27 May 2011

Does patriotism have a place at Mass?

This weekend you are likely to hear - and maybe even sing - songs of a partriotic nature at Mass.  For some, this is an expected part of the Memorial Day oberservances.  For others, such as your humble scribe, they are a source of irritation.

They are irritating not because of their patriotic nature, but because of where and when they are sung.  Such sungs - while good for the nation and worthy of being sung in fitting places such as townhalls and squares and other civic gatherings - have no place in the worship of Triune God.  The words we sing in divine worship must be words of the Kingdom of God and not of any earthly kingdom that will pass away.

This is not to say that Christians should not be patriotic; quite the contrary.  It is to say, rather, that Christians must always remember their first allegiance.

Over at First Things, Joe Carter posts a few thoughts from Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan, on patriotrism and churches.

The part excerpted by Joe Carter is of particular interest to me and so I post it below, with my emphases and comments:
...while patriotism can be good, the church is not a good place for patriotism.

We should pray for service men and women in our congregations. We should pray for the President. We should pray for the just cause to triumph over the evil one. We are not moral relativists. We do not believe just because all people are sinners and all nations are sinful that no person or no nation can be more righteous or more wicked than another. God may be on America’s side in some (not all) her endeavors.

But please think twice before putting on a Star Spangled gala in church this Sunday [Amen!]. I love to hear the national anthem and “God Bless America” and “My Country, Tis of Thee,” but not in church where the nations gather to worship the King of all peoples. I love to see the presentation of colors and salute our veterans, but these would be better at the Memorial Day parade or during a time of remembrance at the cemetery [He's right]. Earthly worship should reflect the on-going worship in heaven [that is a very Catholic thought.  The Mass is, after all, the foretaste of the heavenly wedding banquet of the Lamb]. And while there are many Americans singing glorious songs to Jesus there, they are not singing songs about the glories of America. We must hold to the traditions of the Apostles in our worship, not the traditions of American history. The church should not ask of her people what is not required in Scripture. So how can we ask the Koreans and Chinese and Mexicans and South Africans in our churches to pledge allegiance to a flag that is not theirs [it is - or should be - theirs if they are living in this nation]? Are we gathered under the banner of Christ or another banner? Is the church of Jesus Christ–our Jewish Lord and Savior–for those draped in the red, white, and blue or for those washed in the blood of the Lamb?
As Father Valencheck would say, "Finding truth wherever it is found."
Happy Memorial Day weekend to everyone!


  1. Anonymous9:36 PM

    I agree with all of your comments except your last one, which frankly disappointed me. Not all foreign-born people claim America to be a permanent place of residence. Some are here for diplomatic reasons, or because they are going to school here, or for mission trips. Or perhaps they are tourists hoping to find a place of spiritual familiarity at Mass, but then are slapped in the face with something that is so exclusively for Americans. Also there are people from other countries who legally immigrated here (or perhaps are legal refugees), and wouldn't do anything to hurt America, but their hearts belong to their home country.

  2. I mentioned people living here, not tourists. And a patriotism for the country in which one lives need not negate a love for one's country of origin, if it be different.

  3. Anonymous10:35 PM

    I agree that a "star spangled gala" is not appropriate at any mass, even on the 4th of July or Memorial Day, but I wouldn't go off the deep end in the OTHER direction and ban ALL patriotic songs or displays at Mass either. I see nothing wrong with having a prayerful (for lack of a better word) song like "America the Beautiful" or "Eternal Father Strong to Save" included in the Mass for a national holiday.

    Obviously we should not be aggressively nationalist but neither are we totally detached "citizens of the world". God comes first, of course, but that doesn't mean nothing else can come second, or third.