What Is Patriotism’s Place in Our Worship?
When was the last time you heard someone request prayer for an American soldier? Ok, now when was the last time you heard someone voice similar concern for our foreign brothers and sisters facing persecution for their faith? If you serve in a church that emphasizes Kingdom over country, count yourself blessed. Many American Christians have struggled to distinguish between country and Kingdom. Our struggle in that regard has greatly influenced the worship practices of our local churches.
The following are observations, not arguments:
- Many of our church worship facilities boast American flags inside and out. I don’t believe that’s common Christian practice. Not in the early Church and not even in the international Church of today, by all accounts I’ve heard & read. Feel free to correct me if you know differently.
- Our churches celebrate Christian events that America recognizes as national holidays. But we also celebrate distinctly American holidays. Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day to name a few.
- The hymnals I grew up with contained a selection of patriotic songs and that hasn’t changed for many of our churches. Some of those songs have little to do with God, at all. Others include somewhat dubious theology or, at least, do little to edify the church. And I can’t say I’ve never led such a song.
In fact, I’m quite the America-lover, myself. And here you were thinking I must be one of those America-bashers! On the contrary, I’m enthralled enough with our nation that I earned a social studies degree so I could teach about our history. And for two proud years, I taught eighth graders (yikes!) about an era that I’ve always found fascinating: Early American History. The story of our nation’s founding is epic and inspiring.
But, despite the inner patriot in me, I have personally become increasingly uncomfortable with blending Americana and worship. For instance, the church where I am privileged to serve once had the American and Christian flags on stage. I moved them to the back of our worship center…still in a nice place but not a focal point during our time of worship (even so, it wasn’t an entirely popular move). Similarly, I haven’t been able to bring myself to sing patriotic songs in our main weekend gatherings in quite some time. It’s not that there couldn’t be a place for them in the life of the church. I’m just not sure that place should be the singular time we set aside for reminding each other that–while the world may worship many things–we worship Christ as King and Him alone.
I’m not writing this blog post to prescribe a list of do’s and don’ts. But neither am I suggesting a policy of: to each their own. As men and women entrusted with the responsibility of leading God’s Church in giving Him the glory that He alone deserves, we have a duty to think critically about the ministry models we have inherited. We need to juxtapose our practices and Scripture, asking serious questions where we find discrepancies. Questions like:
- Are we giving our nation something that should be reserved for our King and His Kingdom alone?
- On the other hand, are we neglecting something that is important in the lives of the members of our community?
- Is there a way to responsibly celebrate people’s service to our nation while keeping appropriate perspective?
- Is there a better way/time/place for celebrating national holidays than in our worship services?
- Do we pray for our nation as thoroughly as Scripture has instructed us to?
- Does the church understand and value the Kingdom? Do they sense common citizenship with believers around the world?
I realize this has become something of a hot topic in the American Church of late and I’d love to have you weigh in. But if you do, please just keep it gentle and gracious so I can leave your comment published!