whytheology

For the Intersection of the Everyday and the Sacred

Patriotism for a Different Country

So, this is the second post in my Olympics mini-series that I’m doing during the games since I’m living in London where this is going on. If you’ve missed the first you can click here to read it (and see the video that I took of the Olympic Torch Relay).

By now, I hope you’ve seen the opening ceremony of the London 2012 games. There is a strong sense of patriotism that arises from watching these events. That Ceremony was incredibly British and no doubt brought a certain amount of British pride to those here I’m sure. Although I live here right now, as you know, I’m not British. I am, essentially, a citizen of a different country living as a (albeit temporary) resident alien. My greatest measure of patriotism was reserved for my home country (USA).

I was certainly taken by the sometimes overtly Christian tone present at the games, mostly due to song choices that, although they had an affiliation with various sports of countries within the United Kingdom, were nevertheless hymnic in their tone. One such example that I found particularly moving was Emeli Sandé’s singing of “Abide with Me.” It is a song traditionally associated with Rugby, which will join the summer games in the next Olympic cycle, and it may have been chosen partly for this reason. Still, I found it particularly moving. Below is a clip of Sandé singing it in studio (clips from the Olympics are the property of the IOC and are not readily available due to licensing issues).

Still, at the end of the ceremony the athletes take a pledge that includes the line that they what they do “for the glory of the sport and our teams.” I am under no illusions as to the necessarily secular nature of the games. Despite this, the conflicting patriotic feelings in me, for my country of citizenship in addition (and dominance) to the one where I live, made me reflect on the less than overtly spiritual nature to the opening ceremony. Simply put, despite the fact that I live in Britain, and certainly have developed a great love for the British and the United Kingdom as a whole, I will never be fully assimilated and will always hold America as a place of priority higher than that.

You can probably tell already where I’m going with this, but just in case you can’t let me make it explicit. As much as I have a deep seated connection and love for America, I am more fundamentally a citizen of a heavenly kingdom, and I will never be fully assimilated into the secular country of my citizenship. Ephesians 2 and Philippians 3 both refer to the Christian as a citizen of another kingdom. Revelation describes the nature of this city in great detail. Also in Revelation is a reminder to us. We can never be completely assimilated into this world.

Sometimes here I stick out. The clothes I wear don’t always fit with the British style, though that is notably not usually what causes me to stick out. In particular the way I speak gives me away immediately: I’m not from here originally. Not only my accent, but the things I talk about and the words I choose to use all give me away. I can’t follow the politics of this country on anywhere near the level of those back home and there are some topics that I am entirely ignorant, or ones that I speak about that are completely foreign to most citizens of this country (probably less so than would be the case with other countries thanks to the dissemination of American culture via various media formats). I’ll let you draw whatever significant parallels you will, but the point is that while I live here and do love it, it is not my home. My home is somewhere else and I long to return there. My patriotism is for a foreign nation. And so we must each choose: where is your patriotism? In the land in which you now live, or in the Kingdom of God? The two are not always in conflict, but often they will be and a choice must be made.

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