When Faith and Patriotism Merge
Today is the 4th of July. It is also a Sunday so I went to worship. Our church is blessed to have a wonderful music ministry, including a full orchestra, that has a combination of church members and professionals. I went to the last part of the service to hear the orchestra play, which included, "American Salute" and then concluded with a rousing "Stars and Stripes Forever." People were standing up and clapping, and dressed in red, white and blue. So, what's wrong with that? Nothing, on the surface of it. I love our country, and love that song, in fact, I have played it many times on my flute with the various bands I have been a part of in my lifetime, but this morning, I had trouble with it.
This morning, I was at worship to worship God, to assist in Communion for the church members, and while I am very mindful on this day that it is the 234th birthday of the USA, I came to worship The Lord Jesus Christ, not The United States of America. I know that most progressives, politically speaking stand strongly for the separation of church and state because of their belief of not wanting the church to be determining matters of state. Some come to that position because they personally are not strong in faith of any kind, maybe even agnostic or atheist. I stand strong on Separation of Church and state for the opposite reason. I don't want the state determining the beliefs of the Church. I am all for God and Country, and my understanding of the original meaning of the Separation of Church and State was that while the State could not force anyone to worship at any one particular faith, it also didn't prevent people from worshipping in the faith of their families, or their personal choice. I thus believe that the progressives and the conservatives have badly misinterpreted the original intent. It has come to a place that a sacred song cannot be played at a graduation, or a prayer said at a public function. It has also come to place where a faith group is supposedly not allowed to use a public or government owned facility. I do not believe or a second that this was the original intent of the Separation of Church and State. That perspective interferes with the freedom of religion.
But as a follower of Jesus Christ, I am equally uncomfortable with Nationalistic songs, being played in the context of worship. Jesus Christ's death on the cross and resurrection from the grave happened on behalf of all humanity, not just the citizens of the USA. The beliefs of the Christian Church transcends the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the political perspectives of any party within this country, or any country's constitution. In fact, I would assert that the call of the believer and follower of Jesus Christ would challenge many of the policies of the USA, as wonderful as a country as it is.
In Nazi Germany, there was a push to make all citizens of Germany to be a member of the German Evangelical Church. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others lost their lives in their protest of this action. They gathered together and wrote the Declaration of Barmen which proclaimed their allegiance to Jesus Christ alone, and not to any state.
The Theological Declaration of Barmen was written by a group ofThis is in part why I have great difficulty with the merging of patriotism and faithful worship on Sunday mornings, and yet there are many around this country, and in fact many in the congregation I grew up in and where I continue to worship and serve. They would look at me and roll their eyes, and believe that I have somehow gone off the deep end. But my heart, this day and every day belongs to Jesus Christ. I happen to be a citizen of the United States because of where I was born, but my ultimate citizenship is not here, but in the Kingdom of God. It will remain there for all eternity.
church leaders in Germany to help Christians withstand the challenges of
the Nazi party and of the so-called “German Christians,” a popular movement
that saw no conflict between Christianity and the ideals of Hitler’s
Most Germans took the union of Christianity, nationalism, and militarism
for granted, and patriotic sentiments were equated with Christian
truth. The German Christians exalted the racially pure nation and the rule
of Hitler as God’s will for the German people.