Sunday, July 02, 2006

Random Thoughts about Patriotism: Where Do You Pledge Allegiance?

I'm proud (I certainly hope with a positive kind of pride) to have lived overseas, and to have raised my children with a focus that goes beyond the borders of our country. Tuesday is the 4th of July, and so it is to be expected to hear patriotic sermons in our churches on days like this.

This morning at church, right before the message, we had special music. It was written by Michael W. Smith:

Michael W. Smith - There She Stands Lyrics

When the night
Seems to say
All hope is lost
But i know
I'm not alone
By the
She stands

There she waves
Shimmering stars
Westward wind
Show the
Carry me
To the place
She stands

Just when you think it might be over
Just when you think
the fight is gone
Someone will risk his life to raise
There she stands

There she flies
blue skies
Reminds us with red
Of those that died
Washed in white
By the brave
In their strength
She stands

When evil calls itself a martyr
When all your hopes come crashing down
Someone will pull
her from the rubble
There she stands

seen her flying torn and tattered
We've seen her stand
the test of time
And through it all the fools have
There she stands

By the dawn's
Early light
And through the fight
She stands

Being a rather critical sort, I wondered where the gospel appears in the song. I also wondered how such patriotic songs come across to non-US citizens. Within our fellowship, we have some international students. I'm reminded of a chorus that we sang when I was a kid: "This world is not my home. I'm just a-passing through." The Apostle Paul spoke of a citizenship that trumps our Fatherland:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Eph 2:19-20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

I love my country, and I can get moist eyes when contemplating the flag. I suppose it is even appropriate to have patriotic sermons on the Sunday before the 4th of July. I just wondered how it might strike foreigners among our fellowship.

Our preacher today was Kevin Klein, longtime staff member at College Hts. church . He began with some facts about Lady Liberty, who stands in front of Ellis Island in New York. The Statue of Liberty is a symbol for many of the world's tired and poor, who have found refuge within our shores. Last week, Rose and I celebrated our anniversary by going to Branson. We attended Yakov Smirnoff's show for the very first time (I've wanted to see him for years). Yakov and his parents came to the U.S. in the 1970's. He became a U.S. citizen in 1986. After the terrorist attacks on 9-11-2001, Yakov painted a huge mural that was on display at Ground Zero. Yakov, who understands what it means to be a foreigner living in America, is very thankful to be an American. He has made the phrase, "What a country!" to be one of his trademarks. In Russia he was an art teacher, and since becoming a U.S. citizen, many of his paintings have reflected on the Statue of Liberty (see below).

Kevin Klein did a fine job in highlighting Lady Liberty, but moved on to the more important point, of highlighting what he called Lady Church! You see, in the Pauline text above, readers moved from being foreigners (aliens and strangers), to being "fellow citizens". As he remarks in Philippians 3:20, "our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we a wait a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Therefore, when given the chance, I pledge allegiance to the flag. We are called to be good citizens of the fatherland (I'm thinking in Spanish as I use that word--the word I wanted to use is patria). I must understand, that my higher allegiance is not to a fatherland or to a flag that represents it, but to a King! I must also understand that being a citizen of one (of the U.S.A.) does not make me a citizen of the King's kingdom.

Kevin cited Dr. James Kennedy's book, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?, highlighting how it has been the positive influence of the church that has positively impacted civilization. The following major components of life are better because of the positive leavening influence of the church:

  • Value of human life
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Science
  • Representative Government
  • Fair Trade
  • Art, Music and Literature
Jim Garlow has a similar idea in his book How God Saved Civilization: The Epic Story of God Leading His People the Church. If you take the influence of the church out of the world, this place would be a sorry place in deed.

So on Tuesday, I will be thankful for those who paid the price for the freedom we enjoy. I will pray for our soldiers that are in harm's way. But I will give greater thanks to God, who has taken me from being a stranger and an alien, and has made me a citizen of the Patria Celestial!

No comments: