In America we are surrounded by opportunities and expectations to express our patriotism toward this country. We just passed Memorial Day and Independence Day is just around the corner. There are reminders on the roadsides, radio stations, news channels, and on our precious social media that the next presidential election is barreling towards us at an ever-increasing pace.
There is a temptation for all of us to inform our family, friends, and complete strangers exactly how we think they should respond to these opportunities. I think this temptation is even stronger when we are working with students because we so badly want to get to them with the right ideas before somebody else comes along with the wrong ones, and for much of my life I have succumbed to that temptation. But, eventually I realized that this rarely worked, and the few times it did I had created a robot that acted like I had taught them with little understanding about why they were making the choices they had made.
So I began to seek out another way, and found that many of the interactions Jesus had with his disciples and others revolved around answering their questions with a better question that got to the root of what they were seeking to learn. In light of this I finally arrived at two questions that I believe get to the deeper reality of those questions around patriotism. They could be worded and framed in a variety of ways, but I tend to think that simple is better so here they are. Who are you? And, who do you follow? These are questions of identity and allegiance.
It is essential when we begin to ask students these questions that we have already taken some time to answer them for ourselves. In order to give more shape to these questions, let me share with you how I have learned to answer them for myself. I hope my answers are helpful to you, but please don’t make them your answers without wrestling through the questions first.
Who am I? I am Quincy, one in whom Christ dwells. I am a son of the King, and a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I am a sojourner in a foreign world; it is a world that was made for me to flourish, but somewhere along the way it got off track and now I am partnering with a King who is actively working to make it right.
Who do I follow? I follow Jesus. He is the King of this Kingdom that I speak of. Jesus is Lord, and therefore Caesar or any other leader is not. This Kingdom is built on nonviolence, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, justice, and love (for everybody, not just the people I like). This Kingdom has it’s own calendar with it’s own set of Holy days. Our New Year begins with Advent and we shoot off fireworks at Pentecost.
Your answers to these questions will probably be different than mine. They should be because they are yours. Your student’s answers will also be different. These questions do not provide us with easy ways to think about and interact with patriotism, but they do open our eyes to beautiful new ways of looking at the world around us. May the peace of Jesus Christ go with you as you wrestle with your identity and your allegiance.