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Should Christians be Patriotic?

flag bibleShould Christians be patriotic? Great question, I’m glad you asked.

The best answer I can give up front is, “What do you mean by patriotic?”

Definition is always the best place to begin. Without definition of key terms each person in a discussion fills in those terms with all the history and emotional baggage and visionary foundations that come with being human.

So… What does it mean to be patriotic?

For some, “patriotic” conjures images of rampaging hoards in the street, screaming through missing teeth about their own national superiority or its darker twin… “Us against the world!” I can see them now, waving national flags, draped in flags, stitched in flags, wearing flag unmentionables that show through their ripped and besmeared overalls as they drive flag painted cars to and from their flag adorned yards in need of mowing and houses in need of demolition. These are unconcerned with anything that politicians do in the name of their country just so long as it advances their personal sense national greatness and pulls one over on all those other poor fools cursed by God by being born elsewhere.

It’s an opportune straw man that has just enough adherents to lend validity to those scorning the very idea of patriotism. To these, patriotism is nothing but irrational… NO! mindless fixation on the innate superiority of one’s own nation and culture lacquered with more than a little hatred of everyone who’s not so fixated.

Progressives and left wing ideologues prefer to think of themselves as citizens of the world. They see no sound philosophical reason why their own nation’s interests should be innately superior to anyone else’s. Don’t people of almost every country have a special place in their heart for their homeland? Such an idea is too common for them, too immature, too small minded.

Even for many conservative Christians, this “citizen of the globe” attitude is an interesting cross point with left leaning atheist type folks. We phrase it differently, of course, preferring to think of ourselves as “Citizens of the Kingdom,” which has no geographical or cultural borders, incorporating souls from “…every nation and tribe and language and people.” (Rev 14:6)

Isn’t patriotism a compromise of the very notion of being Christian? How can you be for your nation as it exists in opposition to other nations, for your culture as it exists amid a sea of cultures, and still be a true citizen of a global kingdom?

Thomas Sowell, in his book Intellectuals and Society, sees patriotism functioning differently than the racist-hick-draped-in-a-flag portrait commonly espoused by the left leaning media.

I quote:

“Despite a tendency in some intellectual circles to see the nation as just a subordinate part of the world at large—some acting, or even describing themselves, as citizens of the world—patriotism is, in one sense, little more than a recognition of the basic fact that one’s own material well-being, personal freedom, and sheer survival depend on the particular institutions, traditions and policies of the particular nation in which one lives. There is no comparable world government and, without the concrete institutions of government, there is nothing to be a citizen of or to have enforceable rights, however lofty or poetic it may sound to be a citizen of the world. When one’s fate is clearly recognized as dependent on the surrounding national framework—the institutions, traditions and norms of one’s country—then the preservation of that framework cannot be a matter of indifference while each individual pursues purely individual interests. Patriotism is a recognition of a shared fate and the shared responsibilities that come with it.” Pg. 279-81

This is why one can be a patriot and despise an administration. This is why a person can be (Nay, should be) a Christian and a patriot… of any nation, no matter how evil its government, no matter how dark its culture. To be unpatriotic is to abandon concern for one’s community in a short sighted self defeating disregard for one’s intimate connection to it on a myriad of levels.

Patriotism says, “I’m for us!” without demanding, “I’m against everyone else.”

That said, Patriotism recognizes the natural limits of mind, heart, and resources and says, “I’m in this small boat with the rest of you; I care about you; I care about this boat, even if I sometimes hate where the boats going, and disagree with whose directing it.”

To be a citizen of the globe is unrealistic and self-defeating. To be a citizen of the kingdom is fine so long as you genuinely strive to bloom where your planted and participate in the health and prosperity of those around you in every way you can.

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