I love the Fourth of July holiday. Cookouts, pool parties and fireworks fill my memories as I think of past Independence Days. Yet over the last 3-4 years I have noticed a trend that is rising amongst many church leaders, and it seems to bubble to the surface every year around July 4th. There is a growing anti-patriotism in the church. There are many reasons for this: (1) For so long we have described America as a Christian nation that now many equate Americanism with Christianity. This has led to a knee-jerk reaction by some to distance themselves from patriotic sentiments. (2) America was founded on decidedly Judeo-Christian values, and the majority of the founding fathers were God-fearing men. Again, this leads to the misconception that if one is a Christian, he must love America too. For fear of equating the Church with state, some leaders denounce the state. (3) Many church leaders have seen how patriotism takes on a near religious fervor and have rightly observed that if we place our nation above God, then we are guilty of idolatry. For this reason they elect to ignore observances of national holidays or even go so far as to remove the American flag from church sanctuaries. (4) America has been declining in areas of morality for several decades. Whether it’s abortion, divorce or children being born to unwed mothers there are some serious moral issues in this country. This has led more and more Christian leaders to decry America as a worldly nation, and some have gone so far as to say all worldly governments are demonic in nature.
What are We to do?
So where does that leave people like me? I love my country. I always have. I have ancestors who have fought in every major war we have fought up to the Vietnam war. I tear up when taps is played at a funeral and I stand up straight when our national anthem is played. I have traveled overseas and have seen just how much God has blessed my country. So what am I, and the millions of American Christians like me, to do when someone claims that our love of country is sinful?
Recognize What America Is Not
As a Christian, I must freely admit that America is not the savior of the world. She never has been and she never will be. That title belongs to Jesus Christ alone. Neither is America the chosen people of God. To claim that America is a modern-day version of the tribes of Israel is to do dis-service to what the Bible teaches. The Church is the chosen people of God. The Church knows no physical boundaries, nor is she limited by ethnicity, language, gender or economy. The Church trumps all nations as the people of God, and she must and will continue to do so.
Recognize What America Is
America is my home. She is where I reside in this world while I wait for the next to come. And while she is not a nation chosen by God, she is a nation blessed by God. I believe God honored the faith of our founding fathers, and in so doing, He allowed America to flourish. But we must not mistake blessing for tacit approval of all things American. America is an imperfect country. I celebrate what she does right, but at the same time I mourn over what she gets wrong. I often find myself lamenting like Isaiah, ‘Woe to me I am a man of unclean lips who lives among a people of unclean lips.’ If I could, I would repent on behalf of my nation so that she may turn to God.
Recognize Where America Stands
I love my country, but I love Jesus and His Church more. God calls us to love and honor our parents, but just because I do does not mean that I idolize them. In the same way, I can love and honor my nation without idolizing her. Make no mistake, if I were commanded by my government to do something that violates the command of God, I will side with God. America, to the Christian, must be a clear second place behind Jesus and His Bride.
That being said, I still stand to say the pledge of allegiance, and I still take my hat off when the flag is raised. It’s not out of a sense of worship. It is out of respect for the many who fought and died to give me the freedom to worship God openly. I have no problem with the flag being in the church, as long as it is always clear it is not the flag we worship, but God. I have no problem with patriotic songs, as long as they recognize God as the source of blessing. I have no problem with patriotism, as long as it is tempered with a love for God. And I have no problem saying ‘God Bless America’ because I realize that for any nation to be blessed, she must seek God to receive it.