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Patriotism & Christianity

Can a Christian also be a Patriot?

With a focus (in some circles) on the term "Christian nationalism" and the relatively new call for "Patriots" in a country so focused on Democrats and Republicans; with the celebration of Independence Day just around the corner – and during a month where the West has decided to celebrate one of the seven deadly sins (Pride) by calling attention to behavior previously understood to be biblically immoral, it is fitting to discuss what patriotism is, was, was meant to be – and whether pride in one’s country is or can be justified.

Can patriotism be biblically justified or is it a stumbling block? Is patriotism a form of idolatry? Is it okay to be a proud American when the Bible speaks against pride?

The fact this question was asked by my friend four years ago is evidence there might just be a stumbling block when it comes to Patriotism. So the first thing to recognize is the false dichotomy at play in this question.

For example, just because someone is wealthy does not necessarily make money that person’s idol. Money can be an idol whether someone is poor or wealthy or middle class.

Just because you love your children does not mean the family is your idol (Luke 14:26).

And why does Jesus say to hate our family? Especially when in Ephesians and Exodus we are called to love them?

Just because one loves their country does not mean they love their country more than they love God – nor does it necessarily indicate “emperor worship” – although it can.

We just have to be willing to hand it all over if God requires it. Just like our wealth, our property, our family. We must put Truth and Life and our desire to glorify God and our worship of God before our esteem for our country.

So once that false dichotomy is taken care of, can patriotism be biblically justified? Or is it a stumbling block?

I would start by saying the idea of patriotism, though framed as a monolithic ideology embraced by all who call themselves Patriots, is instead as personal and varied as one’s belief in a higher power.

Not everyone who believes in God is a Christian.

Not everyone who calls themselves a Christian is truly a Christ-follower.

Not every church-goer has been filled with the Holy Spirit.

Not everyone who believes in Scriptural truths holds to the same belief system.

So it is with those who identify as “patriots.”

How can we judge another person’s patriotism? I cannot answer the question of whether someone’s patriotism is biblically justified without knowing why that person is calling himself or herself a patriot.

If you consider yourself a Patriot, why are you patriotic?

If it is because the country recognizes God-given freedom and rights – and the people honor God and the government protects that relationship between its people and their God…well, I think that can be justified.

Throughout the entire Old Testament, if His people were honoring God and worshiping Him, they were justified in their allegiance to their nation – because it was one and the same as allegiance to God. (I do want to point out that is NOT the case in The United States today – or ever – but I do not want to get sidetracked because…)

It is not pride, but humility, that acknowledges the role of Providence in establishing a new nation, in directing the formation of its institutions, in directing its people.

Just as it is humility, not pride, that understands that the gifts and talents a person has were given by God – and not only were they not earned by merit, but these gifts and talents were given to us for a purpose. And it is up to the humble person to use those gifts and talents for the purpose they were intended, not to advance their own name and station in life, but to glorify the Creator, the giver of gifts.

And I never want to confuse The U.S. Constitution with the Bible, but if a government was constituted to serve and protect the vertical relationship the people of a nation have with their Creator, I do believe that is worth honoring.

The United States of America is unique in many regards. It is the first, and perhaps only, modern state whose government was established to protect not only the rights God has freely given all people – but to protect the relationship between God-fearing people and their God.

Celebration of The United States was once equal to the celebration of God’s protection and Providence.

Unfortunately, over the past 200 years, Americans have increasingly looked to personalities and people to represent their interests – and these people have failed in their humility to play the role God and the founders intended of our leaders.

Over the past 200 years, we have also seen Americans increasingly look to government to solve problems and meet their needs instead of looking to Providence.

Americans feel entitled to the rights and freedoms our government was supposed to protect instead of appreciative to the God who gave them.

And instead of holding our government accountable when they fail, we have decided that our needs are best met when we look to government first to tell us what our happiness is, and we give up our freedoms in order to submit not to God, but to the government (often to make sure we don’t miss out on the “goodies” they offer).

What does it mean to you to be patriotic?

Does it mean you know you are blessed to live in a country that would never have existed without the intervention of The Almighty?

Does it mean you are celebrating the fact you live in a country where the government honors God?

Does it mean you appreciate the sacrifices others make and have made to ensure your rights and freedoms are guaranteed?

And if you don’t see those things going on right now…should you no longer be patriotic? Or does that mean your patriotism demands a return to the values that would allow you to celebrate your country and its founding?

Does patriotism mean you celebrate the fallen and corrupt people that lead us? Or are you celebrating the God-laid foundations of our country?

Does patriotism mean you place your country and resources above the love for others and individual responsibility in our own sin that God demands of us? Or does your patriotism emphasize the humility only found in recognizing our frailty and the values that turned our hearts from vice to virtue?

Is patriotism PRIDE – or an understanding of God’s blessing and a desire to protect His gift?

As is every sin – it is a matter of the heart.

But this is one reason I have a huge problem with the rewriting of history – even of the bad history.

If we no longer recognize that we are here only by the grace of God, that we live in the greatest country (politically constituted entity) since the destruction of Israel in the Old Testament, and that our values led to overcoming our nation’s greatest sins (not all of them, but some!) – then we are committing the very sin that led to the Fall, placing ourselves in the role of God.

Once we take away the understanding from an entire generation that our country is unique because GOD was in its very founding, that we are prosperous because we HONORED GOD, where will that leave the country’s future?

So as we approach another Independence Day Celebration, can the Christian be patriotic?

Is it in humility you are honoring the sacrifices made to protect natural rights and liberties, to protect the vertical relationship with your Creator God?

Perhaps the Christian walks a fine line in The United States. Perhaps we should be very careful on which side of that line we will find ourselves should we lose our balance.

So I encourage you to go listen to “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago and celebrate The Fourth of July!

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