By Bob Russell
This coming Thursday is July 4th. While we still go through the motions of celebrating Independence Day as a national holiday, there really isn’t much patriotic fervor anymore. There aren’t many grand parades or moving speeches about the glories of the American Revolution. In churches there aren’t many rousing patriotic services or informative sermons on America’s spiritual heritage.
An Ambivalent Nation
Frank Gaffney Jr. recently told Bill Bennett’s radio audience about an experiment performed at a high school assembly. A guest speaker asked the student body, “What do you think of your football team?” The teenagers went crazy. “What do you think of your teachers?” They again cheered wildly, although there were a few catcalls. Then he asked, “What do you think of your country?” There was dead silence.
Gaffney pointed out that the educational system and the liberal media have focused so much on America’s flaws (slavery, racism, wars, greed, and so on) that the younger generation has very little appreciation for the USA. They don’t hate it necessarily; they’re just ambivalent.
Not surprisingly, an increasing number of church leaders regard patriotic services and the display of the American flag as idol worship. “We would never sing, ‘God Bless America’ in our church,” one young minister admitted. “We want God to bless all nations, not just America.”
It’s argued that our focus should be on our relationship with God and not national loyalty. After all, “God isn’t up in Heaven, wrapped in an American flag and singing ‘God bless America.’ He’s the God of every tribe, every tongue, every nation.”
A Grateful Nation
From my perspective, giving thanks for America on July 4th is not worshipping America any more than honoring your mother on Mother’s Day is worshipping your mother. To be patriotic is to acknowledge that while America isn’t perfect, God has poured out incredible blessings on this land.
America has an exceptional foundation. What other revolutionary army has a memory of its general on his knees in the snow? What other nations’ founders stopped their initial deliberations to have a prayer meeting? What other nation has the words “endowed by their Creator” written in its charter or “In God we trust” stamped on its currency or has freedom of religion as the first of its Bill of Rights?
America has been given exceptional resources. Upon arrival the Pilgrims were so impressed with the trees, rivers, and natural resources that they described it as a “goodly land.” It’s been estimated that America has 6 percent of the world’s population and 50 percent of the world’s wealth. If every good gift comes from God, shouldn’t we be thankful?
Our nation has an exceptional history of benevolence. When natural disasters have occurred in other countries, America often responds quicker and more generously than any other country.
It has an exceptional spirituality. Though the percentage of people who believe in God and attend church regularly is declining, still more people worship God in America than in most any nation in the world. President Ronald Reagan once said, “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
People of all nations are loved equally by God, but as anyone who has ever visited a third-world country knows, not all nations are equal. The psalmist promised, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). And he warned, “The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God” (9:17).
To be patriotic on July 4th is simply to thank God for the abundance he has poured out on this land. It is to express appreciation for those who have sacrificed so much to provide for our unprecedented freedom. It is to join with our forefathers in pledging our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to ensure that future generations will have the same privileges we have had. Not to do so is to be blind to God’s goodness, and it denigrates the blood that was shed to make America free.
Bob Russell is the retired senior minister of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky. Copyright 2013 by Bob Russell. Permission to
copy this column may be obtained by writing Debbie Carper, Southeast Christian Church, 920 Blankenbaker Pkwy, Louisville, KY 40243.