Saturday, July 4, 2015

Two Church Articles for a Patriotic Weekend

Frederic Edwin Church, "Our Banner in the Sky," 1861
A Facebook friend shared this essay from the Patheos site, "God and Country: Idolatry in the Hymnal" by Jonathan Aigner. The author comments about the "nationalistic fervor" reflected in some of our beloved hymns like "America the Beautiful" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." He knows some pastors who had successfully limited this fervor to "a few songs," but he argues that "is still too much. It is worth making some people mad….We can appreciate the good things about our country, but we don’t worship it. When we enter our sacred space, we do so as citizens of a different kingdom that bow at a different throne."

On another Facebook stream was a different perspective, found on the UMC Holiness site, "On not guilting 'Mericans for loving 'Merica" by Chad Holtz.  Holtz writes that, when he tried to take a strong stand concerning worship and July 4th, he ended up being a stumbling block to others and taking a stance from a privileged position. He realized, "None of the people I worshiped with on Sunday were actually worshiping America. Rather, they were simply grateful for it. None of them were actually worshiping the flag. Rather, they were showing respect for it." So for him, "Pride in America … has opened many avenues for me to talk with everyone else in the world who hasn’t read Yoder or Hauerwas (turns out that’s most of the world), making me 'one of them so that I might win some.' "

I thought that these two articles were well worth reading and praying about; together they give a good summary of the tricky issue of patriotism in worship. I wonder if a pastor's approach to this issue is as much a matter of temperament and leadership style, as well as a congregation's "personality" and health, as it is a theological challenge.

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