Monday, August 27, 2007

Pledging My Allegiance

“Does it compromise our citizenship in Christ’s kingdom to wave the banner of loyalty to an earthly kingdom?” author David P. Gushee asks in his July 2006 article for Christianity Today. As we begin to live our lives for Christ and for His world, how do we live in the world of patriotic enthusiasm and pledging our allegiance “to the United States of America; one nation, under God”?

I came across this article entitled, "What's Right About Patriotism: The nation is not our highest love, but it still deserves our affection" while here at my parents house (and yes, I am aware that it a year old) and found that this so resonated with my own heart’s longings.

Personally, I have had many relatives and friends who have gone to war and given their time, energy, heart, and lives to fighting for the freedom that I enjoy today. So I want to clear up any thoughts, you the reader, may have of my “hate” for America. If you know me for five seconds, you know that simply is not true, so please don't misread this thought-process.

There have been some not-so-rare occasions when I tell people how much I love living in Japan or tell people how I would not object to living overseas all my life, that people respond with, “Why? What’s wrong with America?” *sigh*

When I returned from my first overseas trip in 2003, I found that my own spirit could hardly be contained in my flesh. I felt like the experiences my heart had seen and felt could not be expressed with words and so I began a journey to find my “nationality”. My dear friend, Jamie, would often sit with me at Pancheros or Java House and together we would pray for some sort of understanding to who we were outside of being Americans. Together we would read about countries we couldn’t pronounce and pray for the people of that country to be reconciled to God.
However, as I learned more about other places, I felt in my own heart, that I could easily bash America as well. It wasn’t pretty, people. I have a sinful heart.

But still, I want to learn how to live and be in this land without forgetting that I, too, am a foreigner. What a delicate balance I sometimes live on.

Gushee said that, patriotism gives us roots to say, “I am here, not there; from these parents; not those parents; living in this era, not another one. I am not a free-floating spirit but an embodied person, rooted somewhere rather than nowhere.”

I was so pleased to find and read this article because it makes me feel less alone in my struggle with this question. How do I survive in a patriotic nation and feel patriotic without marrying myself to this nation? On the other hand, how do I not go overboard and write America “off”? I’m not fond of Bush-bashers. Sorry, but I’m not. Nor, do I pledge my allegiance to President Bush. Sorry, but I don’t.

Instead I am trying to live and thrive in the area that 1 Peter 2:13 recommends, “submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority”. And I remember that God has appointed leaders for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

For me, I want to live a life of faith, remembering that through Abraham all nations are to be blessed, (Genesis 22:17-18) and take the examples of my spiritual ancestors have passed down to me, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland…But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city… For he was looking forward to the city that has a foundation, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:13-14,16, 10)

Gushee finishes with the thought-provoking line of “it still seems to me that people who do not know how to demonstrate an appropriate fealty to their nation are not well positioned to learn how to transcend that loyalty for a higher one.”

May I never forget that it is no longer I, who live, for I have been crucified with Christ. I belong to Him. But in that, like Queen Esther may I not forget the words of her uncle, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)

And that, "Yes, God blesses America, but he blesses other nations, too." (Gushee) Let's not become so focused on who we are or were we live that we forget that reality lies in the unseen nature of God... for in Him is our true identity and sense of belonging.

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