Some kids were watching this video game YouTuber. “As you can see, I themed everything red, white, and blue. For Memorial Day.”
Hmm. Funny how those colors work for many holidays: The Fourth, Christmas, New Year’s.
“It’s a great day for partying and drinking!” The guy laughed. Then he sobered. “Actually, that’s more for the Fourth. Memorial Day has much serious significant meaning.”
I laughed. “Memorial Day has meaning and The Fourth doesn’t!?”
* * *
My American allegiance has had an odd route. I was taught that it was idol worship to honor a flag in word or action. I was taught that nationalism and patriotism are one and the same, and that it is akin to having partiality to one brother over another. I was taught that patriotism was not love, loyalty, nor righteousness. I was taught that we are to love all men, and that it is a sin to hate any people, to kill any person.
(Exodus 20:3, Exodus 32 || Romans 2:11, Galatians 3:28, James 2:1-4)
For a time, because of my great love for historical books, especially G. A. Henty’s war novels, I thought I was falling away from my Anabaptist teachings and becoming patriotic. In reality, I was attracted to honor, nobility, and charity. And you know what? These books didn’t display these traits in a black and white patriotic setting. The boy heroes of Henty were often put into complicated moral dilemmas which had them saving individuals who were politically seen as their mortal enemy. They did what was right by each man, living the purest Good Samaritan life, protecting and honoring each man and woman they met, showing no partiality. They laid down their lives so that all life might be raised up. They did not often think, but were always pulled on by Duty.
I was in love with the idea of a world that is neither Anabaptist (refusing to protect the innocent out of some twisted view of love for enemy), and yet neither patriotic (blindly protecting nobody in particular by murdering anybody they were told to all because superiors said, “This is how you serve!”).
And I’m still fascinated by this middle ground I imagine exists. Maybe this makes me an Anabaptist patriot?
* * *
I do not wish to be called a patriot. I find little thrill in Fourth of July antics. (Though I’m all about little boys shooting off fireworks and little girls enjoying it with whole-hearted terror, and of the rest of us becoming more like them)
One will never hear me reciting any pledge of allegiance to man or object. (Exception: perhaps wedding vows?) But perhaps this corners me as in fact a pure American Patriot. Because what does it really mean to love this country and my fellow citizens? What is the Fourth really about?
“The Fourth of July is not just some party,” I told the kids watching the YouTube. “The Fourth is a commemoration of the time we broke away from England and said, ‘We won’t be paying taxes to you anymore, or supporting your soldiers.'”
I’m all about not paying taxes and supporting soldiers.
I’m all about using my money and time to help those directly in need, and then of being surrounded by noble men who don’t demand my money to protect me. I’m all about those noble men protecting me only in dire situations, and not as a career. I’m all about having less government who use their soldiers as an excuse to have my money, to dictate what I drink and eat and live.
Mostly, I feel with those earliest of sojourners; the Believers who simply craved to worship their God, the prisoners who sought a stress-free chance to succeed, all the righteous and unrighteous men and women who begged for an opportunity and place they might belong and thrive. I am all about that. Let me be free, let the entire world be free, let us all be free.
Let the entire world be one nation, divided by no flag, free in our diverse beliefs and pursuits. We do not need locked doors, witch hunts, or walls. Only a corrupted nature desires endless wars and crowded prisons. We need less pride, more respect, less judgement, more understanding. We need to grace our neighbors with liberty to do as they see fit and still be loved by us. Yes, there are times where one must stand against tyranny and judge it and overthrow it. But such times are the exceptions to a general lifestyle, not the basis for which a free nation ought to be ruled.
Call me a patriot, or call me anti-government. Labels don’t matter much when the focus is too great to be narrowed. If God is for all men, why shouldn’t I also be?