Open Mike

by Richard on July 1, 2011

Friday seems like a good day for an ‘open mike’ thread. Whatever is on your mind — the floor is yours. Same rules as usual.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }


Anon 07.01.11 at 11:21 am

Is patriotism a virtue?


Kim 07.01.11 at 1:05 pm

What constitutes “patriotism”? For example, were Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King patriots? They certainly loved their respective countries. King, in particular, appealed to “the glory of America” — crucially adding, “with all its faults”. Which suggests a patriotism that is at once steadfastly loyal and fiercely critical — indeed fiercely critical precisely because it is steadfastly loyal.

And so in his famous Riverside Church address, King called the US “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”; and in his celebrated sermon on the “Drum Major Instinct”, after indicting the US for war crimes, King fulminated, “And we don’t stop it because of our pride, and our arrogance as a nation.” And King, of course, saw the inextricable connection between race, class/poverty, and militarism, the unholy trinity of contemporary Americanianity.

In A Patriotism for Today: Love of Country in Dialogue with the Witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1984, 1986), Keith Clements cites Thomas Traherne: “Never was anything in this world loved too much, but many things have been loved in a false way, and in all too short a measure.” Indeed. And at the end of his book, Clements writes:

“Bonhoeffer illuminates what it means to love one’s country in its ambiguity: to recognize and cherish its good; to acknowledge and confess its guilt; to search for a deeper appreciation of its character in the total life of its people; to identify the points at which it becomes a danger to itself and others, through searching for security by power alone; to look to the future, the continuation of the story for the next generation. These are the elements of true patriotism.”

The same descripton could be deduced from King. And for what it’s worth, this expat American — by circumstance, not principle — agrees.

I would only add that we will never get this kind of patriotism from elected politicians, particluarly those on the right, but those on the left too. But we may just get it from Christians who recognise that if the church is to be the church, it must be a critic of the state, in permanent loyal opposition, particularly when it comes to the state’s inveterate valorisation of wealth, its neglect of the weak, and its ever-itchy trigger finger.

[For those who would like a biblical exposition of the theme, see I and II Kings and the prophetic opposition to the royal house and the aristocracy of Israel (as it were, the military-industrial complex). "Were Bonhoeffer and King patriots?" then becomes, for example: "Was Jeremiah (accused of treason) a patriot?"]


Richard 07.03.11 at 8:39 am

A fine reply, Kim.

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