Patriotism and the Church.

Memorial Day Poster
Image by Beverly & Pack via Flickr

[This article is currently in process, but I wanted to share what I’ve gathered thus far…]

Each year we have three holidays which are oftentimes celebrated within the church and which focus on national pride (patriotism) – Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day. For some these holidays mesh together, so lets break out the idea behind each holiday:

  • Memorial Day – A day to remember and honor those who have died in combat.
  • Independence Day – Celebration of the American Colonies declaration of independence from Britain.
  • Veterans Day – A day to honor those who have served in the armed forces.

One contentious issue within the church is patriotism. What role should patriotism play within the church, if any? The answer usually depends on the demographics. If we are talking to folks under thirty, patriotism has no place within the church service, but if we are talking to folks over sixty the idea of separating patriotism from our church services may be akin to heresy!

At Calvary (where I attend and am an elder) we traditionally celebrate each of these holidays in our service. One can scrape away the vestiges of patriotism from Memorial Day and Veterans Day – but there is no way to get around the patriotism associated with Independence Day. So, what should we do?

As I write this I don’t have an answer, nor am I convinced in my heart one way or the other…but as is my habit, when I am studying a topic and believe that my research could be of interest and user to others who may desire to ponder this topic I create a post providing the resources and thoughts I have, so here it is…

Articles About Patriotism and the Church

We’ll start with a survey of some of the better materials I’ve found delineating positions within the church on patriotism. Each of these is a thought provoking read and I have curated out the worthless articles so this should be a best-of-breed list. Please let me know if I’ve missed any important discussions on this matter and I’ll add them as appropriate.

  • Colson, Charles W. “On Waving Flags and Washing Feet.” Jubilee, June 1986. – Colson provides a thoughtful and balanced consideration of the role of patriotism in a Christian’s life admitting his own struggles with the seeming tension and the decisions he personally arrived at.
  • Reed, Frank L. (article) and Harold S. Martin (editorial). “Patriotism: An Anabaptist Perspective.BRF Witness, May/June 2003, Vol. 38, No. 3. – Martin comes from a strong traditional Anabaptist position on the topic of patriotism – in other words, Christians should have no part in it. The article provides several good Scriptural references though the arguments are not detailed enough to be convincing, it is a good jumping off place for further research. Most helpfully, Martin notes that this controversy has been the topic of debate between James Dobson and D. James Kennedy (pro-patriotism) and Cal Thomas and Jerry Falwell – all of whom are well respected within the evangelical community.
  • DeYoung, Kevin. “Thinking Theologically About Memorial Day.The Gospel Coalition. May 26, 2011. – DeYoung attempts to provide a moderate position on the patriotism debate, suggesting that patriotism is not evil but should not be part of worship services. Randy Alcorn agrees with DeYoung’s stance.
  • Gushee, David P. “What’s Right About Patriotism.” Christianity Today. 7/01/06. – Gushee provides a philosophical argument for Christians to participate in patriotism.
  • Is Patriotism in the USA Dead?Christianity Today. Originally 1969, reposted 6/29/10. – An old article reposted on the CT website, argues strongly for American patriotism but on an emotional level.
  • Tennant, Christy. “Patriotism and the House of Worship.Conversant Life. 4/4/10. – Tennant offers a heart-felt moderate conversation about patriotism in worship. She reflects on personal qualms about patriotism in the church but at the same time stops short of calling it wrong.
  • Jeter, Jill. “Church and Patriotism.Jill’s Blog. 4/5/10. – Jeter comes from a much more conservative background and is shocked when her Presbyterian church quavers at the thought of singing God Bless America within the service. Provides a good feel for how those who believe patriotism should be part of the service feel when it is not included.

Secondary Articles:

These articles are either on secondary topics or of secondary value in the discussion of patriotism in the church, yet they deserve mentioning.