Thoughts on Patriotism
War is the most satisfying way for a nation to demonstrate its superiority. It’s the ultimate team sport. Robert E. Lee said: “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”
When people say “Freedom isn’t Free,” what they’re actually saying is: “Freedom isn’t free - it requires killing and dying, human sacrifice, as if to the gods of old. It is not a gift from God. Gifts are free. Grace is a gift. Freedom, on the other hand, is earned. And because freedom is earned, we deserve it. We bought it (and continue to pay for it) with our blood, fair and square. We need thank no one but ourselves. Our perseverance and superiority over others have given us a reward worthy of a great people.”
Is freedom a gift from God or is it a right that we seize for ourselves if we must kill people to obtain it and maintain it? Did Jesus provide us an exemption from loving such enemies? Or did he reject the “gift” of freedom by not leading an uprising against the Roman occupiers as a patriot?
Imagine Paul closing his letter to Philemon: “Oh, and by the way, if you don't free your slave Onesimus he has our permission to kill you.”
If your enemy takes away your freedoms, pray for wisdom to present a positive Christian witness to him that you both may glorify God.
It is quite true that “freedom isn’t (truly) free.” Many think of freedom like an on/off switch. Either you have it or you don’t. But it’s actually a relative term expressing a continuum, with Anarchy (absolute freedom) at one end and Slavery (absolute control) at the other. The United States, like most countries, falls somewhere between the two. Our concept of freedom is a compromise that is constantly changing as new laws are added to the books. Indeed, the very purpose of government is to restrict freedoms to keep us from abusing one another. The Ten Commandments restrict our freedoms. Satan is the god that encourages us to be free to do whatever we want - to engage in the pursuit of happiness. When we say we’re free we’re actually comparing ourselves with some other nation we believe to be closer to the Slavery end than ours. We are not truly free - that would be anarchy.
The only freedom Jesus promises is freedom from the bondage of sin.
His response to tyranny is found in Luke 18:7-8.
John's response is found in Revelation 13:10. Still want to be a Christian?
In contrast to patriotism, love does not boast, it is not proud. (1 Corinthians 13:4)
An individual can be Christian but can a country?
Patriotism is the means by which the State secures its blessings from the Church.
The very nature of patriotism is competition – us vs. them. Christianity is all about cooperation (without compromising obedience to Christ).
The highest priorities of the American way of life are the accumulation of wealth and status. These are not priorities in the kingdom of God. I am not interested in the American way of life – I’m interested in the Christian way of life.
If money can be a god, then nation can be a god.
“God and Country” are two masters. Serving your country is not the same as serving God.
“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” - former Reichsmarshall Hermann Göering
“The kingdom of God – a king and a kingdom, but no state or land requiring violence to defend.”
There are Christians residing in the US who think of the world’s population in terms of ‘Americans’ and ‘non-Americans.’ If, as an American Christian, you would not have felt the same sorrow had the 9/11 attacks occurred in Mexico City, you should carefully consider your citizenship in the worldwide kingdom of God.
“Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles.”—George Jean Nathan
By whom would you rather be killed?
(A) an American
(B) a non-American
(C) no preference
If you chose answer (A) you are more likely to support the invasion of foreign countries as a method of reducing your risks of premature death. A cost/benefit analysis of this method would likely produce a much higher cost than other risk-minimizing strategies for prolonging your life (such as lowering the national speed limit). We aren’t terribly upset by Americans killing Americans. But when Americans die in a terrorist attack we’re outraged that they were killed by non-Americans because our national pride is wounded.
Regarding Romans 13, there is a difference between submitting to the government and condoning its actions. It’s the difference between avoiding rebellion and being an advocate of government policies. The German Church had to wrestle with this distinction in the 30’s and early 40’s. The State does not bind itself to the commands of Christ but the Christian is bound by them and cannot use the excuse of government service to avoid them (“I was just following orders!”). Romans 13 was not a recruiting pitch by Paul to join the State. The authorities Paul was referring to were not Christian; but again, no government complies with the teachings of Christ.
When Christians replaced pagans as the Authorities did they gain exemption from the command to love their enemies and thus inherit the right to rule like pagans? (If you can ignore that command you can ignore all Christ's commands.)
Patriots believe that peace is the absence of opposition to our will.
The efforts Christians put into making their transitory country greater should instead be invested in making the kingdom of God more effective.
Another reason Christians should not be bound to their nation’s agenda: “While reviewing the cables, Tamm says, he first spotted reports that referred to the rendition of terror suspects to countries like Egypt and Morocco, where aggressive interrogation practices banned by American law were used. It appeared to Tamm that CIA officers knew “what was going to happen to [the suspects]”—that the government was indirectly participating in abusive interrogations that would be banned under U.S. law.” (Newsweek magazine)
The kingdom of God does not depend upon the survival of any kingdom of the world.
America is not Kingdom of Israel II.
“Civil religion is neither bona fide religion nor ordinary patriotism, but a new alloy formed by blending religion with nationalism. If civil religions were bona fide religions then one would expect to find a soft side to them, teaching love of neighbor and upholding peace and compassion. But this is not the case.” —Stjepan Mestrovic
John McCain proclaims the United States to be “the greatest force for good in the world today.” No, John, that honor goes to the kingdom of God.
Former vice president Dick Cheney said on 2/4/09 that protecting the country’s security is “a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business. These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.” Then I guess this isn’t a Christian nation.
As a citizen of the kingdom of God I am not emotionally invested in this kingdom of the world in which I live. My focus must be on God and my neighbor.
If there is no need to show your love of God with a flag, then there is no need to show your love of country with a flag.
Would Jesus fly a national flag? Why should His Church?
If you’re having trouble letting go of your national flag it is an idol, for it does not represent God.
Nations are temporary. The kingdom of God is eternal.
If our armed forces were abolished most Christians would be terrified by the prospect of trusting in God alone. If He has a continuing purpose for America as we know it, the God of The Flood can prevent its demise at the hands of its enemies.
Many Christians in America have never seen an American war they didn’t like, one they thought was not God’s will. Even if there was a Christian justification for killing to preserve our freedoms, nearly all of the wars in which we’ve engaged since the Revolution were not a response to a legitimate threat to our liberties. It can even be argued that wars beyond our borders cost many more lives than merely assuming a vigilant defensive posture. Yet we perpetuate the myth that those who have fallen “died (and killed) to protect our freedoms.” The promise of glory is a powerful recruiting tool but do military chaplains ever tell their troops: “Have nothing to do with this war - it does not meet the Just War criteria.”? (disclaimer: this is not an endorsement of Just War theory)
While patriotism may be comforting to the non-Christian, for the Christian it is an unnecessary liability - one that, like power, is seductive and addicting, sometimes intoxicating.
The Lord is mentioned only once in the Constitution and that is in reference to the date it was drafted: in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven. Dating documents in this way was standard practice in the nation we rebelled against. If colonial (pre-Declaration) and British documents acknowledged the sovereignty of Christ by use of the words “Anno Domini” or “In the year of our Lord” just as our Constitution did, then what sets the Constitution apart in this regard? Further, what gave us the authority to violate Romans 13:1-7 and rebel against a government that acknowledged the sovereignty of Christ? The scripture makes no exceptions, even for pagan governments like the Roman Empire. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:23)
So-called Judeo-Christian principles are principles from the Hebrew Bible that have been adopted by Christians. They do not include new principles established by Christ (Christian principles) in the New Testament. Some Christians think of the Bible as: the appealing aspects of the Old Testament (especially justice for the wicked) combined with the easy salvation of Christ.
Democracy had existed prior to Christ in the Greek city-states and elsewhere but nowhere is it endorsed in the Bible. It is no closer to the rule of God than monarchy, and there is no Christian justification for killing people to obtain or maintain it.
From the Declaration of Independence: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” No, according to Romans 13 governments are instituted by God, deriving their just powers from God.
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are alienable rights granted by government because government can take them away, based upon one's behavior. Which truly inalienable rights should be recognized by government, regardless of behavior? I would include among these the right to not be tortured.
Having first appeared on the two-cent piece in 1864, “In God We Trust” has consistently appeared on all our coinage only since 1938. Ironically, many of us (including many Christians) don’t trust in God - if you have a fear of death, for example, you don’t trust in God. More truthful mottoes might include “In Us We Trust” or “In Our Money We Trust” or “In Our Military We Trust”.
“Liberty,” however, has been on our coinage consistently since it’s beginning (even personified, as if it were a goddess). We have a colossus of Liberty but no comparable monument to God. In political discourse we lavish far more praise and attention on Liberty/Freedom than on God. This might suggest something about our national priorities.
American exceptionalism is American idolatry. Whenever I see the expression “this great nation” I suspect I’m reading the words of an idolater.
The Roman Republic/Empire thrived for centuries as a pagan nation but ceased to exist less than a century after officially becoming Christian. If God wanted a “Christian nation” in the sense that America is believed to be, why didn’t He enable the survival of the Christianized Roman Empire?
“National flags, national anthems, and other symbols of national identity are often considered sacred, as if they were religious rather than political symbols. Deep emotions are aroused.” - from Wikipedia’s article on ‘Nationalism’
“Some religious believers place their religion above their ‘fatherland’, often resulting in suspicion and hostility from patriots.” - from Wikipedia’s article on ‘Patriotism’
“Jingoism is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘extreme patriotism in the form of aggressive foreign policy’. In practice, it refers to the advocation of the use of threats or actual force against other countries in order to safeguard what they perceive as their country’s national interests, and colloquially to excessive bias in judging one’s own country as superior to others – an extreme type of nationalism.” - from Wikipedia’s article on ‘Jingoism’ (Rather than extremes, I would characterize them as typical examples.)
If you can say: “I would do ANYTHING to ensure the security of my country,” your country is your god.
Serving Two Masters
Gott Mit Uns
God [is] With Us