A few days ago, the U.S. calendar said it was “Flag Day.” I’m unaware of any particular celebration of this day, but I did just learn that, 240 years ago in 1777, the country adopted the first version of the flag that became known as the “Stars and Stripes.” This fact is mildly interesting, but I must confess that I’ve been more energetic this past week toward a book titled Stars and Strikes—about the 1976 Major League Baseball season. During that year of the country’s Bicentennial activities, the sport that gets listed along with (the quintessentially “American”) hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet had some notable goings-on of its own. The book makes a middleweight effort at connecting a list of popular 70s songs with baseball and patriotism, but its main sources of interest for me are the stories of the baseball stars I knew as a kid.
Now, in 2017, baseball is nowhere near the most popular American sport. The sportswriters seem to begrudge it a spot on page 3 or 4 of the sports section in major newspapers. I suppose baseball would still be among the top 5 American sports in most lists, somewhere behind pro football and perhaps college basketball. Hunting and fishing are supposedly the activities of “sportsmen,” but those activities aren’t even on my list at all. (I’m getting to the point.)
Where is baseball or football on your list of favorite sports to watch or participate in? It doesn’t ultimately matter. Where is patriotism in your list of virtues? That doesn’t matter, either.
A good work ethic? Commitment to family? Yes.
Honesty and integrity? Absolutely.
Devotion to God and to the scriptures? Of course, for the believer.
These will be high on most lists, and rightly so. Patriotism may also be found among the top 5 or 10 for many good folks, but for Christians, patriotism must not be seen as an imperative. No matter how much country musicians may seek to promote a list of favorites such as flag-waving, “God,” Miller Lite™, and the good life, the real connections are weak to nonexistent.
When I am at my best, I will allow no secular area of interest—a patriotic fervor for the U.S. flag or a love of baseball or a national craze for football or whatever else—to approach the level of commitment I feel or exhibit to God and His Kingdom. In a secular context, patriotism is typically thought of as one of several inherently positive qualities for citizens/persons, but it must not be on the same playing field as Christian commitment for anyone who seriously professes Christianity.
Consider the following succinct treatment of patriotism. I resonate with it, insofar as it goes, and I particularly appreciate where it ends.
[To view the whole list of “Sins Christians Are Starting To Ignore,” go here.]
If a confessing Christian ever exerts pressure on a Christian sister or brother to be patriotic, that pressure is potentially divisive and therefore sinful. If patriotism is over-exuded by a well-meaning Christian who hasn’t the discernment to understand that it is not in the same “ballpark of virtues” with allegiance to Jesus Christ, the list that includes patriotism as a Christian virtue should be be changed. At least one item should be stricken and put on a different list. It must always and forever be clear that one allegiance is allegiance indeed, and the other (patriotism) may be felt, or not felt, to one degree or another, with no pressure at all on (or from) a person of faith.
B. Casey, 6/11/17-6/17/17