Thomas McKenzie
by grace alone


Thomas McKenzie's Blog.

Yes, I Love America

jasper johns flag.jpg

No man, no madness
Though their sad power may prevail
Can possess, conquer, my country's heart
They rise to fail
She is eternal
Long before nations' lines were drawn
When no flags flew, when no armies stood
My land was born
And you ask me why I love her
Through wars, death and despair
She is the constant
We who don't care
And you wonder will I leave her -- but how?
I cross over borders but I'm still there now
How can I leave her?
Where would I start?
Let man's petty nations tear themselves apart
My land's only borders lie around my heart

--"Anthem," from the musical Chess; Lyrics by Tim Rice and Björn Ulvaeus

Well, it ends up I love America.

On one hand, this isn't a surprise. I was born and raised here, and I've never lived anywhere else. I've been the beneficiary of the protections of the Constitution. I have lived my entire life without fear of war. I have reason to trust the rule of law. I've been blessed by our country's economy and entrepreneurial spirit. America has been very, very good to me. 

On the other hand, there have always been things about America that I have hated. Our racism, misogyny, jingoism, imperialism, and consumerism are odious. Our two great original sins (the enslavement of African people and our slaughter/deportation of indigenous people) make me literally sick to my stomach. Our participation in the Culture of Death is horrible. Then there are the idolatrous ways the American church has sometimes treated our nation, as if the U.S. is God's Chosen People. 

Along with that, my religion causes me to be suspicious of nationalistic sentiments. My citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), and Jesus is my King. This may be disturbing to some people, but I haven't pledged allegiance to the flag since junior high school. I feel uncomfortable pledging to be aligned with any country besides the one I long for (Hebrews 11:16).

A couple of weeks ago, as the 4th of July was approaching, I noticed that I was feeling angry about our country. But I wasn't feeling angry AT the U.S., I was feeling angry at those I perceive to be misusing our nation. For fear of "being political," I won't get into any specifics. Suffice it to say that I had deep sense that there are those in power who are putting their own interests above the interests of the country. 

Then I asked myself "why." Why do I care? Why does it bother me so much? I mean, if I'm theoretically not aligned to America, what difference should it make to me if someone runs it into the ground? And that's when I had to face the fact: I am angry because I love my country. I am, despite myself, a patriot.

Bono says that America is a beautiful idea, and I completely agree. I am deeply emotionally connected to her. I have seen almost every state, from "sea to shining sea," and I confess an enormous pride in the land and its people. I love the Declaration and the Constitution, the Statue of Liberty and the National Parks and the Golden Gate Bridge. I love the Star Spangled Banner, both the song and the flag itself. I get goosebumps when I hear the patriotic songs, and I tear up when I see our soldiers come home. I love America.

And so I am angry. I'm not angry at America, or even (most) Americans. I'm angry at the possibility that America may cease to be the beautiful, hopeful, damaged, painful, place that I've always known it to be. I want to see its divisions cease. I want us to be able to talk again, with each other, not over each other. I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I want to see America made greater. 

So you will tell me to pray. I do that, every day. You will tell me to chill out, unplug from the media and the talking heads. I do that, too. What else is there? Maybe this is it. Maybe what I can do is say to everyone "hey, I love America!" You may disagree with me on all kinds of things, you might see me as on "the other side," but please know that I would rather us all be on the same side. And maybe, if we all look at each other and say "I love America, too," we can rebuild some trust. We can stop doubting each other's intentions, and listen to each other. That's what I'll pray for, and that's what I'm trying to do. 

Thomas McKenzie