Friday, June 20, 2008

God and Country

My buddy John's got a great post on God 'n Country conflation, perhaps the most pernicious heresy in the contemporary American Church.

Among many other salient points, he says:

In the scriptures, I’m commanded to love a lot of things: my God, my neighbor, my wife, my enemy…I’m never commanded to love my country. In fact, if “loving my country” means that I demonstrate preference to someone based on their ethnicity, their nationality or, for instance, their loyalty to America’s foreign policies, I think I’ve pretty much undermined a very important aspect of Jesus’ mission on this earth — to make his temple a “house of prayer for all nations” and ours, to “make disciples of all nations.” And when I’m willing to value American lives over, say, Iranian lives or when I’m willing to promote America’s economic interests over the interests of the world’s poor simply because I’m American I may actually demonstrate my infidelity to the only Kingdom worthy of my allegiance.

This is dangerous thinking that will get anybody in trouble, but he can perhaps alleviate the threat by wearing a flag lapel pin. In the meantime, I'm surely glad I get to hang out with people who think this way.


CarolN said...

Yay for this post! I echo your and John's sentiments, and I have felt a bit nervous about saying that ever since 911. The Mennonite church (yes, I work Mennos into every post and comment) is one of the few of which I'm aware that actively teaches its people to put allegiance to God first and to be wary of the virtues of patriotism.

One of the lines that makes me scream inwardly goes something like this: "We have to take care of our own first." Usually uttered as a way of explaining the preference for American lives vs. Iraqi, Chinese, Ugandan, etc. etc. As if Christ values our lives more, as if we have to choose... I can't think of something less Christlike.

John McCollum said...

That man obviously hates America

just scott said...

Wasn't it Springsteen that said "Blind faith in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed"?

Anonymous said...

I see no conflict between love of country and love of neighbor. And I see no conflict between love of country and criticizing it when I think it's off course. Seems like that's akin to taking a son or daughter to task, or a friend. And I believe that love of country does not have to equal some kind of blind nativism.

I do, however, have a problem with those who enjoy the benefits of citizenship but refuse to recognize any responsibility or allegiance to their country. When the majority buys in to that point of view, that will be the beginning of the end of a country worthy of love or allegiance.

If I sound like a right wing Republican, that's sad, because I'm old enough to remember when liberal Democrats had no problem with what I just said.

Andy Whitman said...

Bill, I don't think anyone is arguing for abdicating resonsibility. I expect everyone involved in this discussion would have no problems with the notion of paying taxes, obeying the laws of the land, etc.

The argument has much to do with blind nativism, though, which is in the ascendancy in this country. At least in terms of the current presidential campaign, we're back to the "My country, right or wrong" and "America -- love it or leave it" mantras that we heard during the Vietnam War. It was wrong then, and it's wrong now.

I also think there's a peculiarly Christian spin on this thinking that has often equated America with Israel, and hence, "God's nation." That's been wrong forever, too.

Anonymous said...

foxnctczI suppose I should read the rest of the article you excerpted from, and I certainly agree that equating America with Israel as God's nation is whacko, but I have to say that what I'm talking about goes beyond paying taxes and obeying laws, which should go without saying. For example, I love my family, and take offense when someone attacks them, verbally or otherwise. To some extent, I have somewhat the same reaction if it's, rather than family, my neighborhood, my city, my university, etc., up to my country. Therefore, when Ward Churchill says that the folks in the twin towers had it coming, I take offense. When Jeremiah Wright says the chickens have come home to roost, and God damn America, I take offense. If someone says Washington can do better than it's doing with permanent gridlock, I don't take offense.

Lord, spare me from Christians who use the Bible to bless their political views, whether its Jim Wallis or Pat Robertson.

John McCollum said...

Thanks, guys for the thoughtful response to my post. I've posted a followup at

Andy Whitman said...

Bill, I think John's followup article (the link is posted above) does a nice job of delineating the kind of "pro-America" thinking that he supports and the kind of "pro-America" thinking he questions and criticizes. And I agree with him.

I think it's fine (obviously) to care deeply about your family. The caring gets more abstract and potentially more problematic as we move outward from family to neighborhood to city to country, though. And sometimes "caring for our country" looks a lot like "hating people who are not from our country and are not like us." Is it good to recognize the many blessings that we have as Americans, to take pride in our communities, to love where we live and the ideals by which (in theory, at least) we live? Sure, I think so. But as John points out, many times those Frank-Capra-like American ideals are far removed from reality. John's an idealist. He believes in old-fashioned values like democracy and "All men are created equal." Me too. And if he questions America, it's because he sees that sometimes we're not living up to what we claim to be.