Patriotism and Faith

On this weekend when we celebrate Independence Day, I’m reflecting on the “dual loyalty” of being a Christian in America (or any other nation). How are we to hold together both a national spirit which sings “God Bless America”, and also the conviction of our faith that sings “O God of all the nations” (in the hymn “This Is My Song”, #591 in the New Century Hymnal)? It feels all the more challenging when we remember how much distance there is between our nation’s noble ideals, and the actual sinful practices of racism, sexism, and ethnic hatred that are an overwhelming part of America’s history. How can Christians praise the God of all nations, and recognize the failings in our own, while still feeling proud to be Americans?

I’m reminded that Christians have our own flag, adopted as a worldwide symbol in 1942. I also just learned (thanks, Wikipedia!) that there’s a “Pledge of Allegiance” to the Christian flag, written by a Methodist minister. Updating it with more contemporary language, it reads, “I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Savior for whose realm it stands; one communion, uniting all humanity in service and in love.”

We’re not talking about “dual loyalties” then, as though they were equal commitments. Christians remain ultimately loyal to the God of the universe, whose ways are made known in Christ, and by whose example we interpret right from wrong. Our national pride doesn’t shy away from naming how America has fallen short of its ideals and the ways of Christ, even as we give thanks to God for life in this particular country. As Christians living in the United States, we strive to make America more like the Lord’s Prayer: “Your reign come, your will done, on earth as in heaven.”

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