Wednesday, August 26, 2020


A common teaching is that nationalism is wrong, because it combines political allegiance with faith, but patriotism is fine.

A Christian leader defined patriotism as "a benign pride in a place", as if this made it cool. However, we need to dig a bit deeper. If patriotism is pride, what is the basis for the pride?

  • A Christian could base their patriotic pride on a belief that the scenery in their country is more beautiful than in other. However, as the scenery of a country is mixed, and is God’s creation, not ours, this does not seem to be sufficient basis for patriotism. The beauty of the creation should lead to worship of God, not a nation.

  • Patriotism could be pride in the people of the nation, but that does not seem to work as a justification, because the people of nation will be a mixture; some will be good and some bad. Claiming that the people of my nation are better than those of any other nation is a bit arrogant. The most I could claim is that my nation has a higher percentage of good people than others, but I cannot take any credit for that.

  • Patriotism could be pride in the businesses of my nation. However, every nation has a massive number of businesses. Some will be good and some will be weak. I might argue that my nation has a higher percentage of good businesses than other nations. Individual businesses can be proud of their achievements, but I am not sure that I can be proud of them, because I am not responsible for what they have achieved.

  • Patriotism often turns out to be pride in the achievements of my nation. This is a bit odd. I can be proud of what I have achieved, but not what other people living in my nation have achieved, if I not have contributed to their efforts or helped them.

  • Patriotism could be pride in my country’s sports teams. However, that is only true if they actually represent me. The reality is that most sports team are not truly representative (or they would need one player who is useless at sport like me). They actually only represent elite players. They do not represent the entire nation.

  • Patriotism is often pride that my nation has a better system of government than other nations. The problem with this is that it is hard to prove that the system of government adopted by my nation is better than of others. Anyway, a system of government that produces a contest between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, cannot be the best in the world.

    Believing that their nation has the best system of government in the world is fine for people who do not follow Jesus, but it is a problem for those who do. The Kingdom of God is the best system of government in the world, so giving pride of place to another government is disloyalty to Jesus. The best that could be claimed is that a government is close to the Kingdom of God, but I cannot see any government anywhere in the world that has achieved that.

  • Patriotism could be based on the idea that my nation’s laws are better than the laws of other nations. However, the best laws possible are God’s laws, so Christians can only celebrate their nation’s laws if they align with God’s laws, but that is not a basis for pride. Laws that align with God’s laws are a basis for glorifying God, not glorifying that nation that has adopted them.

  • The basis for patriotism often translates into pride in what the government of my nation has achieved. These achievements are usually successes in fight wars. The most common basis for patriotism is pride in their nation’s military victories, or if it does not have recent victories, pride in the nations armed forces. Pride in military power regardless of whether it has been used for good or evil is foolish. This kind of patriotism is dangerous because it leads to military adventurism.

Jesus spoke incessantly about the Kingdom of God. He called his followers to give their allegiance to his kingdom and its king. He said that we cannot serve to masters.
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matt 6:24).
Loving a nation and the Kingdom of God at the same time is almost impossible.
Paul was a well-born Jew,
of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews (Phil 3:5).
He had plenty of basis for patriotism, but considered his nationality to be worthless.
Everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of the Messiah… I consider them garbage (Phil 3:6,8).
Paul was passionate about the Kingdom of God, so he had no room left for patriotism.

Patriotism is often the thin end of the wedge that leads to nationalism. Extreme nationalism has produced terrible evils, so God’s people need to be careful about going too far down the patriotism path.

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