Can Patriotism and Faith Mix?

I have come across two blogs recently that have approached the issue of “Christian Americanism” with different anecdotes. Tim Ellsworth and LarryWho both present some interesting thoughts on the matter. I highly recommend that you read both articles.

Let me define what I mean by “Christian Americanism”. I am referring to the blend of patriotism and worship at times in our churches that for some reason drives people to a higher level of emotional involvement in worship than just “mere” worship alone.

I am a patriot. I love America. I pledge allegiance to one nation “under God”. I still get goose bumps when the Star Spangled Banner is played at ball games. The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. As I have frequently posted about American political affairs, I think it is obvious that I have an interest in what happens in our nation. I have nothing but the highest regard for our military. I am very grateful to God for the privilege of being born and living in the U.S. of A.

I say all of that, not to toot my own horn, but simply to establish the fact that this article is not about bashing America. I don’t believe in doing that, even when I don’t like everything that our country does. Don’t misconstrue my remarks to be anti-American, to do so will be to dishonestly represent what I say.

My concern is that at times we are prouder of being Americans (or for that matter whatever nation of which you are a citizen) than we are of being Christians. Am I mistaken? Why is it then, that in our worship services, songs that convey a deep spiritual meaning are hardly acknowledged by the worshippers, but songs that have a patriotic flavor can evoke a highly emotional (even wildly emotional) response? Why is it that American Christians can get up in arms about our right to display the Ten Commandments in the halls of government, yet often show great indifference to submitting our own lives to the authority of those same commandments? Why is it that many Christians are more concerned with the advancement of the religious right than they are with Kingdom of God?

The last thing that I want to do here is come across as being judgmental or cynical. I believe that we should be thankful to God for the blessings of liberty. I believe that we should endeavor to place biblical morality as the guiding principles of our society. I believe that we should exercise our rights of citizenship in such a way that it reflects our faith. But we should never forget that we are Christians first, and Americans second.

Think of the Apostle Paul. Before he was saved, he demonstrated a strong, yet unbalanced mixture of nationalism and religion. As a very nationalistic Jew, he brought forth severe persecution to those he perceived as enemies of Israel, namely those in the early church. His antagonism was fueled by his standing in the religious movement of his time which had basically become a form of silent rebellion against Roman rule. Yet, curiously, when he was converted, a transformation took place. He did not forsake his love of Israel, but he now allowed his love for country to be driven by his awareness of their spiritual need. Romans 9:1-5 expresses the great burden Paul bore for the salvation of his countrymen.

Tomorrow I will discuss the points of conflict that most of us experience at some time between our patriotism and our faith. Until then, may we examine our hearts to see where our greatest devotion lies.

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16 responses to “Can Patriotism and Faith Mix?

  1. This is a refreshing post, Gordon. Thankyou for being so honest and self-critical – it is not an easy thing to do, but it is worthwhile. I especially like how you observe that we belong to the Kingdom of God first, and our nation second: Residents of earth and citizens of heaven. And whatsmore, in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile.

  2. Great post! Gordon

    GOD bless

    have a great day!

  3. I have given up on politics. I still vote and will have a discussion about issues but have really given up on solving spiritual problems at the ballot box. The recent revelations about Ralph Reed and Jack Abramhoff is a sad story about Evangelicalism and Politics.

  4. I know what you are saying, and you make a good point. I have been in services where they do “Proud to be an American”, and everyone goes wild, screaming and crying and things. But you put those same people in a room and do “O it is wonderful to be a Christian”, and you can barely get them to even sing along.

  5. I’m not so sure that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water, Gordon. The fact that an all too vocal majority have gotten the relationship between faith and citizenship wrong doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to fight for the essential balance.

    As one who holds to the English-separatist theory of Baptist beginnings, I could not dream of trying to put my faith in one corner and and my love of country in another (so to speak). I believe that the primary reason that America became America is faith-based.

    All that said, you are right on the money in regard to the “why” of emotionalism that patriotic themed songs seem to evoke. We all must look inwardly to determine why that happens and be sure that our personal reasons are God-honoring.

    Can’t wait to read your follow-up posts to this topic, brother.

  6. Gordon,
    Good points. The Kingdom of God comes first and I think Rom 13 covers civil governments and what our response should be.

  7. This post has been removed by the author.

  8. Great article. You have expressed my heart as well.

  9. Thanks everyone for your insights.

    Bob–I share a kindred spirit with you brother. The answer to America’s problem is found in God’s house, not the White House. That is no reflection on anyone, I would say that even if I were President (yikes!).

    Tony–I appreciate your comment. I am not suggesting that we separate the two qualities, only that we put them in proper perspective. Like you, I believe that it is a Christian-influenced heritage that has made America as great as it is.

    My point is, love for country must be driven by love for God, not vice versa. We cannot even equate the two, else we violate the Great Commandment.

    Upon further review, (like that football phrase?) I may not have answered the question in my title as clearly as I intended. That’s what happens when you try to post after midnight. πŸ™‚

  10. Regarding …

    “The answer to America’s problem is found in God’s house, not the White House.”

    … I’d have to say that in some sense God’s house is in more of a mess than the White House … but that is the nature of family … mess in the midst of love πŸ™‚

  11. Sorry I missed the weekend survey. πŸ™‚ And wow I got an entire post in my honor! thanx Gotcha thinkin huh? πŸ™‚
    As for Patriotism and Faith? bigger than I can handle at the moment but it brings to mind all the horrible things nations in the past have done in the name of their faith, including Christianity. It brings to mind the sermons preached from pulpits on both sides of the Civil War, each deeming that God was on their particular sides…I think that, yes, faith has made America great but that the line is blurry and we should be careful not to confuse conservatism, morality, righteous zeal or patriotism with God or God’s business. Jesus said “render unto Caesar, the things that are Caesars and unto God the things that are God’s” not meant to be quoting in a high handed sort of way…just seems to apply here.
    Look forward to your thoughts

  12. JG–good to see you. Your comment generated some profitable discussion. Hope you had a great weekend.

  13. I am proud of America and I am Australian hehe

    American media mentions the bible as if it is an every day part of life. Our media in Australia despises it. We do certainly have a christian heritage and it is this skerick of Christ that is keeping us.

    I could not think of another country at the moment that would be a better world power then the U.S.A

    The bible is clear that we are sojourning here for a while and that our citizenship is in heaven. We are certainly not of the world.

  14. Gordon,

    Good stuff. Right on.

  15. I am all for having pride in ones country / culture.
    I’m an Aussie, from the best country in the world. I am so blessed that Jesus planted me here.
    As to George W. well I don’t really like him quoting scripture as he seems to have a little aggressive foreign policies. So much of what we see is tainted by the media though.
    Internally I understand he is very much against abortion and holds other morraly correct positions, a real blessing for the U.S., here in Australia we could really use some politians with moral fibre.
    I don’t believe we should drop our earthly patriotism and replace it with Heavenly patriotism but rather just have them in correct perspective to each other. After all in Heaven there will people from every tribe, nation, people group, toung etc. If we were menat to abandon our own cultures/nationalities this verse would have no meaning.
    great post.

  16. I am English and I absolutely hate the United Kingdom. It is a quite appalling country.

    God Bless

    Matthew

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