Patriotism or Nationalism?

edfw301.jpgA disturbing trend has developed in America’s churches, the growth of which has been so subtle that it has largely escaped our notice. In fact, we have been so unaware of the rising danger in our churches and have come to accept the subtle changes step by step, that many of us will see this developing trend as a positive thing (I once did). The trend has been toward an acceptance, even an embracing, of civil religion.

The issue has been breeched on this website on a couple of occasions (here and here), but has yet to be dealt with head-on. In researching for the “head-on” article I intended to write I ran across a couple of essays that address the issue better than I could have. One, entitled “Nationalism in the Sanctuary,” deals with the issue in a straightforward and biblical manner. The second, entitled “The Critical Patriot,”, discusses the appropriate attitude of a Christian patriot and outlines the proper relationship between our loyalty to God and our loyalty to country.

My own observations deal mainly with how our churches came to so revere the state (be it the military, the president, the flag, veterans, or whatever) that we have engaged in activity that, if it is not outright idolatry, certainly approaches it. I don’t know when the practice of placing an American flag in the sanctuary (like the one pictured above) began but I’m sure it was met with little resistance. What could be wrong with identifying our church as an “American” one? Nothing, right? That’s why flags like the one above are as much a fixture in our churches as pulpits. Who could foresee a time when churches would participate in full-fledged services that completely ignore the cross of Christ and the glory of God in favor of “old glory” and pledging allegiance to the state (as seen in the photo below)?

The time has come to prayerfully consider what we are doing in our churches and to ask some difficult questions. What is the purpose of the Church? If it exists for the glory of God alone (as I’m convinced Scripture says), then is our Church engaged in activity for the glorification of another? What does the Bible say about it? What would God have us do?

I look at the picture below and imagine what my reaction would be if it were in a slightly different context. What if that was a first century church? What if the American flag on the wall was an enormous painting of Caesar instead? What if those Christians were swearing loyalty to an earthly emperor in a place designated specifically for the worship of God? Would I then consider their behavior appropriate or biblical? More importantly, would God?

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About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

7 Responses to Patriotism or Nationalism?

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