“One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Words written 130 years ago… almost. Did you know that the words “under God” were not written into the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954 when President Eisenhower signed a bill passed by Congress? Oftentimes it can feel like our modern American culture holds no space for God. But upon inspection, He is still at work in this country. He placed each of us in this time and place for a purpose — we, by no accident, are Christians and Americans.
With that unique identity comes great blessings and great responsibility. We live in a broken world — one where freedoms of education, expression, and worship are not guaranteed. One need only turn on the news to see the injustice and despair around the world. But in this nation, at this time in history, we are granted these freedoms, among so many others. Because of these freedoms, we are proud to be Americans.
But what if we reimagined how we show our patriotism, beyond the firecrackers, barbecues, and matching Americana family t-shirts? What if together we could define our patriotism as a way to honor God, multiplying the blessings He gave us as Americans and seeking freedom in Christ for all?
Our country was founded by men and women with great trust in God. A new land full of promise, America became a place of opportunity for all. Teaching patriotism goes far beyond memorizing the Pledge or waving small flags at holiday parades. It means knowing our history and learning from it. Our American history is a human history — one full of success and strife, triumphs and mistakes, courageous love and tremendous cruelty. To love our great nation is to know its history, believe in its goodness, and pray for its future.
American Christians must ask themselves: Can patriotism and discipleship coexist? The simple answer is yes. The complex answer? We must have a healthy understanding and prioritization of both. We are first citizens of heaven, called to be Christ’s disciples on earth, but we are also citizens of our nation. Both come with duty to our fellow man.
The children ofGeneration Z, and now Generation Alpha right behind them, are growing up in a post-Christian America — that is, an America where church attendance, religious affiliation, belief in God, prayer, and Bible reading have dropped out of the cultural norm. The population of Americans with a biblical worldview is smaller than ever before. Barna reports: “The percentage of people whose beliefs qualify them for a biblical worldview declines in each successively younger generation: 10 percent of Boomers, 7 percent of Gen X and 6 percent of Millennials have a Biblical worldview, compared to only 4 percent of Gen Z.” Recent data collected byThe American Bible Society says that nearly 26 million Americans reduced or stopped interacting with the Bible within the past year.
One could examine these numbers with dread, or we could analyze them as fertile ground for discipleship. Instead of waiting for the country to course-correct, we are called to be God’s hands and feet here on earth. Christ has no body on earth but us — the Church body. That unifying identity as Christians bands together His people despite our ages, ethnicities, socio-economic status, or political belief. His sacrifice unifies us. His Scriptures are life giving. Psalm 119 calls His Word a light to our feet — it corrects us and directs us.
Today’s young American faces reckoning our past but remaining hopeful for the future. This generation of change-makers is set on righting the injustices they see in our world. From the debt crisis to environmental protections, today’s youth know how to answer a rally cry. So why should the Gospel’s strongest call to action, the Great Commission, our Christian “rally cry,” be any different? “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mathew 28:19-20, NIV).
Research shows that Gen Z are open to the ideas of faith, despite largely being raised without it. From scientific discoveries to the creation of artistic masterpieces, from the sacrifice of service men and women to the activism for change on the home front, we see God woven through all of humanity. Together, Christians can show America that paving the way for the future of our country includes a plan for salvation — one found only through Jesus. How fortunate we are to live in a nation where we trust in God and are free to share His goodness with others.
Patti Garibay is founder and executive director of American Heritage Girls (AHG,www.AmericanHeritageGirls.org), a national Christ-centered leadership and character development program. For more than two decades, AHG has been at the forefront of countering the culture by leading girls and women to creating lives of integrity. Patti is the author ofWhy Curse the Darkness When You Can Light A Candle?, a story of trust and obedience to inspire those who desire to make Kingdom impact yet struggle with the fear of inadequacy.