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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Christian View Of The Fourth Of July

In America's past, people use to wear both their patriotism and their religion on their sleeves. And sometimes, distinguishing between the two was rather difficult. Both called one to live and die for a cause greater than oneself and thus both were seen as badges of honor. This is still practiced today especially by Conservatives. And when it is practiced, it is done with little, if any, reflection and self-criticism.

The conflation between patriotism and religion is normal. Karl Barth talked against it in commenting on what happened in World War I and how everybody was claiming that the same God was on their side. And when we think about what happened then, we realize that their conflation of national identity and religion was just another way of them praising themselves. So though the sides who are at war today call on different deities, the principle being practiced is the same.

I don't know about how this conflation affects any other religion, but I know that the merging of patriotic pride with Christianity can only occur at the expense of fully understanding and appreciating the Gospel. The belief that one's side merits God's favor is easily disproven by a reading of Romans 1-3; for what applies to individuals also applies to groups. And though an honest look at one's enemy will cause one to conclude that they deserve God's judment, so should a look in a nonmagic mirror lead us to the same conclusion about ourselves. And in almost every war, an honest appraisal of all groups involved should result in finding enough evidence that disqualifies each group from claiming they represent God. And if past and current sins aren't enough to convince us of that, the inconsistencies that follow our conflicts should so that, in each war, the most optimal moral situation we can acknowledge is that one's own group represents the lesser of all evils.And lest one takes pride in that, to adapt what one bumper sticker said, to support the lesser of all evils is to still support evil. Christians are called to speak prophetically to all who practice evil.

Noting that part of patriotism is a way of seeking signficiance by making associations with heros who share the same national identity, we Christians should be asking ourselves if seeking such signficance is something that should be sought especially in the light of what Paul wrote in Philippians 3:1-10. For there, Paul talks about voiding himself of any significance that comes from his national identity and seeking only the significance that comes from believing in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. We might even want to consider whether the act of taking too much pride in patriotism or any other association with others is evidence that we close to practicing polytheism.


The above will not move many to question the value of patriotism. Why? Because reveling in patriotism feels good. It feels too good. And thus, questions are neither required nor wanted. How unfortunate that is for us Christians because we should be asking ourselves if seeking the significance that comes from celebrating patriotism means that we aren't fully appreciating what it means to belong to Jesus.


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