Patriotism is one of the strongest emotions human beings express, but it seems to come and go. What does patriotism mean in a more skeptical, jaded age? Should we express patriotism at all? And what does it mean when we do?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #31 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
I grew up in the 1950s and 60s. In the wake of WWII and the Korean War, the 50s was a decade of peace, prosperity, and patriotism. It was like a national take-a-break breather in which families freely celebrated their lives and loved ones. It was “Leave It To Beaver.”
Even though the Civil Rights Movement that benefited Black citizens did not occur until the mid-1960s, yet African Americans en masse were able to in-migrate from the Deep South to the industrial opportunities of northern cities like Detroit.
I remember watching “Adventures of Superman” starring George Reeves on black and white TV – “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Superman! Battling for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”
It seems that we aren’t sure any more about “the American Way.” In 2011, a Superman comic featured the “Man of Steel” renouncing his American citizenship to become a citizen of the world, ostensibly so his actions wouldn’t be viewed as a tool of American policy. More recently in 2021, DC Comics announced that the “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” motto would be changed to the rather lame “Truth, Justice and a Better Tomorrow.” So much for patriotism.
The 1960s weathered the Counter-culture movement, the beginning so the sexual revolution, assassinations, and of course, Viet Nam, producing rioting in the streets. Sex, drugs, and rock n roll. Make love, not war. One huge ripple from all this was a culture that no longer trusted political authority, questioned its country’s values, and laughed at what was once called the American Dream.
Fast forward to 2022, and after a relatively brief resurgence of patriotism in the awful aftermath of 9/11, we now find an American culture less apt to express patriotism than ever before.
Yes, the national anthem is still played at sports events and yes, politicians, still acknowledge American ideals, and yes, many Americans are still deeply patriotic – as are internationals with respect to their own countries – but a profound social tension exists in the 21st Century between those historically expressed American ideals and what people consider their incomplete fulfillment.
Some Americans hear talk about “justice for all,” or “all are created equal” and roll their eyes. They consider America a fraud, a source of systemic injustice. Their anti-American vitriol seems to believe that the U.S. has done nothing right, nor can it, that it is prima facie guilty, and worst of all, cannot be salvaged, indeed should be “reset,” which means overthrown.
Certainly, we must recognize that America now faces certain cultural acids, genuine threats to its historic defining ideals, that is, ideologies that promote moral relativism, bias against Judeo-Christian values, and an unfettered extension of the sexual revolution.
And while some have reacted to these developments with uncritical hyper-patriotism, including ill-advised and unbiblical Christian nationalists, it’s nevertheless the case that we live once again during a less patriotic age.
One clear reason for this is that America was founded by people who not only believed in religious liberty and the existence of religious faith,
but believed this religious understanding was essential to the foundation of a free society. In other words, we need religious faith to survive as a free culture and country. Without it, or with it in decline as we’re witnessing now, we see the logical outcomes, reduced shared values, lower sense of community, lack of vision or a sense of moral destiny, alienation, envy, and terminal unhappiness in the endless pursuit of happiness.
But I still believe not only in my Christian faith but in the timeless ideals upon which the American Experiment was founded. I believe because I’ve seen the evidence of the truth and power of these ideas, the consequences of which has been the freest and most productive society in history.
I believe America is still capable of moral ambition as an example of how to provide freedom and justice for all, of being in Lincoln’s immortal words, the “last best hope on earth.”
America’s progress toward fulfillment of its ideals has come in fits and starts, valleys and mountaintops, because we are human. This is the human experience. We are not perfect and never will be, but we strive for the glory of God and the wellbeing of our families. We remain committed to God-given liberty, to truth and justice for all, to firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right.
So, I am still patriotic. I am proud to be an American. I am still grateful for what God has done in this nation called America. I believe in our defining creed, and I want to reinforce the nation’s character for the future and my own grandchildren.
The best way I can do this is to live a morally responsible and upstanding life as a Christian and as an American citizen. Same for you. Be patriotic.
Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com.
And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2022
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