The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Give public service its due

While engaging in respectful policy debate, dissent

My earliest memories of the Fourth of July are delightful. Decorating my bike for the parade. Races at the neighborhood park with ribbons for the winner. Family and friends from out of town joining us for a picnic. The day capped off with an eager anticipation, but also with a hidden fear, of fireworks.

These celebrations were in the midst of the 1950s, when the Cold War was a reality experienced even by children, who practiced air raid drills in school. Those tensions, however, did not permeate the shared joy of the freedom that continues to be taken for granted by many of us.

When I was 12, our family moved to Norway. Among one of my discoveries was that Independence Day was celebrated not on July 4 but May 17! Perhaps only in reflecting back on that experience did I begin to appreciate theologian Joseph Sittler's comment that true patriotism is to allow another to love his or her country as much as one loves one's own country.

That has not always seemed easy for us to do. Too often patriotism is associated with only one particular political perspective rather than shared across a wide spectrum of political convictions. For example, bumper stickers that proclaim "
America: Love it or leave it" convey the message that one cannot simultaneously hold one's country in great esteem and also be critical of its policies and actions.

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