Kevin T. Bauder
[This essay was originally published on July 8, 2005.]
Patriots come in more than one variety. Some patriots honor their nation more than they honor God. That kind of patriotism is arrogant, idolatrous, and immoral. Other patriots, however, are motivated by a sense of gratitude at the patrimony they have received from their homeland. They display their gratitude in ordinate ways, remembering that every nation, like every person, is finite and flawed. Such patriotism is not only permissible; it is probably implied by the fifth commandment.
Let me identify myself as a patriot of the second sort. The citizens of the United States are constituted as a people by an idea. This idea has been established and articulated in the founding documents of their republic (the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights) and in other significant statements (the Mayflower Compact, Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Association, the Federalist Papers, the Gettysburg Address). This idea involves the rule of law, limited government, separation of powers, guarantees of important freedoms, and individual responsibility and accountability. I believe that the constitutional republic of the United States is almost as close as one can get to an ideal government of, by, and for sinful people. I love the idea and honor the symbols that represent it: the National Anthem, the Fourth of July, the flag. I wear the uniform in the auxiliary of one of the nation’s armed services. And yes, I pledge allegiance to the flag.
Let me say it plainly: I love these United States. What factors should help us decide whether to honor and celebrate the United States (or any other nation) in our church services?