Many people whom I love and respect are fiercely patriotic. Recently I implied that saying "God bless America" might not be particularly helpful. This implication could be frowned upon by those who are fiercely patriotic. So, I thought it might be worthwhile to clarify my position on this.
I love my country. How could I not love this land when I am surrounded by beauty everyday? I am grateful for our many freedoms and our abundance of resources. Yet, the phrase "God bless America" makes me cringe.
Let me use a football analogy to explain why. When a football player crosses himself or kneels or expresses thanks to God during a football game, I am never sure whether I should applaud or groan. What does it mean? If this is the football player giving thanks to God for the strength of his body, the courage of his heart, and the fortune of his life that he is able to successfully and profitably play a game he loves, then that is only appropriate. If it is thanking God that he made a touch down, that his team is winning, that the other guy missed, or (triple cringe) that God is on his side, then YUCK! On the other hand, perhaps it is only a way of celebrating the moment, thanking God for how great it feels to have made a touchdown. I can deal with that.
Similarly with the blessing of our country. It is fine to be grateful for what we have. It is fine to ask God for further blessings. It is not fine to pray that God bless us and not that country over there.
Furthermore, what I was really trying to get at in my earlier blog was that "blessing America" is not the role of the church. At least it is not the church's only role and certainly not its most needed role. The church needs to be calling this country to compassion and justice.
So, I suppose I am not against saying "God bless America" but we need to be clear about what that means. It sounds arrogant. We are after all ignoring an entire continent, our wonderful neighbors to the north, and our wonderful neighbors to the south, just by calling ourselves "Americans." And it sounds like, "bless us and not them." Especially when it is accompanied by "mess with us and we'll kick your booty."
But, it doesn't have to mean that. If you mean to thank God for our blessings and ask that they may continue, I can deal with that. If you mean "God bless the United States of America with compassion and wisdom so that we may make the world a better place through generosity and wise council," then I join you with my own whole hearted, "God bless America." God bless us also with creativity, courage, open-heartedness, and ingenuity.
If this is what you mean then I join you. And I imagine the poor and the outcast of the world would join you as well. Lord, in your mercy, let us be blessed to be a blessing.