Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Should Christians Be Patriotic?

I know this post is late since America's 234th birthday was 4 days ago. But I've been seeing blog posts here and there (like this one and this one ) questioning patriotism. People also question whether or not it is right for us to sing patriotic hymns in church services and to celebrate our freedom. And maybe the overall climate of our country and our Christianity is changing. Maybe it's because many of us would rather riot in the streets over a soccer game than peacefully cheer for our team at a baseball game? Maybe it's because we would rather get our theology from U2 and Bruce Springsteen rather than those who have been more up front about their faith, rather than putting it under the guise of pop culture. Maybe we've become so politically correct that we are not being good global citizens if we think we live in the greatest country on earth?
I also understand that there are those who want to make their faith in God and their loyalty to America one and the same-and they are not. As Christians we should have loyalty to God above any other loyalties that we have-country, family, job, cultural heritage, even to our Christian denomination. So does that make it a sin to be patriotic? I think as long as our loyalty to our country is a part of our loyalty to God-and not the other way around-we should be patriotic.

Our church supports some missionaries in a very large European country. They send us a monthly newsletter about what is going on in their ministry. They came to our church a few months ago and were sharing some upcoming things they were doing in the scope of their mission. They informed us that they would be passing out 10,000 flyers simply advertising for their weekly Bible study they have in their home. If anyone chose to object to these flyers and press charges, they could face fines up to $10,000 (American) and 6 months in jail.

When I read these stories, it makes me wonder why are some American Christians in such a hurry to act like loving our country is such a bad thing? The Declaration of Independence says this...
" We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The founders of our country believed that God had given us a right to live, a right to be free, and a right to pursue happiness in life. The first amendment of the Constitution says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof;" The amendment that contains our freedom of speech-what some would say is our most important amendment in the Bill of Rights-begins with freedom of religion. I would say that the first amendment freedom of religion says a lot about what the founders believed about the ability of a people to freely practice their religious beliefs.

So why all the anti-American rhetoric? Why are people determined to make us as American Christians have a guilty conscience because we live in a place where we can practice our religious freedoms while other people in the world can't? I think it's ironic that people will use their freedom of speech (granted by God when he gave humanity a free will, but made legal in our country by the US Constitution) to bash our country and/or patriotism in general from a religious standpoint.

It is clear by reading our founding documents that the founders of our country wanted a place where people could worship God the way they wanted to. When I sing God Bless America in a Sunday service, or go eat hot dogs and watch fireworks on July 4th, I'm not declaring that my loyalty to our country is greater than my loyalty to God. I am thanking God for allowing me to live in a place where I don't have to worry about criminal charges for inviting people to my church. As Christians we are not called to build the nation of the United States. We are called to build the kingdom of God. But to the extent that living in America is the best place on earth to build that kingdom (because of our religious freedom), then we should be patriotic.

So the next time it is Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Flag Day, have a hot dog and celebrate the fact that thousands of men have fought and died so that you can go to church each Sunday. You can post things on the internet about your religious faith. You can invite your friends to church. Celebrate freedom whenever you can. Ultimate freedom comes from God, but thank him that you live in a place where the government still agrees with that!

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