Patriotism is one of the most powerful emotions on earth.
The word “patriotism” is a form of patria, meaning “father” or “love of the fatherland,” or homeland, a connection to one’s heritage.
Patriotism is evident in every country and culture around the globe. It does not matter whether, to you, home means desert, ice and snow, jungle or forest, mountains, or river bottom. Home is home, and what most people feel for the locale where they spent their youth translates to their sense of national identity, their country.
Paraphrasing the late philosopher Francis A. Schaeffer, we are real people in real space and time. We’re not ethereal spirits, so our physical place matters, and one aspect of being human is to develop an affectionate attachment to our place, home, and our country.
Biblical figures loved their homeland, and Scripture speaks often of the place – the homeland – which God would provide the people of Israel.
In Acts 17:26, Scripture tells us, “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.”
Bottom line: God decided whether you’d be an American, a Canadian, an Egyptian, or Chinese.
And the idea of a nation-state is clearly presented throughout Scripture, an entity that could organize government as God willed (Romans 13) to protect liberty and to establish law, order, and justice in a fallen world.
While the Word of God makes it clear that our love and loyalty must always and ultimately focus upon the Lord, there is nothing in Scripture that indicates expressing patriotic emotions for one’s country are wrong. Instead, Scripture provides us with admonishments to good attitude and behavior – “everything we need for a godly life” (2 Pet 1:2) – so that we may live a fulfilled and abundant life in any country.
So, to answer the question, “Is patriotism biblical?” we begin to understand it’s not patriotism per se that’s the issue, but how we manifest patriotism that requires our thoughtful consideration.
Perhaps this would be a good point to note that every country in the world is endowed with its own natural beauty. How can they not be? God created the earth. So, while Americans are understandably fond of our “amber waves of grain” and “purple mountain majesties,” internationals are proud of their country’s beauty, too.
What this means is that a sophisticated understanding of patriotism sees it not just as a love of a country’s topography but, more importantly, of its ideals – what the country stands for.
This is where moral judgments can indeed be made, and different feelings about patriotism expressed.
For example, there are countries that suppress human life, liberty, dignity, and freedom of religion and speech, i.e., North Korea, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Syria, and more.
Contrast the human rights (God-given, sometimes called natural rights or, as the Declaration of Independence says, “unalienable rights”) record of these countries with most of the Western democracies including, especially, the U.S.
While the U.S.A. has had its problems, e.g., a Civil War fought over slavery and our imperfect record as human beings. Still, the trajectory of American culture and politics has been to offer more and more of its citizenry their rightful freedoms and opportunities. America, for all its shortcomings, blessedly remains the freest country on earth.
Meanwhile in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the regional focus of SAT-7’s Christian broadcast and online video ministry, basic human rights are under duress in ways that push beyond the pressures we endure in the States. But again, our MENA friends love their countries and express great patriotic feelings for them, even while they recognize that some of those countries suppress their citizens’ lives.
Our hope for our international MENA friends is the same as our hope for our American friends, that they would hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that they would enjoy the blessings God intended for His created free people.
Patriotism at its best is a moral enterprise, an expression of a people’s ideals and aspirations relating to their homeland, self-understanding, and transcendent national vision.
Is patriotism biblical? Based upon God’s Word, yes, patriotism can be biblical. Patriotism becomes unbiblical when it is perverted to evil ends.
This July 4th, let’s express our patriotic gratitude for the gift of freedom; spiritually provided for us in the sacrifice and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ, and politically provided for us in the sacrifice of those who gave the last full measure so that we may live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Then, as inscribed on the Liberty Bell, let’s “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10).
Dr. Rex Rogers
President, SAT-7 USA