I was born in the United States and am a citizen of the USA. I did not choose this, but I am thankful to be here. However, I have important loyalties that are sometimes in conflict with the national priorities that stem from my government. My primary allegiance is not to the United States of America and I hope that is not considered treason. Allow me to explain.
There are some who may think people are either patriotic or not. However, like most things, patriotism is not black-and-white; it comes in many colors. There is a brand that leans toward altruism toward fellow countrymen, and another that pushes the boundaries of fascism. Some are convinced that our country is exceptional and can do no wrong. Many drag God into the mix with the slogan “God Bless America” which could be construed to mean “God damn everyone else.” If my patriotism causes me to love my neighbor, it is a good and worthy virtue. If it causes me to hate my enemy or those beyond my particular border, it is something quite different.
“The most patriotic thing we can do is to love our neighbor.”
~David Dark, from The Gospel According to America
To hate an enemy is one of the most natural human reactions. However, Jesus taught a better way, a way that is contrary to human nature – he teaches us to love our enemies, but this is far from natural. Patriotism doesn’t seem capable of motivating anyone to love an enemy. It must come from somewhere beyond nature… it is supernatural and requires a view that goes beyond what is visible. If, however, this material world is all you think you have and you believe there is nothing that transcends nature, then hating your enemy and trying to overcome evil with evil might be your only option. I don’t know.
“Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.”
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Patriotism gets complicated when one’s loyalties extend well beyond a national border. I belong to a kingdom that Jesus explained is “not of this world.” I also consider myself a patriotic earthling. I have loyalties to family and friends that supersede any obligation imposed on me by a temporary earthly kingdom. It seems that for a surprisingly large number of people, their primary allegiance is to their bank account.
Sometimes the forces at work in this country (and the social or national crises they exaggerate) try to pressure me to fear or hate fellow human beings. However, if my national patriotism encourages me to hate other people, I hope that I can pause and think that coercion through enough to see how it conflicts with more important values.
True, I am thankful to live in the United States where I have the “right” to publish my eccentric perspectives. But, rather than blindly jumping onto the bandwagon of nationalism and black-and-white patriotism, I would like to be encouraged to love all my neighbors, and even strive to love my enemies regardless of where they were born or where they live.
We are all global citizens yet find ourselves in different nations around the world. Indeed, there are many priorities that conflict with expected allegiances to our respective flags. May we prioritize our loyalties wisely.
“He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God: himself.” ~C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory