Yesterday I met with two ladies from our church. We were a strange group. One was in her 20's, the other in her 30's and I am in my 40's. One was from England, one from the Philippines, and I am an American. Talk about cross-cultural and cross-generational! We talked about a lot of things, shared some struggles, shared ideas, talked about our kids, and we talked about American patriotism.
American patriotism bugs me sometimes. I have the utmost respect for the men and women who bravely serve our country whether in our military or as First Responders (fire, police). They are true heroes - every day - whether they are in the line of fire or not. They put their lives on the line, literally, to keep the rest of us safe. Thanks and gratitude to these courageous men and women can never be expressed enough.
But sometimes, if we're honest, our patriotism becomes something other than healthy pride in our country.
I believe that patriotism can get in the way of God. I've seen it do so in subtle and not so subtle ways.
I've had people tell me that they can support the Pine Ridge mission projects because they are "here in America" and we should take care of our own first. That's a patriotic statement, but God does not make that distinction. He loves all people the same whether they are American or not and if we are following Him, we will not make a distinction either.
Last Christmas our choir did a Christmas program with a patriotic twist. That is fine, but I noticed something that disturbed me. As they were waving old glory and singing "I'm Proud to be an American" and "God Bless America", people rose to their feet. They cried. They waved the little plastic flags that had been handed out proir to the service. They were obviously proud citizens of America. But later when they sang "The King is Coming" and other spiritual songs, people looked bored. It was not that the talent was lacking - the same people sang those songs. But no one was standing then. I didn't see any crosses waving. They didn't look moved at all.
It made me wonder where our allegiance really lies. As followers of Christ, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God first and foremost.
Donald Miller wrote something in his book Searching For God Knows What that struck me as very, very true.
"I get the feeling sometimes that after thew world ends, and when God destroys all our buildings and our flags, we will wish we had seen everybody as equal, that we had eaten dinner with prostitutes, held them in our arms, opened up the spare room for them and loved them and learned from them."