Thursday, November 27, 2014

Can We Thank God for Our Nation?

Today is a national day of thanksgiving in the United States. And it brings up the question, can the two go together? Should a nation give thanks? Should we give thanks for our nation? And on the deeper level, is patriotism a good thing? Have not people done evil things in the name of their country? Is there a good type of patriotism that can be kept without endorsing the bad?

To separate the good from the bad, we must start by separating loving our country from necessarily endorsing its government's policies. I think we need to start, as G. K. Chesterton suggests, with the idea of the love of home. The place I grew up in, the place I belong. Chesterton makes this suggestion, not just with a nation, but with the world as a whole. It is the person who loves something, not just because it is good but because it is theirs, who will work to improve it. The person who sees a place with rose-colored glasses will leave it as it is. The person who sees it as messed up but is indifferent to its fate will leave it as it is. But the person who sees something realistically, with all its faults, and loves it anyway, that is the person who will work to improve it. That is how God deals with us (Romans 8:6-8; John 3:14-18; 1 John 4:9,10). And it is how we should deal with the world around us. We should see it as a world created by God, inhabited by people who are created by God (Acts 14:15-17; 17:24-28; Romans 1:19,20) and are presently in rebellion against Him (1 John 2:15-17; Romans 3:23; 1:18). And it is our job to love and reach out to that world of people (Romans 13:8-10; James 2:8; Galatians 6:9,10).

But there are certain people we have a special connection with and responsibility for And while we have a higher citizenship (Philippians 3:20,21; 1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13), we are to honor the authorities we are under (1 Peter 2:13-17; Romans 13:1-7; Matthew 22:15-22). It seems to me that within this context, the case for a reasoned love of country may be made. Not a blind patriotism that endorses everything without question. Certainly not one that cannot stand up, if it is required to, based on principle (Acts 4:19,20; 5:29; Daniel 3:17,18). Or one that, when required to, will not stand up and rebuke wrongdoing ( 1Kings 21:17-21; Amos 7:10-17; Matthew 14:3,4). But I also think there is value in loving a place that is home, with shared experiences and traditions, as long as this means working to make that place better rather than mindlessly accepting its policies. Therefore, I think it is appropriate for us to give thanks for our nation and to give thanks for its blessings. If it is seen in the right context.    


  1. For me, loving America involves two things: believing the best about us and being involved in making it better. The first part causes me to stay away from using hateful images when speaking of our leaders. The second part involves keeping informed on the issues and doing simple things like voting even when I do not think that my vote will make a difference.