Every year around this time, many Christians begin to debate the practice of “patriotic worship services”. Seems there are quite a few who are against any inclusion of patriotism in a worship service. Some go so far as to suggest any sense of national identity is inappropriate for Christians.
I DO NOT QUESTION THE PATRIOTISM OF THOSE WHO FEEL THIS WAY. (Unless of course they specifically say it is wrong to be patriotic, in which case I suspect they do not wish to be considered so.) Most that I read do not object to patriotism itself, but to its presence in church. I do however, take exception to the inference (and sometimes outright statement) that those of us who do participate in such services are somehow “worshipping our country”, and that it is somehow idolatrous to have them.
I want to address two points:
1) It is possible to have more than one allegiance without conflict.
2) It is possible to have a worship service that exalts God through focusing on His goodness to our nation.
First, for all those who think it is wrong to be “patriotic”, I’m just thankful I’m not in their family. They seem to think that allegiance to anything other than God is idolatry. I’ll be the first to admit that any relation (whether individual or group) can become such an idol, but just because it can doesn’t mean it will.
I love my family. I believe in family loyalty and allegiance. Doesn’t mean I agree with everything, but I love them and would stand by them nonetheless.
I love my church. Not to the degree that I love my family, but it is a relational love for a group of people that I am a part of. Doesn’t mean I agree with everyone over everything, but I have a sense of loyalty to them and would stand by them nonetheless.
I love my country. Not to the same degree that I love my family, or my church, but it is a relational love to a group of people that I am a part of. Doesn’t mean I agree with everything in it, but I have a sense of loyalty to it and would stand up for it nonetheless.
None of these supercede or replace my love and worship of God, because it is entirely possible to have various loves and allegiances in your life without one infringing on the others. Is it possible that they will? Yes, but it doesn’t have to happen.
As to “patriotic” worship services, why should not the church use them as an example of how to maintain a balance of national loyalty and heavenly priority? Community patriotic celebrations continue to become more and more secular. Let’s demonstrate (at least one time a year) that our faith is an integral part of every area of our lives.
While I would agree that there is a danger of patriotism turning into worship, I do believe it is possible to have a service that maintains a proper focus on reverence of God while illustrating that our love of country is a part of that. Praying for our country, remembering God’s blessing on our nation and giving thanks for it, as well as committing ourselves to being a righteous influence in our culture are some legitimate aspects of patriotism that focus on God rather than country alone.
We enjoy the privileges of living in this country only by God’s goodness. How can we avoid specifying those same blessings when we give thanks and praise? If we happen to do so more specifically on a national day of memorial, is that wrong?
Some have questioned the use of the pledge of allegiance in worship services. While it would seem odd to pledge allegiance in every service, I have no problem with doing so in an occasional service that focuses specifically on our national blessings. Saying the pledge of allegiance is not worshiping the flag or the nation. If it was, it would be wrong anywhere, not just in church.
The key to this is balance, but I find it hard to separate my “civic” responsibilities from my “spiritual” responsibilities. Being a good citizen is part of being a good Christian, and being a good Christian makes me a better citizen. This will certainly be evident in both my personal and public worship. That is true no matter which country you live in. Certainly there are some that go overboard on this, and could be perceived as worshiping their nation, but I don’t feel we have to go to the other extreme because of it.
I know there are some who will think this is too much, and others who will think it too little. I’ll not question the patriotism or spirituality of anyone who disagrees. I do believe that it is possible to involve our love for our country (despite its sinfulness) in our worship of God, with discernment and balance.