Embracing True Patriotism: A Reflection on Independence Day and the Risks of Christian Nationalism

I share our Bishop’s concern about the rise of White Christian Nationalism and so I am continuing my writing on this topic that started on Memorial Day weekend, finding Independence Day to be apropos. Beyond the fireworks, parades, and social gatherings that marked our observance of this important day it’s important to consider how we can continue to honor our country’s principles while remaining vigilant against ideologies that distort them, such as Christian Nationalism. Let me take a moment to define the distinctions and ground us in our faith.

Understanding Patriotism

Patriotism is a deep love for, and commitment to, one’s country. It is a desire to see one’s nation thrive, uphold justice, and provide freedom for all its citizens. True patriotism acknowledges one’s country’s strengths while also seeking to address its flaws. It is about celebrating national identity without succumbing to exclusionary or supremacist ideologies.

The Distinction Between Patriotism and Christian Nationalism

While patriotism is inclusive and focuses on the common good, Christian Nationalism intertwines national identity with specific religious beliefs, often at the expense of pluralism and equality. In our updated Social Principles, we note, Christian Nationalism can “distort the Christian faith into a form of political identity that marginalizes others and elevates one’s own nation and culture”. This ideology often leads to the exclusion of those who do not fit its narrow definition of who belongs.

Christian Nationalism can manifest as an insistence that the United States was founded as a “Christian nation” and should be governed according to a specific interpretation of Christianity. This belief undermines the foundational American principle of religious freedom and threatens the diverse fabric that makes our nation strong.

Celebrating Independence Day with Inclusivity

In reflecting on Independence Day, I think we need to celebrate the ideals of freedom, justice, and equality that our nation strives to uphold. Our Social Principles call us to “reject laws, policies and social practices that marginalize, discriminate and/or encourage the use of violence against individuals, communities or other social groups based on perceived racial, ethnic or tribal differences.”

To honor this call, we can celebrate Independence Day by engaging in actions that promote inclusivity and justice. This can include participating in community service, advocating for policies that protect the rights of all citizens, and educating ourselves about the diverse histories and contributions of various groups within our nation. But this isn’t just a secular or philosophical exercise.

Scriptural Guidance

In Romans 13:1-7, Paul teaches about the importance of respecting and submitting to governing authorities, emphasizing that they are established by God for the purpose of maintaining order and justice. This passage reminds us that our love for country should be expressed through a commitment to the common good and the pursuit of justice.

Similarly, Micah 6:8 calls us to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.” These principles guide us to approach our patriotism with humility and a dedication to justice for all, rather than elevating our nation above others or conflating our religious beliefs with national identity.

Moving Forward

As we move forward from Independence Day, let us strive to embody a patriotism that is inclusive, just, and reflective of our Christian values. We can celebrate our nation’s achievements while also working towards a future where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. This includes being vigilant against the rise of Christian Nationalism, which can erode the principles of freedom and equality that are at the heart of our national identity.

By embracing true patriotism, we celebrate the ideals that make our nation great and commit to fostering a society that upholds justice, equality, and freedom for all. In doing so, we honor the spirit of Independence Day and ensure that our love for country aligns with the inclusive and just teachings of our faith.

Blessings to you all as we journey together in faith.