Patriotism – Good or Bad?
Today marks the 246th birthday of the United States of America. We rejoice in another year of God’s providence as we are still free to worship our Lord according to our conscience. More importantly, we worship according to truths that are found in God’s Holy Word. The freedom to worship must not be taken lightly as we know Satan constantly attempts to tear down the liberty of conscience. While this statement is true, it is also true that liberty of conscience is neither too bothersome to the master of evil. He knows the human heart is well capable of destroying itself with little to no help from him. The more we depend on free-thinking, the less we are like God. We wander and weave from side to side on the broad road to destruction without guardrails to prevent mass destruction.
This is not to say we do not cherish the Declaration of Independence in its most concise definitive summary of American government: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Notice the capitalization in the original—Creator, Rights, Life, Liberty, Happiness. It seems from the Creator the others divinely flow. This is truly a grand statement, and yet we recognize these fundamental rights are good only as they are exercised under the most powerful government of all—the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. We seek no independence from Him nor any free-thinking that counters the principles of His Holy Word.
In the past few years, I have more struggled with the intersection of politics/government with the worship of the church. Politics is polarizing and at times deafeningly maddening. It tends to accomplish Satan’s purpose in the church without us realizing it touches the perversion of the gospel. Anger without a cause is the problem, that is, a cause that does not impugn God’s character. Conflating God and country rarely finds us without an imagined cause. If Satan can divide us on any avenue of thought, he accomplishes his purposes all the same. This is perfectly acceptable to him. He does not always claim credit for what we voluntarily do to ourselves. If he converts the middling church member who barely acknowledges responsibility to the gospel into flaming political activism as his passion, the gospel is abandoned equally as well.
I posit this question for your consideration. Is America’s rabid patriotism a help or a hindrance to the gospel? I believe it is helpful whenever our desire for the direction of our country coincides with biblical objectives. Moral questions are certainly a part of our righteous agenda but with the understanding the human heart cannot be legislated into morality. We hold back the tide on each issue only temporarily until we are finally overrun by the insatiable moral drunkards on immorality’s broad road. Our patriotism is unhelpful when a political agenda is broadened and more inclusive of issues that do not affect the gospel. We may divide a church on these issues as our old human nature drives us rather than our common faith.
Today, I choose to acknowledge the blessed beginnings of our country and thank God for the protections the Founding Fathers placed in our Constitution. No doubt God’s hand was upon them and some were indeed Christians. However, the birthday of the USA is only coincidental to Sunday worship observance. It is in the background, not the foreground. Therefore, we worship Christ fervently and only salute with a nod to our patriotism.
V. Mark Smith