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July 2, 2019

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Chaplain (Captain) Alexis Waggoner engaging in flightline ministry in her role as chaplain in the Air Force Reserve
Trump will have tanks in a “static display” as part of July 4th celebration - via CNN.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and they are saved. - Proverbs 18:10
For many, American patriotism and American Christianity are inextricably linked. I grew up in a military home and this was, at least implicitly, true there. Plenty of people eschew the military and patriotism altogether, and I certainly respect that. This decision is more complicated for me, not only given my roots but also because I am now a chaplain in the Air Force Reserve. 

I believe patriotism has its place, but the problem comes when we conflate patriotism with Christianity, and when we give it a place in worship. I have certainly been in overzealous worship services that featured very militaristic language, hymns, and sermons as a way to pay some sort of homage to a patriotic holiday. This is troubling. 

However, I think we progressives also have a problem when we dismiss any and all forms of patriotism. I say this not because there’s something about patriotism, or patriotic holidays, that is inherently holy or God-ordained. Far from it. I say it because for many folks in our communities, our churches, our families, patriotism is an important part of their life experience. As a chaplain and a minister, I don’t want to dismiss that. 

If I don’t acknowledge where people are coming from, I’ll never be able to find common ground; the folks I’m ministering to and leading will never be able to hear what I’m saying. They won’t be able to go with me as I try to unpack what it means for the presence of God to be our “strong tower,” rather than any tower or structure or system produced by humanity. 

As we approached a patriotic holiday this week, I’m going to be considering not how I can accept or reject the desire for patriotism in my community, but how I can acknowledge it while inviting people to explore an even deeper and entirely different kind of loyalty - a loyalty to God’s presence, and what that presence in us requires of us.
My friend, ministerial colleague, and chaplain’s spouse Sarah Nave Fisher wrote this insightful article on the problem and place of patriotism and Christianity. It’s a great read (and share) ahead of the Fourth of July.
God, you provide a tower for us in the midst of our life and struggles. Help us rely on this presence more than we rely on earthly solutions and systems. Show us how to invite our communities into a reliance on you instead of on military might. Amen.
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