Enlarging patriotism

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

A friend said to me the other day, "Every time I see an American flag, I wish I could see a globe also." There's no doubt this friend is a patriotic American, but her love for humanity is unlimited. It's an aspect of her love for God, which is obedient to what Jesus called "the first of all the commandments": "Thou shalt love the Lord the God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength" (Mark 12:29, 30; see also Deut. 6:5). Obeying this commandment to love God must include loving all of God's creation.

The United States has received a brutal blow. It would be unpatriotic indeed if its citizens did not feel and express a healing love for the country and a renewed conviction to keep it strong and healthy. To do this, one cannot allow patriotism to degenerate into mere nationalism. Love for God's creation is more inclusive than that. Mary Baker Eddy wrote in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals" (pg. 13). Adapting this impartial Love in our experience, to include all humanity may stretch us a bit and demand some rethinking of habitual attitudes.

In a recent issue of this newspaper, which Mrs. Eddy founded, there was an article headlined "Ties that bind: changing relations between US and UN" by Michael J. Jordan. He writes: "Washington is setting aside its traditionally dim view of the United Nations and offering closer cooperation .... And the UN has responded with its greatest show of unity since the Gulf War ..." (Oct. 5).

When the UN was first being organized over a half-century ago, I enthusiastically included stories of its formation in my daily news program over one of the new, small FM stations. This station was owned by the Chicago Board of Education. One day, I was called into the office of a high city official and scolded for using so many stories about the UN. Part of me wanted to put this reprimand down to what I called mere Midwestern isolationism, but I had to look squarely at my motives and question my own patriotism. I had been destructively critical of the US. I was enlarging its mistakes while expecting to find an ideal world government.

Watching the UN operate over these many years, I have seen its mistakes as well as evidence of its fulfilling its high purpose. Through these years, I've also seen my own country make great strides, especially through the civil rights movement, in caring more equitably for all its citizens. What I have learned is that a patriotic love for my own country is the only fitting springboard to a larger love for the world and a more reasonable expectation for multi-government organizations.

To make any coalition successful, such as the US has gathered to rout out terrorist cells, demands of the citizens of those nations a commitment beyond self-interest. It is a more universal love for humanity that impels this struggle.

How to eliminate control by terror is not always agreed upon. Various peace movements in many countries reject retaliation as a useful course to follow. Others feel that retaliation is central to convey the message that evil deeds have consequences. It is times like these that we may well utter a version of John J. Crittenden's statement, "I hope to find my country in the right; however, I will stand by her, right or wrong." Such love of country serves to elevate it to where there are fewer wrongs and much more right done in its name.

Allowing our love for God to frame our love for country, we more adequately fulfill the commandment that Jesus said was likened to the first commandment, quoted earlier. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:31). Fulfilling this commandment, individually and as a nation, we can come to say of our worldwide neighborhood, "My world, right or wrong, but still my world," and continue to correct whatever is wrong in it.

As our love for family needs to be pure enough to keep it free from tribalism, so a purified love for country will keep patriotism free from nationalism. No greater love for the United States of America can we show than to enlarge this love to include its worldwide neighborhood.

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