That’s what Bryan Fischer at the American Family Association is teaching. The other day on his radio program, he said that if you’re not a “patriotic American” you’re sinning against God.
Not even making that up. Here’s the clip:
But is it true? Is failing to be a “patriotic American” a sin?
Of course not.
Patriotism is a devotion, affection, and loyalty to one’s country– and there’s nothing in scripture that says an absence of that would be a sin. In fact, I think the stronger case could be made that devotion and loyalty to one’s country could be a potential stumbling block that could cause one to miss what God is doing in the world.
Are there patriotic Christians? Of course. Are there Christians who are not patriotic? Yup. However, neither the presence nor absence of patriotism in and of itself is sinful. However, both extremes could be sinful under certain circumstances.
For example, a lack of patriotism could be sinful if what you’re really saying is that such a person is completely lacking gratefulness toward God for the things that they have, for their life, etc. In this case it wouldn’t be the absence of patriotism that was sin, but the lack of a thankful heart that was sinful. However, just because someone isn’t wearing flag underwear to work on flag day (or fill in the blank to describe what you think patriotism looks like), doesn’t mean that such a person is ungrateful to God. There is nothing that requires gratitude to look like patriotism– they are two different things and not inseparable.
Conversely, patriotism could easily become sinful if such a devotion and affection for country took the place of devotion and affection for the culture that Christ came to bring. A key example would be killing enemies, (something Jesus expressly forbid), hoarding resources and not freely sharing with immigrants (something we see being close to God’s heart), or any other behavior that pushes back against the Kingdom principles taught by Jesus. In this case, patriotism would become sinful if such patriotism led one to support, advocate or pursue things (such as violence and greed) which stand opposed to the ways of Jesus.
One of the other potential dangers of patriotism is how it causes us to view “the other”.
Last night I posted the following image to my Facebook timeline, and was really quite surprised at how some people described the two women. The post turned out to be way more controversial than I had anticipated– I had thought the average person would find both examples to be over the top and something to be avoided, but I was wrong on that. I was reminded at how patriotism can really influence how we judge whichever person we see as the “other”:
The one on the left? Some described her as a principled woman willing to die to stand up for herself and protect her family. The woman on the right? Just a terrorist trying to kill innocent people.
This is precisely the way that patriotism taken too far, absorbed too deeply, can become sin– or at a minimum, a stumbling block. Taken too far, patriotism can cause us to completely alter the way we view the “other” and lead to sinful judging. We become good, they become bad. When we do X it’s justified, when they do X, it must be stopped.
Unfettered patriotism causes other people become terrorists– their motives are assumed to be evil. Ourselves? We judge ourselves instead to be noble and justified.
Vulnerable children become “illegal invaders” who are here to destroy our country, while we judge our own history of coming to an already occupied land as being somehow different. Patriotism can lead to judging in these ways– and that’s bad news for those who wish to follow Jesus.
Taken too far, or allowed to take precedence over the ways of Jesus, unchecked patriotism can really poison our thinking.
Following Jesus causes us to see the divine image of God in the “other”. He leads us to refrain from judging the “other”. He heads us to serve “the other”. Patriotism taken to far however, has the complete opposite effect. For this reason, we should hold our level of patriotism with extreme care– keeping our hearts thankful without becoming people who can’t see “the other” the way God may see them.
So is it a sin to lack patriotism? Absolutely not. In fact, for some of us, removing patriotism from our lives has really freed us to pursue God’s will here on earth as it is in heaven, without the distraction that patriotism can become.
We must always be thankful. We must always appreciate what we have. However, there’s nothing sinful about not being patriotic. In fact, Christian leaders would do well to caution people about the stumbling block that unchecked patriotism can become.