Wendell Berry on a Right and Wrong View of Patriotism

Going Home with Wendell Berry | The New Yorker
Wendell Berry

A question arising among American evangelical churches is the role of patriotism and patriotic fervor in our churches, as mentioned earlier in this chapter: should churches acknowledge and celebrate the history and existence of their country in a worship service? While a danger does exist in mixing the spiritual and political realm (which will be addressed later in this chapter), another parallel danger arises in misdirecting patriotism toward nostalgia, a set of symbols, a political party, or preferred political personalities. Novelist, environmental activist, and farmer Wendell Berry noted how “a nation should be able to sustainably feed, clothe, and shelter its citizens, using its own resources by its own work.” He then gives a compelling definition of patriotism that cuts against the grain of what many believe today:

“Its citizens must love their land with a knowing, intelligent, sustaining, and protective love. They must not, for any price, destroy its beauty, its health, or its productivity. And they must not allow their patriotism to be degraded to a mere loyalty to symbols or any present set of officials.”

Wendell Berry, “A Citizen’s Response,” Citizenship Papers (Washington, DC: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2003), 10

What remains so compelling about Berry’s definition of patriotism is how he comes as closely as a non-believer comes to the notion of what patriotism and the responsibilities of citizenship entail. Citizens of heaven love the land that God provided as part of the citizenry of earth. Citizens of heaven love their fellow citizens as imagebearers of God who are the recipients of Christ’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Berry brings a needed perspective in moving patriotism past the nostalgia and sentimentality triggered by symbols and political dignitaries. Loving one’s neighbor as one’s self, whether Berry acknowledges this or not, is the essence of his call to a patriotic “protective love.”

1 Comment

  1. We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29) The focus again becomes what God has said in His Word about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You have been chipping away at putting constitution and American exceptionalism above the heart and mind of Almighty God. Thank you.

    Thank you for 1 Timothy 1:18-20 exposition and teaching. Again, calling and character measured against the Word should be the basis of leadership.

    I appreciate you, Pastor. You challenge my thinking at every turn, convict me when I dilute Biblical truth, and motivate me to trust more fully in Jesus who is enough! You are a blessing. Even old dogs can learn new tricks/truths.

    Winn

    On Wed, Sep 16, 2020 at 3:55 PM Be. Make. Multiply. Send. wrote:

    > Matthew R. Perry posted: ” Wendell Berry A question arising among American > evangelical churches is the role of patriotism and patriotic fervor in our > churches, as mentioned earlier in this chapter: should churches acknowledge > and celebrate the history and existence of their cou” >

    Like

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