20 January 2013

Uncommon Commentary #319

I don't consider myself a patriot; in fact, I try not to be one.  You probably find that startling or even shocking, but don't look for something to throw through the screen of your computer; I shall explain.  As a Christian, I'm trying to live according to the principles of the New Testament, which tells us that we are only sojourners in this world, and that our true home lies in Heaven. (See Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:10, 13-14, 16, 13:14; Ephesians 2:19; and the non-canonical but patristic Epistle of Diognetus.)  Don't you find this, as I do, antithetical to being in love with either the USA or any other country? (What I've told you does not mean that I would be disloyal to the land in which I live.  The New Testament also commands us to obey established secular authority, although, as the Church has always held, exception must be made to this obedience when the temporal power tries to force us to disobey God; I refer you to Romans 13:1-7 and to 1 Peter 2:13-14.  Being non-patriotic is quite different from being unpatriotic.)
It seems to me that the attitude that Christians ought to have toward the state is one of detached or dispassionate loyalty: to obey the laws of the country, but to do so not because we love it but because we love God and want to obey His laws.  This attitude, if spread, would have practical benefit: How many wars throughout history would not have been fought, had it not been for the desire of national aggrandizement at the expense of other states?  Moreover, neither loving nor hating one's land frees one to regard it objectively.  Such an attitude also has historical precedent.  A professor of history at my alma mater told our class that during Mediæval times, an Englishman would not likely have identified himself as such, but would have referred to himself either with a local demonym (e.g., a resident of Devonshire might have called himself a Devonian) or as a Christian. (Accordingly, I consider myself not an "American" but a subject of the Kingdom of God who just happens to have spent his earthly sojourn to date in the USA.)
Since love of God and love of country (and thus, however subconscious, of the secular world) have long been generally viewed as almost inseparable from one another, most of my fellow Christians don’t even realize the incompatibility between the two.  As I have mentioned previously on the Doman Domain, however, pride is a deadly sin, whether it be in one's nationality or in anything else.