By / Sep 5

The closest I can come to giving how-to advice about relating faith to patriotism is this: keep wrestling with the questions

Questions like these: What does it mean to “love” our nation? If, as the Bible says, “the powers that be” are “ordained by God,” does that mean we should not criticize them? What about expressions of patriotism in our church worship? And what about using religious language at events celebrating national holidays? Is “civil religion” a bad thing? What does all of this mean in times like ours, when we are experiencing deep polarizations?  

My own understanding of how to be patriotic as a Christian is a work in progress. I keep wrestling with the questions, and I hope I can offer guidance to others about how to persevere in the wrestling. I know that there are people in present-day American society who see no need to do the wrestling. They can be found on both ends of the spectrum of views about patriotism. On the one end are the people who simply equate “God and country,” insisting that the true destiny of the United States is to live up to our calling as “a Christian nation.” On the other end are the folks who see all expression of patriotism as bad, with special disdain when love of country is connected to religious faith. 

I don’t know how to get the folks on those opposite ends of that spectrum to listen to each other. But I take comfort in the fact that they do represent extreme ends of a spectrum and that there is considerable room between the extremes. I find it helpful to explore the spaces between the extremes, in the confidence that the Christian message gives us resources for that kind of exploring. 

The problem these days, of course, is that the public debates about patriotism are often dominated by the extremes. This has been especially true in recent years when polarization seems to have become the rule of the day. The result is that many folks—especially many of the thoughtful Christians that I know—avoid talking about these things. When I have told people that I was writing about patriotism, I have often been urged to “be careful.” They worry that just by raising questions and exploring the middle spaces I will lose readers who want me to lean one way or another on the political spectrum. 

I understand those concerns, but I am going to make the effort anyway. My hope is that I can create a safe place for focusing on basic Christian thoughts—drawing on biblical teachings—about what it means to be citizens in the nation where the Lord has placed us. 

My use of the image of wrestling to describe what I hope we can do together here may seem a bit too combative for this kind of discussion. But given the kind of angry combat going on in these partisan days, wrestling is actually fairly tame. As a sport—and I am not thinking here about the WWE variety!—people wrestle together to test their own strength and agility. 

Animosity and the desire to wound the other wrestler are out of place. What I have in mind here is some spiritual and theological wrestling: testing the strength and productivity of our understandings of the obligations of citizenship. We can even set the goal that Jacob had in mind when he wrestled with the angel in Genesis 32. He engaged in the match in order to be blessed. 

The highest throne 

The Bible itself tells us to avoid the extremes. And this gives us space to find ways to love our country while also engaging in some inevitable lovers’ quarrels about our disagreements. It will not surprise me, though, if some readers disagree with me when I get into more detail regarding how I think we should go about loving our country. That is fine. 

The key is to wrestle together with important questions, even if we come up with different answers. What is for me nonnegotiable, though, is that we Christians must be clear that our primary allegiance, beyond what we owe the nation where we dwell as citizens, is to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. And the Bible tells us that when we come to witness the fullness of that kingdom in the heavenly regions, we will be joining our American voices with a much larger choir: 

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10) 

This is a wonderful vision of a time when we will all celebrate the fact that Jesus’ throne has always been the highest seat of authority in the universe. And we will all have memories of what it was like to serve his eternal kingdom in the context of specific nations. For me, those will be American memories. So, recognizing that, I will tell some personal stories in [my book].

Paying attention to individual stories is especially important right now, given the contemporary mood in our culture, with the Christian community itself divided on these matters. While I have my own perspective on these issues, I have urged my fellow Christians to set aside the stereotypes and caricatures of those with whom we disagree and to work at genuinely listening to our individual testimonies about what we see as happening in our world. For Christians it is important to find ways of listening more carefully to each other in our faith journeys. I love the line from the Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” about “the hopes and fears of all the years” being fulfilled in the coming of the Savior. Our attitude toward our country is very much a matter of hopes and fears, and I am convinced that exploring those hopes and fears in the light of biblical teaching can be a way of listening to each other more effectively. 

Adapted from How to Be a Patriotic Christian by Richard J. Mouw. Copyright (c) 2022 by Richard J. Mouw. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.

By / Sep 11

On July 29, President Trump signed the Never Forget the Heroes Act into law. This bill fully funds and makes permanent the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). This legislation was renamed the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act. The September 11th fund was established by the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks in order to compensate the men and women who experienced physical harm or a personal representative of those who died in the attacks or debris removal efforts following the tragedy. The VCF was reactivated by President Obama in 2011 and reauthorized by Congress in 2015.   

Before the president signed this bill into law, the former VCF had been appropriated $7.375 billion, but there were insufficient funds to pay out claims. Federal law prohibited the VCF from expending funds beyond the appropriated amount. Thus, awards from VCF were forced to be reduced unless Congress took action. In February of this year, according to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D–N.Y.), the VCF Special Master announced that, “due to a funding shortfall, injured and ill 9/11 responders and survivors will receive cuts to the awards that they were expecting of 50% for pending claims and 70% for future claims.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi had previously pledged to pass the bill in the House, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) told first responders in June that the upper chamber was working to renew the VCF by August. Now that the bill has become law, it extends and fully funds the VCF for victims and their families. Claims can now be filed through 2090 and will be paid out through 2092. The bill also modifies the VCF in the following ways: 

  1. to allow claims to be filed until October 2090, 
  2. to require VCF policies and procedures to be reassessed at least once every five years (currently, at least once annually), 
  3. to require claimants to be paid for the amount by which a claim was reduced on the basis of insufficient funding, 
  4. to remove the cap on noneconomic damages in certain circumstances, and 
  5. to periodically adjust the annual limit on economic loss compensation for inflation.[1]

Prior to signing the bill, President Trump offered the following remarks to an audience in the Rose Garden:

“Our nation owes each of you a profound debt that no words or deeds will ever repay. But we can and we will keep our nation's promise to you. In a few moments I will sign the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. This law makes permanent the financial support for families who lost precious loved ones as a result of September 11th attacks. It also provides pensions for those who are suffering from cancer and other illnesses stemming from the toxic debris they were exposed to in the aftermath of the attacks. Many of those affected were firefighters, police officers, and other first responders . . .” 

Not only should leaders of this nation seek to look after those that risked their lives that September morning, but we, as image-bearers of God, should minister to those in need.

We continue to mourn the thousands of lives lost on this generation’s day of infamy. Not only should leaders of this nation seek to look after those that risked their lives that September morning, but we, as image-bearers of God, should minister to those in need. Neighborly love is among the most important commands found in Scripture. Jesus told us that loving God and loving your neighbor is the ethic behind the entirety of God’s law (Matt. 22:34–40). 

Now, the U.S. government has ensured that the surviving victims and their families impacted by the September 11 attacks are provided care for decades. Ultimately, Christians are not only to provide for the physical needs of those in need, but are called to also point them to the Provider of our ultimate need. Thinking back on where we all were that September morning brings a variety of emotions to the surface, and perhaps more questions than answers. Tim Keller, former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, gave these remarks while preaching at the National Cathedral to 9/11 victims’ families and national dignitaries on September 10, 2006:

But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way. John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.

ERLC policy intern Kiah Crider contributed to this article. 


  1. ^
By / May 25

The following sermon was delivered at Kettering, Northamptonshire in 1803. From the Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, vol. 1, ed. Joseph Belcher (Sprinkle publications): 204.

Seek the peace of the city. The term rendered peace signifies not merely an exemption from wars and insurrections, but prosperity in general. It amounts, therefore, to saying, seek the good or welfare of the city. Such, brethren, is the conduct required of us, as men and as Christians. We ought to be patriots, or lovers of our country.

To prevent mistakes, however, it is proper to observe that the patriotism required of us is not that love of our country which clashes with universal benevolence, or which seeks its prosperity at the expense of the general happiness of mankind. Such was the patriotism of Greece and Rome; and such is that of all others where Christian principle is not allowed to direct it. Such, I am ashamed to say, is that with which some have advocated the cause of Negro slavery. It is necessary, forsooth, to the wealth of this country! No; if my country cannot prosper but at the expense of justice, humanity, and the happiness of mankind, let it be unprosperous! But this is not the case. Righteousness will be found to exalt a nation, and so to be true wisdom. The prosperity which we are directed to seek in behalf of our country involves no ill to anyone, except to those who shall attempt its overthrow. Let those who fear not God, nor regard man, engage in schemes of aggrandizement, and let sorted parasites prey for their successes. Our concern is to cultivate that patriotism which harmonizes with good-will to men. Oh my country, I will lament thy faults! Yet, with all thy faults I will seek thy good; not only as a Briton, but as a Christian: “for my brethren and companions sakes, I will say, Peace be within the: because of the house of the Lord my God, I will seek thy good!”

If we seek the good of our country, we shall certainly do nothing, and join in nothing, that tends to disturb the peace, or hinder its welfare. Whoever engages in plots and conspiracies to overthrow its constitution, we shall not. Whoever deals in inflammatory speeches, or in any manner sows the seeds of discontent and disaffection, we shall not. Whoever labors to deprecate its governors, supreme or subordinate, in a manner tending to bring government itself into contempt, we shall not. Even in cases wherein we may be compelled to disapprove of measures, we shall either be silent, or express our disapprobation with respect and with regret. A dutiful son may see a fault in a father; but he will not take pleasure in exposing him. He that can employ his wit in degrading magistrates is not their friend, but their enemy; and he that is an enemy to magistrates is not far from being an enemy to the magistracy, and, of course, to his country. A good man may be aggrieved; and, being so, may complain. Paul did so at Philippi. But the character of a complainer belongs only to those who walk after their own lusts.

If we seek the good of our country, we shall do every thing in our power to promote its welfare. We shall not think it sufficient that we do it no harm, or that we stand still as neutrals, in its difficulties. If, indeed, our spirits be tainted with disaffection, we shall be apt to think we do great things by standing aloof from conspiracies, and refraining from inflammatory speeches; but this is no more than maybe accomplished by the greatest traitor in the land, merely as a matter of prudence. It becomes Christians to bear positive good-will to their country, and to its government, considered as government, irrespective of the political party which may have the ascendancy. We may have our preferences, and that without blame; but they ought never to prevent the cheerful obedience to the laws, a respectful demeanor towards those who frame and those who execute them, or a ready co-operation in every measure which the being or well-being of the nation may require. The civil power, whatever political party is uppermost, while it maintains the great ends of government, ought, at all times, to be able to reckon upon religious people as its cordial friends; and if such we be, we shall be willing, in times of difficulty, to sacrifice private interest to public good; shall contribute of our substance without murmuring; and, in cases of imminent danger, shall be willing to expose even our lives in its defense.