It’s the 4th of July, Independence Day for the United States of America. Here in Korea (where I currently live), you wouldn’t know it from any other day (unless, of course, you’re on a U.S. military installation). But with the benefit of the Internet, there’s no escaping it…though personally I wouldn’t want to. I celebrate with millions of other Americans our hard-won independence from Great Britain 240 years ago.
Much of what I’m seeing in my Facebook feed, however, is not a positive response to it being the 4th of July. I’m not judging, at least I’m not judging the individuals but am passing judgment on their comments. For many people who have strong patriotic feelings, some of the posts they read come across as if the authors are speaking from a holier-than-thou ivory tower to us lowly patriotic souls who are in need of their superior spiritual insight and understanding of the mind of God. In the interest of full disclosure, I may, at times, appear to also be perched in one of those “ivory towers” but usually on the other side of this issue.
Let me explain why I get so frustrated at what I perceive as “anti-patriotic” rhetoric:
First, they condemn our fight for independence as contrary to the scriptural mandate to be obedient to the powers in place over us as being instituted by God. They view the situation on the American continent of the 18th century through 21st century glasses, presuming to understand the situation our political forefathers and mothers experienced better than those who were living it. They apply a modern interpretation of scripture and political correctness to individuals who lived under a different understanding of Christian ethics, condemning them for not acting 240 years older. The overwhelming abundance of sermons and other written material by clergy of the time reveal that there are other ways to understand scripture in relation to the political situation of the colonies in the days leading up to July 4, 1776. To presume to know better than those living, studying, praying and worshiping in the mid-18th century is pretentious at best.
Second, they equate Christians who are also patriotic with those who put their political allegiance over and above their allegiance to Christ, like an idol. No doubt, some American Christians may do that, but they are no different (or any more plentiful) than any other less-dedicated Christians who also put their careers, possessions, or any number of other things ahead of Christ. But these are not the genuine Christians of the Church. The naysayers of Christian patriotism appear to assume that anyone who is patriotic can’t possibly be a proper Christian. They seem to not understand that it is possible to love one’s country, without putting that love or allegiance above their love for God and the Church. If put into a position of choosing between doing what is right according to Scripture or doing what the government asks of them, I believe the large majority of Christians would default to their first allegiance and do what is right in God’s eyes. Contrary to the belief of those who assert otherwise, being a patriot does not mean blindly following your country in the committing of sin.
Third, they assume that if we celebrate the 4th of July, as an expression of our patriotism, that we fully support all of the laws and policies not only in place, but of candidates running for office. They assume that if we support our country that we also support ancient sins of our country, like slavery. From their perceived anti-American soap boxes, they proclaim that if we patriotically love our country, we necessarily lack love for people of other nationalities. They insist that if we celebrate the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, then we view all other world citizens as second class or inferior. They pontificate on issues of immigration and compassion as though those who love their country can’t care for others under the law. They assume that if we love our country, that we harbor “hate for those who disagree with us and fear of those different from us,”1 equating Christian patriots with others who may not even be Christians, who spew hate and fear. They fail to recognize those who love their country but still give their time, treasure and even lives in the service of others as part of their Christian devotion.
Fourth, They maintain that any reference to our national heritage, our love of country or our celebration of independence during a service of worship is anathema. It is true that some churches go overboard with infusing civil holidays in their worship services. It is also true that our time of worship should focus on who we worship, that is God and Him alone. But it’s important to remember that part of worship and prayer includes thanksgiving for God’s blessings. The freedoms and prosperity that we enjoy as Americans (which, by the way, has enabled us to take the Gospel around the world as well as provide for others in need over the years) is ours because of God’s grace and goodness to us.
Whether you acknowledge the act of God in the creation of the United States or not, His help given to us through the centuries is something we should thank Him for which enhances our worship of God rather than detracting from it. What better time to honor God for blessing us than when Americans are celebrating one of those blessings? Recognizing that anything that we have is a result of either God providing or allowing it is not contrary to biblical teaching, but in line with it. Additionally, recognizing the events of life outside of the Church during the worship of the Church acknowledges where the congregants are. Ignoring what is happening in the lives of the people will just give the impression that we’re not relevant; not that we should tailor our worship to tickle the ears of the shallow, but we should recognize that life outside of the Church, is the life those in the Church are living.
Clearly, I am very patriotic. I love the United States of America and am grateful for the sacrifices of patriots over the years who have made the freedoms I enjoy possible. More than that though, I am a Christian and my first allegiance is to God and His Kingdom. But my love of country and love of God do not have to be in conflict. As a Christian and as an American, I seek to be faithful. Faithful to God’s demands on my life and faithful to my country’s call to serve. It is possible.
Pro Deo et Patria!
“God Bless America!/Happy 4th of July”: memorialdayparades.com
American and Christian Flags: The Cloud Animal
Sanctuary with flag: Thideology