I can’t believe we have already hit July. One of my favorite national holidays is this month, Independence Day. I remember riding in 4th of July parades as a child and then marching in them as a band member in high school. This year seemed a bit off with so many festivities curtailed. In voicing my melancholy, I had a several people ask me, should we even be celebrating at all this year given the COVID-19 resurgence along with social ills we are facing in our country?
To be honest, it caused me to think about what it means to be a Christian patriot. To be sure our country has its issues, but can we love and serve God and our country without falling into some form of triumphalism? I think we not only can but must. In order to be an effective witness of the power and love of God, the people of Christ must be in the culture and country in which we live, but without becoming overwhelmed by it. None of us can escape from the fact that we are all from a particular place — a town, a state, a nation — and that the experience of that place shapes who we are and what we believe. To be sure, it can be tricky entwining the sentiments and convictions of heartfelt religion and soul-stirring patriotism.
Historically, we see too many incidents when mixing the two was disastrous. The European Crusades to oust the “infidels” from the Holy Land. Not one of Christianity’s greater moments; nor was South Africa’s apartheid idea of “homelands.” In our rush to fulfill our manifest destiny, Native Americans were slaughtered by the U.S. Army and people even wrongfully tried to use the Bible to defend the evil of slavery. But, in truth, patriotism coupled with Christianity need not be a tragic example of bigoted excessive exultation over one’s achievements.
Christianity, in its most basic form (and when we get it right), is God’s love in action. As Christians we should not be embarrassed to love our nation, for our hearts are large enough to love God, our country and the people of other countries. The beautiful words at the base of the Statue of Liberty speak of welcoming people who yearn for freedom. Even our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” does not extol the glories of battle; instead it offers up gratitude for the unexpected salvation of Baltimore during the War of 1812.
Today as we face a new day … filled with its own challenges and opportunities … what will we be able to see in the first glimpses of dawn’s light? We cannot be content to focus only at the flagpole; we might miss some of the destruction that has occurred around it. Will we notice the pollution staining the land and waters of this nation? Will we notice the number of homeless men, women and children wandering aimlessly in this blessed land of the free? Will we notice the dirt that smudges the flag’s colors from us dragging it through the quagmire of not living out equality to American citizens regardless of sex, creed and color?
My friends, if that dawning light is not bright enough to reveal these shortcomings and faults, then it is up to the Christian patriot to increase the intensity of the light and to boldly speak the word of God to the country we love. God Bless America and God heal our land.