The 4th of July confuses me. It’s not so much the idea of the 4th of July that confuses me. I understand it’s purpose, and I appreciate it. I really do appreciate the independence that is afforded to me, and the men and women who have fought hard to make that independence possible. It’s not the purpose of July 4th that confuses me, it’s how I should react to it that I keep bumping up against.
Ever since I can remember going to Church there has been a July 4th Sunday. Anyone who has been in Church for any period of time knows what I am talking about. The gist of the service is usually a strong message that God has blessed America because we have “sought his face.” We are then usually told about all the ways that this nation has turned it’s back on God and warned that if we do not fight for her moral integrity that God will remove his blessing from our nation. For a very long time I accepted those statements as pretty much infallible truths. Of course God loves America. Compared to the rest of the world we seem to be doing the best job at worshiping him. Right?
Before I go any farther I think I need to step back and explain something. I love being an American. I believe it is a blessing, but there is a difference between loving America, and loving being an American. One worships a symbol, the other worships a blessing afforded us by God.
I have no problem with setting apart time to worship God for the blessing that is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are all principles that are biblical. The problem for me becomes when we are setting apart time to worship the symbol that is America i.e. pledging to a flag during worship, (ask any foreign missionary their feelings on that), quoting more from the declaration of independence than from the Bible, and singing songs that praise the beauty of natural objects as opposed to the God who created them . That’s not patriotism, that’s idolatry.
Scripture is very clear that God, and God alone is responsible for the rise and fall of nations. Scripture is also very clear that when God’s people begin worshiping the power and might of a nation as opposed to the power and might of him, things get sticky.
For me this is an ever evolving idea but I believe that I have landed pretty solidly on two conclusions
1) We need to realize that Patriotism through the lens of Christ is not a sin.
It seems to be my knee jerk reaction to react negatively anytime patriotism is expressed by a Christian in a worship setting. It is not a sin to take joy in the blessing that is living in a country, that despite its short comings, really is an awesome place to live. As long as we are worshiping the blessing giver, and not the symbol. There is a lot more that could be said about this but I’m going to leave it at that.
2) We need to realize that despite our Patriotism, our nation will one day cease to exist.
A good question for all of us to ask might be, “If I woke up tomorrow, and America as I know it was gone, what would my faith in God look like?” The real danger I see in equating America’s greatness with God’s blessing really is at the heart of this question. If I begin to so tightly intertwine my American Patriotism with my Christian faith I really do run the danger of losing my faith when God decides he is done with this nation. Make no mistake, throughout history God has used nations to do great works to fulfill his purposes, and once those purposes are complete, those nations cease to exist. It really is an arrogant mindset to believe that America would be any different. My fear is that when that day comes there are going to be a lot of very confused and very angry Patriotic Christians.
What do you think? Is there a tension between Christianity and Patriotism? How do you make these two ideas work in your life?