A majority of Americans aren’t proud to be American: Why the difference between pride and patriotism matters

A majority of Americans aren’t proud to be American: Why the difference between pride and patriotism matters July 4, 2022

NOTE: Thank you to Dr. Ryan Denison for writing today’s Daily Article. He is the Denison Forum Senior Editor for Theology and has written more than four hundred articles for Denison Forum.

Today marks 246 years since delegates from the thirteen colonies formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. The process to get there, however, was less straightforward than we often think.

When the first battles with Great Britain began in April of 1775, most colonists did not want independence, and those who did were considered radicals. It took more than a year of fighting for the majority to reach the point that a break with Britain was seen as necessary. And even then, it took some convincing before the movement for independence had sufficient support to become a reality.

Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress passed the vote for independence, was among the first to celebrate the Fourth of July, and they did so with bells, bonfires, and fireworks. But July 4 wouldn’t become a federal holiday until 1870 when it was used to help heal a nation still struggling to piece itself back together in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Given the divides throughout our culture today, we could use a similar time of healing.

Pride vs. patriotism

While protests continue to garner headlines in response to recent Supreme Court rulings—particularly with regards to abortion—America has been in a state of conflict for quite a while, and it’s tangibly impacting how people see the country. A recent study, for example, found that, for the first time since the poll’s inception, a majority of Americans are not proud to call themselves such. And those results hold up across party lines.

While Democrats were predictably happier with the state of the nation than Republicans and Independents, only 46 percent said that they were proud of America. Conversely, a paltry 36 percent of Republicans and 29 percent of Independents echoed that sentiment.

But, perhaps that’s not all bad.

Chris Anderson, who helped conduct the survey, remarked that many seem to have moved past the days when “being proud of America was treated as a prerequisite for being patriotic.”

As Marcus Aurelius noted, “pride is a master of deception.” Far too often, equating pride with patriotism has made it difficult to fully recognize and understand our nation’s flaws, particularly when the flaws are on your preferred side of the political aisle. Being able to take an honest assessment of the country is essential to being a good citizen, though, and that’s especially true in a democracy.

A Christian response

As Christians, that should come easier for us than others.

After all, we are called to be citizens of heaven before we’re citizens of America or any other nation. As such, our perspective on the culture around us should be filtered through the lens of God’s word rather than partisan politics.

Where America lines up with Scripture, we can and should be proud of this nation and encourage it to continue down that path. Where it has deviated from God’s truth, we should be ready and willing to hold it accountable, regardless of where doing so might position us politically.

And we should do so not out of some misplaced desire to see America as a Christian nation but from the knowledge that the best way for us to be a blessing to the individuals around us is to encourage them to live a life that God can bless.

The kind of pride that encourages us to overlook our nation’s faults is in no way compatible with true patriotism, and it never has been. To the extent that our current circumstances are forcing us to confront that truth, we should be grateful.

While it doesn’t make you a bad citizen or unpatriotic to recognize the faults in our country, how you respond to those faults does have a large bearing on whether you’re doing your part to help it get better.

When “America will cease to be great”

At Denison Forum, we often say we’re a nonpartisan ministry. I’ve heard from enough readers to know that stance can prove irritating at times, but we take that approach because we genuinely feel it is more in keeping with God’s call for us as individual Christians and as a ministry. The reason is that not one single political party aligns itself with the totality of God’s word, and there never will be.

That fault is not unique to America, though. There has never been a nation in history that found itself in perfect alignment with the Lord. Some have been closer than others, but when fallen people create the policies that govern other fallen people, no one is going to get it entirely correct.

America’s flaws should not blind us to the blessings that come from living here. At the same time, those blessings should not blind us to the work that still needs to be done.

But while that work may include the way we vote or the political party we support, it doesn’t start there and it absolutely must not end there. The way you treat others and the degree to which each day of your life draws others to the Lord will have a far greater impact on the trajectory of this nation than anything you can do in a ballot box or political forum.

Alexis de Tocqueville, upon touring America to discover what made it unique, concluded that “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

As we celebrate the birth of our nation, how can you help America be good today?

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