“Patriotism” can be valuable servant of men who seek to make their nation as righteous as possible in the service of God, but it may also become a pseudo – religion in which God is considered the servant of a particular nation and culture.
We are always faced with the temptation to equate Christianity and Americanism, and to feel that almost anything is Christian if it is in the best interests of America. At its worst, this danger may cause us to revise the elements of our faith in order to make them blend harmoniously with the “American way of life.” Perhaps this is why many Americans feel that there is nothing distinctive about the Christian Faith. What they think is Christianity is really Americanism-patriotism raised to an improper position of supreme over the Creator Himself.
Example: a pastor reported that a member of his church refused to continue attending worship services because the congregation voted to give the place of honor in the SANCTUARY to the Christian flag rather than the American flag. He added that on the Fourth of July he had a near rebellion on his hands when he failed to ask the congregation to stand for the singing of the hymn “America the Beautiful,” while no one objected to remaining seated to sing “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past.”
Our discomfort – and perhaps rebellion – at what such illustrations imply is itself indicative of the situation. We are accustomed to denouncing communism as atheistic, devilish, and totally false, while hailing the United States as so nearly perfect that we will unquestioningly lay down our lives for it when called upon to do so. Certainly communism is a grave menace to the free world – probably as grave as any that has yet threatened the peace. Certainly the United States of America is a great nation and in many ways a “good” nation. But are we ready to give our nation our supreme allegiance, and to depend upon it for all our needs?
To do so is to attribute to it the power of perfection that only GOD possesses. God stands in judgment upon both Russia and the United States. My fundamental standard of judgment is not the aspiration of the United States, but the obligation of my FAITHFULNESS IN GOD!
When I look at it in this way I soon see that, frightening as is the threat from communism (or any other country or idea), even more awesome is the danger of idolizing my nation as to put it above the guidance even of ALMIGHTY GOD.
As we continue to build larger and larger “barns” for our surpluses and piles of armaments, are we willing to face the fact that God may be speaking to our country with the shocking words of The Lord Jesus Christ: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20) or “What does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”(Mark 8:36)
This does not mean that I cannot be both an American and a Christian. The question is one of priority. Am I a Christian first, and then an American? Or am I an American first, and then a Christian? Do I give SUPREME devotion to my nation’s interest, shaping my religion to conform to it? Or do I acknowledge GOD as supreme, constantly striving to help to make my nation more GODLY – to make it conform more nearly to the WILL AND WAY OF GOD?
(By Willard W. Wetzel, Copyright 1963)