Christian Patriotism: Love for the “Other””

Christian Patriotism: Love for the “Other”” July 4, 2012

While at Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina recently, Deborah Arca (our progressive Christian portal editor here at Patheos) asked us to respond on video to how we reconciled both love of God and love for country. I struggled with the question, mostly because of the typical baggage that comes along with Christian patriotism, much of which teeters on the verge of jingoism. So I didn’t respond at all.

I’m really sensitive to what I call “Christian exceptionalism.” There are those within Christianity that honestly believe America is God’s second Zion, the new Israel, and that we Americans are God’s new chosen people. This, in turn, helps justify everything from flags in worship spaces to the Ten Commandments in the public square, and even pre-emptive acts of aggression against perceived threats around the world.

Basically, when you hold yourself up as somehow favored in the eyes of God, it’s easy to hold those you deem as less favored to be somehow “less than,” and to dehumanize all who do not conform to your custom-built ideal of

what it means to be “American.” For me, though, such sentiments not only are un-American in the sense that they don’t ascribe to the “liberty and justice for all” ethos; it’s also patently un-Christian.

All that being said, I do love my country, and I do love God. So how do I reconcile the two?
While I don’t agree with the argument that the United States was established as a Christian Nation, I do agree that there are many values that Christians embrace (or are supposed to anyway) that also are held up as American values: freedom from whatever oppresses us; justice for those without voice or power; inclusion of the outsider. And while some may endeavor to place caveats on these virtues, they only remain virtues in as much as they aren’t meted out to a select few, but rather are given freely to all.o the two affiliations converge in a way thatthey hopefully don’t diminish one another?

It’s easy to understand, really, how such virtues espoused both by Jesus and the nation’s founders could be twisted from universally applied values into exceptionalist tools of favoritism and exclusion. It’s as simple as taking the very same sentiments and creating an I/thou dichotomy, in which we are on one side of an imaginary line and others are beyond it.

Jesus was intent on eradicating such boundaries, tearing down distinctions between classes and other distinctions. First and foremost, we are of one common family, and in as much, we are accountable to one another. For me, love of country and love of God both are expressed in love for the “other,” to the point that, hopefully some day, there is no more “other.”

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  • Greg

    Even within Israel God dealt with each person on their own merit. In the NT, like Israel, God sees us on Christ together but puts the emphasis for salvation and growth on one another. More than 50 times actually.Beyond one another, families, marriages, churches, nations, govt’s, friendships etc are constructs that serve this life, but not the mrs.Groups lose their sensitivity to individuals, but Jesus told us to maintain group unity by one anothering. Doing so ensures not one person left behind, and the group is stronger for it.

  • greg

    Greg again. My phone keyboard messed up in my previous comment and I wasnt clear on a thought that Id better clear up.
    Salvation isnt a one another function, because its between each soul and God.
    And my spellcheck feature replaced the word mrs with what I actually typed which is ‘life’

  • jerry lynch

    I no longer see any need to love my country in order to be a good citizen and a blessing to the community. In fact, to me,  love of country is a decided hindrance in that regard, for the reasons pointed out.

    We are citizens of heaven–not first or primarily but only; this is how we are separated out to be of maximum service to those in need and the lost.  To me, anything less is a divided house. This will bring only the best to any country, if it is a just servant.

    “Submitting to the governing authorities” is not zeal for any country’s interest (part of the definition of patriotism) but zeal for the love of neighbor in all countries. There are no borders in the kingdom of heaven.

    Patriotism does not come equipped with a set of values or principles; each individual brings their own that panders to the state. My patriotism to the ideals of America may look like treason to a person only looking at their perceived realities of America. (This is noticeable in the area of Muslim mosques.) Do away with patriotism all together in exchange for the One Rule under government: Love of neighbor.

    And speaking of Romans13, America began in disobedience to God: “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist (the Founding Fathers) shall receive to them damnation.” Look at all the myriad things that pastors and preachers and Christian Movements complain about everyday as to the state of America: you will know a tree by its fruit.