Navigating Patriotism and Christianity

July 3, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

America the Beautiful Country

Patriotism is a good thing. As C.S. Lewis once put it, patriotism is the natural emotional connection we have with place. We’re wired to ache for this notion of home. However, as Christians we understand that this world is not our home. As American Christians, we also understand that the USA is not our promised land. We are settlers, but we are only passing through.

Many younger evangelicals have wrestled with the issue of patriotism theologically. So, here are a few blog posts that explore the relationship between patriotism and Christian theology.

Why Younger Evangelicals May Feel Uneasy In A Patriotic Service by Trevin Wax.

Older Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Israel. Younger Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Babylon. If this statement is true (and I admit it is a generalization), then it may help explain why many millennial church leaders feel a sense of angst regarding patriotic services in the church. As we witness the quickly shifting tides of morality in the United States, evangelicals who feel embattled in the cultural maelstrom are less likely to see the U.S. as the de facto “good guy” in all we do. The culture shift makes patriotic celebrations in church a sensitive issue.

Thinking Theologically About Patriotism by Kevin DeYoung.

In some parts of the church, every hint of patriotism makes you a jingoistic idolater. You are allowed to love every country except your own. But in other parts of the church, true religion blends too comfortably into civil religion. You are allowed to worship in our services as long as you love America as much as we do. I don’t claim to have arrived at the golden mean, but I imagine many churches could stand to think more carefully about their theology of God and country.

Rightful Revelry: Cautions Concerning Combining Patriotism and Worship by Ed Stetzer.

Christians are, in a sense, dual citizens– of the Kingdom and of the nation where they live. I live in a country that is not without fault, but I am proud to be a citizen of that nation. I teach my children to be proud of their nation– not unaware of its challenges– and patriotic citizens. Yet, I think that Christians in all those places need to be careful about mixing their faith and worship with their patriotism and nationalism.

Reconsider God and Country Services by Chris Martin

Millennials have a general lack of interest in religious matters and are somewhat apathetic when it comes to patriotism. How might these facts affect how we plan our God and Country services? I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that singing God Bless America and peddling politics from the pulpit this Sunday may not be a draw for young people outside your church who do not know Jesus or share the same views as you…Don’t burn bridges on the altar of political partisanship. Don’t build a wall around the gospel with bricks fashioned by your political passion.

Should Churches Display The American Flag? by Douglas Wilson, Lisa Velthouse, and Russell D. Moore.

I tend to sympathize with Doug Wilson on this one. However, Russell Moore makes a compelling case. Moore writes:

Removing a flag doesn’t remove the tendency to idolatry or triumphalism; it just leaves such things unaddressed and untroubled. If a congregation already has a flag in the sanctuary, the first step might be for the pastor to use it as an object lesson in a right-ordered patriotism.

The flag can prompt the church to pray for and honor leaders. The flag can prompt us to remember that national identity is important but transitory. There will come a day when Old Glory yields to an older glory, when the new republic succumbs to a new creation. Until then, let’s reorder all our affections, including our flag-waving. But let’s do so maintaining the paradoxical tension of “resident aliens.” There is no need to play “Rapture the Flag.”

Photo credit: photopin

Entry filed under: Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, Christianity, Culture, Faith, Gospel, Pastoral Ministry, Religion, The Southern Baptist Convention, Theology.

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