Thursday, July 3, 2008

Patriotism & Church

As pastor of a church in a military town I often wrestle with the question of the appropriateness of displaying patriotism in the context of worship. Let me say that I love my country. I served in the 82nd Airborne Division during the 90s. While I was never sent to war, like so many of our soldiers now, I was willing to kill and be killed to protect our liberty and to liberate those oppressed by the tyranny of corrupt governments. I continue to be personally involved in politics at all levels of government as a concerned citizen. I encourage my church to be responsible Christian citizens by voting and by letting their voices be heard concerning important social issues, though I do not endorse candidates or parties.

Yet the church is not an American institution. It was not founded for the propagation of American ideals. The church is to be an expression of the reign of God in this present evil age. The celebrated fact of the New Testament is that people from every nation and tribe and language and people have been called together to be a kingdom and priests to God.

Thus I struggle with holidays like July 4th that have been made integral to the life of the church, at least in my area. I readily and publicly thank God for the freedoms we enjoy, but I just as quickly remember my brothers in Christ who are suffering for their witness in places closed to the gospel. I seek God's blessing for America, yet I feel compelled to confess that I have been complicit in national sins, if in no other way than by my inaction (for example, abortion). I am comfortable singing songs that beseech God to shed His grace on America, but I shy away from songs that simply extol the greatness of America in the context of worship.

I believe these holidays can afford us an opportunity to consider the Christian's role as a citizen and to tackle the issues of Christ and culture. I abhor the anti-American rhetoric that we've recently heard broadcast from certain pulpits. Yet, just as appalling are the rosy pictures of America that downplay the moral downgrade our culture is experiencing.

How do you handle these holidays in the church? What do you deem as appropriate expressions of patriotism in the context of worship?

1 comment:

John Lucas said...

Thank you for an articulate, clear post on a tough holiday for preachers. I found your comments instructive in keeping a balance between two extremes. I share your hesitancy with the songs especially. While i am not sure how this should look in the year to year of church life, i do think you are on to something.

ps. My normal way of handling this holiday is by going on vacation, as i am doing AGAIN this year ;)