Religion as a reinforcement of nationalism
Religious doctrine may be used as a foundation for nationalism. Religion, in providing a motivating force for nationalism, may encourage civil war or international conflict. It may provide the thrust needed to achieve political independence from colonial rule, but it does so very often through the creation of an educated elite which may indulge in megalomania and intolerance against tribal groups or other denominations. Such a nationalism may arise from the disintegration of traditional social patterns. Religious doctrine may be tailored and corrupted for political use.
Protestant religion, in the form of Lutheranism, was initially very closely connected with nationalism during the Reformation and has remained so to a large extent, its denominations being mainly national in their characteristics. Certain Protestant denominations are official state religions (such as the Church of England, since the reign of Henry VIII when he made himself supreme head of the Church).
Religion as a basis for nationalism is a notable feature of the Christian religion in Africa and especially Protestantism with its strongly individualistic traits. The influence of religion has come mainly through the missionary schools and the creation of a prestigious elite, some of whom are educated abroad with the help of the Church. Participation on Church councils and committees and involvement in Church social work provides the organizational basis for political activity. African politicians have found biblical language useful to harness the prestige of Christianity and education to their drives for independence.
None but superficial minds could stumble into concepts of a national God, of a national religion; or attempt to lock within the frontiers of a single people, within the narrow limits of a single race, God, the Creator of the universe, King and Legislator of all nations before whose immensity they are "as a drop of a bucket" (Isaiah xi 15). The live history of other national churches with their paralysis, their domestication and subjection to worldly powers, is sufficient evidence of the sterility to which is condemned every branch that is severed from the trunk of the living Church. (Papal Encyclical, Mit Brennender Sorge, 14 March 1937).