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When Patriotism Goes Wrong

There was a movement of peaceful public protest today during sporting events all across our country and for some reason we are not happy about it. Oh, I’m not naive. I know the reasons. I’m just stating that the reasons may be irrational. Before you sharpen the pitchforks and light the torches, please hear me out.

I love my country and my heart is wrenched for each and every person that laid down their life that I can be free. I have family that serves in the military and I love them for it. I have close friends that serve on the police force as well and I honor all of them for the courage they show each and every day. They make life and death decisions in an instant that we never have to deal with. They should be celebrated, not tolerated. I mourn for families who have lost so much because of the wars that are fought and the sacrifices made. I honor our VETS and I agree with President Trump that we should be doing more for them. I don’t disagree with any of these things. My contention as a follower of Jesus Christ is this:

Patriotism should not prevail at the cost of injustice.

After all, the Nazi’s were quite patriotic. I’m not saying “Don’t honor the flag and country and those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.” We should absolutely honor them. I’m saying we should be MORE upset at the injustice that is happening within the freedom we’ve fought so hard to possess.

We fought so that people can be free, yet all too often we turn a blind eye to the injustice that is happening all around us. Just in case you think this is a blog on racial injustice alone, you’re wrong. I’m talking about social injustice as a whole. Protecting the orphans, rescuing those imprisoned in human trafficking, and fighting for those aborted each and every day with no say in the matter.

I believe that humanity is the only thing with eternal value worth fighting for. I believe if you are truly patriotic than you would not want your country to be identified with the various acts of injustice that rampantly occur. If we were truly patriotic then we would not just speak up when it’s trendy but live a life dedicated to social justice. We would be social justice missionaries.

These, however, are beliefs that are connected with my faith and if you are not a person who believes in Jesus Christ, the conversation may end there. Because I believe in Jesus, I also believe He is the only way to social justice, restoration, and redemption. Every other avenue fails as our flesh deposits seed into the patriotic soil. Pride will always emerge, as will greed and selfish ambition. James was clear that after desire has conceived it gives birth to sin, and sin, when fully grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:15).

The Apostle Paul declared, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4). James also declared that at the end of selfish ambition was every evil practice.

So why are people so angry? Because of tradition. We have been taught that the only way to honor our country and those who have died for it is to stand for the flag and anthem, so that is exactly what we do. Our default then is to assume that those who do not stand are being disrespectful and dishonoring our nation and those who sacrificed themselves for the freedom within. But this is EXACTLY why those who are kneeling are doing so. I would submit that it is BECAUSE they honor those who have fallen and given their lives for our freedom that they kneel. In some form or fashion they (or someone they know) have not received the very freedom that should be afforded them. Mind you, these are peaceful protests where nothing is destroyed. Nobody is injured. Nothing is broken. Men stood arm in arm and on one knee BECAUSE they love this country. We cannot condemn the violent acts of protest and then turn a hateful eye to the peaceful ones protesting the same issue.

That being said, this is not an either/or display of protest. The one who stands at the National Anthem honors those who have sacrificed this country, but that does NOT mean that the one who kneels dishonors this country. Likewise, just because you stand during the anthem and flag does not mean you are dishonoring those who are on the receiving end of social injustice, correct?

Well what’s the difference then? Action and Inaction. Our standing for the flag, while honoring our country and those who have sacrificed for our freedom, does nothing to stand for those who are mistreated. Those who are kneeling are at least drawing attention to the injustices. They may not be on the receiving end of injustice, but is that really the point? When did socioeconomic status become the determining factor for morality? It’s ludicrous to think that we would disqualify righteous actions because of a pay scale. I would hope that no matter our background, race, or status we would want people to stand for the freedom this country provides, even if it means kneeling.

I believe if we cared for our brothers and sisters as much as we did our traditions, this country would be patriotic to the fullest. I also understand that nowhere in scripture does it mention the United States of America. It does, however, mention countless times our responsibility to our brother. If my brother is hurting, I’m going to stand with him. This is not an act of terrorism, rebellion, or disrespect. It’s a statement that I care more for my brother and biblical compassion than I do patriotism. I wish the two went hand in hand, but throughout history countries around the world have been patriotic unjustly.

In the Exodus chapter 17 a name of the Lord is revealed that we should keep in mind. That name is Yahweh Nissi – The Lord is my Banner. A banner identifies a group of people. Today, for instance, we fly the United States Flag. We do so at sporting events and gatherings around the United States so that others can see who we are and where we are from. That banner, that flag, stands for freedom.

As believers, we must understand that the United States Flag should never replace our true Banner – God Almighty. If injustice is happening under our banner (US Flag) than our responsibility is to the greater Banner, Jesus Christ. We are to bind up the broken-hearted, not question the validity of their brokenness as it compares to our tradition.

Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” If we’re not careful, we’ll begin calling righteous things unrighteous, and compassionate things disrespectful.

I’m all for honor, reverence, and patriotism, inasmuch as my country exhibits the characteristics of Christ. This is why I believe you can kneel for injustice and still passionately embrace, honor, and love those who have given so much that we may be free.

Despite the headline, don’t misinterpret my heart. I’m not comparing the United States to the fascist, racist nationalist movement of Nazism. Not by a long shot. Yet they made many appeals to the nationalistic pride that creaked opened the door to demonic influence and violence. May we learn from their mistakes and fly the banner of Christ higher than the banner of man and kneel with our brothers if it means our nation is stronger, more unified, and more Christ-Like because of it.

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