Patriotism, Pessimism, Church, Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton,

Working Hard at the Practice of Patriotism

Sunday Scripture

Patriotic holidays seem to be slipping by me this year. The challenge of distinguishing one day from another only complicates my nose-to-the-grindstone manner of living during this season of recovery from pandemic. In years past, we created red, white, and blue T-shirts with copious globs of fabric paint every Memorial Day and then wore them–all six of us–to whatever was going on for the Fourth of July.

Patriotism is an expression of optimism and hope, and I want to practice it this summer, (this election year!) the same way I practice spiritual disciplines–working hard, but never quite arriving. The prophet Jeremiah lived in a time that would challenge the most ebullient optimist, and yet God declared himself as eminently present, even as civilization was clearly making its slow spiral down the drain:

“’Am I a God near at hand,’ says the Lord,
‘And not a God afar off?
 Can anyone hide himself in secret places,
So I shall not see him?’ says the Lord;
‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:23,24 NKJV)

This Flag Day, I’m challenged to the bone by G.K. Chesterton’s pondering on patriotismViewing a flawed nation led by deeply flawed individuals, his question was:  “Can we hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing?”  Can we find grace to “heartily hate” the weak and the ugly about our past and our present, and at the same time “heartily love” all that is well-intentioned and hopeful about our future? (Orthodoxy, 108-109)

In these days of recovery and rebuilding in our nation that may feel like something akin to exile, maybe more than ever, we are called to an “irrational” devotion to our nation.

When we embrace our surroundings and let ourselves fall in love with a nation we no longer trust, we join the garden-planting, fruit-harvesting Israelites, carted off to Babylonian soil with instructions to make a life and, thereby, to make a difference. Too often, the church’s response to patriotism and the political food fight in D.C. has been either an off-putting and unexamined flag-waving OR a disinterested shrug–because “we’re citizens of heaven” and we’ll get our “pie-in-the-sky” later.

“And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7 NKJV)

Patriotic holidays are a great excuse for a little “peace seeking,” a perfect opportunity to fly the flag, sing the songs, and practice a little “irrational optimism.” When we gather our people in safe spaces for hot dogs and potato salad, and maybe even fling the doors wide to those outside the bubble, we foster common life—which can lead to common ground.

We live in challenging times, but we live in hope, and our lives are under a call to faithfulness, or, in Chesterton’s parlance, a call to “irrational optimism.” When our love for country is formed around a deep belief that God is at work in our circumstances, we are better equipped to look for Him to be at work in our country and in our world.

Patriotism, Pessimism, and the Church, Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton, Jeremiah 29

Happy Flag Day!

Michele (1)

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40 thoughts on “Working Hard at the Practice of Patriotism”

  1. As I am heartbroken right now for all the craziness going on in this nation, your words brought me such hope and comfort, Michele. Yes, let us find the good, trust in God, and celebrate that we can be a better people, a better country, going foward.
    Blessings!

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  2. Yes! We are always to make a life in the midst of whatever circumstances we are living in. I’m reminded of John 10:10 which tells us He brings abundant life – even in the midst of the messy and crazy and frankly, overwhelming. Our life is in Him and we can practice it no matter where our physical bodies are.

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  3. we could have a more kinder gentle nation if we could just love our neighbors and find peace if we all could just
    come together as one we were all created equal and to live together in community!

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  4. This post grounded my overwhelmed thoughts-I love our country but also am not ignorant of it’s sins of the past or present. I pray for us daily.

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  5. I typically (perhaps unfortunately) equate patriotism with nationalism, which reeks of “our nation is better than yours.” I know that is very one-dimensional, but it is seen all too often with ardent flag-wavers. I wrote a short essay (see https://dbsuch.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/patriotism-is-not-black-and-white/) to explain my perspective and to explore other dimensions of the very complex topic of patriotism. Essentially, good patriotism means “love your neighbor.”

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  6. Michele,
    In the midst of the chaos and calamity, I wonder how many people realized it was Flag Day? I admit to having second thoughts about this Nation of ours, so your timing is perfect. We are called to love and pray for our country, its leaders, and its people. Revival is a word that keeps popping into my head. My earnest prayer is that we would follow God’s command to love others as we love ourselves. Anything less, won’t heal our land.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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  7. Thank you for this message of hope for our country, Michele. We need a spirit of optimism right now. We are called to make ourselves at home here on God’s good earth. Chesterton’s quote “Can we hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing?” is apt for our struggling nation these days.

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  8. Wow, Michele, this post was spot on. Though I never considered those verses in Jeremiah akin to patriotism, they kind of embody true patriotic choices. I’ll be pondering this today.

    And this: “When our love for country is formed around a deep belief that God is at work in our circumstances, we are better equipped to look for Him to be at work in our country and in our world.”

    This was so profound to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I too found my heart responding to your conclusion: “When our love for country is formed around a deep belief that God is at work in our circumstances, we are better equipped to look for Him to be at work in our country and in our world.” I wish we could know how God is working in the circumstances scarring our country right now. But we undoubtedly benefit more from clinging to Him in faith and in such promises as Romans 8:28, Deuteronomy 31:8, Psalm 46:1, and praying: Lord, we come before You to plead for Your salvation on behalf of our nation! You are the only One who can redeem the lawlessness, injustice, lies, selfishness, and greed. We pray for revival to turn the darkness into Your glorious Light.

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  10. Every 4th of July since forever, my mother-in-law hosts a big outdoor picnic at her house on the lake. But this year will be different for the first time. She’s still going to have family over in small numbers–we can social distance–but it won’t be the large crowd that she’s used to. We have to roll with the times….

    Happy Flag Day, Michele!

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  11. I come to visit your site via Esme’s Senior Salon.
    Reading your blog post makes me think God is trying to speak to all of us but a lot of people aren’t listening. We need to listen better and more.

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  12. ********************************************************
    Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn
    ********************************************************

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Although our Queen is Defender of the Faith, our allegiance to God and country is completely separate. Love your thoughts on this subject. Thanks for linking up with #dreamteamlinky

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  14. Very thought provoking, these current times are deeply sad and emotional for so many people for different reasons on many levels. Hopefully in the future I look forward to days that bring us together rather than pull us apart #Dream Team

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  15. Celebrations are a bit odd at the moment, aren’t they. It’s just not the same via video conference or keeping at a distance. There’s something very special about getting everyone together, rubbing shoulders, talking more, sharing more and just being. Thank you for sharing your thoughts over on the #DreamTeamLinky

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