Should We Be Patriots in the Pew?


Back in 2008, Russell Moore filled in for Al Mohler on his radio show on July 3. The topic was SHOULD WE BE PATRIOTS IN THE PEW?

Moore had Mark Dever come on, along with Stanley Hauerwas.

Hauerwas called patriotism in the pew, specifically a Fourth of July service, idolatry because “it makes you forget that the God that is referred to in the patriotic songs, pledges, etc, is not the Christian God. Our God is not some generalized blessing on something called freedom qua freedom. Our God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that you only are made free through obedience to the cross. So just to the extent that you confuse those two Gods, you come very close to becoming idolatrous.”

Dever said he kind of agreed. He said we don’t want to do anything that gives the impression we’re gathering fundamentally as members of a specific civil state. Dever said he would not have a patriotic service on July 4th because that would confuse people about the kingdom of Christ, but that it might be appropriate to sing some patriotic hymns at other times and that previously on the 4th of July he preached on Revelation about how all kingdoms will fall before the kingdom of Christ.

Moore then asked Hauerwas what he would say to a Christian who says they would “feel like a traitor to his country to come in and say this very important part of my life, my faith in Christ, how can I separate that out from who I am as a rooted citizen of this country?”

Hauerwas “Ask yourself if you lived in Germany in 1934 what that would mean.”

Moore “But surely you wouldn’t equate the situation today in the United States of America with Germany”

Hauerwas “How would you know? I mean, who fought in Hitler’s war? Who were they? They were Lutherans and Catholics. They were Christians. They were deeply pious people. How would you know when we’ve been captured by the powers in a way that is leading us in a way away from the gospel.”

Moore “Since you say these types of services are representative of worshipping another god, what would you do if you were talking into a local church that you belong to on Sunday morning and that’s exactly what you found, what would you counsel a Christian to do?”

Hauerwas “Walk out.”

After the interview, as if to prove Hauerwas’ point, Moore commented that Hauerwas was “completely off base when he said a Christian can’t know whether or not he is living in a benign regime or whether or not that Christian is living in Nazi Germany. And to equate a Fourth of July service with Hitler’s troops goose-stepping I think is really easy to do for somebody sitting in a faculty lounge somewhere but is completely naive to the fact that the very reason he is able to do that and the very reason we’re able to be on the radio talking about these issues is because there is an American military presence. If we’re not able to distinguish between American troops and Nazi troops, then how are we able to distinguish between good and evil in any arena.”

America’s military presence spread across the globe is the biggest threat to our freedom, not the cause of it. As to being able to recognize whether or not we are part of an evil regime, consider RC Sproul Jr.’s recent comments:

What concerns me, beyond the reality of the fact that torture was perpetrated against the enemies of these United States, has been watching too many conservatives making the case that this is justified, that this is okay…

Recently we did a podcast on the complete destruction of a school in Palestine. Six men with guns killing at least 126 innocent people. Having talked about that, I argue that one of our weaknesses is that when we hear these kinds of stories we have a propensity of thinking that somehow it is other, that somehow it is outside of us. That the people who do this are different kinds of beings than we are.

The reality is we are all human beings. Certainly, Islam is a religion filled with wickedness and horror which encourages wickedness and horror. But we have to be willing to say, not just “there, but for the grace of God, go I,” but we have to recognize that without God’s grace, that’s where we are going. We have to understand that there are people over there who are looking to our country and saying “what kind of a sick, twisted country would be a country where in order to get information their leaders, with tacit approval of their government, are threatening to rape and to kill the wives and the children of these suspects?” That’s what our government did. That’s what our government has admitted to doing.

I don’t want to be dreary, I do want to be honest. All of us believer, unbeliever, Muslim, Christian, American, Iraqi. We are all a mess. The only solution is repentance.

See also Nationalistic Propaganda and Herman Hoeksema’s Brave Example

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