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Tokens of patriotism can be seen everywhere around the Fourth of July holiday. Among them are t-shirts that have printed JesUSAves on them, God Bless America stickers, and American flag necklaces in the shape of the cross. Somehow, the cross has been wrapped in the banner of stars and stripes, and Jesus has been nailed to it by the American church. Yet Christ calls us to radical allegiance to Him and Him alone. Is there room for patriotism in the Christian life? 

To be loyal to God and country is a contradiction. To be loyal to Christ means forsaking all others, including allegiance to one’s nation. In the sermon on the mount Jesus tells us that no one can serve two masters, for either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. Patriotism is an act of infidelity.

America invokes the blessing of the Lord through bumper stickers and songs, yet the United States of America is in brazen opposition to God, for it is of the world.  Evidence of its opposition lies in American values. Jesus said to not store up treasures in heaven, America is capitalist and obsessed with the aesthetic. Jesus said to “love our enemies,” yet American policy seeks retaliation against its enemies. Jesus said to distribute wealth to the poor, yet Americans spends more money on cosmetics and methods of death and destruction than taking care of the poor. Patriotism restricts the church’s boundaries to national borders. When called to follow Christ, one is adopted into a church that knows no boundaries, a church that is united and reaches across the entire world. By adhering to national loyalty, the kingdom of heaven is tragically missed. 

Josh Goodman, a pastor at Two Rivers church in Des Moines has this to say about patriotism, “When a church flies the American flag in their sanctuary, they are committing adultery. When they sing patriotic songs on the 4th of July, they are committing idolatry. When they make Christianity synonymous with being an American or identify Christianity with one specific political party, they are committing blasphemy.”

Be grateful for one’s country. Be grateful that in America Christ can be spoken of without the threat of death or imprisonment. Be grateful that there is running water in most kitchens. Be grateful for the many privileges this nation has that many nations cannot even dream of having. But in the moments of gratitude do not  forget to ask “what has this nation done to withhold these gifts from the rest of the world?” Do not be proud to be an American. Do not be proud at all. Christ opposes the proud, and any system of this world opposes Christ.  On this Fourth of July, instead of being proud to be an American, submit to radical allegiance to Christ.