What does Memorial Day mean to you? What does it mean to your children?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #89 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.
Memorial Day became an official holiday in 1950, just two years before I came into the world. It was intended, and still should be, as a patriotic time for remembering those who sacrificed for freedom. Remembering, even caring, it sometimes seems, is a greater challenge in a time when only a small percentage of Americans ever serve in the military, and when it seems that history, especially anything touting America’s goodness, is passe, something to be apathetically ignored.
But the value of remembrance is great, as is patriotism rightly understood.
In the USA, patriotism has suffered ebbs and flows in recent years, but it still exists. Indeed, patriotism is a global phenomenon, one of the world’s most powerful emotions. It comes from the Greek word patrios, “of one’s father,” meaning love of one’s home or fatherland.
Patriotism is love of one’s homeland—about geography, Yes, “home” for sure, but more importantly, patriotism is about ideals, culture.
Patriotism is not the same as nationalism, the former involving values and aspirations, the latter involving a political order and power. Patriotism and religion are not the same, though one may be engaged, even co-opted by the other. But patriotic people may not be religious and religious people may not be patriotic.
I was blessed to be born an American, I am red, white, and blue patriotic, and I deeply appreciate the founding ideals that defined America, i.e., life, liberty, freedom of religion, speech, mobility, and enterprise, and the rule of law.
My love for my country does not mean I believe Americans are better people than people from other countries, that we’ve always done everything right, or that our leaders past and present were always right. Clearly, Americans have not always done the right thing and leaders have not always been upstanding and correct in their moral outlook. But saying so does not diminish genuine patriotic feeling, for critique is part of freedom of conscience and thought, one blessing of liberty.
Patriotism is an emotion much maligned today by the cynical, (many captured by the intellectual cul-de-sacs of ideology or identity politics). Some now reject all expressions of appreciation or heroes past. But no time, country, or culture, much less people are without failures, or worse. And as we admitted, the USA is no different.
Despite our flaws and in recent years American political leaders have made a list of poor, unwise, immoral, and politically dangerous decisions that make our perfect Union less perfect. Yet while acknowledging flaws we can, and we should, always respectfully remember those who gave the last full measure of devotion.
And we can be patriotic about ideals, the values to which we aspire: freedom of religion, speech, assembly and association, life, liberty, and justice for all. For all its struggles, the land of the free and the home of the brave is a blessed place to live.
“God loves people from every nation, race, language, and tribe. Having said that, however, I believe the United States is a unique representation of the grace and mercy of God…(Yes, I believe in what’s called American exceptionalism – not triumphalism but beneficiaries of a blessed endowment.)
The liberty and freedom we know today has emerged from a Christian worldview. Ideas like equality before the law, women’s rights, children’s rights, fair labor practices, tolerance, and civil rights—all of those have emerged from a Judeo-Christian worldview. We act as if all of the world knows the liberties and freedoms that we do, and this simply isn’t true. We are unique. The liberties, freedoms, and opportunities we have, have come to us as an inheritance, and are not to be rested upon and gobbled up as we stamp our feet like petulant children, demanding the government provide something else for us. They are a heritage to be protected, guarded, and extended to one another, and handed down to the generation who follows us.”
“America’s democratic experiment, though bruised and struggling, continues and deserves to be celebrated – especially amidst the grave political divisions and growing despair of the present.”
I sometimes think about the fact that I did nothing to secure the blessings of liberty and abundance that are my birthright as an American citizen. In the providence of God, I was born here to American parents. So, my access to life, liberty, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, law and order, all are simply a gift to me from those who served and sacrificed to protect and preserve these freedoms – Remembering them is what Memorial Day is all about.
That I did nothing to earn or deserve my blessings can be said regarding my status as a Christian believer, as a person who has accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, and who God promises an eternity with him. God gives me immeasurable benefits, and promises more, for which—there it is again—I did nothing. I did not work for my salvation and was not awarded it because of some special character or achievement on my part. No, it is a free gift, by grace through faith in Christ. Sola gratia, sola fide, sola Christus, soli Deo gloria.
So, think about this with me. I enjoy a political birthright as a result of being born into an American family, and I enjoy a spiritual birthright as a result of choosing to trust in Christ’s sacrificial shedding of blood and death on the cross, so that I can be reborn or born again into the Body of Christ. My birth and my rebirth have bestowed upon me blessedness beyond words. Should I not remember and be grateful?
I feel this way about my American citizenship.
Memorial Day is a time to reflect on what is good and precious about this country.
The ideals the Founding Fathers embraced and upon which this country was established still, praise God, exist:
- While an increasing number of Americans reject God and absolute moral truth, there yet remain many who acknowledge the God who is there and who affirm Judeo-Christian values that made this country strong in its first 200 years.
- Immigrants from around the world still want to come to America. Why? Because they know this is yet the freest, most generous, most abundantly materially blessed country in the world, as Lincoln called it, “last best hope of earth.”
- America is a place wherein each individual is free to choose how to worship God, or for that matter whether to worship at all.
- America respects not only the rule of law but the right to create value from one’s work, to own property, and to develop personal wealth.
- Americans are free to move about the country without showing their internal passports to armed guards demanding to “see your papers.”
- America’s history is characterized by peaceful transfers of power based upon free elections and a secret ballot box.
- Repeated war-time experience convincingly demonstrates that America really is the “home of the brave.” The Civil Rights Movement illustrates that America is capable of growing even through pain.
For me, celebrating Memorial Day is a form of gratitude. Freedom is a most precious gift, one easily lost.
“There is no more fitting way to end this than with the treasured final words of Lincoln on the fields of Gettysburg in November of 1863. ‘The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.’”
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, 2023
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