On this 4th of July weekend, I exhort you, American preachers, do not take Uncle Sam into the pulpit. Carefully consider how you plan worship for this Sunday.
A good place to start would be: do not sing “America the Beautiful” or “My Country Tis of Thee”
Do not put more flags around the pulpit than you already have (and if you have any take them out!)
Do not adorn your sanctuary in red, white and blue or pass out “I love America buttons” on the way out of the service.
While I know there is so much cultural pressure to do so, please, oh please, do none of these things.
Or if you do, AT LEAST think theologically through WHY you do them first.
Think about what it means to say, “land where my father’s died; land of the pilgrim pride“– is our faith about conquest and battle? What about loving all of our neighbors?
Think about the values of our American history– whose lands did the first settlers “have” that was not theirs to take? Who did we enslave so that we could prosper as a nation so quickly?
Think about what it means to elevate the supremacy of Americans– do we really think we’re better human beings just because we were born in America? Is our faith one of exclusion?
The way I see it, patriotism is not bad when in the right context. There are rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship in any land.
The United States of America is a wonderful country. Like so many, I know I would not be in the position I am in today without the rights and freedoms that have come with my American citizenship. A little blue passport can really get you anywhere in the world that you want to go . . .
BUT, faith, my friends is an entirely different topic. Separation of church and state anyone?
Throughout the gospels, Jesus never links our faith to our country of origin or vice versa. There were clear lines of distinction between what was “Caesar’s” (i.e. the nation) and what was “God’s.” Jesus and the Apostle Paul remind us over and over again that our citizenship is in heaven, not on earth.
And as faith leaders, we ought to model these different priorities.
We ought to show how God loves not only those who live and work in places close to us, both those far away too. We ought to carefully consider the laws and rules of our land as they hurt the most vulnerable among us both in our country and outside. To love our country more than we love our God, is so very wrong.
So, American preacher friends and church leaders, go on with business as usual. Do what you do every Sunday.
Worship God with thanksgiving for the freedoms we have in our nation to do so.
Pray for our country’s leaders that they may have the wisdom they need to led us in moral paths.
Consider opportunities to care for those who have come home from war or are in military posts of service right now.
There is a time and place for everything.
By all means celebrate the 4th of July. Just don’t do so in church.