IS PATRIOTISM A GOOD THING?

Here’s my answer: yes and no!

YES

When I heard that an American had won a gold in Korea, I was happy. Elated? No. I’d probably be as glad if some underdog from Zimbabwe had won. Healthy patriotism, not overdrawn, probably helps us fulfill Paul’s admonition to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions” (I Timothy 2:2), a duty incumbent upon Christian citizens of a nation. So we pray for our leaders whether they are to our liking or not, just as Paul did.

It’s normal to appreciate the culture of one’s country. Culture is an expression of a nation’s art forms, like dance or music. National boundaries are God-given (Acts 17:26), and we will see the best of culture in the new earth (Revelation 22:24-26). Just as it is natural to appreciate one’s family of origin more than the neighbor’s, it is also understandable to meet someone from the States in Uzbekistan and feel a connection. We are brothers in a national sense. We don’t stop and sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” together, but we are fellow Americans, and it feels good. We have some things in common. We express our patriotism by pledging allegiance to our nation or voting for the candidates of our choice without letting it tamper with our highest allegiance.

NO

Patriotism to the extreme morphs into nationalism, the demonic side of love for country. Think Nazi. Ultimately, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). We bow the knee only to the King! Jesus gave no time to the zealots and their desire to throw off the Romans, though He did bring one on as a disciple. Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18:36). So in that absolute sense, Christians are a-political. Our highest loyalty is to the King over all kings and the Lord over all lords. If government tries to interfere with our submission to the King, “we must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29).

However, that can be taken to an extreme. I know some Christians who are hiding out in the hills of Kentucky (literally), who do not pay taxes because they consider it idolatry. Wrong. Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). And Paul said to pay “taxes to whom taxes are owed…honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7). That honor, surprisingly, even included a pagan emperor (I Peter 2:17). So we do the dance between turning patriotism into an idol or turning other-worldliness into gross disobedience.

Healthy patriotism and love one one’s country is downplayed by globalization, an international outlook, political and economic. God answered the first attempt of total globalization, the tower of Babel, by dispersing “them from there over the face of the earth” (Genesis 11:8). National identity is God’s idea, and it is likely to have an expression in eternity.

4 comments on “IS PATRIOTISM A GOOD THING?

  1. Brent says:

    Yes/no sure seems like a good answer to this question. Satan takes what is good (patriotism) and turns into something bad (nationalism). We need to be on guard. I like your last sentence regarding national identity having an expression in eternity – thought provoking.

  2. As a patriot, I am loyal to our Constitution and to FREEDOM, which comes from God and is summed up in the Bill of Rights. Therefore, limited government and governance in the fear of God is very important to me. I don’t think I can ever be too extreme in this regard. So if a despot arises to “take our country to new heights ” in the name of “patriotism.” He will opposed by true patriots – not supported – because he would have to trample our Constitution and our freedom in order to consolidate power. So instead of a left right spectrum: liberals on the left, conservatives on the right and nationalist dictators on the far right, I see it as an up / down spectrum. At the bottom are all dictators, despots, communists, fascists, and at the top is the fresh air of freedom with limited government, democracy, free trade, prosperity, justice, and the rule of law.

    Let us remember: Christianity and liberty and opportunity and prosperity and justice always go together. Communism, socialism, fascism, and oppressive dictatorships are always accompanied by bondage, extreme poverty, injustice, sadness and tears.

    So my patriotism is a very good thing. It is loving what God loves and hating what God hates. God loves a free and prosperous America. But He must always come first in my heart… above my love for this country and our founder’s Constitution. Amen.

  3. I highly recommend the book: LIBERTY AND TYRANNY by Mark Levin. A Conservative Manifesto. 2008.

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