American Flag, Flickr photo by Mike Mozart

Viewpoints: The role of patriotism from your faith perspective

Viewpoints is a SpokaneFāVS feature where our writers respond to a weekly question. Readers are invited to participate by posting in the comment section below.

With election day around the corner, we felt it was an appropriate time to talk about patriotism.

This week’s Viewpoints question is:

What is the role of nationalism and patriotism in your life in relation to your faith perspective?

A couple of FāVS writers responded with the following answers.

Matthew Sewell: Good patriot = virtuous person
Matthew Sewell
Matthew Sewell

I think being a good patriot is part of being a virtuous person on the whole.

It’s that whole “render unto Caesar” thing that Jesus mentioned, where we’re called to submit ourselves to our legitimate authority, and also to have a healthy understanding that God nevertheless reigns over all things.
I’ll leave it there, but a couple friends and I did a short podcast over the 4th of July this year on this very topic – have a listen to that here.

Neal Schindler:  Healthy skeptic hoping for positive change

Neal Schindler
Neal Schindler

To me, patriotism means maintaining a healthy skepticism, and a hunger for positive change, about nearly everything related to one’s country, including patriotism itself! In my family patriotism has never meant uncritical allegiance to the U.S., or any other country. I may feel this way because I spent a portion of my childhood in Germany. This led me to believe that every country, like every person, has its flaws and its virtues. American exceptionalism — the idea that the U.S. is the best country on Earth because, y’know, ‘murica — doesn’t make sense to me. I am proud of my country sometimes and ashamed at others. Like most Americans, I imagine, I spend the majority of my time somewhere in between, trying to understand the problems and wondering what I can do to make a positive difference.

I was thrilled with the U.S. when same-sex marriage became legal nationwide; I am appalled at the ongoing epidemic of shootings of unarmed black people by police. This is a big, strange, complicated country, and I believe that a highly dynamic mix of thoughts and feelings is a very reasonable response to such a place. I’d add that just as I don’t see contemporary Jews as God’s chosen people, any more than anybody else is chosen, I don’t see the U.S. as God’s chosen nation. God either wants the best for all people — I’d say all living beings — or for none. I don’t think any divine being is waving a flag with a particular pattern on it.

About Neal Schindler

A native of Detroit, Neal Schindler has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 2002. He has held staff positions at Seattle Weekly and The Seattle Times and was a freelance writer for Jew-ish.com from 2007 to 2011. Schindler was raised in a Reconstructionist Jewish congregation and is now a member of Spokane's Reform congregation, Emanu-El. He is the director of Spokane Area Jewish Family Services. His interests include movies, Scrabble, and indie rock. He lives with his wife, son, and two cats in West Central Spokane.

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About Matthew Sewell

Matthew Sewell, a Denver Broncos fan and amateur Chestertonian, loves golf, music, truth and good food. A lifelong Catholic, he graduated from a Catholic college (Carroll College; Helena, Mont.) but experienced a "re-version" to the faith during graduate studies at a state school (N. Arizona; Flagstaff, Ariz.). Irony is also one of his favorite things. He and his wife currently reside in Spokane, though they're Montanans at heart. He blogs at mtncatholic.com.

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