How Patriotic is too Patriotic?

When my husband and I moved to Texas 7+ years ago, I experienced more culture shock than anticipated.

Have you seen that bumper sticker that says “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as quickly as I could”? Well…that wasn’t on our car.

Some joke that “everything is bigger in Texas.” It’s surprising how sometimes even little things contribute to that perception. I opened the mailbox one afternoon, and out popped our new car insurance cards. They were 4 times the size of any other I had ever seen thus far in my life!

This also applies to the patriotism of Texans. I’ve always thought I was patriotic, but after seeing a Christmas display of an American Flag covering an entire lawn I begin to wonder.

“I am confused about how this strong Texan pride works with the strong patriotic vibe,” I told a native Texan at my new church.

“Well, it’s simple” he said with an ironic laugh. “We think we’re the best state in the best country in the world.”

Now, it’s not wrong to love your country (or your state). Feeling ties to your roots is natural, but how patriotic is too patriotic for a Christ follower?

A survey done by Lifeway Research in 2016 indicates that 53% of Protestant pastors (across the US and including a wide demographic range) think their “congregation sometimes seem to love America more than God.” Ouch!

Another survey done in 2015 suggests that over half of Americans believe “God has a special relationship with the US.” Some even go so far as to say America’s relationship with God is like His relationship with Israel in the Old Testament; though ironically, most evangelical professors and OT scholars do not teach this.

If this research is even a little bit true, what does this mean for Christians in America? Are we conveying the “clear and simple” gospel message or polluting it with overzealous patriotism?

Think for a moment about Jesus words to a crowd following him: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26­–27).

These words sound confusing at first, right? In other passages, God tells us to love our neighbor. But the thing is, our love for God is to be so great that it defies the very bounds of our love. Our love for Him is to be so great that the only way to even begin comprehending the difference is to use the analogy of “hating your family.” Are you really to hate them? No, but our love for God is so much more that on a sliding scale of comparisons it almost seems that way.

Perhaps we Americans need to consider some of Jesus’ words from a new angle: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own country, yes, even America, he cannot be My disciple….”

Do I love my country? Yes. Will I celebrate America’s 241 years with fireworks? Absolutely.

Will I love God infinitely more? Always.
Questions for Thought:

  • How would others who don’t know me very well view my allegiance to Christ versus my allegiance to my country? What stands out first?
  • Am I quicker to share the gospel or my political beliefs?
  • Do I refuse to associate with people who have different political opinions from my own?
  • How often am I praying for my own government and leaders around the world?
  • How am I partnering with my brothers and sisters in the global church to spread the gospel?