Sunday, May 25, 2014

Patriotism in Worship

Just mentioning again, apropos of Memorial Day, that I dislike any mix of patriotism with worship.  I think patriotism is great.  I am not one of those who believes that one-world or transnational philosophies are more Christian than nationalist ones.  They both stand mostly outside the faith, but I lean toward the nationalist ones for complicated reasons.

There is cultural overlap between the patriotic and Christian threads in American society.  This is mostly of the enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend variety, however.  There are those who loudly hate both patriotism and Christian faith, driving the two idea groups together.  But that is a lack of clarity that must be resisted.  Worship is worship of a God beyond all our local, temporary attachments. That is orders of magnitude more important than any tribe or nation. I think America is the best grouping in the history of mankind.  (Its only competitors in greatness are its sister nations of Anglospheric colonies and perhaps, other groupings derived from NW European cultures.)

Yet there will be no America in heaven.  There may be little memory of it, or none.  Human beings are eternal; worldly arrangements are so insubstantial as to be mere mist.  Our time-bound perspective causes us to think of our poor selves as temporary and our nation and ideals as long-term.  The opposite is true.


Dubbahdee said...

I have always endured a deep and abiding dislike of having the American Flag at the front of the sanctuary in a church. It is a ubiquitous fixture in just about every evangelical protestant church of which I have been a part including the one I now pastor. I feel impotent to actually act on it, being quite sure that it would cause a riot (even here in northern New England).

So I complain under my breath and chafe at the thought and just try to ignore it. It's inclusion in worship space dedicated to our Lord Jesus Christ is improper in the extreme. While others might complain about forgetting those who died for their country, I would point to those who died for our Lord at the hands of their countries governments through the last 20 centuries. In a church, whose memory should we be more concerned with honoring?

I love my country. It is a blessing to the world and certainly to me and my family. I honor those who have served by giving up their lives. It was nobly done. But such service is only an echo of the true service rendered to all nations and all peoples by the one who gave his life to make all people truly free.

Placing a flag in the front of a church fosters a subtle conflation the two threads in the minds of people.

Texan99 said...

Any trace of jingoism is jarring in church. I've come to believe, though, that there's nothing inconsistent between Christian worship and reminding us to put loyalty and public service above personal convenience and safety.

Donna B. said...

This is one reason why I've always held the opinion that a separation of church and state benefits the church most.

Though I'm probably best described as agnostic, I don't (or at least I try not to) underestimate the value of religions and churches in daily life.

I've had some interesting conversations with a young relative who is staying with me for a month on why mocking Christianity is not the best way to express his lack of religious belief -- how it is just as much a signal to his perceived tribe as the facebook posts on religion are a signal to another tribe.

The difference I tried to point out to him was that mocking was a put down, a signal that he thought he was "better" while the religious posts (for the most part) were designed to build up, not knock down.

And this is also why my hackles rise when I hear people say "this is a Christian country".

No... this is a country designed to be friendly to Christianity and to most other religions. It's a country willing to give much leeway to religious practices up to a point.

Texan99 said...

I had a history teacher in 7th grade who liked to harangue us about how this country was founded by Christians, and how atheists should just leave. If she thought she was evangelizing effectively, she was much mistaken! Her example was a stumbling-block to me for many years.