Friday, July 1, 2011

My Position on Patriotic Celebrations in Worship Services

Much of this conversation has previously been posted on this blog, but I have reworked my points and expanded the discussion a little bit.

These Are Reasons Why I Don't Do Patriotic Celebrations in Church

1. When our services focus on country and patriotism, there are conflicting messages sent as to what being a Christ-follower is all about.  It can easily sound like being a good U.S. citizen is the first step on the road to living the gospel.  In reality, we are called to take up our cross and follow Christ.  Our primary allegiance is to Christ’s Kingdom.

2. Most patriotic songs and hymns, even if they mention God, say little if anything that distinguishes Him as the Christian God, and instead focus on a perceived inherent goodness in this country (for instance, “America the Beautiful”).  Others contain theology that many find problematic (“Battle Hymn of the Republic”).

3. It may not be an issue for all congregations, but many churches are attended by internationals.  For their sake, it is important to make sure they see an accurate representation of the gospel.  Furthermore, we want them to understand that we are all, regardless of earthly citizenship, one in Christ.

Adding to that point, when we refer to the United States of America as “America,” we are excluding Canadians and Mexicans and Cubans and a host of other individuals who are Americans but are not native to the U.S.A.

4.  There are, sadly, instances in our history where we have not been the “land of the free” to all people.  Even if we don’t agree with them, there are many cultures who find themselves still disenfranchised or affected by decisions our culture has made.  For those people, the U.S.A. is not such a beautiful place with a strong sense of Christian heritage.  The gospel demands that we be sensitive to these cultures.

We also must be careful that we’re not advocating a sort of modern-day manifest destiny, where we operate under the assumption that everything we can do and take whatever we want, simply because God is on our side.   

5. Patriotic celebrations draw us in with sentimentality and warm feelings and direct our focus off of Almighty God.  When our focus is shifted off Christ, our worship ceases to be Christian worship.  It becomes something else entirely.  We are all deeply committed to idols.  Because we are still deeply affected by sin, our hearts still lead us to bow down to God-substitutes.   

Many of these idols are actually good, acceptable objects or endeavors.  Family, children, career, food, sex, homeland; 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.  And they compromise the very purpose of our worship gatherings if given the chance. 

These are the reasons I do not believe it is appropriate for times of gathered worship to become patriotic in nature.  While many agree with me, there are other very devoted believers who do not, and I do not for a minute condemn them for their position.  My hope is that they do not condemn me for mine, either, and my prayer is that this would not be a divisive issue for any, but that we would graciously allow ourselves to follow our conscience on this matter, knowing that we are all still one in Christ.

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