God is not American. In fact, God is not patriotic. Nor is God partial to any human-made governmental entity. God is not interested in God’s name on money or prayers before a football game. God does not care about having God’s name invoked in a political party platform. God pretty much transcends all that stuff.
God, however, does care about a lot of other things. God cares deeply for all humanity and is especially interested in how humanity cares for each other, especially those who are without a voice, or who have less, those who are strangers, or who need protection. God is very interested in justice, peace, and issues like equality and dignity. God is most interested in a transformed life because God works through humanity to carry out God’s love and care for a broken and suffering world.
There is nothing inherently wrong with national pride, patriotism, or serving in the public sector. In fact, true people of faith can do a lot of good on behalf of God. The trick is to be discerning and discriminating without selling out to personalities, ideologies, or a political agendas at the expense of other people, cultures, countries, and religions. In other words, faithful patriotic person must be able to honestly assess one’s country’s strengths and short-comings, affirm equality and rights for all locally and globally, stewardship of the earth’s natural resources, and take the moral high road in all national and international affairs.
A person’s faith should influence their actions and inform their decisions. Unfortunately, too often we see people of faith who are hateful in their language, unloving in their actions, and outright violent towards others who don’t think or believe the same as them, who belong to a different group or faith tradition. Hate, abuse, violence, coercion, something at the expense of another – you get the idea – are not part of any faith tradition and must not be employed by any person of faith.
Here’s the rub: sometimes what we want for ourselves (or our country) is not what we want for everyone else (or other countries). I may want the best education for my children, but I’m not willing to improve public education for everyone else’s children. I may want access to whatever health care I need, but I’m not willing to make sure someone else has similar access to any health care. I want to be paid a decent wage for the work I do, but I don’t care that someone else isn’t getting paid a decent wage for the job they do. I know I’ve worked hard to get where I am today, but if someone else isn’t where they want to be, well that’s their own damn fault (to use one of my Grandma’s favorite phrases).
God may not be a citizen of any country, but God does invite people of faith to incorporate godly traits in their lives as citizens of whatever country they belong. To help us with this humungous challenge, we’ll look at the beatitudes (literally, blessings) from Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12) and Sermon on the Plains (Luke 6:20-22). We’ll tackle one at a time and see how living that beatitude reflects something of God’s character and why that matters to us.
Oh, and one more thing: I’m pretty sure God doesn’t have a photo ID.