When we talk of patriotism what is it that we are really talking about? Here are a few considerations we might include in coming up with an answer:
- A sense of belonging to a larger community of people which provides one aspect of a person’s sense of identity and his obligation to others.
- Gratitude for the benefits that a nation provides such as protection of life, liberty, and property; laws to deter wrongdoing and encourage good; establishment of monetary system and economic markets; establishment of a common language or languages.
- A shared sense of pride in the achievement of other individuals to whom one ‘belongs’ as fellow citizens of the same nation, i.e. athletic, scientific, economic, artistic, philanthropic, or other endeavors.
- A sense of pride for the good things that a nation has done, something that has developed by a proper understanding of the nation’s history and a sense of belonging to a group of people that includes previous generations within that nation.
- A sense of security with respect to the future, because of an expectation that the larger group…that is, everyone in the nation…will work for the good of the nation and therefore will defend each person in the nation from attacks by violent evildoers, whether from within or outside its borders.
- A sense of obligation to serve the nation and do good for it in various ways, to defend it from military attack or from unfair criticism by others, to protect the existence and character of the nation for future generations, and to improve the nation in various ways where possible, even through helpful criticism of things that are done wrong within the nation.
- A sense of obligation to live by and to transmit to newcomers and succeeding generations a shared sense of moral values and standards that are widely valued by those within the nation. Such a sense of obligation to shared moral standards is more likely to happen within a nation than within the world as a whole, because a person can act as a moral agent and be evaluated by others within the context of an entire nation, but very seldom does one have enough prominence to act with respect to the entire world. Within an individual nation, if a nation is to have such moral values and national ideals preserved and transmitted, it is usually necessary to share a common sense of the origins of the nation and its history.
By contrast, the opposite of patriotism is an attitude of dislike or even scorn or hatred for one’s nation, accompanied by continual criticism of one’s country. Rather than sharing in gratitude for the benefits provided by the country and pride in the good things it has done, those opposed to patriotism will repeatedly emphasize any negative aspect of the country’s actions, no matter how ancient or how minor compared with the whole of its history. They will not be proud of the nation or its history, and they will not be very willing to sacrifice for it or to serve it or to protect and defend it. Such anti-patriotic attitudes will continually erode the ability of the nation to function effectively and will eventually tend to undermine the very existence of the nation itself. In such cases, a healthy but limited criticism of the wrongs of a nation becomes exaggerated to the point where reality is distorted and a person becomes basically opposed to the good of the nation in general. Unfortunately we see far too much of this in our politics today.
Even citizens of countries with evil rulers can retain a genuine patriotism that is combined with sober and truthful criticism of current or past leaders. Such patriotism will still include the valuable components mentioned above, such as a sense of belonging to that particular nation, gratitude for the benefits it gives, shared pride of its achievements, sense of security, a sense of obligation to serve and protect it (hopefully to change an evil leadership), and a sense of obligation to follow and transmit shared values and ideas that represent the best of the country’s history.
If such things can be true of even bad governments, then certainly, patriotism can be a value inculcated in all other nations of the world as well. That was emphasized when President Trump said he wanted to America “Great Again” and he followed it up with the comment that that should be the goal of all national leaders for their nation. In this sense, a Christian view of government encourages and supports genuine patriotism within a nation.
Next week we will start the path for departure from the shoal waters. I will review and recommend several options for recovery. Safe waters can be attained if we just focus on what God has told us in His Word. I hope that this closing series will help encourage each of us to look at our nation as a God given gift that should be cherished and protected.
– Bob Munsey