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Thursday, September 1, 2016

We Must Hate Our Country

There’s been a fair amount of hullabaloo about patriotism in the interweb chatter in recent weeks – vigorous, passionate discussion that often veers towards inflammatory argument and angry name calling. Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has pledged to promote, “pride and patriotism” in schools and to teach respect for the US flag and the pledge of allegiance. Some are vilifying San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for his choice to not stand during the national anthem, while others are defending his first amendment right to do so. Similarly, some have flamed Olympian Gabby Douglas for not putting her hand over her heart during the national anthem along with her teammates.

One of the lectionary texts for this coming Sunday (September 4, 2016) is relevant and applicable to this discussion. In Luke 14: 25 – 33 Jesus, speaking to the crowds that are following him, gives a series qualifications for those who would be his disciples – or rather, disqualifiers. 

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” (14: 26 NIV)

“Hate” is a strong word, stringent and inflexible. And, while it should be understood as a form of hyperbolic speaking (Jesus does not want us to HATE our family, but to love them less than we love him. Compare this passage to its parallel in Matthew 10: 37-39 for the same intent, without the over-the-top hyperbole) we cannot soften it so much as to miss the point: every other allegiance should be held lower than our allegiance to him.

You might say, this verse says nothing about patriotism, or pride in our country, or respect for those who have served in the military. But to read this verse (and the verses that immediately follow it) in such a narrow and restrictive way is to soften the hyperbole and to miss the point.

And, I would contend, this verse does apply directly to the issue of patriotism. That word “patriotism” is derived from the Latin word pater – “father.” Patriotism is an emotional attachment, a bond, an allegiance to our father-land.

Those who cannot hate their country cannot be disciples of Jesus.

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