Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.
-William Cowper, 1772
Each of us is, in the greatest depths of our heart, committed to idols. And most of us probably don’t even realize it. In fact, a lot of the time, these idols begin as good, acceptable objects or endeavors. Family, children, career, food, sex; all of these things are good, but if not kept in their proper place, they can very easily become idols; God substitutes that ultimately leave us empty and broken.
Remember, everyone worships.
Unfortunately, these God substitutes can even invade the Church’s corporate worship. If we’re not careful, we can look to leaders (like the extremely attractive Traditional Worship Minister, for instance), music, liturgy, and a host of other things to take God’s place in our worship. Or worse, by combining Christian worship with some other elements that we like, we can essentially create a false gospel.
Now, here’s my point with all of this. There is a reason I avoid including any patriotic hymns or anthems in worship services. It's not that there's anything inherently wrong with patriotism if it's tempered with proper perspective. When our focus is shifted off Christ, our worship ceases to be Christian worship. It becomes something else entirely. For that reason, I believe very strongly that when we sing songs in our corporate worship services that are blatantly written in praise of an earthly kingdom, we have compromised the very purpose of our gathering.
Additionally, marrying patriotism and Christian worship can perpetuate a sort of modern day manifest destiny. There are many Christians (I grew up around many of this sort) who believe that God is on our side in everything we do. This line of thinking has led to much agony and suffering and poor witness throughout our history. It’s time that we, as children of a God who is King over all the nations, align ourselves with Christians the world over instead of just those in our country.
God bless America. And Canada.