One may note a few posts scattered about this week pertaining to patriotism, God and country, bearing American flags in Church buildings, and observing themes in Sunday services expressing patriotic allegiance. Some suggest patriotic services are unwise at best and idolatry at worst. While one cringes at the notion of patriotic hymns, another apparently becomes increasingly uncomfortable in worship with allusion to any thanksgiving for freedom or honor to our servicemen/women. A staffer at a Church where I served as Interim walked out during a worship hour themed toward patriotism.
I've got to say, I'm entirely perplexed by what I consider shallow reasoning in the objections usually brought forth.
Well, actually there is rarely an evangelical case made for such--at least in any comprehensive manner. In fact, I cannot say that I've ever read a case against patriotic themes for worship services. Usually, the reasoning reduces to "It's wrong to put country before God or on a level with God." Granted. But who is arguing for such? In passing I note that the Jehovah's Witnesses attempt to build a comprehensive case for patriotism being idolatry.
To be fair, perhaps our brothers linked above only mean "It's the tendency of some to put country before God and on a level with God." Granted. Maybe it is and shame, shame, shame on those who do. Let us be clear and correct our erring brothers and sisters at this point. Nevertheless, what has such abuse to do with those who have their theological heads screwed on properly? Does abuse of truth negate truth's teaching?
I'm presently tempted to employ a line my non-temperance brothers ever love to say pertaining to imbibing. Applied to patriotism it would be--it's the abuse of patriotic themes in worship that the Bible condemns not the use of patriotic themes in worship. Though tempted, I think I'll abstain.
In wrapping this little chat up, observe the following themes all of which are limited particularly to the Psalms, limited to the Psalms not only for the obvious worshipful nature of the genre but also to display how easy it is to overturn such anti-patriotic veneer which so often filters through unseasoned sources:
Who is the man who fears the LORD?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land (25:12-13)
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart (37:3)
O LORD, save the king!
May he answer us when we call (20:9)
Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and maidens together,
old men and children! Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted" (148:11-13)
Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice! (72:1-2)
I assure the reader, these passages could be compounded, and that from Psalms alone. Observe carefully the patriotic thread running through these texts--the "land"; the "King, Princes, Rulers" (political leaders); the "justice" and "righteousness" that YHWH demands from the worshiper.
If either singing about, speaking of, or being exceptionally grateful to our Lord for the country (i.e, "land") He gives us and the sacrifices made to procure it is so much as even hinted as idolatry, it must escape the eye of any worshiper who takes the Psalter at face value. As I see it, the themes of patriotism are too tightly woven within the fabric of thanksgiving to God to allow for such an easy dismissal.
Nor can it be seriously argued that since Israel was a theocracy, texts such as these should be read in light of such; consequently, the Church must overlook them. Instead the point is simply this: given these texts, there is no intrinsic reason why worship services, on occasion, may not employ these great texts of Scripture, coupled with other mediums such as hymns and dramatic presentations portraying the same type of honorable gratitude which emphasizes land, country, justice, righteousness, freedom, and yes, even victory over the tyrants of this world system. To do otherwise may be less than Scripture, not to mention may reveal a thinly veiled ungrateful anti-Americanism.
With that, I am...