With American troops involved in military action in foreign lands, many Christians are struggling with the concept of war. One young Christian wrote recently that he had no trouble with the idea of losing his life on behalf of his wife and his country. His real struggle is with the idea of taking a life.
Hawks and Doves
This is a struggle worth having. We should not glibly accept the idea of killing, no matter what the reason. Neither, however, should we accept the pacifistic concept that war can never be the answer.As I listen to the anti-war talk, I recognize that there are basically two groups (broadly categorized) involved. One faction is made up of those honestly convinced that either war is bad or that this particular war would be bad. I understand their reasoning and agree with their right to express their displeasure either with a future war or a current war. Many would argue that American soldiers, sailors, and airmen have fought and died precisely for these people to have the right to dissent.
The other group involved in the current anti-war movement is the anti-America, "my country is always wrong" crowd. For these folk, the country that affords them the opportunity to assemble and protest is always the oppressor. This nation which spends billions of dollars on foreign aid each year is always characterized as an imperialist overlord seeking to control more and more of the landscape. This latter group is nicely defined in the recent book Why the Left Hates America by Daniel Flynn.
I do not think the U.S. is always right or that war is always the answer. Immediately after the attack on our nation on September 11, 2002, it was suggested by several Christian leaders that maybe we've brought some destruction down upon ourselves as a nation because of the debauchery of our culture. Sexual deviancy, high abortion rates, homosexuality being taught in our schools as an "alternative lifestyle," immorality all over the TV, the movies, and in popular music, all speak of the depths to which great portions of our population have sunk.
True as these claims are, they are not good reasons to simply give up on this nation. The United States of America is still worth reclaiming for God. This land is still the best launching pad on earth for missionary efforts to the entire world.
What is Christian Patriotism?
This being the case, I'd like to float the idea of Christian Patriotism.
Patriotism is defined as the love of one's own country, which leads an individual to seek the well-being and the highest good of that country. A Christian patriot is a man or a woman who works to see the kingdom of God and His righteousness established in the land of his earthly citizenship. We who are Christians have a unique responsibility to the civil society that God has placed us in.
First, the proper functioning of the community is dependent on the natural affinity that God gives us with people in our own community and nation. This is the source of the sense of patriotism in us. We want to help and protect our own — it's natural.
Second, the law of God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus established that our neighbor is anyone, who in the providence of God, we come into contact with, or anyone in need who happens to cross our path. Those of our own community, state, and nation are our most obvious neighbors. They are the ones whose burdens we are to carry, whose benefit we should seek, and for whom our prayers should be regularly rising to God.
Third, God's Word commands us, as citizens, to honor and obey our own rulers (1 Pet. 2:13-14), not rulers of other nations. On the other hand, Scripture also calls for rulers to serve the people under them — not the people of other nations — through godly wisdom and justice (Rom. 13:3-4).
In other words, we have unique moral duties to those of our own community that we do not have to others. Some in the Christian community view this as idolatrous. It's no more idolatrous to love and seek the well-being of our country than it is to love and seek the well being of our family. And, it is no denial of the Christian's heavenly citizenship when he works for the good of the country in which God has placed him, whether it be one's country of birth or an adopted homeland.
Jeremiah 29:7 provides instruction on the duty of the Christian to seek the good of the country where God places him. If the people of Judah were to seek the good of and pray for the nation of their captivity, how much more should the people of God seek the good of and pray for the nation where, in the providence of God, they were born into or now have their citizenship?
As part of God's plan some of us have been placed in the United States. God would have us recognize that He has put us here for a purpose, and that we have unique moral duties to perform on behalf of the country in which we have been placed.
Christian patriotism for Americans is based on a desire to serve our country with the goal of glorifying God. Patriotism, rightly practiced, exalts God, fulfills the command to love our neighbors as ourselves, and benefits each and every one of us personally.