2009 Archives

Texas Faith


The following is from the July 4, 2009, edition of The Dallas Morning News. Robin Lovin, SMU's Cary Maguire University Professor of Ethics, and Matthew Wilson, associate professor of political science in SMU's Dedman College, provided expertise for this story.

July 7, 2009

Texas Faith is a weekly discussion that poses questions about religion, politics and culture to a panel of religious leaders. This week's question is: How do believers both celebrate their country and use their prophetic voice to critique and reform their nation? Here are excerpts from some of this week's answers: 

Robin Lovin , Cary Maguire university professor of ethics, Southern Methodist University: There is really no contradiction between prophecy and patriotism. In the Bible, it is the prophets who truly loved their country, grieving over its defeats and pleading with God to forgive its faults. The rulers, meanwhile, were busy protecting their own interests, making corrupt deals, or pursuing their lusts with foreign women.

The prophets prevailed in their struggles with the kings because their love for their nation never failed, even in the face of persecution and defeat. Kings who only wanted to hear good news thought prophets were enemies of the nation, but the people knew better.

The right way to celebrate a patriotic holiday begins with gratitude for our place in America and its extraordinary history and ends with a renewed commitment to take responsibility for our own part in its future. A picnic and a few fireworks in between might be a good idea, too. 

Matthew Wilson, associate professor of political science, Southern Methodist University: From a religious (and specifically Catholic) standpoint, there is nothing wrong with patriotism. A sense of attachment to and affection for one's native land is to be expected, and one can rightly celebrate the nation's virtues and accomplishments.

At the same time, however, loyalty to God must come before loyalty to country. The obligation to obey God's law transcends the obligation to obey the nation's law. As St. Augustine said, and St. Thomas Aquinas echoed, an unjust law is no law at all.

All nations are called equally and invited to join in the building of the Kingdom. Thus, any manifestation of patriotism that tends toward racism or insularity should be resisted as contrary to the spirit of the Gospel. National and cultural boundaries can be respected up to a point, but they must not be allowed to obscure the universality of God's call to his people. 

Read the full story.

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