Well, I waited a while to post this because I'm sure not everyone will agree. First a few disclaimers. I love my country. My father was in the Air Force when I was a kid and I spent the first ten years of my life on various Air Force bases around the country and the world. I have tons of respect for the men and women who serve our country in uniform and even greater respect for those that have sacrificed their lives in that service. But here's my question: How much, if any, of a Sunday morning worship service should be devoted to Memorial Day?
At my church on the Sunday before Memorial Day, it dominated the entire service. We usually sing three hymns. All three were patriotic. My Country Tis of Thee, Eternal Father Strong to Save and God of our Fathers. (Though in typical Presbyterian Church USA fashion the title of the last one was changed to the more gender neutral God of the Ages.) The sermon was something along the lines of this: Freedom isn't free, we don't celebrate the sacrifices of military members enough, spend some time this weekend remembering soldiers who gave their lives, and, oh, by the way, Jesus died to give us freedom, too. Now I know that is an unfair characterization of the sermon, but seriously it was probably 80% patriotism 20% Jesus.
As I said earlier, I'm not against patriotism. I just wonder if the pulpit on Sunday morning is the place for it. I'm in a community band and on Memorial Day, we played a concert of patriotic tunes as part of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston. A veteran gave a very moving speech on sacrifice in the middle. I thought that was great. But at a Sunday service (the only service at our church that day) I just think we need to focus a little more on Christ. Anyway, it seemed like everybody else seemed to enjoy the service very much, so maybe I'm just being a curmudgeon.
I read somewhere once that even though we are created in God's image, we humans tend to create God in our image. I worry when we begin to meld our national patriotic celebrations with our worship of God. It makes it all that much harder when our national values conflict with those of God. And this transcends any left/right dispute. If we constantly celebrate the greatness of our country from the pulpit on Sunday morning, how do pro-life folks respond when told "hey, abortion is the law of the land." And how does someone who believes our involvement in Iraq is immoral and not a "just war" respond in the face of a church that appears to believe God and Country go together just fine and dandy?
And since I'm on a rant that I'm sure will irritate some folks (especially some relatives of mine) one more pet peeve. When did the phrase "God Bless America" stop being a request and become either a command or a declaration. This nation has certainly been blessed, but God should be thanked for that, not ordered to continue. I for one would be happier if politicians would stop concluding every speech that way. I think it cheapens the sentiment. Maybe politicians should end every speech quoting Matthew 5:5.