Christianity and Patriotism

How ought Christian Americans view patriotism? Most often it seems our views of the relationship between patriotism and Christianity are based upon assumption rather than conclusion. For many, patriotism is equated with Christianity, where patriotism is an essential quality of Christian belief and lack of national pride is equal to lack of belief in God. So what is the right view of patriotism? 

What Is Patriotism?

Patriotism has been defined as an emotional attachment to a nation which an individual recognizes as their homeland. Patriotism, then, demonstrates both consistency and tension with Christianity. Consistent with Christianity, patriotism reflects a gratefulness which flows from recognition of blessing. We do not initially choose our nationality, though it can be earned. In the case of United States citizenship, birthplace nearly guarantees high probability of at least minimal exposure to special revelation. Whereas the birthplace of India or the North Caucasus region, for example, grants much less likelihood of exposure to the gospel. And beyond initial exposure to the gospel, Americans enjoy many freedoms unknown in other parts of the world. For this reason, emotional attachment of an American citizen to the United States is consistent with Christianity. Our emotional attachment, often expressed in terms of love, support, or defense, reflect grateful appreciation to God for his blessing in our citizenship. 

Citizenship, though, raises the critical question of tension between patriotism and Christianity. How can a Christian rightly express patriotism when this land of the free and home of the brave is not the true homeland? In fact, whatever land in which a Christian finds himself is not his homeland. No, this earthly land is specifically not our home, and our citizenship is expressly not in this world but in the next. How then can a Christian rightly be patriotic and have emotional attachment for a homeland when he or she is intuitively and overtly called to long for a better country? The Christian’s loyalty is most appropriately for the eternal home rather than this temporary land (Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 11:6). 

Is Patriotism Antithetical to Christianity?

It doesn’t seem, however, that patriotism is antithetical to Christianity, but patriotism must clearly be articulated by the Christian and for the Christian in a manner distinct from the worldly patriot. Our love for country originates in gratefulness to God and is therefore defined and limited by our ultimate love for God – not His gifts nor our autonomous identity – and our recognition of the essential difference between the gift itself and the Giver of good gifts. So a Christian can certainly be patriotic, but his patriotism must remain distinct from his worship. As we consider distinguishing our patriotism and our worship, consider the article published by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, “Patriotism and the Gospel in American Churches.”

Further Questions to Consider:

Is my patriotism consistent with the blessing and provision of God, specifically that which has been given through the sacrifice of so many military personnel?

Is my patriotism offensive to international visitors or to brothers and sisters of different ethnicities? 

Does my patriotism reflect the call to long for a better country?

Is my patriotism an instigation to focus too narrowly upon this nation when we are called to make disciples of all nations?

Is my patriotism inappropriately equated with Christianity, or is my estimation of America improperly equated with Israel?

Sanctity of Human Life

In the following article Russell Moore considers the devastating reality that has led to such an event as a Sanctity of Life Sunday. 

Don’t get me wrong, the call to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ is a joy. Yesterday I pronounced a godly young couple husband and wife. This morning I baptized a brother in Christ. Nothing is more thrilling than opening the Word of God to the people of Christ week-by-week. But it provoked my spirit this morning to preach the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday emphasis this morning.

I don’t hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because I think it, somehow, unbiblical. No, indeed. The entire canon throbs with God’s commitment to the fatherless and to the widows, his wrath at the shedding of innocent blood. I don’t hate it because I think it’s inappropriate. Just as every Lord’s Day should be Easter, with the proclamation of the Resurrection of Jesus, and Christmas, with the announcement of the Incarnation, so every Lord’s Day should highlight the worth and dignity of human life.

I hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because I’m reminded that we have to say things to one another that human beings shouldn’t have to say. Mothers shouldn’t kill their children. Fathers shouldn’t abandon their babies. No human life is worthless, regardless of skin color, age, disability, economic status. The very fact that these things must be proclaimed is a reminder of the horrors of this present darkness.

This morning as I opened the Bible to preach, I looked out and caught the eye of my sons. I prayed that their children wouldn’t have to hear a sermon against abortion and euthanasia. I prayed that my grandchildren and great-grandchildren would grow up in an age when abortion is, as the Feminists for Life organization put is some years ago, not just illegal but unthinkable. I prayed for my (yet to be conceived but not yet to be conceived of) great-grandchildren that a Sanctity of Human Life Sunday would seem as unnecessary to them as a Reality of Gravity Emphasis Sunday.

I hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because I’m reminded that as I’m preaching there are babies warmly nestled in wombs who won’t be there tomorrow. I’m reminded that there are children, maybe even blocks from my pulpit, who’ll be slapped, punched, and burned with cigarettes before nightfall. I’m reminded that there are elderly men and women languishing away in loneliness, their lives pronounced to be a waste.

But I also love Sanctity of Human Life Sunday when I think about the fact that I serve a congregation with ex-orphans all around, adopted into loving families. I love to reflect on the men and women who serve every week in pregnancy centers for women in crisis. And I love to see men and women who have aborted babies find their sins forgiven, even this sin, and their consciences cleansed by Christ.

We’ll always need Christmas. We’ll always need Easter. But I hope, please Lord, someday soon, that Sanctity of Human Life Day is unnecessary.