The Place for Patriotism

Mount Rushmore

With 4th of July festivities under way and flags and tri-colored streamers filling the air, it is a good time to consider the much-maligned virtue of patriotism. Along with many other natural affections, patriotism has been staggered by successive blows from modernism, which sees such emotions as irrational and useless, and postmodernism, which sees them as dangerous.

For sterile, scientific modernism, the idea of having particular pride in one’s country is simply absurd. After all, one’s place of birth is mere happenstance. Every nation has its merits and demerits, and comparison between our own country and the rest of the world will never be entirely complementary. As Virginia Woolf wrote grimly of her own land, those tempted to an irrational local enthusiasm should “compare English painting with French painting; English music with German music; English literature with Greek literature… When all these comparisons have been faithfully made by the use of reason, the outsider will find herself in possession of very good reasons for her indifference.”

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Reasons for Hope, Part 3: About America

American flag

So far, my “Reasons for Hope” series has taken a narrow perspective, considering God’s promises of sanctification for individual believers, and then a big-picture one, considering God’s promises for the future. In this final article, I’m going to finish up in the middle, with a look at reasons for hope about our country and our place in it.

While patriotism should never shoulder aside the priorities of our faith, we still ought to care deeply about the state of our country. “Love your neighbor” naturally leads to an interest in our society and government, and in fact Paul instructed Timothy to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim 2:2). In the Old Testament, God told his exiled people, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer 29:7). God put us in a particular place at a particular time for a particular reason, so we have a degree of responsibility for “the welfare of our city” and ought to pray and act and feel accordingly.

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