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With the recent focus on Christian nationalism, the appropriateness of patriotism has resurfaced. Is there a difference between Christian nationalism and patriotism?
Patriotism is a sense of respect, appreciation and preference for our country that comes through personal experience and heritage. It is the same sense of pride and preference felt by citizens of other lands. Those of us born in the U.S. and blessed to travel the country have a fondness for the unique beauty within our borders.
Christian nationalism makes the preference of patriotism a demand of discipleship.
Baseball, voting and apple pie are a way of life connecting us to fellow citizens. Patriotism is also a sense of pride for the good things in our nation: acknowledgement that “all men are created equal,” opportunities to freely worship and our relatively peaceful and quiet lives. Given a choice, patriotism makes our country our preference.
Christian nationalism makes the preference of patriotism a demand of discipleship. It sees the American system (or any worldly system) and its power as the “last best hope of the world” and is willing to preserve it at all costs. Believing the American system is divinely inspired, nationalism plays by the traditional rules of kingdoms and power, with a slightly Christian twist.
History is filled with examples of nationalistic ambitions claiming divine favor. Constantine tried making Christianity Rome’s official religion and shifted earthly power structures in the church’s favor. German Christians hung Nazi flags in their churches.
Yet the idea of a truly Christian nation is contradictory to the Gospel. Nations are defined by borders, power and self-interest. The Kingdom of God is without borders, defined by self-denial and driven by mercy and forgiveness.
The Kingdom of God is without borders, defined by self-denial and driven by mercy and forgiveness.
Without question, America’s founding fathers were partially influenced by Christianity. Where such influence is lived out, the nation and world are blessed. But, just as all other nations of men, America’s founders also were driven by the less-than-Christian factors of power and greed.
Paul readily used his Roman credentials to advance the Gospel (Acts 16:37-38; 22:25-28). He also celebrated his Jewish heritage without judging or looking down on outsiders (Philippians 3:4; Colossians 2:16-17).
Like Jesus, Paul understood the Kingdom of God was not defined by borders or self-focused national interest. It had a bigger agenda, defined by self-denial and the righteousness of God.
As we enjoy the blessings of our country, let us not lose sight of the true Kingdom of God. — Jeremie Beller, for the Editorial Board
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