A Different Kind of Patriotism

My grandfather was in the Navy for WWII. Had one of my dads serve in the Navy during Vietnam, had another spend 20+ years in the Air National Guard and a fireman. I served 10 years in the Army as well. I sing the national anthem at ball games. I don’t like it when teams change the last word to match their mascots. (Looking at you Chiefs and Braves.) I get teary during the Olympics. I’ve traveled the world and still get goose bumps when I see the stars and stripes when we land on American soil. I consider myself blessed to have grown up in this country. It truly is the land of the free and the home of the brave.

But I’m not blinded by my patriotism either. I don’t look at the United States as the protectors of truth and justice around the world. I don’t see our leaders as statesmen or patriots. I don’t see our government as being “for the people” anymore. I’m not looking at any political figure to ever emerge to solve our problems or make us a “great nation” again.

We have fallen people electing even more fallen people to make decisions that affect the whole country while looking out for their own interest first. I seriously question that any political figure even remotely considers an issue anymore from the angle of “what is going to be the best for the entire country for the long haul.” I don’t think we are one election away from redemption nor damnation.

I love my country. I just hate what my government is doing to it. Both parties. Both sides.

If I didn’t have dual citizenship, I imagine I would be in a place of huge disappointment, maybe even depression. If I didn’t have dual citizenship, I imagine I would live and die every election, every debate, every newsflash that scrolled across the screen. I imagine I’d watch FOX News or CNN or MSNBC every day on the edge of my seat.

I imagine that I didn’t have dual citizenship, I’d be a wreck.

But I do have dual citizenship. I’m part of another nation where I don’t have to worry about the integrity of my leader. Oh sure, He sometimes does things that I don’t understand, that are painful in the moment. He sometimes even does things I hate at the time. So while I at times do question His methods, I don’t have to question His motives.

This weekend we will celebrate one of my citizenships. I’ll grill, shoot fireworks, watch a John Wayne movie, and even thank a veteran for serving. I’ll do so without regret or second thought.

But Sunday…Sunday is reserved for my other citizenship. It’s my day to worship the one who saved me for eternity and I’ll be joined by brothers and sisters around the globe. Some in more favorable conditions than I, most of them not. And they will have the same experience – not this particular weekend but at some point during the year of celebrating their homeland but doing so with a different kind of patriotism, a tempered one. We belong to another Kingdom. We live in a temporal one but we belong to an eternal one. Only one of them deserves our lives.

I’m not saying it’s “unChristian” to serve in the military. Not at all. My body is temporal and if I were to serve again and have to die for country – so be it. In one sense that is rendering unto Caesar what is his.

But my life – my focus, my passion, my identity, my desires – that is reserved for Another.

I am often reminded of what Screwtape told his nephew, Wormwood in C.S. Lewis’ novel “The Screwtape Letters” on the subject of patriotism.

Whichever side he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of the partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him into the stage at which religion becomes merely part of the “cause” and his [faith] is valued chiefly for the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war effort or of Pacifism. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades mean more to him than prayer and sacraments and charity, he is ours – and the more “religious” on those terms the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.

– Screwtape, pages 42-43

Here’s hoping you have a great Independence Day. We live in a great country. Here’s hoping that we Christ-followers remember we have a greater responsibility and greater devotion to our other citizenship.

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