Is it wrong for the Christian to also be patriotic? Think about the pledge of allegiance—should Christians pledge their allegiance to any entity other than Christ and the Kingdom of God? Is patriotism a mindset in opposition to the reality that our citizenship is in heaven? These are questions that I have recently began to wrestle with because I am aware (in part) of the role that government plays in God’s plan. I know what Scripture says about government. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” In addition, Ezra 6:22 says, “For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the LORD had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.” Finally, Paul instructs believers to be subject to governing authorities because they have been instituted by God, thus, we ought to pay taxes, give respect and honor to whom it is owed. That’s huge.
Herman Bavinck, the great Dutch theologian describes government this way in his Reformed Dogmatics (go buy it):
All sovereignty on earth is derivative, temporary and limited, and in the case of abuse, more a curse than a blessing. But God is King in the absolute and true sense. The government of the universe is not democratic, nor aristocratic, nor republican, nor constitutional, but monarchical. To God belongs the one undivided legislative, judicial, and executive power. His sovereignty is original, eternal, unlimited, abundant in blessing (vol II, 616).
It seems that there are three reactions in American Christianity toward patriotism. The first group is indifferent so I won’t waste time explaining that because this number seems to be small.
The second group tends to view Christianity through the lens of their American democratic government. Thus, God becomes a cosmic civil servant, not the sovereign ruler. In addition, these interpret the Scriptures through the lens of the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution. So, the civil liberties that should belong man-to-man, then get applied between God-to-man, and that simply disregards a slew of Scripture, especially the previously mentioned Proverbs 21:1. This is perhaps an oversimplification but I have met so many that fall into this category. They would never say they believe this up front, but when you begin to put Scripture in front of them that challenges their doctrine of God and freedom, things can get testy.
The third group is a reaction to the second and this is where I tend to land. They are typically young twenty-thirty somethings that shun patriotism because they believe their full allegiance should be given to God and His Kingdom (I completely agree), thus they view pledging allegiance to any other entity as idolatry. This group also pushes back against “God Bless America.” Why is it that God would bless America more than any other nation? Does he bless America more? Does the favor of God rest on an American more than a Canadian, European, African, Australian or Chinese? I would have to say no because privilege, or common grace does not equal the favor of God.
So these are preliminary thoughts. Later I am going to talk about our nations beginning. Was the original intent to establish a Christian nation? How Christian is America’s beginning? And what of the religious background of the Founding Fathers? Hopefully by the end I will come to some sort of conclusion regarding Christianity and Patriotism but it seems as though I keep thinking of more questions so for now I will just have to chew on it. As always, feel free to chime in.