemplary book for any student of Christianity, nationalism, or Kierkegaard."
"With deep analysis and probing prose, Thomas Millay shows how Kierkegaard’s final 'attack on Christendom' is exactly what we need to live through a world of resurgent nationalism. While others ignore or qualify Kierkegaard’s most polemical and contestable writings, Millay shows us how to apply their power to renounce contemporary ideologies and resist the lure of religiously-sanctioned empires. This book will inform and inspire its readers to live out a countercultural, prophetic, and ascetic faith."