When I speak of my Nation, I mean the Commonwealth of Virginia.
— John Randolph
In this time of war and a kind of dysfunctional patriotism in America, the words of John Randolph would seem strange to most Fox Newsed, Limbaughed, conservative Christians. Propagandized simultaneously from the establishment Left and the establishment Right, those Christians in America who are at least in a semi-conscious state tend to swallow whatever the gurus on the Right spoon-feed them. Naturally repulsed by the nutty Democratic leftist ideas of same-sex marriage, confiscatory taxes, and a nanny-state, Christians back unwarily into the arms of a Republican party that has left its principles of smaller government and morality lying on the floor of its last fundraiser — discarded like the name tags that identified the back-slapping, power hungry, feminized little men and manly big women who wore them.
Those of us who have been involved in conservative politics long enough to remember proudly voting for Ronald Reagan have been disappointed enough times to become cynical. But cynicism, can, in many cases, become sin. This happens easily enough. We look to a particular party or politician to “save America” and then are quickly disillusioned when we are forgotten like a promiscuous one night stand. Promiscuous one night stands deserve to be forgotten. The gullible get what they deserve. Solomon warns us in two places, “The simple pass on, and are punished”(Pr. 22:3b and Pr. 27:12b).
Cynicism can make us bitter toward the political process — many Christians have dropped out completely. I’ve been tempted to do so myself. Both major parties are immoral, big-government machines. That is no longer arguable. What’s the point? The point is we have a duty and responsibility to be involved. God gave us this responsibility in the covenant founding of our nation, and our forefathers consummated this responsibility and duty in blood. But it is important to remember that the responsibility to “be involved” in the political process does not mean blind allegiance to a political party, movement, or even a nation. That statement is heresy among the 21st century neo-conservative Christian lemmings, who get all of their political perspective from talk radio, cable television, and, sadly, even from the pulpit.
The Love of Land
Clyde Wilson, University of South Carolina history professor and writer, once wrote, “[P]atriotism is the love of a land and its people, nationalism is the love of a government.” Dr. Wilson and John Randolph would have gotten along well. Both men instinctively verbalized what most Americans have forgotten — and no longer understand. Patriotism is virtuous and wholesome. Nationalism is not the same as patriotism. Nationalism is dangerous. Nationalism gave rise to Nazism and Communism.
My ancestors have been in Virginia for at least eight generations. I, along with three of my six children, have never lived more than ten miles from the spot we were born. Some might call that parochial or provincial — unsophisticated. I’ll take all three labels as a compliment and wear them proudly. Am I snobby about this? Perhaps a little. But not snobbish in an “I’m better than you” attitude, but rather snobbish in an “I feel sorry for you” attitude. I’m sorry that many Americans don’t have this connection to a particular place or home. They’re missing out. I cannot imagine living anywhere but Virginia. Douglas Southall Freeman, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of the massive four-volume biography of Robert E. Lee, agreed with the importance of having a “sense of place.” He once wrote, “I think the American people lose a large part of the joy of life because they do not live for generations in the same place.”1 Freeman would have gotten along well with John Randolph and Dr. Wilson. This sense of place is what gives birth to true patriotism.
A Sense of Place
In 1861, America was torn apart by differing views of patriotism. The North, with its ostensible loyalty to “the Union” (aka the government), invaded the Southern states to keep them from seceding. The South, with its loyalty to its “sense of place,” fought the invading horde with such vigor that we came close to whipping a numerically and technologically superior foe. The Federals were shocked at the resistance they met. The Lincolnites did not understand patriotism. They did understand nationalism. The North did not where it may get the love of tenderkinship .…”
Patriotism is not living and dying for Caesar. Caesar likes one night stands. That, again, is nationalism. Patriotism is living and dying for your sense of place, your kinship. Your place in history, ordained of God, is often determined by the roots you put down in your native land and your love for your “tender kinship” — your family, your neighbors, your community; this is true patriotism.
Love your land, love your people, and in doing so, you will manifest the love of Christ and become a true patriot.
1. David E. Johnson, Douglas Southall Freeman (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 2002), 182.
2. Philip Alexander Bruce, Brave Deeds of Confederate Soldiers (Stuarts Draft, VA: Virginia
Gentleman Books,  1999), 15.