This coming weekend is the Fourth of July, a time when we Americans will swell with “patriotic” pride.
What does it mean to be “patriotic” anyway?
If you asked your average person on the street, they’d say they love their country. They’d say they were celebrating “freedom.” Or maybe some of them know some servicemen and women and they’d be remembering them.
Okay, so what does it mean to “love your country”…besides eating meat and blowing up stuff? What do we love about this country?
I can safely say that there seems to be a good chunk of people who have conflated their Christian identity with their American identity. “Patriotism” is a part of their Christian worldview. If that describes you, I just want to gently encourage you to examine that part of yourself. It’s a popular way to think, no doubt.
And just like we easily confuse our love of God with our love of country, it seems to me that we Americans are more confused than ever about what it means to love our country.
What do we love about it? The institutions? The principles? The government? The land? The people?
Maybe patriotism at one time meant all of these things. But it seems to me that loving America today does not include loving Americans.
We spend a lot of energy not loving other Americans. We actually spend quite a bit of energy hating other Americans.
We are being trained by cable news to view vast parts of the country as “the enemy.”
We get revved up when politicians promise to “take back” our country on our behalf. From whom? An outside invader? No, other Americans. Other Americans who, ostensibly, do not love America as much as we do. Other Americans, who we are told are wrecking the country, or are backwards or narrow-minded, or whatever label your side of the aisle uses. We are not having a civil war, but it is as if we are waging a war on ourselves. We are a people at war with each other, hating each other with no less venom than if we were shooting bullets at one another. It seems to me that we are far more concerned, afraid and angry at each other than we are at a group like ISIS.
We as a people have completely lost our ability to empathize. We have lost our ability to look at situations with context. We no longer have the ability to think rationally and slowly, preferring to react quickly and vehemently. We are easily distracted by politicians who capitalize on this. We have lost our ability to stop labeling ourselves and one another, even though we ourselves do not always know what the labels mean anymore. And that creates a people at war with itself.
There are a lot of things that I wish were not so here in America. There are a lot of people with influence who I wish did not. The government does many things that frustrate me endlessly.
But I simply do not have the energy to spend on hating my neighbor, much less doing so and then puffing myself up with pride and calling my hate “patriotism.”
If your celebrations this weekend are tinged with prayer for America, be careful. First, be careful that you are not pledging allegiance to something that is not God.
Second, think about what you are asking God to do in your prayers. Are you asking Him to protect America from its enemies, when God has already told you what to do to your enemies?