How to be a Patriot without Being Idolatrous

Posted: April 16, 2010 by Scott Kistler in Christ & Culture, Politics
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Doug Wilson is blogging his way through Peter Hitchens’ The Rage Against God.  He opens his sixth installment:

Peter Hitchens’ next chapter was profound and moving. Entitled “Britain’s Pseudo-Religion and the Cult of Winston Churchill,” he makes the brave move of identifying the carnage of the two great wars of the 20th century as a massive blood sacrifice to false gods. He does this on the basis of the meaning that was assigned to the struggle in England, a meaning fundamentally antithetical to the claims of Christ. Of course, he does not do this out of any sympathy for the poor, misunderstood Nazis. Because the sacrifices in the two great wars were mind-boggling, and because the courage and bravery involved were staggering, to point out this underlying problem takes a great deal of courage. This is a God-and-country problem, and the problem is that the latter frequently wants to swallow up the former.

According to Wilson, Hitchens writes that he respects the sacrifice of Britain’s fighting men while also believing that the way that the war was conceptualized greatly damaged Christianity: “The churches were full before 1914, half-empty after 1919, and three-quarters empty after 1945.”

I think that reading Wilson’s consideration of Hitchens’ points, exploring the territory between idolatrous patriotism and sneering at a healthy love of one’s country, is worth it.  I won’t try to provide a summary, but here’s his conclusion:

In this chapter, Peter Hitchens shows how this difficult and crucial distinction is done right. The Christian approach to this thorny problem is to honor God above all, and to render sharply subordinated honor to our assigned nation, whatever that nation may be. This is in sharp distinction to those who, in the grip of self-loathing, are in love with “every century but this, and every country but their own.” Without faith in the transcendent God of Scripture, this is impossible. As Peter shows in this chapter, the consequences are deadly. When the living God is linked up in the minds of the people with the gods that die, then, when those gods eventually die, as they always do, you have led a generation up to the edge of atheism.


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