Patriotic services?

I attended by wife's family's church in South Carolina over July 4 weekend; the church had its annual patriotic service. It is in a town with an air force base; I'd guess the church has 25-30 active duty service men/women and vets. I hate attending the patriotic service. I don't mind the presentation of the colors, saying the pledge of allegiance or the recognition of vets. What gets under my skin are statements like, "America is the greatest nation on the face of the earth," "I'm proud to be an American," and "Our founding fathers were all Christian." Then there are the hokey songs like, "The Cross Is My Statue of Liberty." I'm just seeking the thoughts of others on this. Does this even belong in a church on the Lord's Day? Can patriotism be idolatrous? Is national pride an ok kind of pride?

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Jay's picture

I really dislike "Patriotic" services precisely for the reasons that you enumerated above. While I think that it's right to be proud of the US and the liberties that we enjoy, it is not the church's place to exalt country/nation [regardless of whatever nation ] in a service designed for the worship and praise to the God of All Nations.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Gabe Franklin's picture

When done well, a patriotic service can be a huge spiritual blessing. Of course, there can be stupid things that are said, but that does not mean that the whole ideas should be thrown out. To me a good patriotic service focuses on the fact that God has blessed our country because we have put him first (In the past, not necessarily now).

Yesterday, our church did not have what I would call a patriotic service, but we did sing some patriotic song and the speaker preached from Deuteronomy 4 and talked about the heritage of a godly nation. He gave many quotes from presidents like Abraham Lincoln that made reference to God.

Let me comment on the following:

"America is the greatest nation on the face of the earth," - I don't mind this quote

"I'm proud to be an American," - I agree with this quote

"Our founding fathers were all Christian." - This is not true, so I don't like it either

"The Cross Is My Statue of Liberty." - I do not have a problem with this song, I like it. I guess I don't understand what you mean by "hokey"

Does this even belong in a church on the Lord's Day? - I am sure that things can be overdone, but overall, I would say yes

Can patriotism be idolatrous? - yes, when patriotism becomes more important than Christianity. I am a Christian first, and an American second. But I am proud to be in a country which was founded on Christian ideas.

Is national pride an ok kind of pride? - A resounding yes

Jack's picture

Gabe,

Would you see this the same way in a congregation composed of believers from many different countries?

John Benzing's picture

Gabe Franklin wrote:
Is national pride an ok kind of pride? - A resounding yes

Why do you think national pride is okay? Right away I think of Paul discussing his "stock" and counting it "but dung" (Philippians 3). Can you defend your viewpoint with scripture?

Eric R.'s picture

Gabe Franklin wrote:

"I'm proud to be an American," - I agree with this quote

...

I am proud to be in a country which was founded on Christian ideas.

...

Is national pride an ok kind of pride? - A resounding yes

Brother Franklin,

I don't mean to "dog-pile" on the post John already left, but this is an issue which I hear coming up frequently in these types of discussions, and would also like to humbly address.

Many believers seem to have adopted a worldly way of thinking, or at least of speaking, when it comes to patriotism. I generally assume it is simply a matter of semantics, and I trust that is the case here. But words have meaning, and an error in speaking is often comes from, or leads to, an error in thinking.

1) The argument from scripture:
Scripture nowhere speaks of "pride" as anything but sin. In order to say there is an "okay kind of pride" one must either rationalize away scripture, or redefine the word. The former is obviously egregious, but the later is also dangerous. People will often respond to this with, "Oh, I don't mean THAT kind of pride." My question is, if you don't mean pride, then why not choose a different word? What if I told you I was an adulterer, and when confronted said, "Oh, I don't mean THAT kind of adultery." An absurd example? Both are sins and both words have a definite meaning. There are a multitude of Scriptures condemning pride. If you can find one that condones it, in any form, then I will certainly take it into consideration. Otherwise, why not just choose a different word?

2) The argument from logic:
Pride is the feeling of self-satisfaction or self-esteem in something you have accomplished. May I ask what you or I had to do with the founding of this country? And furthermore, what did we have to do with our being born in this country? I would submit that the only rational response to being an American is humble gratitude. To take pride in something that God has done is idolatry.

Please realize that I am not accusing you of any wrong. I am merely pointing out what is communicated by the words you choose to use, even though that may not be what you mean.

Let's not simply adopt the language and thinking of the world. Let's think and speak biblically. I'm thankful to God be an American!

"Thy love divine hath led us in the past
In this free land by THEE our lot is cast."
(Daniel C. Roberts in "God of Our Fathers")

Grace and peace to you!
Eric Rea

Mark Snoeberger's picture

Pride (Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary): delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship.

That a term has a specific semantic range in Greek or Hebrew does not mean that it has that same range in English. There is a positive usage of this term in English, so one can be a "proud" father or a "proud" American without sinning.

MAS

MAS

Eric R.'s picture

I just noticed a typo at the end of my previous post -- (too late to edit!) Sad

I of course meant to say "I'm thankful to God TO be an American." No blasphemy or confusion intended. God is not an American. (Another interesting side-note in this discussion, I suppose). Smile

Eric R.'s picture

Mark Snoeberger wrote:
Pride (Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary): delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship.

That a term has a specific semantic range in Greek or Hebrew does not mean that it has that same range in English. There is a positive usage of this term in English, so one can be a "proud" father or a "proud" American without sinning.

Mark,

Point well made and duly taken. Perhaps I should not speak so categorically. I stand corrected.

But I can’t stay on SI long because I’m really lusting right now.

Shocked by such an admission? Don’t be. I merely mean that I’m very hungry because I haven’t eaten dinner yet. As you know, the semantic range of “lust” includes both “unbridled sexual desire” and “intense longing.” This is true in both English and Greek (epithumia, epithumeo).

While I am technically correct in my above usage of the word lust, I took a risk of being gravely misunderstood. In fact, if I had not clarified my meaning, it is safe to assume that many readers would have taken me to mean I was committing a sin. Why? Because common usage is a significant factor in word meaning. While “sexual desire” is not the only possible denotative meaning, the word in modern usage most often carries a strong sexual connotation.

In fact, it’s interesting to note that even though the English word “lust” has a possible positive meaning, the translators of the NAS chose to use a different English word to translate “epithumeo” when it is used in a morally neutral sense. Since they had better words from which to choose (such as “desire”) they wisely did so, thus avoiding confusion.

My point is simply this: Since we have such a large vocabulary available to us in English, why would we choose to use a word that could so easily be confused with sin? I don’t walk around saying “I’m lusting” for the same reason I choose not to say “I’m proud” about anything. The average person could very well misunderstand, and since I have much clearer and better options, it is an unwise risk. You and Webster have given us several good alternatves (“delighted” “elated”), to which we could add “happy” “glad” or “pleased” and avoid all confusion by communicating clearly and specifically what we intend.

When many people say “I’m proud to be an American” they often mean exactly that: They feel a sense of superiority and self-esteem based on their nationality. The same goes for parents; The average father who says he is proud of his son often means that he is taking credit for his son’s behavior or accomplishments. As a believer it is my responsibility to make my distinctiveness from the world clear, and I can do that partly by the vocabulary I choose.

BTW, God Himself has given us a better pattern for fathers to follow. “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well-pleased.” If you mean you’re pleased or happy or elated or thankful to be a father or an American, why not just say so? Merriam-Webster lists seven synonyms for proud: arrogant, haughty, lordly, insolent, overbearing, supercilious, and disdainful. That's all. Why not elated or delighted?

I do not disagree with the validity or your semantic argument. I am merely urging caution and clarity in our speech. God has blessed us with one of the largest vocabularies in modern language – let’s be good stewards of it.

“In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds...sound in speech which is beyond reproach.” (Titus 2:7-8)

Gabe Franklin's picture

Jack wrote:
Gabe,

Would you see this the same way in a congregation composed of believers from many different countries?

If the service was being held in the United States, probably.

Gabe Franklin's picture

John and Eric,

I do not believe the type of pride referred to here is the pride which is condemned in the Bible. We talk about "taking pride" in many things. A person can take pride in their work, a father can be proud of his son, etc.

As Mark already pointed out, there are various definitions of the word proud. Here are a couple more. "much pleased," "having proper self-respect," "marked by stateliness."

Let me ask you a question. Would you ever tell your children that you are proud of them?

Eric R.'s picture

Gabe Franklin wrote:

I do not believe the type of pride referred to here is the pride which is condemned in the Bible. We talk about "taking pride" in many things. A person can take pride in their work, a father can be proud of his son, etc.


I realize this is your position. My argument has been that there is a potential problem with the fact that we talk about taking pride in things. For you to simply restate that people do it, is not really a defense at all.

I agree that there is a possible positive definition of the English word. That is not the primary or most common meaning. And since the concept of the sin of pride is so prevalent in Scripture, and since the various English translators seem to have avoided using that word it in a positive way, I believe that regularly and unqualifiedly using it in normal conversation is potentially confusing and detrimental to our thinking in biblical categories.

Gabe Franklin wrote:
As Mark already pointed out, there are various definitions of the word proud. Here are a couple more. "much pleased," "having proper self-respect," "marked by stateliness."

So, when you say you are proud to be an American, do you mean 1) I am pleased to be an American, 2) I have proper self-respect because I am an American, or 3) I am marked by stateliness because I am an American, 4) I am elated or delighted to be an American, or something else?

Gabe Franklin wrote:
Let me ask you a question. Would you ever tell your children that you are proud of them?

Absolutely not. Why on earth, when trying to raise children to think in biblical categories, would I choose to use potentially confusing language when there are better, clearer words available to me? I much prefer to mimic the speech of the Heavenly Father toward His Son, than to mimic the speech of the world. This is obviously a personal choice, but I believe it is the most prudent and that which is "beyond reproach."

“In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds...sound in speech which is beyond reproach.” (Titus 2:7-8)

Thank you for the discussion, brother. My iron is being sharpened. I trust the same is true for you. My desire is simply that we be as biblical as possible in our thinking and in our speech. I realize that may mean different things for different people.

Jay's picture

John Benzing wrote:
Why do you think national pride is okay? Right away I think of Paul discussing his "stock" and counting it "but dung" (Philippians 3). Can you defend your viewpoint with scripture?
I'd like to expand on John's post - where in Scripture do you find anyone "boasting" in their nation or country? Can anyone think of an example?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Joseph Leavell's picture

I don't mean to cut into this conversation, but I'm just wondering if perhaps this is a bit of a strainging of the gnat sort of a thing? Obviously there are those who take the phrase "proud to be an American" too far to the point of arogance, and self-pride, but is that really going on here? Is national worship going on among those here? I highly doubt it. Therefore, I would say that much ado is being made of nothing.

While exercizing caution to not offend by word choices, I would equally caution not to be offended on behalf of someone else who "might" be offended. I think we need to be cautious not to take up someone else's mantle of offense. If Gabe's rhetoric truly offended someone, they should go to him personally and in private. If not, then truly much is being made of little.

For myself, being proud to be American equates into living in a thankful light of the sacrifices of those who have gone before to secure our freedoms by utalizing the God-given gifts of freedom, voting, etc. It means that I am honored to be in a country with such opportunity and freedom. It is similar to a soldier saying to his commander, "I'm proud to have served under your command, sir." He's not saying that he somehow is glorying in himself, or anything of the sort, but rather that he is truly honored and blessed to have served under a certain command. I believe that to be the context of "proud" used here in reference to America.

National pride does not mean that we look down at other countries who are not as powerful and somehow glory in our own accomplishments but rather means that we are thankful to God and those who have given so much to secure our freedoms and His divine preservation of our nation thus far. It does not mean that we glory in the flag but rather that we glory in the God who has blessed that flag and we truly do recognize that God has blessed this nation.

Those who take it to the point where you can't be a godly believer if you aren't a patriotic American have gone too far, but those who do not appreciate and thank God for what He has given them by virtue of being just born in a country of such opportunity have spurned the sacrifices and blessings of God and the sacrifices of those who spilled their blood to secure our freedoms.

I am truly blessed, thankful, honored, and proud to be part of this nation. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD," (Psalm 33:12, NKJV) Up until fairly recently, though we aren't officially a "Christian nation" we have been a nation full of Christians - one whose God has been the LORD. I am truly blessed, honored, and thankful to be a part.

dan's picture

"God Bless America" is a prayer directed towards God requesting his blessing on the USA.

"America The Beautiful" is a stirring example of praise, adoration and reverence - but NOT directed towards God.

"America The Beautiful" is a song of worship and the object of that worship is the USA, not God. The Pledge of Allegiance is a vow of unconditional loyalty to the United States, not God. Standing reverently with hand over heart taking an oath to Old Glory in a service supposedly set aside to worship God borders on idolatry.

I'm grateful that God allowed me live a life of freedom and ease in the USA. I'm grateful for the sacrifice made by those who served and continue to serve in the armed forces. However, I object to brushing God aside 1 or 2 (Memorial Day) Sundays per year to worship the USA, and I have definitely seen that line crossed a lot.

"Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering, but in being weary of joy."
G.K. Chesterton

Eric R.'s picture

Joseph Leavell wrote:
While exercizing caution to not offend by word choices, I would equally caution not to be offended on behalf of someone else who "might" be offended. I think we need to be cautious not to take up someone else's mantle of offense. If Gabe's rhetoric truly offended someone, they should go to him personally and in private. If not, then truly much is being made of little.

I do not see anything in the above posts to indicate that anyone has been offended or is taking up "someone else's mantle of offense." This is simply a discussion of ideas. If I have myself offended anyone, please let me know.

Joseph Leavell wrote:
For myself, being proud to be American equates into living in a thankful light of the sacrifices of those who have gone before to secure our freedoms...

National pride does not mean that we look down at other countries who are not as powerful and somehow glory in our own accomplishments but rather means that we are thankful to God and those who have given so much to secure our freedoms and His divine preservation of our nation thus far.

Joseph, I understand your intent, but the simple fact is that the word proud does not mean thankful. If what you specifically mean to say is that you are thankful, why not simply use that word? That's why we have that word. That's my only point. It's just a thought.

Joseph Leavell wrote:
I am truly blessed, thankful, honored, and proud to be part of this nation.

So is it also fair to say that you are proud of your salvation? There's no reason to not stand up in church and testify that "I'm so proud that God chose me," if indeed proud is semantically equivalent to blessed, thankful and honored. Again, just a thought.

I am not saying, and have not said, that anyone here is sinning. I am also not saying that I think this is a big theological deal. The discussion came up among several men here about the use of the expression "proud to be an American" and I'm just adding my views to the discussion. That's why we're all here, isn't it?
And since we all signed off on the SI doctrinal statement, it's safe to assume that we're pretty much agreed on the "big stuff." So most of what's left to discuss is, by comparison, of minor significance. But if discussing something like the believer's speech is "much ado about nothing," then I need to go cut some verses out of my Bible. (tongue-in-cheek) Wink

John Benzing's picture

I specifically referred to a statement made by Gabe Franklin regarding national pride. I suggested that the example I could think of had Paul renouncing any such pride. I asked for a scriptural reference to counter what I had suggested. I may be wrong about Paul's statement or there may be other examples from scripture that show I am mistaken in what I believe Paul was indicating. I've simply asked to be shown. I've not been offended and would be surprised if I've offended anyone.

Gabe, I am not going to answer your question because I think it gets the discussion off track. I would really like to know why national pride is an okay type of pride in light of Paul's example that I referred to. This is not a challenge, but a simple question from someone who is trying to understand why you say a resounding yes to national pride.

Chaplain Long's picture

Eric R. wrote:
I am not saying, and have not said, that anyone here is sinning. I am also not saying that I think this is a big theological deal.

dan wrote:
Standing reverently with hand over heart taking an oath to Old Glory in a service supposedly set aside to worship God borders on idolatry.

My question would be: does anyone have the opinion that having patriotic Sundays IS idolatry? I realize Dan says it "borders" and most have used words like that (e.g. "blurred" and "borders"). No one has said that it is out and out idolatry. If it is NOT idolatry, then are there any other arguments against patriotic Sundays? If it IS idolatry, than I think Eric would also agree (as would I) that it is a "big theological deal" and people are "sinning" and it should be discontinued.

Nevertheless, I do not believe saying the pledge is idolatrous, because I believe the pledge is contingent upon the phrase "one nation, under God." This phrase was added to signify America's subjection to God. His Sovereignty is acknowledged within the pledge; and I can worship God by pledging allegiance to a nation that acknowledges subjugation to His control. Also, the pledge is an oath of allegiance to good citizenship (i.e. "and to the Republic [rule of the people ] for which it stands") a principle command found in the word of God. I am pledging to be a good citizen for the Lord's sake, for it is the will of God that I live well.

I Peter 2:13-17
13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

Eric, I did not respond to your other post in the other thread, because I feel the same discussions are going on in both places and I happened to land here today. However, I will say this here: I too am enjoying this discussion with you as well as with the others involved. While I am a little closer to the sentiments of Gabe, I believe this has been one of the most enjoyable, respectful, and useful conversations that I have been a part of on SI. I think it signifies that those on both sides of the argument (as well as those in between) have a deep love for both God and Country, yet find different ways to express that love. I have been challenged and sharpened by all of the comments.

Bob T.'s picture

Percent of population age 18 or over who have served in the military is 12.1%. This is decreasing with the large amount of WW2 veterans who are passing.

Percent of Clergy who have served in the military is 3%.

It would be good to have a time every memorial day when the churches acknowledge the veterans who have so served. They may also include fire and police. Churches often honor a Pastor and do not consider it a violation of the pure worship of God as it is not. It is proper as being desired by God. So it is with acknowledging others that we as individuals and a church feel a special thankfulness to God for. This also may apply to the country as a whole with special thankfulness, and concern in prayer, on July 4th.

This would bring honor to God by His people showing their thankfulness to those they have depended on to defend them. God's people being humble and thankful for that which they have received is worship just as giving thanks at the table before eating.

There is no Biblical principle forbidding patriotic acknowledgment to those who wish to do so and there is no reason that those who do not wish to do so may not abstain in quietness..

Gabe Franklin's picture

John Benzing wrote:
Why do you think national pride is okay? Right away I think of Paul discussing his "stock" and counting it "but dung" (Philippians 3). Can you defend your viewpoint with scripture?

John, I honestly do not believe that Philippians 3 relates to this conversation. In the context of that passage, Paul is referring to being found righteous in Christ. This is referring to salvation. Paul is basically saying that being did not make him any more righteous or bring him any closer to salvation than if he were any other nationality.

When I say that I am proud to be an American, I am not saying that being an American brings me any closer to salvation than if I were another nationality.

As far as defending my viewpoint with Scripture, I must point out that the use of the term "proud"is in the realm of being pleased, expressing delight, being thankful etc. I think Scripture clearly teaches that we should express these emotions. I will address whether it is proper to use the term "proud" when I make my response to Eric.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

and context defines homographs. The word 'proud' can be used to mean different things, just as none of us today would use the word 'gay' to describe someone who is happy.

The OP asks if patriotism can be idolatrous, and of course it can- even in churches. But a sense of loyalty to one's country is certainly not prohibited by Scripture, nor is honoring one's leader, or acknowledging with gratitude the blessings that are particular to America and its history. Of course, all good things can be taken too far and become sinful- from broccoli to golf. I think it would behoove us to use more discretion in what aspects of 'patriotism' we practice in church, such as which songs we sing, or what holiday decorations are hung on the walls of the church. No one ever was too discreet, IMO. Wink

Gabe Franklin's picture

Eric R. wrote:
Gabe Franklin wrote:
Let me ask you a question. Would you ever tell your children that you are proud of them?

Absolutely not. Why on earth, when trying to raise children to think in biblical categories, would I choose to use potentially confusing language when there are better, clearer words available to me? I much prefer to mimic the speech of the Heavenly Father toward His Son, than to mimic the speech of the world. This is obviously a personal choice, but I believe it is the most prudent and that which is "beyond reproach."

“In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds...sound in speech which is beyond reproach.” (Titus 2:7-8)

Thank you for the discussion, brother. My iron is being sharpened. I trust the same is true for you. My desire is simply that we be as biblical as possible in our thinking and in our speech. I realize that may mean different things for different people.

Eric, I believe that you are being a bit stringent with the word "proud." You state that there are better, clearer words available. In my opinion, the word "proud" is often the best word to use. When my son was born about a month ago and I stood there holding him, it would have been completely appropriate for someone to come along and say, "Look at that proud father." If someone would have said, "Look at that pleased father," it just would not have been the same. Also, recently we had our senior graduation. I think the word "proud" was the most appropriate term to use when describing the parents.

I guess what I am saying is that the way in which the word "proud" is used in today's English, it does not necessarily mean a sinful sort of pride, and that there are times when the word "proud" is the most effective word to describe ones emotions. To say "I am proud to be an American" more accurately describes my emotional state of mind than to say "I am pleased to be an American."

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Nationalism is a bible doctrine. Unfortunately it is a diminished or distorted doctrine in most places today and for some a lost doctrine altogether. It is diminished because of it (nationalism/patriotism) being ill-defined and subsequently propagated by theologically malnourished (but not malicious) Pastors and teachers who have erringly equated America with Christianity and/or patriotism/nationalism as a distinctly "Christian" cause.

Nationalism or patriotism is a doctrine that is presented in Scripture as the protocol of God for all humans with respect to their native country outside of exceptional circumstances. Just as marriage is for all humans and is not a distinctly "Christian" institution, neither is nationalism or government and its celebration via patriotism. But since it is taught in Scripture, its promotion as an element of doctrinal instruction and observation is quite proper.

The issue with patriotism among some believers (and even non-believers engaging in some form of analysis of the Christian church and its teaching and observation of patriotism) is more than one, as I see it (and I certainly am limited to my own experiences and body of information). But, as I do see it, I find these issues to be somewhat pronounced:

1. Though nationalism is a doctrine for all humans which is expressed through patriotism, it does have an elevated status among those adhering to the teachings of our Lord, those who call him their Savior. Just as mentioned before, though marriage is a divine institution for all humans, it does have a unique protocol among believers that is heightened beyond those God has given to all humans. For example, while all humans all given the protocol of marriage which frees them to marry anyone of their choice (male/female that is), believers are limited as single persons to choose another believer. As well, all humans are given the protocol to not commit adultery but the believing male is taught to love his wife as Christ loved the church, thus his fidelity is given an exceptional height. So while the institution is for all humans, it is given greater definition and protocol among believers.

It is because of this elevation in our nationalism that a misunderstanding has occurred. The protocol for all humans is to form governments, protect its citizens from tyranny and seek its perpetuity. The believer is told to pray for his authorities, he is told to seek peace with those in authority, he is instructed to benefit beyond mere citizenry, his neighbor. This is an elevated form of nationalism/patriotism that mistakenly has produced people who believe "patriotism" is a uniquely Christian pursuit or the pursuit of the believer in his or her patriotic endeavors is superior, they are not, but they are unique.

2. God blesses all legitimate government but America has had special blessing, not because of the mention of God per se in its founding but because of the large pivot of believers in this country positive to spiritual growth who have been and are the source of blessing by association which has given us as a country (though unappreciated and unseen by many believers and non-believers) blessing as a client nation to God.

But it must be understood that all legitimate governments who preserve freedom, who promote good and suppress evil are doing God's work and they too are candidates for client nation status. It might be that along with Christianity comes a certain enlightenment thus, as a by-product, those in government who are believers approach nationally more edifying goals and in turn introduce the less enlightened to such causes and subsequently a nation prospers this way. But it does not have to be a nation, necessarily, that calls itself "Christian" in culture, that is blessed by God so that when a nation expresses patriotism, whether it has its roots in Christian enlightenment or simply a recognition of sovereign necessities and freedom, it too is being properly patriotic or nationalistic as prescribed by God for all humans.

3. The patriotism of non-believers is a divine pleasure and it must not be diminished. When non-believers hold to nationalistic values and express them through an exercise of patriotism they are not less patriotic than the Christian. While they may not acquiesce to the acknowledgment of God's sovereign work among men, they are acquiescing to the protocol of God regarding government, namely that is nations are made safe, justice is established, the welfare of its people is sought and the perpetuity of its existence is always desired. So they indeed are functioning as an individual clients to God whether they know it or not.

So are patriotic services legitimate? Do they have a place? If it is taught properly it is no different than the divine institution of marriage which is for all humans and with an elevated protocol for believers in some areas. As long as the proper distinctions are made and appreciation of displayed for all facets of nationalism as taught in the Bible then its expression through patriotism is appropriate and that applies to all countries at any place and in any time.

John Benzing's picture

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
Nationalism is a bible doctrine

What really stood out from your post is you call Nationalism biblical but present no scripture to back it. Could you provide the scripture that backs your post?

Ben Howard's picture

Chaplain Long wrote, "My question would be: does anyone have the opinion that having patriotic Sundays IS idolatry?" (sorry I can't figure out quotes in this new format)

I guess I can't say it is idolatry, but I am becoming more and more convinced that the mixing of anything political/patriotic with what is supposed to be worship has been one of the most detrimental things for the conservative/fundamentalist/evangelical church as a whole. I do understand this to be kind of a Christian Liberty issue that very good men can disagree on.

Tavis, I say this as a Chaplain with 16 years of service between the Marine Corps and now the Navy Chaplain Corps; but it even bothers me when churches invite me to preach in my uniform. I do it, because i am asked, but they don't get the patriotic rah-rah America sermon that they expect. I know that many of my fellow Chaplains and even fellow Marines who are Christians will strongly disagree with me, but that's all right. My views have not always been where they are now, and I know that I am hypocritical, because as a Marine I did numerous color guards all over the upstate of South Carolina in churches and have preached several times as a Chaplain for patriotic services. I just know that when I worship, I am not there to celebrate my country, as much as I am proud (yes, I use that word) to be an American and a Marine/Sailor. If tomorrow my country were gone, God would still be sovereign and Christ would still be Lord.

Also, whether its right or wrong, there will be people in our churches that do not feel the same way towards our country as we do. Should they be able to worship God without feeling like they need to affirm a patriotism in order to do that? It is not my job as a pastor to convince them to love the United States. It is my job to faithfully open God's Word to them and hopefully lead them to worship God. I would rather someone leave a church service offended that I spoke truthfully from God's Word than that we recited the pledge of allegiance and sang the national anthem. I don't want to do anything to give them any reason to reject my savior because of something that has nothing to do with who we worship. I celebrate Independence Day, Memorial Day, and all the rest; but not in church. Even in a base chapel setting I hate wearing a uniform because I am not there to exalt the military, but to exalt Christ. (except in Iraq, there was obviously no other choice Smile )

I know i am entering this conversation late, but I have really enjoyed reading all the different interaction this week and appreciate the different ways of looking at this subject.

Blessings,

Ben

PS: Alex, I would also really like to see the scripture you use to make your point.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

John Benzing wrote:
Alex Guggenheim wrote:
Nationalism is a bible doctrine

What really stood out from your post is you call Nationalism biblical but present no scripture to back it. Could you provide the scripture that backs your post?

The essay was declarative in nature so with this question, I will segue into the instructional element. But your query does give rise to my observation about the diminished nature of "nationalism" as a bible doctrine. Had I declared some certainties about our Lord's divinity, most people I doubt would be requesting Scripture to back it up since it would be much more commonly accepted. However, you do offer a valid request since it is not a prominent doctrine per se. So give me time, please, between today and tomorrow and my hope is to compose a satisfying response with the doctrinal references and exposition.

However let me point out that my references to:

Quote:
Just as mentioned before, though marriage is a divine institution for all humans, it does have a unique protocol among believers that is heightened beyond those God has given to all humans. For example, while all humans all given the protocol of marriage which frees them to marry anyone of their choice (male/female that is), believers are limited as single persons to choose another believer. As well, all humans are given the protocol to not commit adultery but the believing male is taught to love his wife as Christ loved the church, thus his fidelity is given an exceptional height. So while the institution is for all humans, it is given greater definition and protocol among believers.

Quote:
The believer is told to pray for his authorities, he is told to seek peace with those in authority, he is instructed to benefit beyond mere citizenry, his neighbor. This is an elevated form of nationalism/patriotism that mistakenly has produced people who believe "patriotism" is a uniquely Christian pursuit or the pursuit of the believer in his or her patriotic endeavors is superior, they are not, but they are unique.
In developing an analogous case and the nature of a Christian's disposition toward government both contain Scriptural reference (though their specific addresses are not posted I didn't deem that necessary since I consider the audience here a bit more than elementary, able to identity proper references uses in part in sentences without having to document their addresses). So even my declarative essay did contain some basic references which you might feel obligated to ponder or respond to before insisting on more.

John Benzing's picture

Okay, I've pondered. Actually I've done more and looked at a couple of Systematic Theologies, but they were not much help. I did review a bit of John Piper's Let the Nations Be Glad and it was helpful. I don't really want you to respond with such depth that could easily take this thread off track. Suffice it to say that if you are referring to Acts 17:26, that would be a clear indication that God is involved in nation-making. Piper would use a broader definition, though, and bring in other scripture referring also to tribes, peoples and tongues. I think he would say the biblical doctrine is diversity of peoples, not necessarily just nations.

I guess what threw me a little is that "Nationalism", as I understand that term, has nothing to do with God and His plans for the ages. For instance, the Encyclopedia Brittanica online (in a one sentence definition) states "Nationalism" is

Quote:
ideology based on the premise that the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group interests.
That doesn't seem to be how you are using that term.

So, I can see that the Bible refers to nations and uses them; I can see that Christians have a heightened responsibility in light of admonitions to pray for our leaders, the golden rule, love our neighbors as ourselves, etc.; but I don't see how "Nationalism" as normally defined fits into the biblical doctrine.

John Benzing's picture

Thanks for taking the time to look at Phil.3--you are right, the context is in regard to Salvation. I think my point still stands, however. Here Paul makes a specific reference to his nationality and rather than take pride in it, he compares it to his knowing Christ and counts it as nothing.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

John,

I am working on a thorough response.

John Benzing wrote:
I don't really want you to respond with such depth that could easily take this thread off track....I guess what threw me a little is that "Nationalism", as I understand that term, has nothing to do with God and His plans for the ages. For instance, the Encyclopedia Brittanica online (in a one sentence definition) states "Nationalism" is
Quote:
ideology based on the premise that the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group interests.
That doesn't seem to be how you are using that term.
For lack of a better phrase (and please be sure it isn't postured in some form of superiority rather differentiation) the "nationalism" to which I refer is a theological identification and definition as opposed to one minus the impact of Scripture. But I will say that elementally the reference to national fidelity in the EBrit definition is a biblical theme to which I will allude in my composition.

*The depth (if it is perceived this way, maybe some will find it shallow rubbish but assuming it is perceived with some depth) of the response I do not believe will detract from the thread, rather it will provide further development regarding a position on the topic.

John Benzing's picture

I agree with everyone else that we should be thankful for our country. The difference of opinion is when, where and how. For instance, I heard about a church that celebrated our country in a service by having a large size replica of the Statue of Liberty placed in the front of their auditorium. I personally think that is going over a line that makes national pride the center of the service (literally) rather than the Son of God. If on a Saturday night that church wanted to get together and do the same, I would have no problem(I like watching the Boston Pops 4th of July celebration on TV myself--good music and lots of fireworks). But why aren't we very careful to let nothing, not even the good things of "Martha", on the day of the week we set aside to corporately worship Christ lead us away from that very worship?

We've discussed this matter at other times on SharperIron--sometimes it's the Super Bowl, or Christmas on Sunday (what do we do!), or someone mentioned Mother's Day and Father's Day (though no one mentions Earth Day)--as part of the struggle with how much of the culture do we respond to in our church services. On the other thread along this line, Larry mentioned it is a "wisdom" matter. I agree that anytime we are dealing with these cultural matters we need wisdom. I don't think we serve God by completely shutting out what is going on in the society in which we live, but we should always question when and where we bring it in to our church services.

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