Those who know me personally know that I'm not keen on trying devotion to Jesus and patriotism. Certainly, patriotism in and of itself isn't a vice. It is much better to love your fellow citizens and honor government, than to embrace martial law and indifference to civic responsibilities.
That being said, morality exists on a fluctuating scale. For instance, isn't loving all people and nations and honoring all people and nations more noble than giving favoritism to a particular people group (even your own)? Why should Americans have the right to life and liberty but not Liberians? I'm not saying that America has any plan to destroy life and liberty globally, but I do wonder sometimes if our attitudes and expectations for American freedoms extend beyond our geographic borders. Likewise, I wonder sometimes if we baptize American action without comparing it to honor, character, virtue, and love. Thus, this blog post gives a bit of my political meanderings on the back side of our nations' 1776 declaration:
#1: We should mourn the beginning of rebellion and bloodshed. 1776 was a day when mostly British citizens rebelled against their king and country, committing treason, and entered into mortal combat with their nation's comrades. Was their action justified? Well, that depends on if you believe a country has a right to tax and control its colonial interests over a large body of water (think Guam and Puerto Rico). Now, since the Enlightenment, the rule of the governed is supposedly given by consent, so yes, citizens have a "right" to revolt. But the same arguments were used by the Confederacy during the Civil War when the Federal Government acted in similar British fashion to believe this type of succession was not justified. All this to say, beware of a black and white history. The choice to declare independence was a grave one (even if justified). Lives, families, and nations were torn in two at a very high cost. This should be a holy day of profound sobriety, not a reckless day of jubilation and glee.
#2: We should honor the honorable actions of both Americans and Brits, and deplore the heinous actions of both Americans and Brits. On both sides of this conflict, many men and women distinguished themselves with heroism and sacrifice. On both sides of this conflict, guilt and cruelty abounded. Thankfully, good historians have corrected the history books to show that we had a mixed bag on both sides of the conflict. This sort of attitude should extend to the almost 250 years of war history of our country. Not every conflict and not every soldier have distinguished themselves with honor. Certainly, many have been noble, but not all. Woe to Christian Churches, in particular, who ignore this reality. Our hero is Jesus Christ who gave himself for the guilty. We do injustice to the Gospel when the greatest honors on Sunday mornings go to military personnel. Soldiering is just as morally challenging as business and parenting and plumbing. You can do it sacrificially, or selfishly, heroically, or hedonistically. I've been personally blessed by the great veterans of our country, and I thank you. You've entered dangerous zones to serve those who cannot defend themselves. Note well, that I am also certain that some of your actions were done sinfully. The shed blood of Jesus Christ can cover your sins. You can be free of guilt for your actions. No calling, even soldiering, is rosy or baptized, but the cleansing power of Jesus (marked by baptism) is for all peoples and all callings. Grace is available to you. Lord, forgive us as well, for the sins of our nation. We are not guiltless. Be merciful, yes, O God, and bless America (and Great Britain, China, and Indonesia).
#3: We should hold our country's privileges with gratitude, discernment, and humility. First, say thank you, that this country has things many countries do not. These are gifts from God. Second, hold all privileges with discernment. It's possible we use freedom to lose freedom. We can grant so much indulgence to individuals that we become slaves to our indulgence. Freedom, like electricity, is costly and powerful and should be held carefully. Finally, be humble. Seeming peace and order can be stolen in a moment. Bombs fall, dictators rise, and rebellions spring up. At a fundamental level, all these spring from the condition of individual human hearts. So, how's your heart? Are you caring for your neighbor's soul? Are you willing to speak hard words in hard situations so we don't fall prey to the mindless, "patriotism" that has sprung up in countries that began to believe their country had the right to extend itself into other lands "for their good" or "the global good?" Oh, that we'd be grateful, discerning, and humble. Give us wisdom when we seek to help other nations. Give us grace when we fail.
Pray for our leaders. They have a difficult job. Pray they know the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.