I’ve become a big fan of Matt Maher’s new song “Woke up in America” but its gotten me thinking not only about what he’s trying to say about our wonderful country, but also about my own feelings about our “national identity”.
Currently I’m in an ecclessiology class for my graduate program. I would like to propose here that, just as many our problems in the Church arises from how we perceive the Church to be (our ecclessiological identity), so do most of the problems of our nation arise from our “nationology”.
While I often amn discouraged by the sate of our nation, Matt Maher’s song reminds me of a couple points. First, patriotism is a virtue, one that falls under that of Justice. Not only is it good to support our country, but it is proper and right ordered to do so–to some extent. Therefore, to what extent should have “patriotism” for a country that is in error concerning many of its values and workings?
Patriotism is basically having love for your country–especially in history, culture, physical beauty, etc. America has much to offer from most of these–we have beautiful landscapes of every variety, we are a “melting pot” nation where people of every culture is welcome (which helps us form our own unique culture), and we are a champion of freedom, democracy, hardwork, and social mobility. All of these things it is proper to love.
However, there is much about the country we cannot love. While we both democracy and capitalism are inherently good structures, both in our country are inherently broken. As a country we are individualistic, God-less, against life, materialistic, and petty.
What causes this? Our idea of what america is, about what constitutes a nation…our “nationology”. I believe that in general, we view our nation as merely a group of individuals, under the charge of a group of individuals, with a purpose of promoting the good of each and every individual person. Each of these views is not, in and of itself, wrong, but they are all incomplete and when held without balance lead to an inadequate view of what our country is and thus how we live as a country.
–Yes, our nation is a group of individuals.. but as the virtue as patriotism shows us (and as most american’s would admit, though they live contrary), America is so much more than that. It is about the beauty of the land, the freedom, the men and women who have given their lives, and that it is a GOD GIVEN GIFT that we are able to live with all of these blessings. The problem is that most people live their day to day lives without remembering this fact.
–Yes, our nation is run by a group of individuals… and when we focus on that is when we realize the inherent problem with that fact. Human’s are flawed, therefore a country that is run merely on human values, according to human ideals, and only concerning the will of human’s, will always be gravely flawed. The fact that we must daily try to remember, the two phrases that will save us, are currently frequently being petitioned for removal–1) One Nation Under God, and 2) In God We Trust. This reminds us that, though separation of Church and State is inherently good, they cannot be completely separate. We must not live to merely human values, standards, and desires, but must always be careful not to cultivate a country, culture, and worldview that forsakes God’s will.
–Finally, while each individual person has a right to be happy, and the country and government has a responsibility to do everything possible to ensure that each person flourishes, a focus on individual good leads to a country that is broken and fractured. We must instead be focused on the “common good”, an idea that isn’t necessarily foreign to America, but which seems to get pushed aside for the individual good.
I believe that if we do all these things–move towards a more collective worldview, remember that God is a necessary aspect of our country, and love America for the appropriate reasons–we will be a happier and more prosperous country, and other countries will have more respect for us.
Our “Nationology” must be more than an individual survival of the fittest. We must remember why America is beautiful, and continue to work to make it even more so.