Fourth of July – The Problem with Patriotism, Politics, and Partisanship

On July 4th millions of Americans will celebrate. The celebration will involve American flags, barbecues, picnics, speeches, music, and fireworks — lots and lots of fireworks. Americans will listen to “God Bless the USA” at least 91 times on the radio. They will see a lot of red, white, and blue. And they may even hold a sparkler with a surging sense of patriotism in their heart.

Is there anything wrong with being patriotic? Not at all, provided we keep our patriotism in line with our dedication to Christ’s kingdom. The problem with patriotism, politics, and partisanship creeps in when we allow these issues to become more important our faith and our mission. Here is the problem in three manifestations.

Problem 1:  Patriotic ferver eclipses Christ-centered passion.

There is fulfillment in throwing ourselves into something bigger than ourselves. Feeling patriotic is a right and noble feeling, because it shows that we are invested in a great cause. We get excited when we listen to politics from a fired-up talk radio host, an intense argument on TV, or a stirring speech on the Fourth of July. Nonetheless, patriotism must take its proper place in our priority of passions. Our citizenship is ultimately in heaven, not on earth. The entire narrative sweep of the Bible is a record of God’s Kingdom, not a blueprint for political reform.

Problem 2:  Political positions become more important than biblical truth. 

When we become preoccupied with bickering over the healthcare system, bemoaning the choice of presidential candidates, or even rejoicing in an individual’s political victory, we run the risk of becoming distracted by politics. Keep in mind, as Jonathan Merritt writes, “Government can be a powerful tool for justice and goodness, and often Christians must advocate for policies that punish injustice, restrain evil, and promote a healthier society.” Advocate we must, but biblical truth is of greater importance than political positions. Despite its importance, one’s political stance is not of greatest important. Some issues are far more important, and as believers, we must maintain the right priorities.

Problem 3:  One’s choice of presidential candidate or party affiliation becomes more important than one’s identity as a believer.

What defines a person’s faith? I can tell you what does not define it. One’s faith is not defined by being either a Republican or Democrat. You may be a good believer and be either, or both — just as long as you’re not making that your identity. As Jim Wallis writes, “Don’t go left, don’t go right:  go deeper.” Regardless of whether you identify with the “left” or the “right,” remember that  “the great unifier that draws us together is our common commitment to Jesus” (Merritt).

Let us not be dismissive of our nation, and God’s placing us here on this earth to make a difference. We are citizens of our country for a specific purpose. Be politically active, without being politically distracted. Vote with prayerfulness, rather than voting for a supposed political savior. Embrace a political position without becoming defined by that position. Stand for your position, without judging other Christians for taking a different stand. Keep Jesus first.

Let us rejoice in our country, and use our situation for Kingdom purposes. Let us celebrate our independence and our liberties. Let us advocate for righteousness and justice. As we do, let us never forget, that we are “longing for a better country—a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16).

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  • Reply Alan Thierry July 3, 2012 at 5:33 am

    Here in Australia we don’t wear our political points of view on our sleeves. The US tradition of political showmanship is foreign to us. We do however have compulsory voting, which it could be argued is undemocratic, but at least voters don’t need to be coerced into voting, they are compelled to vote by law.
    Extreme patriotism, waving the flag, paying lip service to national pride does not happen here, not that national pride doesn’t exist, it’s just taken as a given.
    American jingoism as portrayed by Hollywood seems rather cringe-worthy to our way of thinking.
    Aussies however are a good deal more shy about showing allegiance to our Saviour too, so maybe it’s just our national psyche.

  • Reply Marie July 3, 2012 at 5:48 am

    So thankful for the freedoms that we have in our country especially the freedom of worship.
    This country was not founded on religions or on politics but on Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe me, please see and read what our forefathers believed in and declared.
    I was not born in this country yet I am more than grateful and thankful for the men and women who serve in the U.S. Military to protect the freedom we so take advantage of.
    There’s nothing wrong with being patriotic because we were given this freedom by our heavenly father. The moment we as a nation decide to take our eyes of Jesus, that’s when we are going to be in trouble.

    Happy 4th of July!

  • Reply JS Stewart July 3, 2012 at 9:05 am

    There is way too much “wrapping the cross with the flag” in this country and that is dangerous in that it breeds religious intolerance and religious tolerance (freedom) was one of the founding principles. Christ came to form personal relationships with those who would follow freely unlike the cult like atmosphere some would have.

  • Reply Tim July 3, 2012 at 9:17 am

    I agree with most of your assertions but it is pathetic that you would even write an article like this during the Independence Day season! I’m disguisted! God Bless America!

    • Reply Thierry Gation July 3, 2012 at 10:07 am

      Well Tim,
      Maybe this was not written for you, but to the millions of other Americans who put this country first, and God last. God continually blesses America, but we see the results of it, America has become prideful and arrogant, believing that God can be taken out of every government institution and even various social aspects. And when you take God out of something that is He is the foundation of it, you are left with the rotten stench of sin, piling up toward the heavens, and it’s just a matter of time until God intervenes. Dr. Ruth Graham stated to her husband, “If God doesn’t soon bring judgment upon America, He’ll have to go back and apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!”. Thus, we need to pray for America that there can be a revival in the land and repentance can take place. As for Douglas Mac Arthur, he was a good man, but I doubt he was a God-man. I serve my country honorably, with all the honors written on my DD214 to prove it. I know freedom both on both battle fields. After I got my freedom on the battlefield of Iraq, I was still bound to sin and still under the curse of the law bounded with a one-way ticket to hell. But along the way, I met a man who is my Savior and Redeemer and by His sacrifice upon the cross, I was free to live in that freedom I provided for you and your family. Let’s us all no matter the denomination or belief, when we read an article judge not too harshly, for life and death is in the power of our tongues (Prov. 18:21).

  • Reply Tim July 3, 2012 at 9:24 am

    General Douglas MacArthur said “On this day of gathering storms, as moral deterioration of political power spreads its growing infection, it is essential that every spiritual force be mobilized to defend and preserve the religious base upon which this nation is founded. History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline.”

    Just a thoughts,

  • Reply Bev July 3, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Hubris. Look it up.

  • Reply bbjohnson July 10, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    Right as rain about how we in America reverence patriotism and such prideful things as how we serve ourselves and put Our GOD last. America’s moral compass is broken. Every great civilization that came before America fell because of moral turpitude and doing what felt right instead of doing God’s will.

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