Tag Archives: patriotism

Patriot Dream

On this Memorial Day week-end I will be thinking of some of my family who proudly served their nation: my father in the Pacific Ocean on a Destroyer in WWII; my uncle in Europe as a paratrooper, jumping into enemy territory; my brother in Vietnam in 1968, trekking through the Mekong Delta. I will expand my prayers and remembrance beyond my family to include fellow citizens whose names are etched in granite along a wall of black granite; those whose names are written nowhere but remembered no less by families who sent them off to defend the freedom of this country they loved; I will pray to God a prayer of thanks for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  But I will also remember those who have said no to war; who have practiced with tender conscience a resistance to governments taking their youth and too often frivolously marching them into oblivion; I will remember those who denounced as Communists and driven out of their jobs because they dared to ask hard questions about their government’s commitment to the very ideals it asked its people to die for.  And I will pray, as you no doubt will too, that we as a nation will one day arrive at a moment when Memorial Day will be a time of remembrance about wars nearly too distant to recall; when we will pledge ourselves to waging peace with the ferocity that we currently wage war.

May God have mercy on our comrades and fellow citizens who have fallen in defense of our freedoms.  May God have mercy on those who presently serve in harm’s way and bring them safely home.  May God call us to the citizenship of heaven and may we find that blessed assurance that while we may not live to see the promises of God fulfilled in this life, we will be greeted on the other side of history and mortality and welcomed into the realm of love and light.

The Patriot Organ Grinder

On July 4, 2016, I will give thanks for being a citizen of the United States of America, my native land, my country.  For its freedoms and ideals so beautifully stated in its founding documents.

I will also pray for the entire world where other citizens rejoice in their citizenship, love their country and admire their ideals.

It is not easy to tack between the right wing and the left wing on Independence Day.  I marvel that the Left can celebrate and fly the flags of other nations, particularly of nations either harmed by the U.S. or opposed to the U.S. but cannot take pleasure in their own nation’s flag.  Everyone has a right to love their country.  I marvel no less at the Right that insists that the United States is exceptional, so different from other countries as to warrant our absolute obedience despite whatever wrongs it has carried out in our names.

As a Christian, my ultimate allegiance is to Christ and the Kingdom of God.  I love my nation but I do so out of a critical engagement with its ideals and its practices. Right now, the Patriot organ grinder is churning out his relentless jingles, ginning up the passions and anger and fears of fellow citizens.  Christian Evangelicals have been captured by the Patriot organ grinder’s tune.  Below is an excerpt from Mark Twain’s autobiography when he reminisces about the nomination for President in the Republican Party of 1876, candidate from Maine, James Blaine.  Twain refused to support him though he was loosely affiliated with Lincoln’s Party.  His colleagues criticized him for not supporting the nominee.  Twain’s words are as prudent for our consideration today as they were then:

…I said: “But we don’t have to vote for him.” Robinson said “Do you mean to say that you are not going to vote for him?” “Yes,” I said, “that is what I mean to say. I am not going to vote for him.” The others began to find their voices. They sang the same note. They said that when a party’s representatives choose a man, that ends it. If they choose unwisely it is a misfortune, but no loyal member of the party has any right to withhold his vote. He has a plain duty before him and he can’t shirk it. He must vote for that nominee. I said that no party held the privilege of dictating to me how I should vote. That if party loyalty was a form of patriotism, I was no patriot, and that I didn’t think I was much of a patriot anyway, for oftener than otherwise what the general body of Americans regarded as the patriotic course was not in accordance with my views; that if there was any valuable difference between being an American and a monarchist it lay in the theory that the American could decide for himself what is patriotic and what isn’t; whereas the king could dictate the monarchist’s patriotism for him—a decision which was final and must be accepted by the victim; that in my belief I was the only person in the sixty millions—with Congress and the Administration back of the sixty millions—who was privileged to construct my patriotism for me.*

Happy Independence Day.  Tell the Organ grinder to go home. We are better than the tunes he plays.  ~ See you Sunday

*[Twain, Mark; Smith, Harriet E.; Griffin, Benjamin; Fischer, Victor; Frank, Michael B. (2010-11-15). Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition, Volume 1 (pp. 316-317). University of California Press. Kindle Edition.]

 

Until Peace and Justice Walk Hand-in-Hand

pstr_Kenneth_march

The brassy patriots who disparage those who protested across cities in the United States this past Saturday reveal a constitutional ineptitude that defies their self-proclaimed patriot fervor.  When we protest we are patriotic.  When we demand that those who govern us do so justly and without discrimination but as equals before the law, we are patriotic.  The First Amendment is a beautiful, powerful and empowering right in the Bill of Rights. Those who stepped into the streets on Saturday, December 13th in protest of the failure of prosecutors and grand juries to protect unarmed, African-American civilians were living up to the constitutional vision of a citizenry empowered and protected from tyranny.  Here is the amendment:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Look at that last clause.  By the tens of thousands, Americans did exactly that when they demanded justice for the victims of police officers who, charged with protecting citizens, instead within seconds pulled a trigger and ended a life.  As religious persons and patriots, Riverside Church congregants took to the streets and marched for justice and equal protection under the law.  I am proud to pastor a church that puts feet to its words, that acts in the highest sense of patriotism and the deepest religious values of human dignity.  We pray, we sing, we march in the light of God.  We are not asking our beloved country to endorse a religion. We are asking that our politicians, officers of the court and police and military who protect us to do so out of a devotion to the constitution and bill of rights.  Anything less will not do. Holding to account those who violate those sacred documents is a patriotic act.  May peace and justice one day walk down our streets hand-in-hand. Until that day, we will continue to march and pray.