Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Patriotism, Pledges and Partisan fervor

Gaius Columbus asked this question, “Should Christians be pledging allegiance to any country or flag or national symbol? Is there a hint of idolatry in such pledges? When does healthy nationalism and benign cultural 'pride' cross over to national worship or idolatry?”

Here is my response:

I think there is a longing for an (utopian) motherland or fatherland that exists in every single human being. It is a longing for a perfect comradeship or kinship, and for mutual affirmation of each other in some kind of community. It is a desire for a sense of belonging and for a common identity with soul companions, the friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)

In the purest form, it is the longing of the sons (and daughters) of God described in Romans 8:23 " ....we ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies". Hence for the believer in Christ the ultimate patriotism is his or her citizenship in Heaven and his comradeship on earth is with fellow believers. This goes along with the Great High Priestly Prayer of Christ in John 17, when our Lord prays that His followers may be united in the Holy Spirit in this world.

I think the patriotic fervor that people display on this earth, on this side of eternity, is simply a poor shadow of the ideal I describe above. All Ghanaians, even neighbors who are at loggerheads at Kotobabi(1) and will draw a line in the sand over the two great local soccer clubs Hearts of Oak and Great Olympics(Dadey Mashie), suddenly find kinship and unity when we trounce Nigeria at soccer. And most of Africa unites behind the exploits of Cameroon at the Soccer World Cup when under different circumstances we will gladly punch them in the nose.

This is the benign form of worldly patriotism which, I repeat, is a shadow of the heavenly and it is a sad situation if we find ourselves more passionate about the Cleveland Browns or the Wichita Falls Tigers (ice hockey?) than we are about the Church of Christ scattered around the world awaiting its consummation.

I should state here that it should not just be with our narrow group of like-minded clones that we should feel this kinship. It includes the Apostolic Church lady in Nkawkaw(2) who prays all night, sometimes in different languages, and in the morning sings a new song to the Lord. Ever wondered where all those praise songs like "Yesu Christo yeh kunim di franca" (Jesus Christ is our victory flag) came from? We should remember that anytime we sing them in our modern Accra churches accompanied by modern drum sets, 600 dollar bass guitars and Korg Synthesizers.

It also includes all true followers of Christ found in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and in Iraq, Syria, Papua New Guinea, Canada and Israel. It includes some internet neo-theologians who appear to have discovered and often diss anything that doesn't follow their brand of the gospel. I bumped into one recently, but that is another story.

There is however a malignant form of this worldly patriotism. Like all things good that God has created in mankind, the corrupted and even dangerous form of this patriotism and loyalty to one's people or nation can be a cause of great harm in society. Throughout history, the examples are endless. Probably the most glaring example is Hitler in Germany but more subtle examples abound today where you can be termed a traitor simple for questioning the wisdom of a leader's actions.

My conclusion; let us reserve our greatest emotional fervor for the City with foundations, whose Builder and Architect is the Lord". How I love that description of the New Jerusalem. Having said that, I find nothing wrong with experiencing the kind of euphoria we had when Ghana beat the Czech Republic at the World Cup or that goosy feeling I get when the Star Spangled Banner is sang authentically in the key of G-Major at an event - not the stylish rendition with minor-key-razzmatazz that Beyonce and others of her ilk deliver on occasion. - Robbo

notes. 1) - a suburb of Accra. 2)- a town in Ghana


Anonymous Gaius Columbus said...

I brought this question up for discussion because I am reading a history of early Christianity by FF Bruce (a well respected theologian, now gone to be with the Lord) in which this specific question is raised in passing, but not addressed.

I see oaths a little differently from fervor over team, country, or ethnic group; however my sense of point you are making is that oaths and pledges, for the Christian, are to be actively resisted only if they are intended as direct challenges to God’s sovereignty or meant to violate primary allegiance to Him.

This appears to me to be a reasonable test. Daniel/friends and the early Christians appeared to apply this standard when they were commanded under threat of torture/death to swear allegiance to earthly rulers or to man-made gods rather than to God. In these cases, a pledge of duty or loyalty to a person, thing or idea that was set up in competition to God would have directly violated the command to love God above all others and to have no other gods before Him.

I guess, then, that pledges of allegiance are okay, provided they are not worded in a way that exalts nation or team or fraternity above God. It will be interesting to hear what the others think. - Gaius Columbus Radicalis.

March 19, 2007 at 11:48 AM  

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