Love Them Patriots
February 12th, 2007 by Sonja

When Phil first sent out a list of possible blog titles for this LoveFest, “Love Them Patriots,” was among them. I found this hilarious and attempted to poke some lame-o fun at Phil. The Patriots (football team) were still in the play-offs and he does live in Massachusetts. I don’t know if he follows football at all, but no one took me up on my silly joke. 😀

I also wondered if this title had anything to do with “loving” those sorts of people who make proclamations like, “my country right or wrong,” with lots of bluster and dare to you to face them down. I sighed deep in my soul, this was a description of my maternal grandfather and, while I loved him, I found his attitude hard to love. How does one love a patriot? How does that happen in our current environment, where “my country right or wrong,” seems to be the attitude required of us?

A short time later I was doing some other research and found this quote by Gandhi. It put patriotism in an entirely new light:

For me patriotism is the same as humanity. I am patriotic because I am human and humane. It is not exclusive, I will not hurt England or Germany to serve India. Imperialism has no place in my scheme of life. The law of a patriot is not different from that of the patriarch. And a patriot is so much the less a patriot if he is a lukewarm humanitarian. There is no conflict between private and political law. ~Mohandas Gandhi~

I remembered as I read this quote that the root word of patriotism is patros or father in Latin. The meaning of the word may be reduced to a love for the fatherland. Or it may be as rich and textured as this quote which is attributed to Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine:

There are two visions of America. One precedes our founding fathers and finds its roots in the harshness of our puritan past. It is very suspicious of freedom, uncomfortable with diversity, hostile to science, unfriendly to reason, contemptuous of personal autonomy. It sees America as a religious nation. It views patriotism as allegiance to God. It secretly adores coercion and conformity. Despite our constitution, despite the legacy of the Enlightenment, it appeals to millions of Americans and threatens our freedom.

The other vision finds its roots in the spirit of our founding revolution and in the leaders of this nation who embraced the age of reason. It loves freedom, encourages diversity, embraces science and affirms the dignity and rights of every individual. It sees America as a moral nation, neither completely religious nor completely secular. It defines patriotism as love of country and of the people who make it strong. It defends all citizens against unjust coercion and irrational conformity.

This second vision is our vision. It is the vision of a free society. We must be bold enough to proclaim it and strong enough to defend it against all its enemies.

This definition of patriotism is uniquely American and has it roots in the United States and our history. But how does patriotism flourish in other countries? What does it look like to be a patriot in France? or Italy? We have some new friends who have moved here from Italy. The husband is American and spent 15 years in Italy. The wife is Italian and the children were born in Italy and are now spending part of their lives here. They are neither quite American nor quite Italian anymore either.

So what of all of this? In the face of this, should I be a patriot first or a resident of the Kingdom of God first? How does one who claims to follow Christ order his or her life in terms of the claims of patriotism on our soul or on our physical being? Where is my fatherland these days?

I think about these things every now and again especially in the face of the rampant nationalism and patriotism that is filling the airwaves of our culture these days. Some of this nationalism is turning a bit ugly. It has the potential to make us ugly. To turn our hearts two sizes too small in the words of the immortal Grinch. Fear has the potential to do that. Our hearts shrivel while our swagger prospers. It is a sad commentary.

It is tempting to lay claim entirely to Kingdom patriotism. To declare that the Kingdom of God is my fatherland, I have no land in the here and now, it is entirely in the hereafter and the not yet. Or maybe sometimes. This would be somewhat easy. And somewhat arrogant. It would make for an elevated understanding of the the Gospels and I would be able to point my finger in the faces of many American Christians who are currently getting it “all wrong.” At least, according to me.

On the other hand, that does not take into account the substantial direction in the Bible to place myself under the authority of a human government. That I am to have some form of loyalty to this government and responsibility towards it. That I must render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and render unto God the things which are His.

So. Now I am back substantially where I began. Feeling as though I have my feet in both worlds. Feeling, I imagine, somewhat like our new friends. Not really American yet, neither are they really Italian anymore either. That is me. Not really in the Kingdom yet, but longing for it to come and not really American anymore either. I can’t quite wholly give myself over to the desires of my nation. To paraphrase Gandhi, I cannot hurt Iraq to serve the United States, nor vice versa. My horizon is bigger than that now. And it is smaller. “I am patriotic because I am human and humane.” It has allowed me to see my fellow humans with through the lens of God.

Thus I can see the fear that drives the nationalism, protectionism, jingoism, and even xenophobia. If I could, I would rise up and remind us all that perfect love drives out fear. There are not enough weapons, enough armor; creating fear in others does not beget peace. It begets more fear, more hate and more violence. Finding space to love, on the other hand, pushes out fear, hate and violence. Creating space in which to see that the very people we fear are, in fact, people. Just people. Just like us. They have the same dreams for their children and themselves as we do. They are driven by the same desires as we are. If we can find it in our hearts to love them patriots too, to allow that perfect love to drive out fear, we will be serving both our fatherland and our Fatherland at one and the same time.

Here is a list of my fellow SynchroBloggers. Please visit them and read what they have to say on the subject of love this month:

Christian Sexuality as Ritual Worship at Phil Wyman’s Square No More

Christians: choosing who to love at Mike’s Musings

Loving God, Loving others, loving self- responding to the Goddess- a feminist perspective at Eternal Echoes

Trinity by Mike Crockett

Prophet’s Passion at Adam Gonnerman’s Igneous Quill

A Love Supreme from Fernando’s Desk

What is this thing called love? at Steve’s Notes from the Underground

Love as it should pertain to us missionally? at Webb’s Stumbling into the Kingdom

Divine Eros by Handmaid Leah

Loving the Other by John Smulo

The Conjunction Between Sensuality and Spirituality by Matt Stone

The Blogger Whom Jesus Loved at Jamie’s More Than Stone

I’m a better lover than I used to be… by Billy Calderwood

Young people in on love by Tim Abbot

The Art of Making Love….and Soap at Cindy’s Tracking the Edge

Being Missional: Love Comes Before Power by David Fisher at Be the Revolution

9 Responses  
  • sally writes:
    February 12th, 20077:00 amat

    Interesting post- looking at both sides of patriotism, whilst it can be negative it can also be positive- the challenge is not to “otherise” people or see them less than ourselves- but rather to seek to love.
    Thanks for this

  • Phil Wyman writes:
    February 12th, 20077:59 amat

    Being from San Diego I was following the Chargers actually, and that turned on me here in New England. Good thing I don’t follow football too closely.

    I think Rabbi Wine gives the Puritans a bad rap, and misunderstands them as a group, but there definitely was a bit o’ fear in some of the colonial leaders.

    I too have wondered about Patriotism in other nations, and found it in places where oppression historically ruled over a nation. For Americans it is a history of a fight for freedom, whihc came at the hands of those forward thinking Founding Fathers. The English do ot have the same sense generally of Patriotism, but in my time in Wales I have found that they do, often as a result of a history of oppression at the hands of the English. This seems to be true likewise for the Scottish and the Irish. Could it be that deep love of country is often birthed out of struggle? It hold true for the Jewish people it seems, and this holds a less insidious picture than a simple jingoism.

  • Steve Hayes writes:
    February 12th, 20078:42 amat

    I am reminded of a hymn by Peter Abelard

    Now in the meanwhile, with hearts raised on high
    We for that country must yearn and must sigh
    Seeking Jerusalem, dear native land
    Through our long exile on Babylon’s strand.

    And the bit in the Epistle to Diognetus — every fatherland is a foreign country, and every foreign country is a fatherland.

    There is a difference between patriotism and chauvinism.

    We can, and should, love our country, but when we reach the stage of “my c ountry, right or wrong” that has tipped the balance from patriotism to chauvinism, and becomes idolatry.

  • Adam G. writes:
    February 12th, 20079:39 amat

    Brazilians have taught me a lot about partriotism. They laugh if you ever use the word “patriot” as, in their corrupt political climate, they associate it with a quixotic love for an imaginary ideal. But in truth, I find the Brazilians to be naturally patriotic in another way…Brazilians love Brazil. The Brazilian immigrants I know wish they could make a living in Brazil, and Brazilians in general have been known to say things like “God is Brazilian.” Their quite love of country, but not their government or history, comes out with great fervor and even glee every few years at the World Cup of Soccer (football for you non-US folk). Brazilians love their country, but respect other countries and are generally very good at welcoming the stranger (foreigners). It is, therefore, entirely possible in my view to love nation and country without seeking the ill of others and without blindly endorsing goverment’s choices. And for the Christian, the Gospel is that Christ is Lord (not Blair, Bush, Lula or any other human authority).

  • jamie writes:
    February 12th, 20079:43 amat

    I love the “tension” that you were able to describe. Having a foot in each place. I think if we could all find the balance in tightrope walking, we might have something.

  • David writes:
    February 12th, 20072:15 pmat

    Nicely said. Good post. That’s one of the best I’ve read concerning this issue.

  • Tim Abbott writes:
    February 12th, 20074:48 pmat

    Do we too easily confuse ‘nation’ for government? The first disciples were commissioned to “make disciples of all nations”, ‘nations’ in the Greek being ‘ethnos’ from which we get the word ethnic. Jesus was sending his followers to every people group, not to nation states. It’s hard today to hear the word ‘nation’ and think not of government and foreign policy and states and borders, but of people – groups of people who have lives and loves and everyday human desires.
    You’ve touched an important subject and brought it alive.

  • John writes:
    February 13th, 200710:00 pmat

    Hi, Im from Melbourne.
    These 2 references give a unique understanding of the scourge of patriotism. Especially in this day and age in which it is completely obvious (even geneticall) that humanity is one species—that is we are all members of the same family. And in this QUANTUM AGE of total interconnectedness, all quite literally living in the same boat.
    We are ALL quite literally going to sink or swim together.


  • Calacirian » My Best of 2007 - A Bakers Dozen writes:
    December 28th, 20077:03 pmat

    […] – Comestible Consumption Competition – Day 8 February – Love Them Patriots March – Leaving Oz April – The People Known As the Bride of Christ May – Perspectives On Women […]

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