Patriotism in the Church

As we have approached the July 4, holiday, I have read many blogs that have expressed a concern over infusing patriotic songs, displays, etc. into Sunday morning services. Perhaps it is putting it a bit mildly to say they “expressed a concern”. Some have described it as “wicked, ” “sickening” and “unholy”. One comment even said that America had no right to celebrate anything because we were born out of a rebellion and were therefore sinful.

I have written in the past about this subject. Those who know me know that I believe we are to worship God and Him alone. They also know that I am very thankful to be an American. I do not believe the two are necessarily exclusive of one another. As my brother often says, “I hope that being a good Christian will cause me to be a better American”.

The fact is, the Bible commands us to be patriotic in a Christian sense. Allegiance to our government is mandated by scripture. (And let me point out that there is obviously a difference between allegiance and worship). The Apostle Paul himself, expressed a strong feeling for his countrymen and their need for the Gospel. Jesus observed traditions that were distinctly Jewish in their origin and nature. I think it is safe to say that PATRIOTISM IS NOT A SIN.

Does patriotism have a place in worship? You bet it does. Now let me clarify that nothing is ever to replace or supercede my love for God. Anything that does is idolatrous. But I am not being idolatrous to express my love of country in juxtaposition with my love of God if I am doing so in a way that gives thanks to God for the blessings of liberty.

Some seem to think that we can compartmentalize our life. They think that is okay to observe patriotic practices as long as it doesn’t mingle with our “worship”. Let me ask you, is our worship to be confined to one hour on Sunday morning? Is the Great Commandment only applicable at certain times or are we to love God all the time? If we are to love God all the time (and of course, we are) then we cannot draw lines between times of “worship” and times of anything else.

Yes, first and foremost, I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God, but a part of that citizenship is acting like a good citizen in my earthly country. By blending patriotism into worship services, I am not driven to idolize America, but I am reminded that I am to influence my country for God. I am reminded that the blessings I enjoy as an American come from God and that a righteous nation will be one that is exalted by God.

With that in mind, what can we do to influence our country for God?

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16 responses to “Patriotism in the Church

  1. Gordon, if you lived in Germany, whether as a missionary or as an expatriate worker, you should keep the laws of that land and you should seek to influence it for good. However, I am pretty sure that you would not be patriotic towards Germany.

    Yes, we should be obediant to the laws of our countries and seek to live peaceably among them and seek opportunity to do good. However, that is not patriotism in any sense.

    I rather think Christians probably ought not to be patriotic at all.

    Our citizenship is in heaven. We belong there, not here on earth.

    This world is the kingdom of Satan and we are nothing to it.

    Every Blessing in Christ#

    Matthew

  2. I tend to lean more toward Matthew’s position on this issue, but it wouldn’t be the first time you and I agreed to disagree, Gordon 😉

    I thought about blogging about this very topic tonight, but I think I may just let it go.

    Part of the reason I have difficulty with the “patriotic worship services” is that it does seem to very easily cross the line. Since you pastor a church, I can assume that you handle it in a way that does not cross the lines you have spelled out in your post, but all too frequently I have seen it go too far.

    It seems that, in those services, we gather as Americans, and not as citizens of the Kingdom of God. And frequently, services such as these involve pledging allegiance to the United States of America.

    I thank the Lord that I live in a country that currently grants me a great amount of freedom to worship Him. But, as a citizen of the Kingdom of God, He gets my entire allegiance, and I will only give my allegiance to this country to the extent in which it does not conflict with my allegiance to God. And to me, that’s not really allegiance, if I’m willing to retract it when it conflicts with my true allegiance.

    Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts, and hesitate to throw cold water on them. This is definitely an area in which I do not impose my convictions on others.

    steve 🙂

  3. I don’t think Patriotism is a sin,

    this is my thinking and my husband’s , I think where we went wrong was when we took God out of schools and our goverment! But as our patriotic duty we should put God back in these places and make our country a better and stronger place!

  4. Matthew, Steve and Janice, thanks for stopping by and sharing your respective points of view.

    May I submit some thoughts for your consideration?

    Both Jesus and Paul expressed strong emotions over the spiritual condition of Israel. This, to me, would indicate a deep-seated love for their country, i.e. patriotism. The O.T. also, is full of examples of patriotism, many of which were commanded by God Himself.

    As far as pledging allegiance goes, (and yes we did that in our church yesterday), did not Jesus say, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and render to God the things that are God’s”? This would seem to say that we are capable of giving allegiance to God and to a human government at the same time. It seems that both would have a place in our lives.

    Granted, the allegiance to God and His kingdom certainly has the higher priority should the two ever come into conflict with one another, but I do not believe my devotion to God by default excludes my allegiance to my country.

    Whether we verbally “pledge allegiance” or not, we must submit ourselves to the laws of our land (again this is mandated by Scripture), honor the king (who is not God), and respect the government which is ordained by God. Even if our lips do not profess allegiance, surely our obedience does.

    Just some points to ponder, and thanks again for your participation in the discussion.

  5. Those are some thoughts to think about but I PERSONALLY THINK THAT YOU CAN MIX YOUR ALLEGIANCE TOWARD GOD AND PATRIOTISIM and not take away from our TRUST AND FAITH IN GOD ! After all in GENISIS it tells us that GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH AND ALL LIVING CREATURES FOR MAN TO ENJOY but to respect it and follow my COMMANDMENTS ? IT is our duty while we are here on this earth to worship GOD and to the best of our ability to make our countrys a better place to live! When we sing praises unto GOD and praise his name in Sunday Services why not sing some of the patriotic songs that praises GOD AND HIS UNIVERSE AND GIVE THANKS FOR CREATING SUCH A BEAUTIFULL PLACE FOR US TO LIVE? I to believe to a point that the world belongs to satan but he don;t own it and if you put your trust and faith in GOD he will deliver you from satan because GOD IS THE FATHER AND MASTER OF EVERYTHING ! What better place on this earth to teach our younger generations to respect GODS teachings and be patriotic to what he has created for us ? THE USA WAS FOUNDED AND ESTABLISHED ON GODS HOLY WORD AND IF WE THE PEOPLE IGNORE IT GOD WILL BE UNHAPPY WITH HIS PEOPLE? Man is nothing without GODS blessings? I see nothing wrong with loving GOD AND PATROTISM ! TO ALL OF YOU I WISH YOU AND YOURS A VERY HAPPY AND SAFE HOLIDAY AND DON;T FORGET TO GIVE THANKS FOR OUR COUNTRY AND GODS BLESSINGS ? RON.

  6. Gordon, thank you for this post. As I was in church yesterday, we sang patriotic songs at the beginning, and yes, we said the pledge of allegiance, I was reminded of the many blogs that I had read a while ago when this was the subject.

    One person said that she had wanted to run out of the church when she heard such going on. Many said that that the flag has no place in the church, and a Christian flag? What is that? I know this is the thinking that is prevalent in the younger Christian community…among some, that is.

    I finally decided to stop going to certain blogs because of some of the posts. I try to have an open mind and try to understand what others are thinking.

    I would have liked to have been in your service on Sunday…one of these days I’m coming.

  7. “As far as pledging allegiance goes, (and yes we did that in our church yesterday), did not Jesus say, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and render to God the things that are God’s”? This would seem to say that we are capable of giving allegiance to God and to a human government at the same time. It seems that both would have a place in our lives.”

    But does Caesar have something that does not belong to God?

    Assuming they we do owe allegiance to the state, this means giving that allegiance whereever you are.

    As I said, Gordon, if you lived in Germany, you would be bound to submit to the authorities there, but that would not make you a patriot towards Germany.

    “Both Jesus and Paul expressed strong emotions over the spiritual condition of Israel. This, to me, would indicate a deep-seated love for their country, i.e. patriotism. The O.T. also, is full of examples of patriotism, many of which were commanded by God Himself.”

    Israel has a particualr purpose in God’s plans and those who are of that nation are particularly connected with it.

    However, we of the Church are an heavenly people who are pilgrims and strangers upon the earth. We have no connection with the world. Christ, the true object of our interests and affections is in heaven.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

  8. Matthew, you raise some interesting points.

    “But does Caesar have something that doesn’t belong to God?”

    The answer of course is no. But that still leaves the question, if Jesus commanded us to pay tribute to human government, is that not allegiance? What about honoring the king? What about obeying the laws of the land?

    You are right of course about me not feeling any patriotism towards Germany, that is because I am not a German. If I were, I would probably have a deeper love for that country than I do (even though I would probably find much there with which I would disagree).

    I am in no way suggesting that we take anything that belongs to God and give it to man. My point is, that there is room for love of country and love of God at the same time, without the love of country usurping the love of God.

    Now I will admit, there are some who go to an extreme with this. Something is horribly wrong when a beautiful song of praise is sung in church and no one responds, yet when a patriotic song is sung they cheer wildly.

    Thanks again for your gracious words and participation.

  9. It is hard for me to believe there is even a discussion about patriotism in the American church. How self-centered can a person be to want to worship in church, but not express thanks to God and the men and women who gave their lives so they could have that freedom. The one comment that said that there was a women who wanted to run out of the church when she heard all the patriotic music. If I were her pastor, I would open the door for her and quickly lock it when she ran out. Judge me unkind if you would like, but it sounds like the anti-patriots have already judge “us” anyhow.

  10. Patriotism is an opportunity to thank God and worship Him for allowing me to live in a country where I am relatively free to worship Him.

    Besides, as the son of an Air Force officer, it is hard for me not to have strong emotional feelings for my country.

  11. Gordon,
    Great thoughts. I’m glad you posted on this instead of me.

    As for all those who think it is wrong to be “patriotic”, I’m just thankful I’m not in their family.

    I love my family. I believe in family loyalty and allegiance. Doesn’t mean I agree with everything, but I love them and would stand by them nonetheless.

    I love my church. Not to the degree that I love my family, but it is a relational love for a group of people that I am a part of. Doesn’t mean I agree with everyone over everything, but I have a sense of loyalty to them and would stand by them nonetheless.

    I love my country. Not to the same degree that I love my family, or my church, but it is a relational love to a group of people that I am a part of. Doesn’t mean I agree with everything in it, but I have a sense of loyalty to it and would stand up for it nonetheless.

    None of these supercede or replace my love and worship of God because it is entirely possible to have various loves and allegiances in your life without one infringing on the others. Is it possible that they will yes, but it doesn’t have to happen.

    As to “patriotic” worship services, why should not the church use them as an example of how to maintain a balance of national loyalty and heavenly priority? Community patriotic celebrations continue to become more and more secular. Let’s demonstrate (at least one time a year) that our faith is an integral part of every area of our lives.

    I don’t care if you live in Germany, United Kingdom, or Timbuktu, you ought to feel some sort of allegiance to your country. But that’s just my opinion, and it’s like my nose.

  12. I love the United States of America! I cried during the fireworks as I listened to the patriotic songs playing while the rockets lit up the sky. Last Thursday I introduced myself to a man who was wearing a WW2 cap. I thanked him and shook his hand with a lump in my throat. My favorite books are American history books.
    I love the United States of America!

    I felt I needed to say all that before I went on to say that I agree with Dyspraxic Fundamentalist.

    It is easy to say that we should show allegiance to the country into which we were born. But I would not want the citizens of North Korea, (whose leader is currently running amok without any input from the starving citizens), or the citizens of many Middle Eastern nations, to show the same patriotism we have in America.

    There are many people all around the world who have no allegiance to their home countries and are making insane efforts to get to our shores. Why? Because either they want a better life for themselves and their families and know they will find one here, or their government has turned on them and they need some sort of political asylum.

    If the American Gov’t treated us the same way [insert dictator’s name here] treats their people, I do not believe we would sing the same patriotic tune. But the fact is we were born here and not somewhere else, and that by the grace of God only.

    I love patriotism. Americans should be patriotic. But I cannot hold the citizens of other counties to the same level of jubilant patriotism.

  13. Danny, thanks for your thoughts. It is always good to hear from you. I feel that somewhere this conversation got diverted into something other than I intended for it to be.

    My feelings of patriotism are for America, period. I am not suggesting that citizens of other countries or even other Americans must share the same feelings toward America that I have.

    My point is, there are many who are saying that we should avoid any kind of patriotic display in worship services. What I am trying to present is the thought that there is room for love of God and love of country in each of us without letting the love of country overshadow our love for God.

  14. You’re right, Gordon. A reread of the post without the comments in mind does bring out your original meaning.

    Sorry about that. Please forgive.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments. I would never let my love for God be overshadowed by my love for country. But I also have no problem singing songs about my country in the same way I would sing songs about my wife, whom I love dearly and chose for my own.

  15. I stumbled across your blog. I thought I would write what I saw today. I saw a repeat of West Jackson Baptist Church today in Jackson TN on the TV. I was sick so I got to watch church on TV.

    I was stunned to watch their service for last week. It started with singing God Bless america or another patriotic song while a uniformed officer carried the flag down the middle aisle. Then they sang the national anthem and had the pledge of allegence. After that they showed a video of soldiers intersersed with the gettesburg address.
    Then they had a solo with a song about the flag. The pastor preached about the importance of the flag for most of the sermon. He spent the last 5 minutes talking about Christ. They actually closed with trust and obey. I assumed they were talking about the flag.

    It was frankly Idolotorus worship for most of the service. There were a couple more secular patiotic songs as well I can’t remember. I think you can view it on the web if you wish.

  16. Tom, thanks for sharing your experience. There will be cases where patriotic displays in worship will be carried to extremes. This is perhaps one of those.–>

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