"The day that patriotism ceases, that day we will have ceased to be a people."
On July 4, in a thousand hamlets, loyal Americans will march in parades as millions of their fellow citizens watch with pride. The passing of the Stars and Stripes will cause many backbones to stiffen and bring smart salutes from the military as well as the placing of hand over heart by those who pledge again their allegiance to "one nation under God."
But many of our people will offer no salutes, feel no sense of pride, and pledge no allegiance to the flag. Some will not respond because of indifference or calloused hearts. Others will be working to tear the fabric of our national life to shreds; to worsen, not heal, our sickness; to destroy, not to build; to bring disunity, not unity, to the nation. For them, patriotism is dead; love of country is archaic. Far from echoing the words of Stephen Decatur, "Our country, right or wrong," they will even refuse to say, "My country when it is right."
Christians ought to be the best citizens and the finest patriots. Certainly they have a prior allegiance to God Almighty. But this can only make them better Americans. They need not gloss over the nation's defects or sweep its failures under the rug. They need not claim that their country is always right. When it is right, they will support it; and when it is wrong, they will love it and work to correct it. Even as the Apostle Paul could speak proudly of his Roman citizenship, so should every American Christian speak proudly of his. The day that patriotism ceases, that day we will have ceased to be a people.
Patriotism is not dead; our nation is not finished. Let us rally behind our flag; let us love our country with all its faults; let us work to improve it with all our strength; let us defend it with all our resources; let us hand it on to generations unborn better than it was when we received it; let us instill in our children the hope of our forefathers for the ultimate fulfillment of their dreams. But above all, let us tell them that the greatness of America lies not simply in the achievement of the ideal but in the unrelenting pursuit of it.
A Christianity Today Editorial | posted 7/01/2001