I’ve noticed an interesting trend cropping up over the past year. Many younger Christians and especially younger Christian writers for blogs and other websites have taken a stand against patriotism. Some even go so far as too proclaim patriotism a sin that many churches allow. Though I’m sure this comes as no surprise considering I’m the host of “The Patriot Preacher” radio show, I respectfully disagree.
To understand why this idea is flawed, I think it is important to understand the line of thinking that led many of these intelligent, sincere, and spiritually-minded authors to this conclusion. Based on their arguments and conclusions, I believe the origin of this school of thought comes from three places.
I will start to the most easily defeated and most nefarious idea. Giving my fellow Christian authors the benefit of the doubt, I believe most of them don’t even realize they’re doing this, but sometimes their style uses the “shock” factor. Because I work in radio, I can usually detect a shock jock when I hear one. The internet, even more so than radio and TV, has a lot of content. To get views, you have to offer something unique. Because of this, a lot of internet writers come up with something edgy to get people to pay attention.
Is that inherently wrong? Actually, I would say no. Using a legitimate rhetorical strategy to get an audience to lend a listening ear has actually been used by many Godly men in the scripture including the Savior Himself. Jesus uses bread leaven to explain the Kingdom of Heaven in a parable to explain how quickly and completely the good news of His death and resurrection would spread (Matt. 13:33). Paul later used similar analogies in I Cor. 5:6 and Gal. 5:9.
Now initially, you might not understand why that was so significant, but remember Jesus was teaching an almost exclusively Jewish audience. Leaven was symbolic of sin and bondage in the Old Law. That’s why during the Passover the Jews not only didn’t eat any leavened bread for a whole week, they got all the leaven out of their house or they were to be exiled from God’s people and blessings (Exod. 12:15-20, Exod. 13:3-7). In fact, no leaven was allowed in the entire nation of Israel in those seven days (Deut. 16:3-4). They went so far as to take feathers and dust every corner and cupboard in the house to make sure not a speck of leaven remained.
Therefore, you can see why to a Jew, it would be shocking that Jesus choose to use leaven as a symbol to represent the Kingdom. Christ wasn’t saying the leaven was like sin and bondage, he played on another aspect of leaven, and used the negative connotation to get people to listen. He used another negative analogy, a thief breaking into a house in the night to pillage it, to describe the coming of the Lord (Matt. 24:42-44). There are countless other examples, especially in the minor prophets, but the point is, using the shock factor to convey a spiritually sound message isn’t always a bad thing.
However, while the strategy itself is neither good nor bad, saying something that isn’t true for the sake of getting people to listen is never encouraged by the scripture. If you ever sacrifice truth for popularity and relevance, you are no longer working to benefit the Lord, but for yourself. The scripture makes pretty clear that teaching falsehoods for your own benefit never ends well (II Peter 2:1-3, I John 4:1-6), which is why when we preach the gospel, we must be incredibly cautious about claiming the scripture says something that can’t really be backed up by the Bible.
The second reason is, in my opinion, something indicative of most young people throughout history. Most of us in our youth, myself included, instinctively rail against tradition and establishment. Again, like the first reason I presented, that isn’t always a bad thing and is sometime very healthy. There are countless examples in the scripture of Christ and other prophets warning those entrenched in their own customs and habits rather than God’s Law. Traditions, not unlike the desire to instead move away from tradition, are not inherently evil, but become a snare to those that put their own preferences and customs on the same level or higher than God’s commands.
Patriotism has, in many ways, become a tradition and staple of the church. We’ll get into the actual merits of that next week, but for now suffice it to say that I think many young Christian writers rise up against patriotism in part because of this. My assessment is they tend to focus only on how patriotism goes wrong in the church (which could be said of any worldly tradition) and do not stop to consider that it can go right.
Where does it go wrong? Any time a human tradition usurps God’s commands, we have fallen into the traps of pride and idolatry. If we worship our country with similar reverence and devotion as our Creator, we have taken something good and blown it far out of proportion. We have rendered unto Caesar that which should only be reserved for God: ourselves.
I have personally seen this take place in a worship service. I have attended services around Independence Day and seen Christian brethren, whom I love and respect, lead songs praising the greatness of our nation, not God. They are patriotic, but they are not hymns. Just because a song has God’s name in it, doesn’t make it a song of worship to Him. If the purpose of singing in worship is to teach and admonish the brethren (Col. 3:16) or to praise God (Acts 16:25), then any song that doesn’t do at least one of these has no place in a worship service.
There are certain songs, for example the Battle Hymn of the Republic, that do teach a spiritual lesson that I would lead in worship. It happens to have a strong correlation with the nation, but my reasons for leading or singing it must be based on the words of the song praising the Lord or edifying the brethren, not my love of country. So yes, as patriotic as I am. There is a time and a place to put my patriotism to the side to focus on worshiping in spirit and truth.
With this in mind, I believe that I can see how many well-intended and talented Christian writers could mistake patriotism itself as the problem rather than an unhealthy devotion to it. However, I do believe many of them, partly because it’s edgy and partly because they love railing against established customs, are willing to throw out the baby with the bath water. In fact, I believe that patriotism can indeed be beneficial to a Christian in His spiritual journey. That will be our focus next week when we cover the third and final reason I believe they speak out against patriotism.
Luke 20:24-25- “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” (25) And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”