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Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 05 September 2013


By Jim Jordal

Is patriotism always a virtue? Are there ever times when patriotism becomes harmful and even sinful? How is one to know the difference, assuming there is one?

The issue is clarified if you think of the oft-heard slogan, "Support the troops." I think that most Americans do support the troops by deeply respecting their persons, uniforms and the principles of freedom behind them. We support the troops by paying federal taxes even though we may not always approve of how the funds are used. We deeply honor those who have given their lives in battle and those who have retired honorably from service. But as we voice support for the troops we also need to consider some deeper questions now arising in the debates over rampant militarism and its outcomes for friend and foe alike.

What does the phrase support the troops really mean? Generally it means to support not only the people but the policies---political, economic, social---that create and supply armies in the first place. It usually means to also support the government and infrastructure lying behind these troops, and the leaders who create and arm them. It also means not to ask questions that might detract from the abilities of troops to carry out national policies of trade and security even though these policies might be misguided at best and perhaps criminal at worst.

Can one support the troops but not the policies the military stands for and carries out? Of course! But too often that alternative is not allowed in the debate: it’s either or---either you support the troops and the militarism behind them or you become suspect in your patriotism or national loyalty.

But as the financial, political, environmental and social costs of militarism become ever more pressing, hordes of people are now asking why they can’t support the troops but oppose the militarism behind their operations.

To more clearly state my position: I’m in favor of maintaining a strong military to protect us from outside enemies and to maintain the freedoms stated in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. But when I hear that for the approximate $2 billion cost of one stealth bomber we could educate or feed millions of starving children, the issue becomes more questionable.

Don’t forget the simple fact that our nation was founded on rebellion against the various oppressions of tyrannical central authority. If passive acceptance of domination had been the rule of the day there would have been no Boston Tea Party, no Minutemen standing at the stone arch bridge, and no new nation. Our greatest patriots were open revolutionaries who are venerated as such to the present day.

So patriotism should not be equated with passive, craven acceptance of evil. Real patriots speak truth to power and do not quietly accept repression and injustice. They most certainly do not follow the multitude seeking comfort over suffering, and certitude over doubt. They understand that supporting the troops does not mean blindly supporting the policies that lead to further wars and massive expenditures of money that could better be used elsewhere. They understand that we may need stealth bombers, but not to the exclusion of vital human needs. They support the troops by questioning governmental and military policies aimed at national aggrandizement and continued control over foreign markets. They know the difference between expediency and justice.

We could learn from biblical prophets about ways of confronting wayward authority. When Nathan confronted King David over his adultery and murder he proclaimed, "You are the man." When Ezekiel faced down King Ahab over his seizing of Naboth’s vineyard through conspiracy and murder he said, "I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord."

That’s what we mean by speaking truth to power. Men of God did it back then, and true patriots continue to do it today. Fearless truth speaking helps create justice and saves nations from disaster. Let’s have some more of it today. God knows there’s much to say.