This year, Independence Day (otherwise known as “the 4th”) falls on a Sunday. And, anyone who goes to church knows what that means: patriotic hymns and songs, flags in the sanctuary and sermons about the wonderful freedom that is our birthright. You may even hear about how this is a Christian nation or that our nation was founded on Christian principles. I’m going to miss it all and I’m not bothered in the least.
In my own Methodist church, there’s a lively debate going on about displaying the American flag in the sanctuary this year. I say this year, because in years past it wasn’t even an option. We’ve just gotten a new pastor (that whole itinerant thing) , so the pro-flag crowd sees an opportunity. I suspect they’ve wanted to do this for years, but the former pastor didn’t agree and she had the final say. I’m not exactly sure where the new pastor comes down on the subject and even if he was against it, I don’t know what he’d say. He’s still learning the lay of the land and we’re still learning him. We’ll see.
For me, I don’t like mixing patriotism and religion. There are a number of reasons for that feeling, chief among them being that patriotism is nationalistic and nationalism is, by nature, exclusionary. Now, in and of itself, that’s not such a bad thing. One should be proud of their country and support their government as long that doesn’t compromise their ethics or morals. But, exclusion has no place in the Christian faith. As someone smarter than I once said “If the gospel isn’t good news for everybody, then it isn’t good news for anybody.”
I’d love to take full credit for this post, but I can’t. I stole the idea from another blogger, Jason Boyett, author of “Oh me of Little Faith“. His post “Freedom, the 4th and Faith”, asks some interesting questions on this subject and the comments are very insightful. One of the more interesting ones said that a worship service is a worship service and it doesn’t matter what holiday is happening. Worship should always be directed toward God, and songs like “God Bless America” or “America, the Beautiful” don’t really do that. Another commenter said “But the “God Bless America” idea seems incredibly arrogant to me. I’m tempted to make my own bumper sticker that says, “America Honor God.” Like I said, insightful.
In the first paragraph I referenced the early days of this country and it’s foundation. That can be a touchy subject, combining those two taboos of friendly conversation: religion and politics. Those folks who insist that the Founding Fathers were Christians are kind of right. Some were, notably John Adams; some weren’t, like Thomas Jefferson. But, even those who were Christian weren’t anything like those claiming them for the Faith. Adams, the foremost, was Unitarian. Others, like Jefferson, were more Deist in their religious leanings. I believe all of them, however, would be appalled at the intrusion of the church into politics and nationality. When Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists about a “wall of separation’ between the church and the state, he was reassuring them that the state would stay out of church business. If the church keeps poking it’s nose into government business, how long can that state affairs last? Nowhere near as long as we’d like, I’m sure.