Musings on Patriotism and Idolatry

I have been struggling lately with rampant nationalism in the church. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel more than a little nauseous when I see images of the United States flag draped over the cross, and patriotic worship services make me want to pull my hair out. I am convinced that the devil should be the most proud of derailing the church in America by successfully combining Christianity with unrestrained nationalism and politics.

I know many Christians in the States see nothing wrong with patriotic worship services or pictures of the cross swathed in red, white, and blue. To me, these images and ceremonies are rife with idolatry.

idolatry (noun)

1 : the worship of a physical object as a god
2 : immoderate attachment or devotion to something

In one photo of the cross draped in the flag, it compared the sacrifice of soldiers to the sacrifice of Jesus. The sacrifice soldiers make in defense of a nation is great indeed, but it pales in comparison to the work of the cross. Jesus didn’t die for Americans, and no, the United States is not particularly “blessed.” The wealth and prosperity in America is the direct result of the rape, murder, slavery, and pillaging committed by the settlers, our founding fathers, and early Presidents. To drape the stars and stripes across the symbol of our salvation is uncomfortable at best, sacrilegious at worst. How in the world is the flag, a symbol of a flawed nation, on par with the symbol of salvation? Why is it there? To be worshipped as Jesus is to be worshipped?

Patriotic worship services are even worse. Sabbath worship is for the corporate body of Christ – the local church – to come together and worship God. No other thing should share glory with God in a sanctuary. Is God not a jealous God? Does he not covet our worship? How is singing America the Beautiful or the national anthem during sabbath worship honoring God? It is, in fact, stealing honor from the time He specifically asked us to set aside for rest and worship. It’s staggering how commonplace this pageant of idolatry has become.

It’s also alienating to our brothers and sisters in Christ who may be attending worship with us from other nations. As Paul writes in Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in Heaven.” Christians are called to a different way of life, acknowledging our time here is temporary. In Christ there no national superiority, which is indeed grievously flouted in the United States. American Christians are often guilty of thinking (and bragging) about American superiority. And yet, Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We are one in Christ – from every land, race, gender, and socio-economic situation. All of those constructs or labeling are banished in the Jesus’ Kingdom.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear where other believers line up on this issue.

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3 thoughts on “Musings on Patriotism and Idolatry

  1. Chris Leverton says:

    Once again you eloquently put into words feelings I have been struggling with in my heart. I did not go to church last Sunday for the very reasons you list. Why do so many American Christians seemingly worship the flag, the country, and above all, their guns? Last night, an acquaintance mentioned her budding “shooting club for Christian moms.” I cringed a little inside as the following verse fragments popped into my head. “Peter, put down your sword.” “Love your enemies.” “Turn the other cheek.” I’m not saying I’m against self defense, or totally anti-second Amendment, but the gun worshipping, in-your-face patriotism we see so often nowadays in a growing number of Christian households definitely borders on idolatry.

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