Piety and Patriotism

Discussions on the relationship between Christianity and politics often give rise to the idea that being a Christian is likely to make one a good citizen. This idea is based on tacit acceptance of the proposition that there is a close affinity between allegiance to Christ and loyalty to the state, particularly in a democracy.

During the period of debate in the United States Senate in 1970, when Senator McGovern of South Dakota and I offered an amendment to what was called the "Amendment to End the War," I received many letters of communication.

One of them said, "Why do you think you have the right to interfere with our president? Have you forgotten that God's way is to respect and honor those in authority? What higher power is there than President Nixon? God put him there. ‘Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment’ (Romans13:2)."

This is perhaps an extreme example, but there are many within the Christian community who conclude that faith in Christ means obedience and allegiance to those in political authority; beyond this, one need not involve his personal faith in politics.

The more I observe about contemporary America, the more I read about the history of the church, and the more I study the scriptures, the more I sense how dangerous it is to merge piety with patriotism. The Christian, like every citizen, cannot avoid political involvement, but his responsibility is to bring this realm of his life, like all others, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

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