“There’s Nothing Godly About Patriotism”

A professor once told me this to my face. “There’s nothing Godly about patriotism.”

Now, you have to understand that I was raised by a mom who was born Canadian. She fell in love with the morals upon which America was built and finally, after a lot of work and studying, became an American citizen. Her house is filled with pictures of George Washington praying, a soldier lifting the American flag mid-battle with the shadow of a cross on the ground, teachers in one-room school houses with their hands over their hearts standing between the American flag and the ten commandments.godly-patriotism

My mother is Godly.

My mother is patriotic.

So what did this professor know? Nothing.That was my conclusion. I had clear proof that the two could go hand in hand. In fact, I mentally decided to write him a long paper arguing the fact (writer, remember? I know this sounds like self-inflicted punishment, but I process through words.)

However, I never wrote the paper because I couldn’t figure out where to start. I’ll admit that now, years down the road, I still don’t know the answer. I pose this question on my blog, not to take a side, but to ask in all genuineness and curiosity…what do you think?

Can patriotism be Godly? (Tweet this)

There have been times when I thought about ministry in different countries like Russia and I’ve wished I had no citizenship — I’ve wished that I could go anywhere God called me without people looking at me through the lenses of my nationality. Our citizenship is in Heaven and it’s the only citizenship that really matters, right? So then is it the only “patriotism” we, as Christians, ought be showing?

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines patriotism as “love for or devotion to one’s country.” The Oxford English Dictionary goes on to define patriotism as: “…vigorous support for one’s country.”

So with the understanding of those definitions, how does patriotism glorify God? Can “love or devotion” toward anything other than God bring Him glory? (Tweet this) My conclusion is that yes, it can. Love toward my spouse will bring God glory. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor. But does this apply to a country? Or, possibly a more pressing and applicable question: Are we being as patriotic for the Kingdom of God as we are for our earthly country? (Tweet this)

My goal is not to create a harsh or angry debate — I’m blessed to have been born in America — I just want to hear your thoughts because I’ve been dwelling on this question for a good six years and still haven’t settled on an answer.

What do you think, was my professor wrong or right? Can patriotism be Godly?



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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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  1. I definitely think patriotism can be Godly, but the problem arises when we equate patriotism with Godliness, which I think tends to happen a lot. At the end of the day, our first allegiance should go to Christ. That’s why I think you hit the nail on the head with your second question: Are we being as patriotic for the Kingdom of God as we are for our earthly country?

  2. I agree with Gillian! I think we can be godly and patriotic. A lot of patriotism is being grateful for those who went before us and enabled us to have the freedoms we have, and being thankful is definitely a godly attitude to have. But our FIRST allegiance is to Christ’s Kingdom, and we should never honor America (or any home country!) over our need to serve Him. At the end of the day our patriotism should be in the service of Christ, not in competition to Him.

    Another thing to remember is that showing respect and honor to those in authority in our countries is even commanded in Scripture. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” – 1 Peter 2:17.

    • Well said, Bethany! I especially love that you said, “At the end of the day our patriotism should be in the service of Christ, not in competition to Him.” I think that’s where most of the breakdown happens.

  3. Nadine,

    A great post and very thought-provoking.

    I agree with you and with Gillian. Patriotism can be Godly.

    But part of that love of country is being able to stand up and say something is wrong when something is wrong. You used marriage as an analogy. You love your husband and you support him and that’s Godly.

    But when he does something wrong, you also are loving enough and concerned enough to point that out (hopefully in a compassion way…grins). That is also Godly.

    As Gillian said, the problem is when patriotism to nation becomes more important than patriotism to God.

    Or when we become blind to the wrongs.

    Again, a great post. Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. Admittedly, I take a slightly more dim view of the interplay between God and patriotism. I think that there’s a strong temptation to make a nation into an idol, and far too many American Christians have crossed that line or blurred it considerably. We have to be very careful about this interplay, because it’s all too easy to fall victim to this.

    I’ve read a couple of books on this subject that were really enlightening, most significantly “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd and, more recently, “Bad Religion” by Ross Douthat. They both offered good analysis on the dangers of conflating America with some sort of chosen nation (which, let’s be honest, politicians do all the time and American Christians buy into far too easily).

    • I’m with you, John.

      In my experience, many people think that America can do no wrong and that all other nations are inferior. I believe it’s wrong to idolize any nation because then we overlook the crimes those governments perpetrate against their citizens.

    • Thank you for sharing your view, John. I really appreciate the opinions from both sides. I agree that a lot of American tend to make our nation into an idol. I think that’s why red flags go up for me. I also see this a month Christian Americans, both with our nation and sometimes with our churches, too.

      The problem really, when broken down, comes down to putting something above God. Idolatry.

      Thanks for the book recommendations. I’d never heard of them, but I’m excited to read them!

  5. You define patriotism as “love or devotion to one’s country.” First, If by a “country” you mean the people of a country, then it is godly to be patriotic since God has called us to love people. Second, loving our country does not exclude us from loving people in other countries. God definitely tells all those who love Him to love Israel.

    • Frankly, I just pulled that quote from the dictionary. I wish the dictionary would define what it means by “country.” 😉 But you have a good point about loving the people of a country and I completely agree! I’m trying to look at what our nation views as “patriotism”, too. Because I don’t know many people who view “being patriotic” as “loving others” (the second greatest commandment.)

      But maybe that’s something we can shoot for — treating patriotism as an external action on loving our neighbor as Christ commanded us.

  6. Well, I’ll bring a perspective from a non-American.
    I don’t think there is anything inherently Godly or un-Godly about patriotism. I certainly think that you can and should have a healthy respect and love for your country, not to mention a respect for other people’s countries.

    We Aussies love our country just as much as Americans love theirs – but we express it in a vastly different way.

    Both America and Australia were founded on Christian principles and that is something to be celebrated (you do a better job of that than we do. Our nation has become highly secularised. This means though that we don’t face the “chosen nation” temptations that John talks about in his comment above.)

    Ultimately though, I love what you said “Are we being as patriotic for the Kingdom of God as we are for our earthly country?” That’s a good challenge.

  7. Thank you daughter Nadine for this thought provoking question. ☺ I think your professor was wrong.

    In so saying, yes, I love my country, as you defined patriotism, “love for or devotion to one’s country.” America was built on Biblical principles. It is the first and only “Christian Republic” ever know.

    This was never taught in public school, but the more I learned about the foundation of our country, the hearts of our Founding Fathers, the integrity and courage of our fighting men, God’s hand in numerous instances in the miracle of becoming the nation that we are, ah yes, I fell in love. And as such, I now have a responsibility to my country. To vote into office those who’s hearts are lined up with original intent of our Constitution.

    George Washington; Father of our country, once quoted “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” He was Godly and patriotic.

    As a Christian, I liken my citizenship as duel. My spiritual nationality is in heaven and my earthly one is in America. I have a responsibility to both. Love the Lord God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and love my neighbors; my fellow countrymen, as my self.

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Mama! 😉
      In sharing your story on how you learned about the foundation of our country, it’s very enlightening to how patriotism can be Godly and can even bring us closer to God.
      I especially like your comment regarding dual citizenship and having a responsibility to both. Well-said! 🙂

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  9. Just fyi, Nadine, but the “tweet this” option didn’t work for me. I really wanted to tweet the question from your site! Maybe I still will on my own. 🙂

    • Hm…I double checked them all and they seem to be working. Not sure what happened! 🙁 Sorry, RJ! But you can always copy the link into a tweet if you want to share it! 🙂

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