Here we are again on the 4th of July. The weather is warm, most of us don't have to work, cookouts rule the day, and fireworks will fill the night.
How should American Christians handle this holiday? What is our appropriate response?
Answer: I don't know. This is not an issue where I think I can speak for all followers of Christ. Instead, I'm simply going to tell you how I react to the holiday in particular and patriotism in general.
I'm thankful to God to live in the USA. This does not mean that I think our country is somehow better than other countries. Rather, I'm simply happy to have the freedoms we have. For example, yesterday we gathered together with our church family. I'm happy that we didn't have to worry about secret police knocking down our door (may we pray for our Christian brothers and sisters overseas who face this form of persecution).
I believe the freedoms we have in the USA, such as those in the Bill of Rights, are a good outworking in a secular state of Christian principles. I'm pleased to live under these laws.
As for the 4th of July, I'm thrilled to have the day off from work to spend with family and friends. We are going to hang out today with my parents at their home on the other side of Savannah. We'll play in the pool, eat goodies, read books, play games, and rest. Good times.
Although I'm thankful to live in the USA, I unequivocally do not love my country. I do not love any country for that matter. As I look in the bible, I don't see any hint of patriotism anywhere in Christ's teachings or in the functioning of the early church. Rather, we are exiles whose citizenship is in heaven. These comments may anger some American Christians. Their response is usually that I should then move to some other country. Where would I go? God made me be born in the USA. I don't love any country any more than this one.
I do not celebrate my country. I do not take part in any form of USA patriotic parties or anything else of that sort. I'm not interested in politics. I even struggle anymore to say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the Star Spangled Banner. The USA does not in general stand for Christian principles. Instead, it is humanistic, functionally atheistic, capitalistic individualism that rules the day.
As for the military, I would probably refuse to fight under any circumstances. As I look at the teachings of Jesus Christ, I can't find anything that would justify taking up arms against other people. If the USA was attacked and I was defending my home, then I might think otherwise. Usually, however, the USA is attacking other countries; I can't have any part of that.
My wish is that the USA would have extremely minimal military involvement overseas. I'd love to see our country be a source of peace in this world instead of threatening others with the tip of the sword. Let's secure our borders and come up with a sensible immigration policy on a national level. Then let's bring our troops home.
I am thankful to those Americans in the military who have sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy. However, I call into question many of the military decisions that have thrust them into harm's way in the first place.
In the end, I'll celebrate on the 4th of July. The celebration will not be of the USA. Rather, I'm just going to enjoy being with people I love on a day off.