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Friday, July 25, 2008

Faith Or Patriotism

One has to wonder what has happened to American Christian Fundamentalism. In the last blog entry, it was clearly pointed out that, by words and example, Jesus calls his followers to serve rather than rule. And yet, it is the latter action that is often advocated or sought after by many American Christian Fundamentalists. Believing that America is the world's last refuge for freedom, as has been suggested by moralists like Bill Bennett, many American Fundamentalists have accepted this mantle knowing that privileges follow. The desire for a privileged position over others is not in keeping with serving others, it is part of ruling over others and thus goes against the message of Jesus.

There is another way by which American Christian Fundamentalists have lost their way. They are drifting when they allow their sense of patriotism to become as important as their faith. This especially true because pride itself, which includes patriotic pride, is a contradiction to faith. We've have recently been reminded of patriotic pride at the beginning of this month with the celebration of the 4th of July. Our sense of patriotic pride is often appealled to by presidential candidates during an election year to get our votes.

In Romans 3, Paul concludes his argument started in Romans 1 telling us that because of sin, we can only be saved by faith in God's work as opposed to being saved by our own performance. And since we have been saved by what someone else has done for us, Paul, in Romans 3:27, emphatically states that "boasting" cannot be allowed because of the "law of faith."

The above passage in Romans is not the only place where pride is addressed in the Scriptures. I John 2:16 reminds us that having the "pride of life" means that one does not have the love of God. But despite the contradiction between pride and faith or being proud and having the love of God, American Fundamentalists not only embrace patriotic pride, they often make it apart of their worship services.

Our patriotic pride not only contradicts our faith and opposes God's love, patriotic pride pushes us to support our country's immoral actions as we would root for a sports team's efforts to win a game only patriotic pride supports our country's use of violence. When under the spell of patriotism, we judge actions, especially military actions, not by values and principle but by partisanship. When our terrorist enemies commit crimes, we rightfully condemn their actions; but when our troops do the same, we justify or rationalize their actions. Why? Because pride either demands that we vicariously praise ourselves by supporting the troops or avoid guilt by refusing to look in the mirror.

Not all Fundamentalists have the same tendency to embrace patriotic pride as American Fundamentalists. But the issue is not who embraces patriotic pride but whether that pride is good for us. Certainly the whole Bible speaks against pride as much, if not more, as it speaks against sexual sins. But not only that, we see that patriotic pride leads us to support violence and other immoral actions.

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