I am cautious about endorsement. There are few things that make me as nervous as attaching myself to a ship that might be sinking. I don’t like to watch TV shows until they have been canceled and I don’t like to declare myself a fan of living authors. Thus, I have been extremely cautious about patriotism. There was a time when I questioned whether or not Christians even could be patriotic, after all, we are citizens of a much better kingdom and our nation is not particularly righteous and certainly has no special relationship with God.
But today I am proud to call myself a patriot.
Obviously, this nation can do wrong. In fact, it seems like when it comes to the big decisions we are no more likely to pick the high road than the low road; we pick the road that favors our strategic interests. So how can I be a patriot? I’ve never been convinced that it’s okay to carpet bomb civilians or to nuke cities, and yet those were both hallmarks of the one war we all agree was the good war. We slaughter our most innocent people and deny rights to others. We bomb nations we shouldn’t and we turn our head to evils we should stop. In fact, more often than not I am disappointed by my nation.
But I am a patriot.
I am a patriot because civilization is one of the most fundamental gifts that God has given to mankind and it is worth preserving. My nation isn’t perfect, but it is the best shot we have for order. My nation isn’t holy, but it shows that we are in this together. Just because the boat has leaks doesn’t make it preferable to swimming.
But my patriotism runs deeper than just a fear of anarchic chaos. The United States is uniquely powerful in the world today. If there is a body of water big enough to fit an aircraft carrier, you can bet that the United States is a few hours away. We spend more on defense than the next ten highest spenders combined. There has never been an empire with more control over more of the world than the United States has today.
But as Uncle Ben warned Peter Parker, with great power comes great responsibility. There is not much of a chance that the United States will fall apart due to normally predictable measures. There is no one who could pose a military threat to us. Despite how it might feel to your wallet, our economy is remarkably strong. Even our much-lamented manufacturing sector is strong by international standards. But the United States could still decline or even collapse. If we decline, it will be because we choose to do so. It will be because we tire of empire. In the same way, if we collapse it will be because we choose to do so. It will be because the stress and work of keeping a nation strong is not worth the benefits. It will be because the things that we hold in common as Americans are less significant than the things that divide us.
If that day comes and we allow this nation to decline or even collapse, the world will not be the same place it was. A world where the U.S. Navy cannot provide aid to a tsunami-ravaged coastline, were the State Department cannot negotiate the release of political prisoners, where trade is not open and free, where great powers feel the need and ability to compete for resources, is not a better world than the one we have. A world where places as distant as Nevada, North Dakota, New York, Nebraska and North Carolina all cannot share a common purpose and destiny is not preferable to the world in which we live. A world where the growth and peace we experience is a story of the golden days past is not the future I want.
Thus I am a patriot.
I chose to support my country because that is a fundamental way in which I can love my neighbor. I want what is best for my neighbors, whether they live down the street or across an ocean. Thus I chose civilization, thus I chose stability, thus I chose patriotism. I don’t gloss over the injustices we have caused. I don’t gloss over the evils we have sponsored, I don’t ignore the times we have so obviously failed, but patriotism begins with a recognition that it is better that we have this nation than that we don’t, and thus it is worth preserving.
Thus I implore my readers to reject cynicism. I implore you to stop treating the collapse of the United States as an inevitability, or even worse, a dark desire. Of course there are more permanent things and of course there are more important things, but our civilization is something worth being thankful for. Instead of despising your country for its evils, learn to love it enough to strive to fix them! The stranger can ignore the sufferings and flaws in another man, but the friend cares enough to help his friend through them.