On this 4th of July

As I reflect on my (lack of) patriotic fervor today, I am reminded that our past (even the past that happened before we were born) continues to shape us in substantial ways.

I have never been what you would call patriotic. My family by no means discouraged patriotic feelings, but love of country was not a central value in our home. The central value was love of God, and love of God was not intertwined with love of country. We did not celebrate Independence Day in any special way, and although I'm sure we went to fireworks displays, it wasn't a family tradition.

I've always HATED the song, "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood.  I don't know why - it has always just grated on my nerves.  In college I made the decision to no longer pledge allegiance to the flag - I just felt that pledging my allegiance to anything or anyone other than God just didn't feel quite right.  I've always exercised my right to vote, and although I may support specific candidates or issues, I do not believe that any person or political party will be the savior of our country.  

In the past few years, my husband has helped me do some genealogical digging. I have found it fascinating to discover that, generations later, I share much in common with my ancestors.  My paternal ancestors were Anabaptist who continually emigrated from country to country in order to avoid conscripted service due to their strong belief in non-violence. They also experienced persecution because of these beliefs. Therefore, they formed no strong nationalistic bonds. In fact, they believed that their only allegiance was owed to God. 

I found a great article that explains the connection between Anabaptist/Mennonite beliefs and patriotism. My favorite quote from the article is this: "The consequences [of patriotism] too are similar: muting the call for justice for the poor and oppressed, negating the peace witness and ignoring that the church is an international body."

All that to say, I understand the blessing it is to be born in America.  I understand the freedoms being an American provides me (including the freedom to choose not to say the pledge of allegiance).  I understand that many brave men and women have fought and given their lives for this freedom.  My grandfather was a WWII veteran and a liberator of Guam, and I am very proud of his service. My husband is a Gulf War vet as well.  However, I do not believe that God favors the United States over any other country.  I do not believe that Jesus died specifically for Americans.  I do not believe that patriotism is tied to my relationship with God.  I believe that God shows no partiality (Romans 2:11) and He loves all people and all nations.  I am not special because I'm an American, I'm just fortunate.  

So while it's OK to enjoy our hamburgers, fireworks and be grateful to be American today, to think that God loves you any more than he loves the child languishing from hunger in a third world country, the Christian being persecuted in China, or the even recently ousted President of Egypt is a bit disingenuous and not very Christ-like.  



James said…

One thing I have found helpful in this discussion is to draw the necessary distinction between patriotism and nationalism. Patriotism, a love for a nation that is rooted in values and beliefs. I believe that to be absolutely acceptable. Though the USA has its faults and is a conglomeration of many different cultures and beliefs, the majority of people who live/come here value the opportunity that our republic offers them. Patriotism is a love and pride for our country that is healthy in my view.
Nationalism, on the other hand, often breeds resentment and superiority. It is often rooted in the belief that only those that belong to our country should be considered our equals. That is both dangerous and unfortunate, because it is rooted in ignorance.
Having adopted four time from China, I often engage in friendly discussions with those who make hateful statements about "those Chinese...they're trying to take over everything...bunch of evil commies." I embellish a bit, but you get the picture. I take time to educate and inform, hopefully being a positive influence on some.
I think some may see your journey and thoughts as an attack on American values in some way. I personally understand your thoughts and appreciate your questions.
I love America. I love my freedom. Believe me, that does not negate my care or compassion for those across the world who do not enjoy what I have. In fact, I believe the Christlike response is to use my resources (my time, talent and treasure) to make a difference.

courtneyricole said…
I find the negative comments I received on this post (posted on facebook) quite intriguing. It seems that I truly offended some people, and I'm not quite sure why. In no way did I say that being patriotic was wrong, I simply stated why I am not patriotic.

In particular, I connected my own beliefs to the beliefs of ancestors I have never met or even really heard all that much about. I am sure that those who are very patriotic might be able to trace their lineage back to some great Revolutionary War hero. That would be an interesting sociological study.

My only issue with patriotism is when it gets all tied up with Christianity. While the two things are not mutually exclusive, they certainly do not have to go together. You can be a follower of Christ and be all about America, or you can be a follower of Christ who could take it or leave it. You can even (gasp!) be a follower of Christ if you aren't American at all!!!

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