It's Memorial Day weekend! And that means several things. It means that the Indianapolis 500 was this afternoon. It means that a lot of pools open up for the summer. It means that a lot of people will be having a cookout to celebrate the season. And it means that at church today, we had the obligatory annual singing of "America" and "America the Beautiful."
I'm not a big fan of singing songs like this at church. Maybe it's just me, but it seems a little out of place to stand as a congregation and belt out verses like, "My native country thee/Land of the noble free/Thy name I love/I love thy rocks and rills/Thy woods and templed hills/My heart with rapture thrills/Like that above." Who am I supposed to be singing this to? I normally assume that worship at church is directed toward God, so is it really the place to sing praise choruses to the United States? (Granted, the fourth verse of "America" does talk quite a bit about God, but we didn't get to that one this morning.)
Way too often in our churches, I think we place God and America on twin pedestals. Sure, no one will say that, but it's shown in our actions and attitudes sometimes. After all, a good Christian is also a good American, right? We're meant to "serve God and country." But shouldn't one of those outweigh the other? People act like patriotism is a fruit of the Spirit, but I don't remember it being wedged between kindness and goodness.
For many, "Christian" and "American" have become synonymous terms. That doesn't seem accurate at all. I don't that that happening to be born in South Dakota makes a person an automatic follower of Christ. Heck, I don't even know that I would call America a Christian nation. Americans are some of the most materialistic, greedy, pluralistic people that I know of. We have fantastic religious freedom, and America is a great place for people to hear about Jesus, but it's also a great place for them to hear about how they don't need God or that they can be their own god. But maybe that's just how things are now. At least we have solid, Christian roots to lean back on, right? The Constitution and Declaration of Independence are basically canonical right? Even that may be a little debatable. Sure, some of the founding fathers were incredible men of faith, but it was hardly universal. Thomas Jefferson wasn't too fond of the notion that Jesus was divine and rose from the dead, so he produced an edited version of the gospels that left that stuff out. So before we promote all of the founding fathers to sainthood, maybe we should rethink things a little bit.
Don't get me wrong. I love the United States. I feel incredibly blessed to live here, and I'm indebted to those who have fought and sacrificed to give me the freedom that I enjoy. I'm not all that well-traveled, but I have been to a few places, and it makes me even thankful for what I have in America. I've got resources and safety and liberties that most people in the world do not. I hope that God uses America to do great things in the world. But at the same time, I recognize that God is bigger than my country. The church is bigger than my country. My ultimate task in life is not to be a flag-waving patriot. It's to act like Jesus and work for his kingdom.
I can't imagine that there's many veterans that read my blog. But if you're out there, I truly do salute you, and I have a great amount of gratitude for you. I'm all about sitting comfortably on my couch at home, so I can't really imagine what it's like to be out there defending the freedom of others. I hope you all have a splendid Memorial Day and that you eat lots of hot dogs and play plenty of lawn games. On Tuesday, I'm off to Manhattan to start my summer internship, so please be praying for that, and for all the other people out there that are doing internships and missions trips.
I went to the Narnia exhibit in Kansas City yesterday. I really wanted to try to steal C.S. Lewis' pipe.