Monday, July 2, 2018

Proud to Be an American, Prouder as a Citizen of Another World

American flag adorn a pier on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, Tenn.
We’re about to celebrate another Independence Day. Yes, in England they also have a July 4th, but from what I hear, they would remove it from the calendar if they could. To which all patriotic Americans can say, “Nah, nah, nah-nah, nah!”

Speaking of “patriotic,” nearly 70 years ago the spirit of patriotism grabbed hold of me and to date, hasn’t let go. Born on the Fourth of July, I still get chills when I see our Star Spangled Banner waving above. I delight in “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” regarding myself as one, and have yet to hear a John Philip Sousa march that I didn’t like. Someone had a good idea when they recorded Kate Smith singing, “God Bless America,” even when it’s played in its scratchy, non-digital form.

My grandparents immigrated from Hungary to the USA, passing through Ellis Island, even though I doubt they could speak a word of English (or American) upon arrival. But they settled into homes in Pennsylvania and became contributors to their communities. My grandfathers provided for their families by performing hard labor for long hours in steel mills, and became proud, naturalized Americans.

While World War II was being waged, my father bravely fought in the midst of it, collecting wounds in Europe and Northern Africa as he served as an officer in both armored and infantry divisions of the U.S. Army. Later, he gave more than a year of his life while stationed in South Korea in the aftermath of the Korean War, and wrapped up his military career commuting to New York City, where he was assigned another role. He even worked many years in the U.S. Postal Service.

In light of all the above, I admit it miffs me when disrespect is directed toward our nation, its flag, and those who served courageously so that today we’re not under Nazi, Communist, or even Muslim rule. Our beleaguered Constitution still guarantees the rights of free speech and dissent, but I sometimes wonder whether misguided protesters aren’t actually biting the hand that has fed them so extravagantly.

Certainly, bad things have been perpetrated in the name of the red, white and blue, but show me a nation where that hasn’t been the case. If there is one, maybe the dissatisfied should move there if the United States doesn’t meet their lofty standards.

Even in writing this, however, I recognize, as the old spiritual tells us, “This world ain’t my home, I’m just a-passin’ through.” Speaking of our tendencies toward sin, the apostle Peter wrote, Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Why submit to earthbound temptations, he was saying, when heaven is our real home?

Hebrews 11:13-16, speaking of biblical predecessors whose lives were characterized by great faith, often in the face of formidable opposition, expresses the same sentiment from a slightly different angle: All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth…. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Even in the Old Testament we find the affirmation that for every follower of Jesus Christ, our true citizenship is not in this nation, or even this planet.For we are foreigners and sojourners in Your presence, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope” (1 Chronicles 29:15).

So as I nod in assent to the words of the Lee Greenwood song, “Proud to Be an American,” I’m far prouder to know I’ve been chosen to be a child of God, a citizen of a Kingdom I’ve yet to see, but look forward to with great anticipation, by faith. As Philippians 3:20 declares, For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

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