THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NATIONALISM AND PATRIOTISM
There is a lot I love about the Fourth of July. I love seeing everyone wearing red, white, and blue, and I appreciate the opportunity to be thankful for where I am living. I enjoy barbeques and times with family and friends. I even enjoy the time I get off work to relax and celebrate.
I believe days like Independence Day and Memorial Day are important. We need to take time to be thankful for those who have lived lives of courage and sacrifice, and to remember that we have much of what we have because they lived with such exemplary character. I also think we need to be thankful that we live in a place where freedom, justice, and equality are our birthright as citizens of the United States.
We do need to remember, though, that festivals like Memorial Day and Independence Day are not “holy days”. Days like the Fourth of July and Memorial Day are secular festivals. They are celebration days for our nation. We should not conflate love of our country and worship of our Lord. Perhaps the best way to discuss this is to talk about the difference between nationalism and patriotism.
Simply put, patriotism is about love of one’s country. It is a good think to love one’s country, especially when we live in such a wonderful place as the United States of America. I hope all of you are patriotic Americans.
Nationalism takes patriotism one step further. Nationalism turns love of one’s country into worship of one’s country. It conflates loyalty to one particular vision of one’s country to the level of religious conviction. Nationalism makes one’s culture and way of life, one’s national history and future into a thing to be worshipped. In doing so, nationalism creates an insidious idol that makes worship of country and worship of the God of the universe the same thing. Nationalism is not a good thing. Nationalism is in fact, sin.
There are times when I wonder if Christians in America don’t unknowingly cross the line from being patriotic Americans (which is a healthy thing) to being nationalistic (which is not a good thing). We equate being a Christian with being a good American, not realizing that the “American Way” is not always God’s way. Our national will is not always God’s will. And although we have much to be proud of as a nation, we have much to repent of as a country as well.
It is for this reason I chose to lead churches in gratitude for our nation during these seasons, but I am very careful not to lead churches into worship of our nation. Worship belongs to God alone—who is the God of all the nations, and not just one.