Patriotism as defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is: love for or devotion to one’s country.
This last weekend you may have noticed many festivities and thanks for people who have served in the American military because it was Memorial Day. While I have definite objections to war and violence, as do many people, I fully support the men and women of our military and am thankful for their sacrifice in order to defend our freedom at home and abroad.
I am also aware of the importance of needing to thank those same people and their families publicly. In many of your churches there may have been a time of thanks or congratulation to honor those who have served in war and peace time. I want to use this post to caution the participation in patriotic acts during a church service, not to enforce any standards, but to voice an opinion that may not be highly accepted in many conservative Christian circles. Some of the wars and conflicts our military has engaged in have been less than honorable such as displacing Native Americans, and supporting dictators to protect U.S. business interests.
I think that any time that a pledge of allegiance to our country that is stated publicly in the context of a worship service that it is really distracting Christian’s from what their real mission in life is: to be the light of Christ to the world. Just as the Messiah was predicted to do, Israel forgot their calling to be a, “light for the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). We must be very careful not to equate our American citizenship with equal importance to our convictions as Christians.
Believe me, I am not writing this post to criticize any pastor or church, but I have seen it in my generation and the youth I have served how either America is a Christian nation so we must “take back America” or using the Christian faith as a political tool to bash others whether that person happens to be a liberal or conservative.
In serving youth I believe that we must do our best to recognize that there are political elements of our faith such as ethics, fair treatment of others, and the cross of Christ. We must not avoid it, but we must be careful to not label students, tell others how they must think, and allow anything else but Christ be a stumbling block for people not yet walking with Christ.