A Psalm for July 4th
“God is the creator of all the earth, caring for all the nations.” --Ps. 47
There are two concepts in U.S. history that deserve to be revisited in these times. The first is “patriotism.” The second is “jingoism.” They are not synonyms, much as we are sometimes inclined to make them. Patriotism is love of country, literally the “father” land. Jingoism is chauvinism, a love of country that lacks a critical eye. Or better yet, perhaps, a love of country that lacks a loving eye. When we love something to such a degree that we lose the capacity to compare it to its own best potential, we don’t really love it at all. We idolize it.
Jingoism is destructive idolatry, the kind of national fetish which can, if taken to its limit, end in the holocaust of Jews, the genocide of Bosnians, the decimation of Palestinians and the massacre of Native Americans. But the psalmist is clear. God cares for all nations. What we do to people in the name of “Americanism” will be weighed in the light of what is good for all creation, our own and those whose lives as a nation we touch.
Patriotism on the other hand, is a commitment to the ideals for which, as a people, we say we strive. Real patriotism welcomes, encourages, itself to the great national debates. Patriotism asks hard questions: Are we really putting enough money into education in this country? Do Black lives really matter here? What exactly does an ethic of life require at all levels, at all times? Should we still be putting over half the national budget into the military establishment? These questions engage the patriot with honesty and courage. These questions and others just as difficult, just as scalding, will determine the real direction of this country.
—from Songs of the Heart: Reflections on the Psalms by Joan Chittister (TWENTY-THIRD PUBLICATIONS)