Sunday, July 3, 2011
Is it Patriotism....
There will be a lot of re-interpretation going on. Old Testament texts that spoke of God and His promises to Israel will be recast into God's promises for America. We will hear a great deal about the need for America to repent and become God's land and God's people once again. We will be challenged to stave off the moral decay that is keeping God from unleashing heaven's blessings upon us and restoring our might, our economy, our families, our culture, and our government.
I am not so much arguing with the diagnosis -- surely we have a lot of repenting to do -- as much as the idea that America is God's country like no other is God's country. It seems that on the Fourth of July we forget Peter's words about God indeed showing no favoritism. We find it way too easy to cozy up to the idea that America is a Christian nation with a very special relationship with God. Carting down the flag and singing the national anthem in Church encourages the intermingling of faith, faithfulness and patriotism in a most unhealthy way.
I am a proud American. Though my families are more recent comers to this shore (only a couple of generations or so born here), I am a patriot. I try to buy American in the stores. I vote with religious devotion. Those who know me know that I have no shortage of political opinions and ideas on what we should do to shine up the old America. I grew up playing in the band for patriotic celebrations, marching in parades, waving flags, carrying the white Memorial Day crosses, and every Sunday growing up I looked at the list of those from my parish who had given up their lives in service to their country. I watch the old WWII movies and Davy Crockett was one of my favorite heros growing up. I live near some of the great Civil War battlefields and not too many miles away from the Alvin York museum (some of you may have to Google that name).
But I do not confuse religious fervor for patriotic devotion to my native land. We are most patriotic and better citizens when we do not give in to the great temptation to muddle up our loyalty as citizens of the greatest nation and our heavenly citizenship as Christian people. We are the best citizens and the greatest patriots when we pray for our nation, for our leaders, and for the problems facing us. We are the best citizens and greatest patriots when we participate in the democratic experiment here by being informed and active voters. We are the best citizens when we display our Christian morality and values in the public square (but are careful not to bring the public square into the House of God). We are the best citizens and the greatest patriots when we preserve the national story of our land -- with our faults and failings as well as our successes because truth is no enemy to patriotism. We are the best citizens and the greatest patriots when we do not abuse our freedom by turning it into license to do as we please, when we please, without concern for our neighbor or care for his or her plight. We are the best citizens and the greatest patriots when we raise our children with a knowledge of those who bore the sacrifice for our freedom and when we teach them reverence for the monuments of our battles and for the flag that still waves. We are the best citizens and the greatest patriots when we honor those who still serve our nation and never forget the sacrifices of their loved ones here at home. But we live in a free land not so that we may make God into an American but that we might be free to speak His Word and live out our Christian lives in the neighborhoods, cities, and public squares of our land. I do not worry about those political leaders whose faith shapes the decisions in office nearly as much as I worry about those who use the Church for political ends.
It is not patriotic to plant the American flag in the center of the Church and to equate being an American and confessing our faith in Christ. So when you go to Grace Lutheran Church on July 3, we will preach and teach God's Word, following the lectionary for the day, sing the great hymns of the faith, and celebrate the Lord's Supper as usual... AND we will, as we do EVERY Sunday, pray for our nation, for our leaders, for the causes of peace and justice, for our responsibility to the freedom great men and women fought and died for, and for the armed forces of our nation. And we will sing some hymns that put into song the words of these prayers. I believe that this is greater patriotism than the spectacles being advertised by some church marquees and my own knowledge of past practice in some places.
You may disagree with me and, thank God and those who planted our nation upon the fabric of this liberty, you have the right and privilege to disagree with me. God bless America....