The last "relationship" post probably didn't get me into too much trouble. We argue over sports but not too seriously. I hope this one doesn't either. Especially coming on the heels of our nation's independence celebrations.
Christians have struggled with the proper place of patriotism for oh, at least 20 centuries now. The early church was birthed in a world where Christianity was a sometimes unnoticed, sometimes illegal sect of Judaism. It developed in a world antagonistic toward it, then tolerating it, then embracing it, then promoting it (often by force), all within the space of a few centuries.
I was about to ask if there was a place for patriotism in today's Christian. But I'm going to leave that for now, (you can read my past article on patriotism vs nationalism here). The question I'm asking here is this: does relationship run deeper than patriotism?
Maybe I can ask it this way. What is the deeper connection in relationship, patriotism or spiritual life; your sense of pride in earthly citizenship or in heavenly citizenship?
It's not an easy question. There's something gut-intertwining about our national holiday that in some ways goes beyond...well, beyond religious expression for sure. We can all be at the ball game and see the fireworks and sing the national anthem and our souls feel connected around the idea of freedom, regardless of whether or not we recognize that freedom ultimately comes from God.
But how about this: are we more relationally intertwined with a pagan but patriotic USAmerican or with a Palestinian Christian? Do we care more about the stability and safety of the US than we do about the Iraqi church, which has been scattered and persecuted since the current government has taken power? Do we care more about the values of our own homes than we do the underground church members around the world who cannot provide for their families to have a decent meal because they have been labeled as infidels, heretics, pro-western, or whatever?
I don't have good answers to these questions. I'm not even sure I have the right to ask them. But my soul doesn't leave me alone about it sometimes. Somehow, someway, our relationship with the Creator supercedes our citizenship as USAmericans. Somehow, someway, a believer in communist North Korea and a believer in socialist France and a believer in capitalistic USA are more deeply related to one another than they are to their fellow countrymen/women who don't share that graftedness into the vine that is Jesus of Nazareth.
Now if we could just figure out what that looks like in the real world.
David Gushee recently published some great thoughts on this here.
Here's a quote from a book I cited in my previous blog on patriotism:
When patriotism goes to seed, becoming a jingoistic nationalism, it gives patriotism a bad name. It is the difference between gratitude and arrogant pride. Patriotism stifles the spirit of war, nationalism breeds wars. Patriotism is catholic, nationalism is sectarian. Patriotism understands and enters into the affection that others have for their place.
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