A couple of days ago, my cousin, Brent Waggoner (who I greatly respect and with whom I agree probably 92% of the time), posted a thought-provoking article that received some interesting feedback and comments on social media. I started to type up my response to some of the comments posted on his thread and then decided to post this on my own blog instead of hijacking his page. So, this is my general response to what's been taking place in our country over the last several weeks: the protests, the NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, our president's incessant tweeting, and any other hot-button topic you can think of. More specifically, this is for believers who disagree concerning the role patriotism has to play in the life of a Christ-follower.
Let me begin by saying this: As a pastor, I have been frustrated with the people who confuse nationalism/patriotism with Christianity. In some cases, I feel like some Christians have thrown objectivity out the window. I have seen them condone and gleefully celebrate decisions and actions that would have had them up in arms if it had been the other side that had done it. I'm astounded at a loss of ability by some Christians to think critically. I would like to see some intellectual honesty from time to time, admitting that there has been the setting of dangerous precedence by both the Obama and Trump administrations . If your guy can do this, the next guy can do it, too. Just remember that the next guy might not be part of your party and might not share your worldview or convictions. Turning a blind eye to legitimate problems that do exist in America is anathema to responsible citizenship, not to mention following Christ and loving God with our whole being and our neighbor as ourself.
That being said, I'm more than frustrated with the other extreme: condescending sneers to those of us who are proud Americans. We live in a fallen world filled with sinners. If it takes the absolute absence of inequality, abuse or racism before we can take pride as Americans and stand for the Star Spangled Banner...well, good luck. It's never going to happen. Here or any other country.
My take, for what it's worth: in spite of the injustice that DOES exist, America is a great nation.
Yes, I get it: as Brian pointed out in his article (linked above), our home as Christians isn't ultimately here or anywhere other than Heaven. But, God has placed us here...in America...as citizens...for such a time as this.
The Word speaks clearly to those who are "passing through" as citizens in a "strange" land. Jeremiah 29:5-7 offers insight on how we are to live in a country that's not our final destination: "Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."
"Seek the welfare of the city (or country)". While we may have differing views on what it looks like to seek the welfare of our country, we can't escape the mandate.
So, here's a request to my enlightened friends who despise patriotism: Have some grace. Quit the belittling of and condescension those you consider radical, simply because of their love for America.
How about we celebrate the good that has happened and is happening in our country while actively standing in the gap to combat the injustice we do see. I don't have to throw away the flag or my pride in being American to call out our sins as a nation. Neither do I have to allow our sins keep us from celebrating the good that is present in our country.
The last thing Christians need to be debating is how American flags in a church constitute idol worship or how the flag shouldn't be present at a Christian ceremony. Give me a freaking break. That is worse than the wearying worship wars.
How 'bout we do this instead?
Find our identity in Him.
Honor the sacrifice represented by our flag.
Thank God for putting us here in America for such a time as this.
Now, go make a difference. God bless America. We need it.