Define patriotism.

What is patriotism? I wonder if somewhere along the way we began to confuse, or maybe muddy the waters of our national understanding of what it means to be a patriot. I think most people accurately identify the men and women who serve in the armed forces as patriots. And I suppose love of country certainly has something to do with it.

But what are we in love with? Do we cheer for America as if it were our hometown basketball team on a Saturday night or the Colts on Sunday afternoon? Do we love the idea that we can buy anything we want or do anything we want? That seems like a pretty selfish mindset and selfishness would seem the opposite of patriot, which has to conjure up thoughts of selflessness and sacrifice. Do we wrap ourselves in the flag and treat patriotism as if it were some sort of cheap commodity to be identified with?

America has been heading down the wrong road for some time now, or maybe I should be more accurate and say that as a people we have been taking America down the wrong path. These freedoms that we enjoy and the corporate will to protect them is something entrusted to us from generation to generation. The ideals that set America apart from the rest of the world are packed with opportunity for good. But just as explosive are the possibilities for corruption, greed, and abuse.

Christians understand the term "freedom in Christ". It is used to describe the grace we are extended even when we make mistakes because we are God's own. Too often though freedom in Christ is abused as a license to do wrong, and unfortunately the rest of the world sees that and contemplates how we are any different.

I think freedoms come with great responsibility. In fact I think that "freedom" requires great restraint, compassion, discipline, ethics, tolerance, sacrifice, understanding, and maybe most importantly stewardship. I believe that these terms describe a patriot and acting in this way would then be "patriotism". So tell me, how do these words reflect Americans today? I know I've said before the greatest enemy of our democracy is capitalism without ethics.

I don't wholly accept that the America of my grandparents' generation, or of my earliest ancestors who landed in harbors along the east coast, was this land I long for. Comments like "returning this nation back to God" make me roll my eyes when I consider our past marked with slavery, segregation, or removal of the American Indians. The Church is who needs to return to God. No, instead I think that the ideals set out in 1776 are yet to be fully realized. If you ask me what I love about my country, I think that is it. It is the opportunity for good that corporately we possess. Not selfish ambition disguised as personal liberty, but the individual responsibility and freedom each of us has for compassion, tolerance, stewardship and all those others. I think in acting on those will we find true patriotism.


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