"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"

Father God, thank you for the love of the truth you have given me. Please bless me with the wisdom, knowledge and discernment needed to always present the truth in an attitude of grace and love. Use this blog and Northwoods Ministries for your glory. Help us all to read and to study Your Word without preconceived notions, but rather, let scripture interpret scripture in the presence of the Holy Spirit. All praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Please note: All my writings and comments appear in bold italics in this colour

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Do Patriotism and Worship Services Mix Well?

Is it appropriate to use a worship service to promote patriotism? 

I’ve been in churches where the congregation was asked to stand and say the pledge of allegiance during a worship service. I have a strong pride in America. I lived in the Philippines during a very tumultuous time in which our own US servicemen were killed by terrorist attacks. I was there when there were base demonstrations and our daily lives had to be altered because of real threats to us. We had curfews and base restrictions.

I remember when singer Lee Greenwood came to Clark Air Base (Philippines) at a time when we were all emotionally reeling from the recent attacks on our servicemen.  When, at the conclusion of his concert, he started singing the words, “I’m Proud to be an American,”  there was not a dry eye in the audience.

When I came back to the States, my husband was sent to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Shield. My husband was defending our country and I was taking care of our 3-yr old and infant. Every single time I saw an American flag, I got tears in my eyes, knowing that my husband was “over there” and seeing first-hand the sacrifices made by our servicemen and their families.

So, obviously, you cannot say that I am unpatriotic. I am proud to be an American. I understand what freedom means.

But the several times I have been in a church service and asked to stand to say the pledge of allegiance, something has stirred within me – some sort of conflict and I never really spent the time to think about what it was.

I ran across this article recently: This is my confession: I struggle with patriotic worship services.

Sunday gatherings of believers are a microcosm of the Kingdom of God. For me, at their best, patriotic services celebrate baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet at the expense of Jesus Christ crucified and risen. At their worst they rehearse selective history, celebrate decisions of a man-made government, and blur the line between the kingdoms of man and the kingdom of God.

Sundays find followers of Jesus gathered celebrating His victory over sin, death, hell and the grave, not American victories at Iwo Jima, Normandy and Bastogne. We gather with the promise of a Prince of Peace whose return will not only render Valley Forge, Gettysburg, New Orleans, Normandy, Guadalcanal, Da Nang and Baghdad impossible; He will make them unneeded.

I posted this article on the SSB Facebook page and here are some of the comments:

I suffered in church every Memorial Day, July 4th and Christmas…

As a music pastor, I ALWAYS dreaded planning the Sunday nearest the 4th of July. HATED it!!

What do you think? Is it okay to mix church and patriotism? Am I being overly sensitive? Is America God’s special nation? Do pastors overstep their bounds when they encourage patriotism?

Happy 4th, everyone. Stay safe!  - Julie-Anne - Spiritual Sounding Board

From my perspective, anything that takes your eyes off Jesus and puts them onto yourself (your country), not only does a disservice to Jesus Christ but weakens your relationship with Him. Many a classical theologian would call it sin. 

The roots of excessive patriotism are pride and segregation, neither of which are Christian attributes. The last thing Jesus prayed for before being arrested was for unity - unity with Him, unity with each other. Excessive patriotism (expressing patriotism in church is excessive, in my view), builds walls between people, even Christians. For instance:

It may excessive patriotism that causes Americans to want to close their borders to Mexicans and Central Americans desperate to escape violence and poverty. Many of those opposed to opening the borders are Christians; many of those attempting to get into the US are Christians. Does not the unity of the church universal 'trump' the selfishness of super-patriotism?

In a world of instant global communication, everyone is our neighbor. Is it Christian to ignore the pain and suffering of our neighbors?  

I must confess, I am torn about the issue of massive immigration. I do not want to see the entire culture of the US overrun with Latin Americans. I do not want to see Europe overrun with Muslims, as is clearly happening. But Latin Americans are much easier to take than Muslims in France or Sweden where ancient cultures will disappear within a few decades to be replaced by Sharia law.

I have only 2 suggestions for countries suffering from mass immigration: 

1) Allow those people to immigrate who best fit into the countries culture - a predominantly Christian country should accept predominantly Christian refugees/immigrants; Muslim refugees should go to Muslim countries.

2) Industrialized countries should be doing more to develop the economies of 3rd world countries. Reducing poverty will keep more people in their home countries and will reduce the allure of radical extremist groups and street/drug gangs.

But, back on topic - I hope you will go to church tomorrow and glorify God, not your country.