Should Christians be patriots?
Over the past few weeks, we have been examining the impact that various groups in the US have had on the social landscape, using both violent and non-violent means. One group which has pledged its existence to opposing Black Lives Matter and Antifa protestors call themselves the Proud Boys (who also have a chapter operating in Australia). According to their website, the Proud Boys are a men’s organization founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes. McInnes has described the Proud Boys as a pro-Western fraternal organisation for men who refuse to apologise for creating the modern world. Additionally, McInnes longs for the time when “girls were girls and men were men”. The Anti-Defamation League in America described them as “a drinking club dedicated to male bonding, socialising and the celebration of all things related to Western Culture”. They are also known as Western Chauvinists. Proud Boys are often distinguishable due to their penchant for wearing black and yellow polo shirts. They have adopted a Swahili word as their battle cry: Uhuru, which means “freedom”.
Most groups who are described as right-wing are generally also patriots. Although patriotism is not widespread in Australia, an American patriot is one who feels a sense of national pride and demonstrates love, devotion and a sense of attachment to the continental United States. But, should Christians be patriots?
Firstly, we need to remember that this world is not our home. 1 Peter 2:11 – Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims… and Philippians 3:20 – For our citizenship is in heaven. It becomes easy for Christians to begin to worship their country as an idol. In his book The Four Loves, C S Lewis puts the matter quite succinctly. He notes that the love of country “becomes a demon when it becomes a god”. In some cases, patriotism can slip into nationalism, which then usurps love for God. Unfortunately, mankind has twisted almost every gift of God into an idol than can sinfully replace Him. Money, sex, work, food drink – each of these (and others) have become damaging idols for too many Christians. It wouldn’t be a stretch to therefore think of examples where Christians have placed love of country above love of God.
Therefore, we must remember that the Christian’s primary allegiance is to God and to His church – which sometimes means the Christian “patriot” must disagree with his/her country and do things which might be counterintuitive to “civic duty”. As discussed previously, this may mean engaging in respectful, non-violent civil disobedience over issues like abortion, racism and torture. It might also mean calling for the righting of past wrongs and the upholding of religious freedom (as we are currently seeing in California). Christian responsibility always trumps nationalism and patriotism, even when it seems uncomfortable.
I don’t believe it is a bad thing to love one’s country. But let’s remember that Jesus also died for people of all nations. To the early Jews, this might have seemed lunacy. After all, they believed that spreading the salvation message to the Gentiles was a betrayal of the Jewish nation. Yet, recall the stunning scene described by John in Revelation 7:9-10:-
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud vice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”.
"Every nation, tribe, people and language." It's an image of Christians crying their allegiance to God and to one another over and above any allegiance to country. It's a reminder that we can do the same, even now.